In 1920, after 70 years from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, women finally gained the right vote (Pruitt, 2018). Before this major accomplishment, women were not able to own property, sign contracts, have a job and had no rights to her children. This brought forth the 19th amendment, which changed federal laws and encouraged more women to push for the rights they deserve. Men at that time argued with the new laws in place but were soon going to learn that women deserve more than the bare minimum. Thus, a second wave of American Feminism began in the 1960’s, urging equality in social, political, economic and intellectual aspects for women and men (Keetley, 2002). In the 1990’s another wave of feminism occurred as backlash when it was shown that whites were more privileged, as well as heterosexual women.
The Seneca Falls Convention was the first Women’s rights convention and it occurred on July 19, 1848. This is where feminist Elizabeth Stanton stepped in from of the Wesleyan Chapel in New York to discuss social, religious and civil rights for women (Keetley, 2002). America was taken back by these actions and declared this one of the greatest rebellions to occur and began the first wave of feminism. In addition, Stanton discussed women’s political rights, such as the right to vote. By the end of the discussion, sixty-eight women and thirty-two men had signed the Declaration of Sentiments, which was modeled after the Declaration of Independence (Keetley, 2002). This stated that all men and women are created equal, which meant that all were permitted life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This meant that no establishment, organization or authority to hinder to male dominance. If it was found that an establishment allowed a man to beat his wife, forbid women from voting, receiving an education, working or owning property, then charges would be brought against them. Furthermore, if an establishment took a women’s sense of worth, they would also be charged. The Declaration of Independence was an essential model for the advocated at the Seneca Falls convention because it started the first wave of feminism. This symbolized a new beginning for the United States and for Women’s rights because many groups were fighting for rights that didn’t pertain to themselves.
The second wave of feminism began in 1960, where campaigns throughout many communities began to take place regarding women’s rights. Those advocating for women’s rights also wanted to increase women’s involvement in political, social and economic areas. This promoted the development of President Kennedy’s commission on the Status of Women, Equal Pay Act, Civil Rights Act, Nation Organization of Women and the Equal Rights Amendment. President Kennedy assigned Eleanor Roosevelt as the Secretary of Labor and Director of the United States Women’s Bureau in 1961 (Zinn, 2000). This allowed for the documentation of inequalities or discrimination against women in employment. This is because many states still did not allow women to work, own property or be jurors. Kennedy’s Commision on the Status of Women allowed these incidents to be documented. By 1967, the Commission developed by Kennedy was in all fifty states and Columbia. During this process, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 took place. This gave women the ability to earn the same wages as men for doing the same job with the same qualifications. Next, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came into play and prohibited discrimination against race, creed, sex or ethnicity (Zinn, 2000). This is where the United States continued to grow as a nation, when advocating for rights for groups they do not belong to but believe they deserve those rights. The National Organization of Women was founded by Betty Friedan in 1966, which spoke for women’s civil rights. The Equal Rights Amendment was passed in 1972, which stated that the Equality of Rights under the law cannot be denied or altered by the United States because of sex, but this failed in 1982. Women were still facing many challenges during this time and being forced to stay home and play “house-wife” until further activism takes place.
The third wave of feminism began in the 1980’s and is ongoing today. This wave focuses on sex, as well as race. The idea of third wave feminism came up around the mid 1900s. This was led by the people who were born around the 1960s to the 1970s. These people did benefit from the ideas that had been propagated by the first wave feminists and the second wave feminists, though, they also did contribute into a lot of criticism to the work of the second wave feminists (Weber, 2006). The third wavers did not want to fit into the well-oiled machinery that was already in operation. They were the ones who wanted to rebuild the entire machine. Their ideas were to redefine as well as reclaim the ideas about gender, about womanhood and masculinity that were popular in society. The ideas of strictly male or strictly female that persisted, was challenged upon. Thus, a new idea emerged, that was the gender continuum. The intersection was such that none of the inducible were having or expressing the full range of traits, which earlier defined gender (Weber, 2006). For the first time, the ideas of sexual Liberty were put onto a platform. This had been expanded from the second wave feminisms, where the ides to associate with one’s own gender, have the idea about one’s own self was shaped. Gender identity different from that constructed by society was understood and the idea was propagated. Furthermore, unlike the second or the first wave, the third wave also was inclusive of women from every ethnicity, such that white, blacks and women of color would have a greater sense of belonging. Third wave also opposed women being weak or passive and gave the idea of the more assertive self and of women who can be in control.
The feminist theory can be combined with symbolic interactionism. The feminist theory focuses on sexual orientation, race, economic status and nationality. The feminist theory states that women across the system has been oppressed while men remain dominant. The inequalities between men and women have been the primary focus of feminist sociology. The diverse types of feminist’s theories occur throughout three waves and dates to over 4,000 years ago (Griffiths, 2017). The feminist perspective can be placed into four categories. Gender is the primary perspective, next is gender relations to social inequalities, then gender relations to the change in process and the commitment to change. The focal point of the feminist theory is diversity and liberation but has been accused of lacking multiculturism (Griffiths, 2017). This means that within some cultures, women may still be oppressed from religion or traditional practices. However, feminist sociology aims that most societies adhere to equality, but patriarchy is still observed.
Symbolic interactionism theorizes practical considerations and distracts people’s particular utilization of dialect to make images and normal implications, for deduction and correspondence with others (Parpart, 2000). Symbolic interactionism examines stratification from a micro-level perspective. This analysis strives to explain how people’s social standing affects their everyday interactions. Symbolic interaction views society as a product of social interactions between individuals (Kilty, 2016). It is a theoretical approach that can be used to explain how societies and social groups come to view behaviors as deviants or conventional. If an adolescent changes his group and his new friends are mostly males who tease females, the adolescent is more likely to imitate that. On the other hand, if his new friends do not have such a habit, he is less likely to take up the habit.
