Feminism

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Posted by kaori 02/26/2009 @ 22:00

Tags : feminism, women, us

News headlines
At Paris' Pompidou Center, the year of the women - Los Angeles Times
Feminism has had a stronger effect in the US and other parts of Europe, in art and society at large, she says. While "elles" was in planning stages, “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution” opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and...
Capitalism and the Anti-Modern Pope - Religion Dispatches
There is much in it with which a progressive secularist could agree--apart from feminism and sexual ethics. It is commonly understood that this Pope, who served as theological advisor to the previous pope, has continued and even intensified the...
Can Double X Get Feminist Media On the Same Cycle of Hate? - Gawker
Hmm, probably best to let the ladies handle this, first up: Amanda Marcotte and Jill Filipovic with a more nuanced take than I. One of the more salient criticisms to come out of the cat-fighting over who/how/what a feminist is these days came from Jez...
Leifso a mix of classicism, feminism, strong imagery - TheChronicleHerald.ca
BRENDA LEIFSO'S first book of poetry, Daughters of Men (Brick, $18), follows poets like Anne Carson and Anne Simpson in looking to classicism (Greek) and a smidgen of feminism to write verse vernacular in voice, startling in imagery and disciplined in...
Controversial Feminist Author Known for 'The Women's Room' - Washington Post
By Patricia Sullivan Marilyn French, 79, a feminist whose 1977 debut novel "The Women's Room" sold more than 20 million copies and who became a prominent thinker on women's history, died of a heart ailment May 2 at a New York City hospital....
Captain Patriarch & the Forces of Male Justice - Daily Kos
So based on this pedigree, and with enough ego still to try and show my professor and fellow students that I was no shrinking male violet in the world of "women's studies" and feminism, I decided that for my final class project I would take on this...
Cathy Young Single mothers and the baby boom - Boston Globe
And, for all the talk of female autonomy, this is startlingly at odds with the goal of feminism, which sought equality for women and men in both public and private life. Today, we have two contradictory trends. Millions of fathers are involved in...
Sex, drink and fashion. Is this the new face of American feminism? - guardian.co.uk
An online war has broken out in the women's movement sparked by the Jezebels, young bloggers who flaunt their hard drinking and unashamed promiscuity and who are infuriating traditional feminists. Amelia Hill and Eva Wiseman report It seemed like a...
First bio of Helen Gurley Brown paints a true feminist, out of ... - San Jose Mercury News
She would write, defining her scrappy brand of Horatio Alger feminism: "If you have some daily anguish from some cause that's not really your fault — a rotten family, bad health, nowhere looks, serious money problems, nobody to help you,...
A mum, and a feminist - guardian.co.uk
This most recent debate among feminists began with a naive assertion by Nona Willis Aronowitz that mothers who write blogs are disconnected from feminists. Nonsense, I said, in a lengthy comment, citing both MOMocrats and WomenCount....

Black feminism

Angela Davis speaking at the University of Alberta on 28 March 2006

Black feminism argues that sexism, class oppression, and racism are inextricably bound together. Forms of feminism that strive to overcome sexism and class oppression but ignore race can discriminate against many people, including women, through racial bias. The Combahee River Collective argued in 1974 that the liberation of black women entails freedom for all people, since it would require the end of racism, sexism, and class oppression. One of the theories that evolved out of this movement was Alice Walker's Womanism.

Alice Walker and other Womanists pointed out that black women experienced a different and more intense kind of oppression from that of white women. They point to the emergence Black feminism after earlier movements led by white middle-class women which they regard as having largely ignored oppression based on race and class. Patricia Hill-Collins defined Black feminism, in Black Feminist Thought (1991), as including "women who theorize the experiences and ideas shared by ordinary black women that provide a unique angle of vision on self, community, and society".

Black feminists contend that the liberation of black women entails freedom for all people, since it would require the end of racism, sexism, and class oppression. There is a long-standing and important alliance between postcolonial feminists, which overlaps with transnational feminism and third-world feminism, and black feminists. Both have struggled for recognition, not only from men in their own culture, but also from Western feminists.

