First Wave Feminism

Joyshree Heisnam *

Feminism developed as a movement for demanding legal and right to vote especially the right to vote. Their main goal was female's suffrage because they believed that if women could vote, all other forms of sexual discrimination and prejudice would disappear soon. Seneca falls convention of 1848 marked the birth of the US women's movement.

It adopted a Declaration of Sentiments, calling for female suffrage written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) . The ideological basis of 'First wave Feminism' emerged from Mary Wolstonecraft's book "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" in 1792, J.S Mill and Harriet Taylor's "On the subjection of Women", Emmeline Pankhrust and Christabel also launched a campaign of direct action which included public demonstration and attacks on property demanding right to vote for women.

First wave feminism ended with the achievement of female suffrage in New Zealand in 1893.
Second wave feminism emerged around 1960's Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique 1963.
Kate Millet 's Sexual politics 1970 .
Germaine Greer 's The female Eunuch 1970.

Second wave acknowledge that the achievement of political and legal rights had not solved women's position . They started Feminism focusing attention on personal, psychological and sexual aspects of female oppression.

The goal of second wave feminism is therefore not merely a political emancipation but women's liberation. They demanded a more far regime and perhaps revolutionary process of social change. Ideologically they were influenced by Betty Friedan, Kate Millet, Germaine Greer.

Third wave Feminism emerged in 1990's with the believe that the campaign and demands of second wave Feminism have limited relevance in the contemporary times. In the contemporary times new issues has emerged in feminist politics. There has been various social and political changes so, we need a new feminism. Various feminism have emerged new. For example : Black feminism . It believes that sexism and racism are linked system of oppression.

Islamic feminism: Coming back to tradition and wearing traditional attire like covering with veil are liberating for women. For some post feminism is defined by the rejection of second wave feminism. According to them women should not be seen as victims. Women need to take greater responsibility for their own sexual and personal conduct. Post modernist Feminism questions the idea of a fixed female identity. According to them the idea of 'women' maybe nothing more than a fiction.

Post colonial feminism theory: According to them women's rights are essentially a western concept and may not be applicable to non western world. Sexual equality may even devalue women 's traditional role as home makers and mothers and undermine traditional institution and cultural practices. And also there is fourth wave feminism too.

There are some major traditions within Feminism such as Liberal feminism, Socialist feminism, Radical feminism, Difference feminism.

There are some generally accepted core themes of feminism.
1. Personal is politics
2. Patriarchy
3. Sex and gender
4. The concept of equality.

All the feminist believe in a state where there is equal treatment of woman and the liberation of woman . Susan James characterizes feminism as follows: " Feminism is grounded on the belief that women are oppressed or disadvantaged by comparison with men,and that their oppression is in some way illegitimate or unjustified.

Under the umbrella of this general characterization there are, however ,many interpretations of women and their oppression ,so that it is a mistake to think of feminism as a single philosophical doctrine or advice implying an agreed political program" . But despite of all these differences in technical ideas of the feminism, one thing is certain i,e. women are the groups which has been discriminated, tortured and the victim of all these social systems.

Simone de Beauvoir - "One is not born but rather becomes a woman". For all "Meetei Nongsha" patriarch. The patriarchal society believes that biology is destiny. The female sex having a certain biological features have to perform their social role according to their sex. This idea has a sharp distinction between sex and gender. Sex refers to biological difference between females and males. These differences are natural and unalterable.

Gender differences are socially and politically constructed. Women and man should not be judged by their sex but as individuals, as persons. The goal of an egalitarian society is the achievement of genderless personhood. These socially constructed stereotypes of masculinity and femininity identities can be reconstructed or even demolished. The question of sexual equality can never be fully addressed if we continue to locate politics only on public sphere.

According to Kate Millet, politics is power structure relationship arrangements whereby one group of person is controlled by another. The relationship between husband and wife, parents and children, government and citizens, employers and workers are all political. In every relationship there is always a dominant class over other. Politics shouldn't stop at front door, "The personal is political".

We need to analyse the politics of everyday life. The politics of everyday life implies the process of conditioning in family and society, the distribution of house work and other domestic responsibilities, the politics of personal and sexual conduct. The society is based on a system of inequality and oppression. We should change this patriarchy which is a systematic institutionalised and pervasive form of male power that is rooted in the family.

"Family as an instrument of female oppression" - Engels Women are always portrayed by patriarchal values and beliefs, philosophy, morality and religion of society. Women are portrayed as inferior and subordinate to men, a stereotype of feminity being imposed by man and are conditioned to a passive sexual role. Patriarchy should be challenged through a process of "consciousness raising".

Women need to have equal access to rights and opportunities and we should try to end all forms of discrimination against women for a better society and to bring a peaceful coexistence of both the genders. A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult. Melinda Gates.

Reference :-
Arihant political science, Andrew Heywood Political ideologies, Feminism Margaret Walters.

* Joyshree Heisnam wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is doing BA at D. M College of Arts.
This article was webcasted on April 04, 2019.

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