Feminism is the perspective that investigates supporting the rights of women. It also opposes the patriarchal system. The ideology strives to bring women into the forefront qual to the power of men and end oppression and suppression of women. There are various schools of feminism. Liberal feminism takes an individual approach by reframing the laws and reforms regarding the rights of women. Radical feminism was aimed to fight against the male supremacy that exists in society in the social and economic contexts. The similarity between both is that they both focus on the patriarchal system and try to eradicate the same from society. Both these schools focus on fighting the patriarchal ideas and attitudes that exist in society. The concepts of Feminist theory include intersectional and gender construction. Intersectional shows that oppression is not black or white but there are several shades and levels of oppression that might exist in society. People are discriminated against in multiple aspects of their identities like race, caste, class, gender and sexual orientation. Gender Construction is imperative to understand the gender is not natural. Gender is in fact a social construction which is built each day with the help of different expectations from different people. Society wants us to believe that sex and gender of the individual are interlinked but sex is in fact a biological construction whereas gender is entirely social in nature.
Power structures and Worldviews:
The world view of feminism is that women and men should be equal in society, religion, and politics. This has been an ongoing battle between men and women for over 100 years, but women have been oppressed for over 4,000 years. Since feminist in the first wave made such an impact, women gained the right to vote. However, feminist still fight for equality in the workplace, where women make less money for doing the same job with the same qualifications as a man. Prior to feminist acting, women were perceived as only being able to stay home, take care of the children, cook, clean and marry. Since this worldview existed, justice has been brought forward with the right to vote, work, and have the potential to earn the same wages as men.
For centuries, men have had the advantage over women in every way. Gender is seen as another identity and the performance of that gender is socially constructed. Each gender learns their roles from the environment or culture around them. Whether it has been shown or proven that women deserve the same rights as men, some can still choose to accept or reject it. However, many waves of feminism have taken place to demonstrate the rights women have earned. Feminism is equality for women on politics, social and economic levels (Keetley, 2002). Some believe that feminism is for the less attractive women, or that women are sensitive for expressing the needs for these basic rights. Lastly, other assume that feminist want to abandon motherhood as though they are incapable of maintaining a work and home life (Zinn, 2000). It is important to remember that feminism exists because women spent thousands of years being oppressed and brainwashed into believing that the bare minimum is what they deserve.
Self-Awareness and Comparison with Others:
I am thankful that Elizabeth Stanton stepped into the chapel in New York in 1848. This is because it started a rebellion the eventually led to the creation of feminism. Feminism is valuable today since it brings awareness and empathy to women’s oppression. Some cultures still view women the same as they did in the 1800’s. Some women are still forced to marry and care for the household instead of their own desires. About 64% of Americans believe that feminism is empowering, while 42% of Americans see feminism as inclusive (Barroso, 2021). However, 45% of Americans believe that feminism is polarizing and 30% believe that it has become outdated. Women are the ones to find feminism empowering and men find it inclusive or outdated. I know that I am biased since I am a woman, so of course I advocate for my own rights. However, I would never tell someone else how to live or determine what rights they can and cannot receive.
The first wave movement, where women try to gain political and legal rights through efforts to actualize rights and create equality. The second wave included mostly white, middle-class feminist also fighting for other races. The third wave focuses on female empowerment and individual decisions. However, post feminism had backlash from the second wave of feminism with idea that we have moved beyond the feminist movement. Other movements within feminism include liberal, cultural, radical and Marxist feminist movements. The liberal feminist movement was equality achieved through legal means, women stop depending on men and ideas of individualization arise. The cultural feminist movement recognizes fundamental differences between men and women; expresses the notion women are kinder and have a “better” way of doing things. The radical feminist movement sees the root of feminism problems. The idea of a patriarchal society and the role of men as oppressors. The Marxist feminist movement is a socialistic view that capitalism was created by men and is oppressive to women and the search for a gender equal culture. Concluding that women have been fighting for centuries to have the ability to be equal to men. As of 2021, this movement is still in progress.
Barroso, A. (2021, March 10). 61% of U.S. women say ‘feminist’ describes them well; many see feminism as empowering, polarizing. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/07/07/61-of-u-s-women-say-feminist-describes-them-well-many-see-feminism-as-empowering-polarizing/.
Keetley, D., & Pettegrew, J. (2002). Public women, public words: A documentary history of American feminism. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Kilty, J. M., & Crépault, C. (2016, October 5). Institutionalizing public scholarship: Lessons from feminism and Symbolic Interactionism. Wiley Online Library. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/symb.253.
Griffiths, H., Keirns, N. J., Strayer, E., Cody-Rydzewski, S., Scaramuzzo, G., Sadler, T., Vyain, S., Bry, J., & Jones, F. (2017). Introduction to sociology 2E. OpenStax College, Rice University.
Parpart, J. L., Connelly, P., & Barriteau, E. (2000). Theoretical perspectives on gender and development. International Development Research Centre.
Pruitt, S. (2018, August 24). American women’s suffrage came down to one man’s vote. History.com. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/american-womens-suffrage-19th-amendment-one-mans-vote.
Weber, A. (2006). Feminist peace – universität innsbruck. https://www.uibk.ac.at. Retrieved from https://www.uibk.ac.at/peacestudies/downloads/peacelibrary/feministpeace.pdf.
Zinn, M. B. (2000). Feminism and Family Studies for a new century. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 571(1), 42–56. https://doi.org/10.1177/000271620057100104