Other Black feminists active in early Second Wave Feminism were Civil Rights Lawyer and author Florynce Kennedy, who co-authored one of the first books on abortion, 1971's Abortion Rap; Cellestine Ware, of New York's Stanton-Anthony Brigade; and Patricia Robinson; who all "tried to show the connections between racism and male dominance" in society.

Not only did the Civil Rights Movement primarily focus only on the oppression of black men, but many black women faced severe sexism within Civil Rights groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The Feminist Movement focused on the problems faced by white women. For instance, earning the power to work outside of the home was not an accomplishment for black feminists; they had been working all along. Neither movement confronted the issues that concerned black women specifically. Because of their intersectional position, black women were being systematically ignored by both movements: "All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men but Some of Us are Brave", as titled a 1982 book by Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell Scott and Barbara Smith.

Black women began creating theory and developing a new movement which spoke to the combination of problems they were battling, including sexism, racism, and classism. Angela Davis, for instance, showed that while Afro-American women were suffering from compulsory sterilization programs, white women were subjected to multiple unwilled pregnancies and had to clandestinely abort.

The short-lived National Black Feminist Organization was founded in 1973 in New York by Margaret Sloan-Hunter and others. Two years later, Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Cheryl L. Clarke, Gloria Akasha Hull, and other female activists tied to the civil rights movement, Black Nationalism or the Black Panther Party established, as an off-shoot of the National Black Feminist Organization, the Combahee River Collective, a radical lesbian feminist group. Their founding text referred to important female figures of the abolitionist movement, such as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frances E. W. Harper, Ida B. Welles Barnett and Mary Church Terrell, president of the National Association of Colored Women founded in 1896. The Combahee River Collective opposed the practice of lesbian separatism, considering that, in practice, Separatists focused exclusively on sexist oppression and not on others oppression (race, class, etc.) This group's primary goal was "the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking." They rejected all essentialization or biologization, focusing on political and economical analysis of various forms of domination. The Combahee River Collective, in particular on the impulse of Barbara Smith, would engage itself in various publications on Feminism, showing that the position of Black women was specific and adding a new perspective to Women's studies, mainly written by White women.

The Black Lesbian Caucus were created as an off-shoot of the Gay Liberation Front in 1971, and later took the name of the Salsa Soul Sisters, Third World Wimmin Inc. Collective, which was the first "out" organization for lesbians, womanists and women of color in New York . The Salsa Soul Sisters published a Literary Quarterly called Azalea: A Magazine by Third World Lesbians in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Sisters are now known as African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change, and is the oldest black lesbian organization in the United States.

As stated above, the Black Feminist movement grew out of the Civil Rights Activist movements of the 60's and 70's, stemming from groups like SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Comitee, the Black Panthers and other such groups. It wasn't so much a growth , but more of a separation from black Civil Rights groups because the main focus was male oppression. In the autobiography by Anne Moody, she has a quote that brings the idea of Black Feminst into focus, she states, "...we were told in the same breath to be quiet both for the sake of being 'ladylike' and to make us less objectionable in the eyes of white people." Black women not only had to deal with racism, but sexism as well and it was even more prevalent with black males. According to the authors, another reason why Black women were oppressed more is because of the certain stereotype attributed to black women, i.e. mammy, Sapphire, whore and bulldagger to name a few. These names are just an example of how insignificant these Black women's lives have become, and it's not only white people who continue the name calling, but also more importantly black males.

While the explanations above do a decent job of explaining the Black Feminist Movement, there are certain ideas that are not addressed that play a major role in Black Feminism. When compared to the White Feminist, Black Feminist do no face the threat of being undermined by their own people. No one better exemplifies this ideal better than Michelle Wallace who was a famous Black Feminist who also was a member of the Combahee River Collective. She states in a certain excerpt that, "We exist as women who are Black who are feminists, each stranded for the moment, working independently because there is not yet an environment in this society remotely congenial to our struggle—because, being on the bottom, we would have to do what no one else has done: we would have to fight the world." The Black Feminist movement had to contend to Civil Rights movements that wanted women in a lesser role. Men believed the Black Women would organize around their own needs and minimalize their own efforts; loosing reliable allies in the struggle for civil rights. Black Feminist movement not only had to contend with racial prejudice but also the structure of our patriarchal soceity making their struggle that much harder.

