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After selling her home, Emmeline Pankhurst, pictured in New York City in 1913, travelled constantly, giving speeches throughout Britain and the United States

Feminism is a social and political movement. Feminism is about changing the way that people see male and female rights, and campaigning for equal ones. Somebody who follows feminism is called a feminist.

There are many different types of feminism:

  • Some feminists believe that all genders should always be treated in exactly the same way. They think that people should not think that a person's gender is important. Often these feminists believe that the traditional idea that women stay at home and look after children is wrong and that men and women should share this job equally.
  • Some feminists believe that there are important differences between men and women. However, they believe that these differences should not lead to any unfair treatment of women by men. For example, they might say that some women do want to stay at home and look after children; however, they must not be forced to do this and must be paid to do this, either by a husband or by the government, as child caring is a full time job.

There are also many other types of feminism.

Feminism began in the 18th century with the Enlightenment. The controversy over the differences between the genders led to the discussion of equality.

History of feminism[change | change source]

Mary Wollstonecraft

Women in politics[change | change source]

There have been women who have been involved in politics throughout history.

Historical[change | change source]

Esther, Lady Godiva, Queen Elizabeth, Catherine the Great, and Joan of Arc.

Modern times[change | change source]

Starting in 1960, there have been many women elected to high positions of power, such as prime minister. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the first, followed by Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Elisabeth Domitien and Margaret Thatcher. Dame Eugenia Charles lasted nearly 15 years in the post, a record.

General history[change | change source]

Feminism started with the idea that human rights should be given to women. This idea was put forward by some philosophers in the 18th and 19th centuries such as Mary Wollstonecraft and John Stuart Mill. Later feminists in the early 20th century also said that women should be allowed to vote in a democracy. Many women felt very strongly that they should be allowed to vote and there were many protests. These women were called Suffragettes. This is because they were fighting for Universal suffrage which means everybody is able to vote. The Suffragettes staged many protests for their rights. Some women even committed suicide to show how wrong it was that they could not take part in politics. After women received the vote, feminism worked to make all of society more equal for women.

Not all female politicians have been welcomed by feminists, with Margaret Thatcher, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann being clear examples.

First Wave (1830s – early 1900s) [change | change source]

Women began to realize that they must first gain political power before they could bring about social change. This wave focused on gaining the right to vote (universal suffrage). Later, the focus shifted to include sexual, economic, and reproductive concerns.[1]

Second Wave (1960s-1980s)[change | change source]

Coming off the heels of World War II, the second wave of feminism focused on the workplace, sexuality, family and reproductive rights. During a time when the United States was already trying to restructure itself, it was perceived that women had met their equality goals with the exception of the failure of the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (which has still yet to be passed).


This time is often dismissed as offensive, outdated and obsessed with middle class white women’s problems. Conversely, many women during the second wave were initially part of the Black Civil Rights Movement, Anti Vietnam Movement, Chicano Rights Movement, Asian-American Civil Rights Movement, Gay and Lesbian Movement and many other groups fighting for equality. Many of the women supporters of the aforementioned groups felt their voices were not being heard and felt that in order to gain respect in co-ed organizations they first needed to address gender equality concerns.

Women cared so much about these civil issues that they wanted to strengthen their voices by first fighting for gender equality to ensure they would be heard.

During World War II, women made up much of the workforce. When the men returned home after the war, the women were expected to give up their job positions for the men, something that many women argued against. This was the beginning of the second wave of feminism.

Critics[change | change source]

There are reasons why some people do not like feminism:

  • Some people do not like feminism because they think that women are already equal or more important in the law. Anti-feminists often say that society is also not equal for men and that women have more rights in child custody and divorce.
  • Some say that feminism wants women to be more important than men.
  • Some argue that women and men have simple biological differences, and thus cannot be treated in the same way. Some examples are: the treatment and role of women in the military and pregnancy only happens to women.
  • Some people do not like feminism because it wants to change society and it could make men have less power.
  • Feminism could give women special rights that would then hurt other groups and their rights. An example would be a fear that women would take away jobs normally done by men.

There are also many other types of anti-feminism.

Writers such as Camille Paglia, Christina Hoff Sommers, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Daphne Patai oppose some forms of feminism, though they identify as feminists. They argue, for example, that feminism often promotes misandry (hatred of men) and the elevation of women's interests above men's, and criticize radical feminist positions as harmful to both men and women. Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge argue that the term "anti-feminist" is used to silence academic debate about feminism.

Related pages[change | change source]