Feminism, a theory revolving around the concept of equality for everyone, is constantly shifting and developing within our modern world, where feminism in the Western world can be categorised into three, or arguably four, waves: suffrage, liberation, and sexual and gender equality, with each moving to a more global scale. Since the term ‘feminism’ was created in 1837 by Charles Fourier, a socialist philosopher, feminism has shaped humanity all over the world, and will continue to do so in the future.
The longest period of feminism to date is the campaign for female suffrage and the right to vote, which although beginning in the 19th century, took place over nearly a hundred years. The only country where women are unable to vote is the Vatican City, after Saudi Arabia changed its law in 2011 to allow the vote by 2015. In the United Kingdom, the emergence of the Pankhurst family spurred the suffragette movement, and began to be recognised in wider society at the beginning of the 20th century. Worldwide, the first country to ever grant the right to vote universally was modern-day Finland in 1906, with the United Kingdom following over twenty years later in 1928.
The second wave for women was the movement out of the traditional role of home-maker and into the workplace, started in the United States by Betty Freidan’s Feminine Mystique which took the opinion that women in their current place were not fulfilling their potential. This moved across to the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, and as a result more women began to work, both before and after having children. Although this was met with much resistance, today the United Kingdom workforce is 47% female, with increasingly more women in higher positions. However, there are more men named David as CEOs of FTSE 100 companies than there are women, fortune.com reported in 2016.
During the 1990s and continuing to the present, the third and fourth waves of protest concern the specifics of gender inequality and bringing these issues to all people, on a global scale, aware that previous movements had a focus on white, often middle class, women. A recent focus of this have been #MeToo and #TimesUp to bring attention to sexual assault, especially in the media industry. The empowering of women and girls through protesting body-shaming, harassment, racism and other issues that women all over the world face daily.
In 2018, feminism still has so much to achieve. As Caitlin Moran said recently in a Saturday Times column, ‘millions of women are being feminist everyday – whether they admit it or not’.