All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies, (Editors Akasha (Gloria T.) Hull, Patricia Bell Scott and Barbara Smith) describes Black feminists mobilizing "a remarkable national response to the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas Senate Hearings in 1991, naming their effort African American Women in Defense of Ourselves.

In her year 2000 introduction to the reissue of the 1983 Black feminist anthology, Home Girls, theorist and author Barbara Smith states her opinion that "to this day most Black women are unwilling to jeopardize their 'racial credibility' (as defined by Black men) to address the realities of sexism." Smith also notes that "even fewer are willing to bring up homophobia and heterosexism, which are, of course, inextricably linked to gender oppression.

Starting around 2000, the "third wave" of Feminism in France took interest in the relations between sexism and racism, with a certain amount of studies dedicated to Black Feminism. This new focus was displayed by the translation, in 2007, of the first anthology of US Black feminism texts.

Michelle Cliff believes that there is continuity "in the written work of many African American Women,... you can draw a line from the slave narrative of Linda Brent to Elizabeth Keckley's life, to Their Eyes were Watching God (by Zora Neale Hurston) to Coming of Age in Mississippi (Anne Moody) to Sula (by Toni Morrison), to the Salt Eaters (by Toni Cade Bambara) to Praise Song for the Widow (by Paule Marshall)." Cliff believes that all of these women, through their stories, "Work against the odds to claim the 'I'".

Activist and Cultural Critic Angela Davis, was one of the first people to articulate a written argument centered on intersectionality, in Women, Race, and Class. Kimberle Crenshaw, prominent feminist law theorist, gave the idea a name while discussing Identity Politics in her essay, "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence Against Women of Color." Another Feminist theorist is Patricia Hill Collins, who introduced the sociological theory of Matrix of Domination; much of her work concerns the politics of black feminist thought and oppression.

The Autumn 1979 issue of Conditions was edited by Barbara Smith and Lorraine Bethel. Conditions 5 was "the first widely distributed collection of Black feminist writing in the U.S." Articles from the magazine were later released in Home Girls, an anthology of Black lesbian and feminist writing published in 1983 by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, a publisher owned and operated by Women of Color.

Alice Walker, a follower of Womanism, a movement tied to Black theology, is the author of The Color Purple.

Pat Parker's (1944-1989) involvement in the black feminist movement was reflected in her writings as a poet. Her work inspired other black feminist poets like Hattie Gossett. Other Black feminist authors include: Jewelle Gomez, June Jordan, Sapphire, Becky Birtha, Donna Allegra, Cheryl Clarke, Ann Allen Shockley, Alexis De Veaux and many others.

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Feminism

International Women's Day rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh, organized by the National Women Workers Trade Union Centre on March 8, 2005.

Feminism is the belief that women have equal political, social, sexual, intellectual and economic rights to men. It involves various movements, theories, and philosophies concerned with issues of gender difference, that advocate equality for women, and that campaign for women's rights and interests. According to some, the history of feminism can be divided into three waves. The first wave was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the second was in the 1960s and 1970s, and the third extends from the 1990s to the present. Feminist theory emerged from these feminist movements. It is manifest in a variety of disciplines such as feminist geography, feminist history and feminist literary criticism.

Feminism has altered predominant perspectives in a wide range of areas within Western society, ranging from culture to law. Feminist activists have campaigned for women's legal rights (rights of contract, property rights, voting rights); for women's right to bodily integrity and autonomy, for abortion rights, and for reproductive rights (including access to contraception and quality prenatal care); for protection from domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape; for workplace rights, including maternity leave and equal pay; and against other forms of discrimination.

