Gloria Steinem( Real & Reel)

History of Feminism and the Pioneers of the Movement

It’s common to hear the word “feminism” in the course of your usual dining table conversations and newsroom debates. The word “Feminism” is one of the most misused and misapprehended words of all time. What exactly does feminism mean?

Feminism is the personification of the sentiment that all humans are equal regardless of their gender identity. Feminism is uplifting women so that men, women, and the queer community are treated equally. It’s not about demeaning men or declaring them inferior as most people tend to misinterpret. The F-word or rather, the word femisism is not based on women having power over men; rather, the idea is that women should have power over themselves.

Most often, feminism is misconstrued as a “women’s movement” as it originates from the word “feminine”. But, it’s imperative we realize that feminism is not just a women’s movement. But it’s a “movement for all humans”, that is concerned with the liberation of both, men and women. However, it’s important that we also accept that women have been the prime victims of years of patriarchy and toxic masculinity. Feminism is an attempt to get rid of this notion of dominance and subordination, to bring both genders on the same level.

Waves of Feminism

The Waves of Feminism
The Waves of Feminism

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Feminism is one of the oldest movements in global history. There’s no single definition, but feminism boils down to ending gender discrimination and bringing about gender equality. Within this goal, there are many types of feminism. Instead of describing them in isolation from each other, feminism can be divided into “waves.”

The wave metaphor is the most common explanation for feminism’s movements, though it’s not without flaws. It can oversimplify a complicated history of values, ideas, and people that are often in conflict with each other. With this simplification, one might think feminism’s history is a straightforward arc. The reality is much messier. There are much sub-movements building on (and fighting with) each other. That being said, the wave metaphor is a useful starting point. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but it helps outline it. There are four waves:

The first wave of Feminism

The first wave commenced in the late 19th-century. But it wasn’t the first appearance of feminist ideals, but the first real political movement for the Western world.

In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft published the revolutionary Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

In 1848, about 200 women met in a church. They came up with 12 resolutions asking for specific rights, such as the Right to Vote.

Reproductive rights also became an important issue for early feminists.

After years of feminist activism, Congress finally passed the 19th amendment in 1920 . This gave women the Right to Vote. This was almost 30 years after New Zealand became the first country where women could vote.

First-wave feminism had a fairly simple goal: have society recognize that women are humans, not property.

While the leaders of 1st-wave feminism were abolitionists, their focus primarily on white women’s rights. Mainly, this exclusion would haunt feminism for years to come.

The second wave of Feminism

Second-wave feminism started in the 1960s and ‘70s. It built on first-wave feminism and challenged what women’s role in society. Inspired by the  Civil Rights movement and protests against the Vietnam War, activists focused on the institutions that held women back. Mainly, this meant taking a closer look at why women were oppressed. Whereas the traditional gender and family roles were questioned. This facilitated in the Queer theory became more established.

There were major victories in this era including the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Roe v. Wade in 1973, and other Supreme Court cases.

Three main types of feminism emerged: mainstream/liberal, radical, and cultural. Mainstream feminism focused on institutional reforms, which meant reducing gender discrimination, giving women access to male-dominated spaces, and promoting equality. Radical feminism wanted to reshape society entirely, saying that the system was inherently patriarchal and only an overhaul would bring liberation. It resisted the belief that men and women were basically the same. Cultural feminism had a similar view and taught that there’s a “female essence” that’s distinct from men.

The third wave of Feminism

Intersectional Feminism
Intersectional Feminism

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A special thanks to the institutional victories of second-wave feminism, women enjoyed more rights and power going into the 1990s. They were able to think about other aspects of their identity, welcoming individuality and rebellion. Whereas this was an era of reclaiming the movement.

Mainly important cultural touchstones include Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, the Guerilla Girls, and punk rock riot girls. Many women more freely expressed their sexuality in how they spoke, dressed, and acted. This sometimes bewildered 2nd-wave feminist, many of whom had resisted traditional femininity. While many ideas and mini-movements swirled around in this time, the one “rule” was that there weren’t rules. A woman should choose how she lived her life.

Third-wave feminism also became more conscious of race. Kimberle Crenshaw, a gender and critical-race scholar, coined the phrase “intersectionality” in 1989.

The term refers to how different kinds of oppression – like those based on gender and race – intersect with each other.

While mainstream first and second-wave feminism had largely ignored or neglected racial disparities within gender, the Third wave paid more attention.

The phrase “third-wave feminism” was coined in 1992 by Rebecca Walker, a 23-year old Black bisexual woman. When the internet became more commonplace, it was even easier to hear perspectives and ideas from feminists around the world. This meant Feminism was expanding.

The fourth wave

Some people think we’re still in the third wave of feminism since the fourth wave isn’t so much of a shift as the continued growth of the movement. However, with the MeToo movement and a resurgence of attacks on women’s rights, many believe we’re living in a new wave. Social media activism has propelled the movement firmly into the technological age. It builds on the third wave’s emphasis on inclusivity and asks hard questions about what empowerment, equality, and freedom really mean.

Fourth-wave feminism continues to reckon with intersectionality.

