Have you ever had that moment in a conversation about feminism where someone casually drops something like "that is classical for second-wave feminist" or read something along the lines of "third-wave feminism focusses on a whole new set of issues" and not really understood what it was all about? Well I have, and it has bugged me tremendously the past few weeks. How can I claim to be a feminist if I don't even know anything about the waves at all?

So, I did what I always do when I am bugged. I Googled. I Googled and researched and I found that the basic idea is not all that hard to grasp. Basically in feminist history three (by now maybe four) major rises of the feminist are recognized. These rises are called waves and so we have four waves. Each wave has it's own characteristics, and their own celebrities, but like anything related to history much MUCH more can be said about each period and all the intermittent time.

However, I wanted to learn more about the waves to start with and take you with me on a little tour. So, here it is. A small breakdown of the four waves of feminism. 



The first wave of feminism is the BIG one that really made all the following waves possible. It is primarily the struggle for the right to vote - but the right to an education and equality as to property and a few other rights came in to play as well. We call the women who fought for the right to vote are called suffragettes and this wave was at it's hight in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

For me, the first time I ever heard about suffragettes, was in Mary Poppins. Winifred Banks - the mother in the story - is a part of the "votes for women" suffragette group. We can see this in her clothes as she is wearing a purple and gold sash saying "votes for women" and off course when the chimney sweepers sing "votes for women, votes for women!" (No idea what I am talking about because you are either too young or too old to have seen the movie, check out this clip at 6:57)

Sadly, the happy-go-lucky version that mrs. Banks shows us, is not what the real suffragettes lived through. Quite often these women would be cast off from their families, be imprisoned at protest, force-fed when they'd go on hunger strikes and in some cases they even gave their lives for us to have the right to vote - amongst other issues.

It is mostly thought that this wave ended when women got universal suffrage, that is to say, when all women of a country would be allowed to vote. As such, the period ended at different times in different countries. For example, in my own country (the Netherlands) women were only allowed to vote from 1919 onwards (although they could be elected from 1917) whereas New Zealand gained universal suffrage in 1893.

Celebrities of this wave include: Aletta Jacobs, Marie Stopes, Virginia Woolf and Susan B. Anthony


Where first-wave feminism focussed mainly on legal equality, the second wave focussed on a lot more issues. Main points were the female body and reproductive rights, family and family-planning, the right to work and equal pay and abandoning marital rape and domestic violence. For me, it will always be mostly exemplified by two things:

Firstly the Dutch Dolle Mina's calling for "baas in eigen buik" (dominion over ones own stomach) that we all learn about in school as part of the troublesome sixties. When I learned about this, it seemed incredible that women were not always allowed to use contraception or get abortions - oh how naive I was.

The second association for me is the inmense shock of finding out that married women in the Netherlands were not legally speaking their own person (difficult to explain, but basically it meant that you couldn't legally hold property or make certain decisions or even work for your own money if you had a husband) until 1957! That's the year my dad was born!

What really gets me about this wave though, is that we still seem to be fighting for these issues! The iconic Roe vs. Wade judgement that legalized abortion in the U.S. is under direct threat from religious fundamentalists - not to mention President Trump - many people still believe that rape inside a relationship is impossible, that women who get raped must have brought it onto themselves, families started by unmarried people are viewed as inferior in many countries and overall the wage gap hasn't diminished at all - not the mention the lack of representation of women in influential roles in business and politics.

It makes me a little sad, but mostly it makes me want to keep up the fight! Who's with me?

Celebrities of this period are many! To name a few: Gloria Steinem (love her book!), Dorothy Pitman Hughes (their picture is so strong!) Jo Freeman, Joke Smit, Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedman.



Ps. the header picture I found on this amazing page and found too good not to use! http://www.womenyoushouldknow.net/inspired-illustration-feminism-at-work-pays-tribute-to-pioneers-who-moved-womens-history-forward/



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