During much of its history, most feminist movements and theories had leaders who were predominantly middle-class white women from Western Europe and North America. However, at least since Sojourner Truth's 1851 speech to American feminists, women of other races have proposed alternative feminisms. This trend accelerated in the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement in the United States and the collapse of European colonialism in Africa, the Caribbean, parts of Latin America and Southeast Asia. Since that time, women in former European colonies and the Third World have proposed "Post-colonial" and "Third World" feminisms. Some Postcolonial feminists, such as Chandra Talpade Mohanty, are critical of Western feminism for being ethnocentric. Black feminists, such as Angela Davis and Alice Walker, share this view.

Since the 1980s, standpoint feminists have argued that feminism should examine how women's experience of inequality relates to that of racism, homophobia, classism and colonization. In the late 1980s and 1990s postmodern feminists argued that gender roles are socially constructed, and that it is impossible to generalize women's experiences across cultures and histories.

Feminists and scholars have divided the movement's history into three "waves". The first wave refers mainly to women's suffrage movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (mainly concerned with women's right to vote). The second wave refers to the ideas and actions associated with the women's liberation movement beginning in the 1960s (which campaigned for legal and social equality for women). The third wave refers to a continuation of, and a reaction to, the perceived failures of, second-wave feminism, beginning in the 1990s.

First-wave feminism refers to a period of feminist activity during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the United Kingdom and the United States. Originally it focused on the promotion of equal contract and property rights for women and the opposition to chattel marriage and ownership of married women (and their children) by their husbands. However, by the end of the nineteenth century, activism focused primarily on gaining political power, particularly the right of women's suffrage. Yet, feminists such as Voltairine de Cleyre and Margaret Sanger were still active in campaigning for women's sexual, reproductive, and economic rights at this time.

In Britain the Suffragettes, and possibly more effectively, the Suffragists campaigned for the women's vote. In 1918 the Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed granting the vote to women over the age of 30 who owned houses. In 1928 this was extended to all women over twenty-one. In the United States leaders of this movement included Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who each campaigned for the abolition of slavery prior to championing women's right to vote. Other important leaders include Lucy Stone, Olympia Brown, and Helen Pitts. American first-wave feminism involved a wide range of women, some belonging to conservative Christian groups (such as Frances Willard and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union), others resembling the diversity and radicalism of much of second-wave feminism (such as Matilda Joslyn Gage and the National Woman Suffrage Association). In the United States first-wave feminism is considered to have ended with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1919), granting women the right to vote in all states.The term first wave, was coined retrospectively after the term second-wave feminism began to be used to describe a newer feminist movement that focused as much on fighting social and cultural inequalities as political inequalities.

The first wave of feminists, in contrast to the second wave, was hostile to abortion.

Second-wave feminism refers to a period of feminist activity beginning in the early 1960s and lasting through the late 1980s. The scholar Imelda Whelehan suggests that the second wave was a continuation of the earlier phase of feminism involving the suffragettes in the UK and USA. Second-wave feminism has continued to exist since that time and coexists with what is termed third-wave feminism. The scholar Estelle Freedman compares first and second-wave feminism saying that the first wave focused on rights such as suffrage, whereas the second wave was largely concerned with other issues of equality, such as ending discrimination.

The feminist activist and author Carol Hanisch coined the slogan "The Personal is Political" which became synonymous with the second wave. Second-wave feminists saw women's cultural and political inequalities as inextricably linked and encouraged women to understand aspects of their personal lives as deeply politicized and as reflecting sexist power structures.

The phrase "Women’s Liberation" was first used in the United States in 1964 and first appeared in print in 1966. By 1968, although the term Women’s Liberation Front appeared in the magazine Ramparts, it was starting to refer to the whole women’s movement. Bra-burning also became associated with the movement, though the actual prevalence of bra-burning is debatable. One of the most vocal critics of the women's liberation movement has been the African American feminist and intellectual Gloria Jean Watkins (who uses the pseudonym "bell hooks") who argues that this movement glossed over race and class and thus failed to address "the issues that divided women". She highlighted the lack of minority voices in the women's movement in her book Feminist theory from margin to center (1984).

Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963) criticized the idea that women could only find fulfillment through childrearing and homemaking. According to Friedan's obituary in the The New York Times, The Feminine Mystique “ignited the contemporary women's movement in 1963 and as a result permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States and countries around the world” and “is widely regarded as one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century.” In the book Friedan hypothesizes that women are victims of a false belief system that requires them to find identity and meaning in their lives through their husbands and children. Such a system causes women to completely lose their identity in that of their family. Friedan specifically locates this system among post-World War II middle-class suburban communities. At the same time, America's post-war economic boom had led to the development of new technologies that were supposed to make household work less difficult, but that often had the result of making women's work less meaningful and valuable.

Third-wave feminism began in the early 1990s, arising as a response to perceived failures of the second wave and also as a response to the backlash against initiatives and movements created by the second wave. Third-wave feminism seeks to challenge or avoid what it deems the second wave's essentialist definitions of femininity, which (according to them) over-emphasize the experiences of upper middle-class white women.

A post-structuralist interpretation of gender and sexuality is central to much of the third wave's ideology. Third-wave feminists often focus on "micro-politics" and challenge the second wave's paradigm as to what is, or is not, good for females. The third wave has its origins in the mid-1980s. Feminist leaders rooted in the second wave like Gloria Anzaldua, bell hooks, Chela Sandoval, Cherrie Moraga, Audre Lorde, Maxine Hong Kingston, and many other black feminists, sought to negotiate a space within feminist thought for consideration of race-related subjectivities.

Third-wave feminism also contains internal debates between difference feminists such as the psychologist Carol Gilligan (who believes that there are important differences between the sexes) and those who believe that there are no inherent differences between the sexes and contend that gender roles are due to social conditioning.

Post-feminism describes a range of viewpoints reacting to feminism. While not being "anti-feminist", post-feminists believe that women have achieved second wave goals while being critical of third wave feminist goals. The term was first used in the 1980s to describe a backlash against second-wave feminism. It is now a label for a wide range of theories that take critical approaches to previous feminist discourses and includes challenges to the second wave's ideas. Other post-feminists say that feminism is no longer relevant to today's society. Amelia Jones has written that the post-feminist texts which emerged in the 1980s and 1990s portrayed second-wave feminism as a monolithic entity and criticized it using generalizations.

One of the earliest uses of the term was in Susan Bolotin's 1982 article "Voices of the Post-Feminist Generation," published in New York Times Magazine. This article was based on a number of interviews with women who largely agreed with the goals of feminism, but did not identify as feminists.

Some contemporary feminists, such as Katha Pollitt or Nadine Strossen, consider feminism to hold simply that "women are people". Views that separate the sexes rather than unite them are considered by these writers to be sexist rather than feminist.

In her book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, Susan Faludi argues that a backlash against second wave feminism in the 1980s has successfully re-defined feminism through its terms. She argues that it constructed the women's liberation movement as the source of many of the problems alleged to be plaguing women in the late 1980s. She also argues that many of these problems are illusory, constructed by the media without reliable evidence. According to her, this type of backlash is a historical trend, recurring when it appears that women have made substantial gains in their efforts to obtain equal rights.

Angela McRobbie argues that adding the prefix post to feminism undermines the strides that feminism has made in achieving equality for everyone, including women. Post-feminism gives the impression that equality has been achieved and that feminists can now focus on something else entirely. McRobbie believes that post-feminism is most clearly seen on so-called feminist media products, such as Bridget Jones's Diary, Sex and the City, and Ally McBeal. Female characters like Bridget Jones and Carrie Bradshaw claim to be liberated and clearly enjoy their sexuality, but what they are constantly searching for is the one man who will make everything worthwhile.