Critics of “white feminism,” which ignores the unique struggles of women of color, expose how non-white feminists and ideas have been – and continue to be – suppressed. Trans rights are a big part of the conversation, too. Feminism has often been an unwelcoming and hostile place for trans women and others who reject the gender binary. Many fourth-wave feminists are working to combat this exclusion.

As with every wave before it (and any wave that comes after it), the fourth wave is complex. Mainly, encompasses many movements that both complement and clash with each other. Furthermore this tension is unavoidable. While some types of feminism can have harmful impacts, having a variety of voices makes feminism more inclusive and successful.

Pioneers of the Movement

The movement of feminism has had various pioneers. Mainly, those who lit a fire in the belly of each and every woman in their respective era’s to stand up and demand equality. Now, let’s discover feminists who made an indelible impact on the world.

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem( Real & Reel)
Gloria Steinem( Real in-person & Reel on screen)

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Gloria Steinem aka Gloria Marie Steinem is an American feminist, political activist, and editor who was an articulate advocate of the women’s liberation movement during the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

In 1968 Steinem’s work had become more overtly political. When she began writing a column, “The City Politic,” for New York magazine. Whereas her involvement in feminism intensified in 1968 when she attended a meeting of a radical feminist group, the Redstockings. Being proud of her feminist roots—her paternal grandmother had served as president of the Ohio Women’s Suffrage Association from 1908 to 1911.

Steinem founded the National Women’s Political Caucus in July 1971. Along with Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, and Shirley Chisholm. That same year she began exploring the possibility of a new magazine for women, one that treated contemporary issues from a feminist perspective. The result was Ms. magazine, which first appeared as an insert in the December 1971 issue of New York. The following year the first stand-alone issue was published.

In 2016 she hosted the television documentary series Woman with Gloria Steinem, which focused on issues that concerned females.

Her publications include the essay collections Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983) and Moving Beyond Words: Age, Rage, Sex, Power, Money, Muscles: Breaking the Boundaries of Gender (1994); Revolution from Within (1992), a work on self-esteem for women; and Marilyn (1997), about Marilyn Monroe. Steinem also wrote the memoir My Life on the Road (2015).

Jameela Jamil

Jameela Jamil
Jameela Jamil

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Jameela Jamil becomes increasingly well-known for her sass both on-screen and off-screen. Mainly, as Tahani in A Good Place,  whereas in real life she identifies herself as a “feminist-in-progress.”

The British actor has long spoken out against unfair body standards; her body-positive initiative, I Weigh, encourages her followers to measure themselves by what makes them unique and valuable instead of by numbers on a scale. She is the need of the hour with exists in her truth unapologetically as a feminist queen and being a body neutrality advocate.

As the voice behind the body-positivity movement @I_Weigh, as well as the creator of a viral petition, to stop celebrities from hocking toxic diet teas, actress Jameela Jamil has firmly established herself as a force in the fight for healthy body image.

But at the 2019 MAKERS conference, she unveiled a new mission for 2019: dismantle the toxic masculinity that indoctrinates men.

Jameela Jamil helped Instagram create a new policy on the promotion of weight-loss products. Under this policy,  Instagram posts that promote the “use of certain weight-loss products or cosmetic procedures and those that have an incentive to buy or includes a price,” will only be shown to users over 18, according to CNN.

Jamil generated backlash for a BBC op-ed she wrote, along with a series of tweets, which called for Photoshop and airbrushing to be made illegal.

Jamil’s tweets started out innocently enough, pointing out how often magazines airbrush photos of female celebrities in their 40s and 50s while leaving male celebrities untouched. (Jamil has famously refused to let any publications Photoshop images of her).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an American lawyer and jurist who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993 until her death in September 2020. Mainly, she was a force of nature in American feminist culture. She has rapidly become—in a time that craves heroines—the American ideal of power and authority for millions of women and girls. Beyond the movies (RBG, released in May, and On the Basis of Sex, out in December) and the biographies, not to mention the memes and T-shirts and mugs that proliferate like lace-collared mushrooms.

Ginsburg scummed to complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer on September 18, 2020, at the age of 87. She was the closest thing America has to the consummate anti–Donald Trump.

Today, more than ever, women starved for models of female influence, authenticity, dignity, and voice hold up an octogenarian justice as the embodiment of hope for an empowered future.

Her years as the solitary female justice were “the worst times,” she recalled in a 2014 interview.

“The image to the public entering the courtroom was eight men, of a certain size, and then this little woman sitting to the side. That was not a good image for the public to see.”

Eventually, she was joined by two other women, both named by Mr. Obama: Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010.

Ms. Ginsburg started from the premise that she needed to provide some basic education for an audience that was not so much hostile as uncomprehending. Mainly, she took aim at laws that were ostensibly intended to protect women — laws based on stereotyped notions of male and female abilities and needs.


To conclude, this powerful piece, encapsulating the information on different waves of feminism inspired you. A look into heroes and icons of feminism and their invaluable contributions to the cause has got us this far. But there is still a lot of progress to be made to truly create an equitable society.

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