Feminism is a critical concept; it has been in the development and media discourse for a while now. Its importance corroborates goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (Gender equality). Its importance has also birthed movements, books, and organisations championing its course by promoting women’s rights, equal opportunities in social, political, and economic climes.
History of Feminism
The word feminism is a concept credited to Charles Fourier a French philosopher and socialist. It was coined based on several restrictions and stereotypes experienced by women in the medieval era. Women were seen and not heard, they were only confined to domestic spheres and had no business in politics, business, and other sectors. In the early 16th and 17th centuries, Western women had no access to education, properties, were compelled to cover their heads, considered properties, had no suffrage rights, etc. These depict how women were relegated to the background in the past. Ever since several efforts have been made by individuals, governments, international and local organisations have fought to change this statuesque. Thus, relative progress has been made regarding feminism.
Evolution of feminism
Since the word feminism was coined, the concept has since evolved in 4 waves. The first wave of feminism focused on the achievement of women’s suffrage, equal contract, right to own properties, child custody, etc. Subsequently, based on the relevant success of the first wave, a second wave was identified, which was women’s liberation movement, it began in 1960 and focused on the equality of legal and social equality for women. The third wave focused on individuality and diversity and finally, the fourth wave which is the 21st-century feminism was identified in the early 2000s, it has since campaigned against rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and campaigned for women empowerment, justice among others. Notable is the fourth wave is associated with social media platforms.
Feminism in the 21st century/Fourth wave of feminism
Feminism in the 21st century has evolved so much and become a daily discourse in life. The 21st-century feminism has improved the lives of women by campaigning against the gender pay gap, advocating for women empowerment and equal opportunities in education, politics, health, and business. This has translated into an increased representation of women in both appointive and elected political positions across the world particularly, in Africa. In businesses, 21st-century feminism has produced many female entrepreneurs or “fempreneurs”, women as captains of industries and public spheres, prosecution of rapists, among other achievements. Simply put, feminism and feminist movements have and are still improving the lives of women across the globe.
Misconceptions about feminism
Despite the progress made by feminist movements across the globe, much still needs to be achieved to eradicate gender inequality and the goal of feminism, as there are many misconceptions about feminism across the globe. My focus is on Africa and particularly, Nigeria as I am quite familiar with this terrain. Many men and women misconstrue feminism as a concept which seeks to usurp “authority” from men, others see it as an avenue for “frustrated” women to vent their frustration on men. In reality, misogynistic and patriarchal men also do not want to be a party to the concept, as its achievement will withdraw their ‘powers’ and lead to damnable consequences. Some women also hide under the guise of feminism to oppress other women, others evade family duties and responsibilities. These and more are not true representations of feminism and should be discarded.
However, feminism should be embraced by all, because it promotes equality and equity for women and the girl-child dismantles patriarchal structures, eradicates stereotypes, gives equal representations and opportunities to women in all sectors, and advances women in key positions of authority both in the business and political climes where they can make decisions affecting their lives, children and family going forward. Thus, feminism is not only a women’s fight, it’s a fight for all. Like Ms. Chimamanda Adichie rightly said “we should all be feminists”
To better understand this concept, below are some books on this subject.
- Chimamanda-We Should all be Feminists
- Simone de Beauvoir- The Second sex
- Margaret Woods- Handmaids Tale
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