French feminism refers to a branch of feminist thinking from a group of feminists in France from the 1970s to the 1990s. French feminism, compared to Anglophone feminism, is distinguished by an approach which is more philosophical and literary. Its writings tend to be effusive and metaphorical being less concerned with political doctrine and generally focused on theories of "the body". The term includes writers who are not French, but who have worked substantially in France and the French tradition such as Julia Kristeva and Bracha Ettinger.

The French author and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir wrote novels; monographs on philosophy, politics, and social issues; essays, biographies, and an autobiography. She is now best known for her metaphysical novels, including She Came to Stay and The Mandarins, and for her 1949 treatise The Second Sex, a detailed analysis of women's oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism. It sets out a feminist existentialism which prescribes a moral revolution. As an existentialist, she accepted Jean-Paul Sartre's precept that existence precedes essence; hence "one is not born a woman, but becomes one". Her analysis focuses on the social construction of Woman as the Other, this de Beauvoir identifies as fundamental to women's oppression. She argues that women have historically been considered deviant and abnormal, and contends that even Mary Wollstonecraft considered men to be the ideal toward which women should aspire. De Beauvoir argues that for feminism to move forward, this attitude must be set aside.

In the 1970s French feminists approached feminism with the concept of écriture féminine (which translates as female, or feminine writing). Helene Cixous argues that writing and philosophy are phallocentric and along with other French feminists such as Luce Irigaray emphasize "writing from the body" as a subversive exercise. The work of the feminist psychoanalyst and philosopher, Julia Kristeva, has influenced feminist theory in general and feminist literary criticism in particular. From the 1980s onwards the work of the artist and psychoanalyst Bracha Ettinger has influenced literary criticism, art history and film theory., . However, as the scholar Elizabeth Wright points out, "none of these French feminists align themselves with the feminist movement as it appeared in the Anglophone world".

Feminist theory is an extension of feminism into theoretical or philosophical fields. It encompasses work in a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, economics, women's studies, literary criticism, art history, psychoanalysis and philosophy. Feminist theory aims to understand gender inequality and focuses on gender politics, power relations, and sexuality. While providing a critique of these social and political relations, much of feminist theory also focuses on the promotion of women's rights and interests. Themes explored in feminist theory include discrimination, stereotyping, objectification (especially sexual objectification), oppression, and patriarchy.

The American literary critic and feminist Elaine Showalter describes the phased development of feminist theory. The first she calls "feminist critique", in which the feminist reader examines the ideologies behind literary phenomena. The second Showalter calls "gynocriticism", in which the "woman is producer of textual meaning" including "the psychodynamics of female creativity; linguistics and the problem of a female language; the trajectory of the individual or collective female literary career and literary history". The last phase she calls "gender theory", in which the "ideological inscription and the literary effects of the sex/gender system" are explored". This model has been criticized by the scholar Toril Moi who sees it as an essentialist and deterministic model for female subjectivity and for failing to account for the situation of women outside the West.

Several submovements of feminist ideology have developed over the years; some of the major subtypes are listed below. These movements often overlap, and some feminists identify themselves with several types of feminist thought.

Socialist feminism connects the oppression of women to Marxist ideas about exploitation, oppression and labor. Socialist feminists see women as being held down as a result of their unequal standing in both the workplace and the domestic sphere. Prostitution, domestic work, childcare, and marriage are all seen by socialist feminists as ways in which women are exploited by a patriarchal system which devalues women and the substantial work that they do. Socialist feminists focus their energies on broad change that affects society as a whole, rather than on an individual basis. They see the need to work alongside not just men, but all other groups, as they see the oppression of women as a part of a larger pattern that affects everyone involved in the capitalist system.

Marx felt that when class oppression was overcome, gender oppression would vanish as well. According to some socialist feminists, this view of gender oppression as a sub-class of class oppression is naive and much of the work of socialist feminists has gone towards separating gender phenomena from class phenomena. Some contributors to socialist feminism have criticized these traditional Marxist ideas for being largely silent on gender oppression except to subsume it underneath broader class oppression. Other socialist feminists, notably two long-lived American organizations Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party, point to the classic Marxist writings of Frederick Engels and August Bebel as a powerful explanation of the link between gender oppression and class exploitation.

