"I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives," said a character, Mrs. Croft, in Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion.
This is the thought that planted the seed of 'feminism' in every woman's mind. Women were tired of being referred to as the weaker version of humanity. They began questioning their purposes in the society. Women were viewed as ideal wives, housekeepers, and mothers as if their existence solely revolved around these duties. They were considered incapable of handling official works. All these pointless notions combined to generate the first wave of women's rights during the 19th and early 20th centuries throughout the Western world where women raised their voices for legal rights, primarily to give them their rights to vote.
Feminism has undergone several developments over the course of years. In 1809, married women were allowed to execute willsin Connecticut, US. In 1829, the practice of ‘sati’(the burning of a Hindu widow on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband) was banned in India. In 1840, married women were allowed to own property in their names in Texas, US. In 1842, Sweden made elementary school compulsory for both genders. Elizabeth Blackwell, in 1849, became the first female medical doctor in American history. Russia opened gymnasiums for girls in 1858. In 1901, Bulgaria and Cuba began universities for women and Denmark granted maternity leave for all women. In 1934, Women in Turkey gained the right to vote and to become a nominee to be elected equally.
Feminism is the range of political movements, social movements, and ideologies that aggregate together with the motif to eradicate political, economic, personal, and social inequality of genders. This also involves giving women equal opportunities in both educational and professional platforms. Feminism does not demand women to be on an upper level than men, but it addresses the fact that the position of both the sexes is on the same level. They should be placed side by side where both the genders are believed to be efficient performers in the household, educational and professional stages.
The second-wave feminism began in the United States in the early 1960s and lasted roughly two decades. It aimed to provide women with more rights and opportunities other than just enfranchisement. It dealt with issues such as domestic violence and marital rape and generated changes in custody laws and divorce law. Then came the third-wave feminism which started in the early 1990s in the United States and continued until the fourth wave began in 2012. The third-wave feminism movement sought out individualism and diversity and aimed to redefine what it meant to be a feminist. Third-wave feminists used online platform with the motif of abolishing gender-role stereotypes and embracing women with racial and cultural diversities. Fourth-wave feminism adopts social media as its means to disseminate demand for justice for women, opposition to sexual harassment and violence against women. It mainly focuses on street and workplace harassment, campus sexual assault and rape culture.
Feminism is essential since it installs confidence in women. It makes them self-reliant and assures them that they do not have to rely on another gender to lead their lifestyle. Women now believe that with hard work and dedication, both the sexes can achieve their destination and that gender is never a limiting factor in conquering goals. Providing educational rights has further motivated women by making them retain knowledgeable concepts which they, later on, use to create an impact on the world. Laws have made the lives of women easier and safer. Men still do harass women but women today are aware of the fact that if they face any such kind of discrimination and harassment, they can take immediate action. A milestone has been reached today where women are taught how to prevent themselves from being abused besides teaching men not to abuse them. Women, therefore, learn martial arts, carries pepper sprays and use several other preventive techniques.
Many people associate the word 'feminism' with something negative because they believe that feminists demean men but this is not the case. A feminist dream is all about justice and equality between both the genders. A woman abusing a man must be punished to the same extent as a man abusing a woman.
People are not capable of doing all work efficiently and effectively and hence, feminism tells that people, for example, should be hired in a professional post on the basis of qualities and not on gender discrimination. Moreover, feminism does not indicate women as weak or less capable who are seeking protection from the world. The sole reason for the existence of feminism is to address the fact that women are already strong and there is no reason to demean, discriminate or stereotype them.
Brigham Young said, "You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation." Women should consistently be reminded of their capabilities and should continuously be taught to fight back against oppression. Feminism has come a long way, and it will continue to rise like a never-ending tide until it crashes and breaks through the glass ceiling. A feminist's dream will someday come true.
The writer is a first year student of BBA programme at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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