In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century both Clara Zetkin and Eleanor Marx were against the demonization of men and supported a proletarian revolution that would overcome as many male-female inequalities as possible.

Radical feminism considers the male controlled capitalist hierarchy, which it describes as sexist, as the defining feature of women’s oppression. Radical feminists believe that women can free themselves only when they have done away with what they consider an inherently oppressive and dominating patriarchal system. Radical feminists feel that there is a male-based authority and power structure and that it is responsible for oppression and inequality, and that as long as the system and its values are in place, society will not be able to be reformed in any significant way. Some radical feminists see no alternatives other than the total uprooting and reconstruction of society in order to achieve their goals.

Over time a number of sub-types of Radical feminism have emerged, such as Cultural feminism, Separatist feminism and Anti-pornography feminism. Cultural feminism is the ideology of a "female nature" or "female essence" that attempts to revalidate what they consider undervalued female attributes. It emphasizes the difference between women and men but considers that difference to be psychological, and to be culturally constructed rather than biologically innate. Its critics assert that because it is based on an essentialist view of the differences between women and men and advocates independence and institution building, it has led feminists to retreat from politics to “life-style” Once such critic, Alice Echols (a feminist historian and cultural theorist), credits Redstockings member Brooke Williams with introducing the term cultural feminism in 1975 to describe the depoliticisation of radical feminism.

Separatist feminism is a form of radical feminism that does not support heterosexual relationships. Its proponents argue that the sexual disparities between men and women are unresolvable. Separatist feminists generally do not feel that men can make positive contributions to the feminist movement and that even well-intentioned men replicate patriarchal dynamics. Author Marilyn Frye describes separatist feminism as "separation of various sorts or modes from men and from institutions, relationships, roles and activities that are male-defined, male-dominated, and operating for the benefit of males and the maintenance of male privilege – this separation being initiated or maintained, at will, by women".

Liberal feminism asserts the equality of men and women through political and legal reform. It is an individualistic form of feminism, which focuses on women’s ability to show and maintain their equality through their own actions and choices. Liberal feminism uses the personal interactions between men and women as the place from which to transform society. According to liberal feminists, all women are capable of asserting their ability to achieve equality, therefore it is possible for change to happen without altering the structure of society. Issues important to liberal feminists include reproductive and abortion rights, sexual harassment, voting, education, "equal pay for equal work", affordable childcare, affordable health care, and bringing to light the frequency of sexual and domestic violence against women.

Black feminism argues that sexism, class oppression, and racism are inextricably bound together. Forms of feminism that strive to overcome sexism and class oppression but ignore race can discriminate against many people, including women, through racial bias. The Combahee River Collective argued in 1974 that the liberation of black women entails freedom for all people, since it would require the end of racism, sexism, and class oppression. One of the theories that evolved out of this movement was Alice Walker's Womanism. It emerged after the early feminist movements that were led specifically by white women who advocated social changes such as woman’s suffrage. These movements were largely white middle-class movements and had generally ignored oppression based on racism and classism. Alice Walker and other Womanists pointed out that black women experienced a different and more intense kind of oppression from that of white women.

Angela Davis was one of the first people who articulated an argument centered around the intersection of race, gender, and class in her book, Women, Race, and Class. Kimberle Crenshaw, a prominent feminist law theorist, gave the idea the name Intersectionality while discussing identity politics in her essay, "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence Against Women of Color".

Postcolonial feminists argue that oppression relating to the colonial experience, particularly racial, class, and ethnic oppression, has marginalized women in postcolonial societies. They challenge the assumption that gender oppression is the primary force of patriarchy. Postcolonial feminists object to portrayals of women of non-Western societies as passive and voiceless victims and the portrayal of Western women as modern, educated and empowered.

Postcolonial feminism emerged from the gendered history of colonialism: colonial powers often imposed Western norms on colonized regions. In the 1940s and 1950s, after the formation of the United Nations, former colonies were monitored by the West for what was considered "social progress". The status of women in the developing world has been monitored by organizations such as the United Nations and as a result traditional practices and roles taken up by women—sometimes seen as distasteful by Western standards—could be considered a form of rebellion against colonial oppression. Postcolonial feminists today struggle to fight gender oppression within their own cultural models of society rather than through those imposed by the Western colonizers.

Postcolonial feminism is critical of Western forms of feminism, notably radical feminism and liberal feminism and their universalization of female experience. Postcolonial feminists argue that cultures impacted by colonialism are often vastly different and should be treated as such. Colonial oppression may result in the glorification of pre-colonial culture, which, in cultures with traditions of power stratification along gender lines, could mean the acceptance of, or refusal to deal with, inherent issues of gender inequality. Postcolonial feminists can be described as feminists who have reacted against both universalizing tendencies in Western feminist thought and a lack of attention to gender issues in mainstream postcolonial thought.

Third-world feminism has been described as a group of feminist theories developed by feminists who acquired their views and took part in feminist politics in so-called third-world countries. Although women from the third world have been engaged in the feminist movement, Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Sarojini Sahoo criticize Western feminism on the grounds that it is ethnocentric and does not take into account the unique experiences of women from third-world countries or the existence of feminisms indigenous to third-world countries. According to Chandra Talpade Mohanty, women in the third world feel that Western feminism bases its understanding of women on "internal racism, classism and homophobia". This discourse is strongly related to African feminism and postcolonial feminism. Its development is also associated with concepts such as black feminism, womanism, "Africana womanism", "motherism", "Stiwanism", "negofeminism", chicana feminism, and "femalism".

Multiracial feminism (also known as “women of color” feminism) offers a standpoint theory and analysis of the lives and experiences of women of color. The theory emerged in the 1990s and was developed by Dr. Maxine Baca Zinn, a Chicana feminist and Dr. Bonnie Thornton Dill, a sociology expert on African American women and family.

There are several categories under the theory of libertarian feminism, or kinds of feminism that are linked to libertarian ideologies. Anarcha-feminism (also called anarchist feminism or anarcho-feminism) combines feminist and anarchist beliefs, embodying classical libertarianism rather than contemporary conservative libertarianism. Anarcha-feminists view patriarchy as a manifestation of hierarchy, believing that the fight against patriarchy is an essential part of the class struggle and the anarchist struggle against the state. Anarcha-feminists such as Susan Brown see the anarchist struggle as a necessary component of the feminist struggle. In Brown's words, "anarchism is a political philosophy that opposes all relationships of power, it is inherently feminist". Recently, Wendy McElroy has defined a position (which she labels "ifeminism" or "individualist feminism") that combines feminism with anarcho-capitalism or contemporary conservative libertarianism, arguing that a pro-capitalist, anti-state position is compatible with an emphasis on equal rights and empowerment for women. Individualist anarchist-feminism has grown from the US-based individualist anarchism movement.

Post-structural feminism, also referred to as French feminism, uses the insights of various epistemological movements, including psychoanalysis, linguistics, political theory (Marxist and post-Marxist theory), race theory, literary theory, and other intellectual currents for feminist concerns. Many post-structural feminists maintain that difference is one of the most powerful tools that females possess in their struggle with patriarchal domination, and that to equate the feminist movement only with equality is to deny women a plethora of options because equality is still defined from the masculine or patriarchal perspective.

Postmodern feminism is an approach to feminist theory that incorporates postmodern and post-structuralist theory. The largest departure from other branches of feminism is the argument that gender is constructed through language. The most notable proponent of this argument is Judith Butler. In her 1990 book, Gender Trouble, she draws on and critiques the work of Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan. Butler criticizes the distinction drawn by previous feminisms between biological sex and socially constructed gender. She says that this does not allow for a sufficient criticism of essentialism. For Butler "woman" is a debatable category, complicated by class, ethnicity, sexuality, and other facets of identity. She suggests that gender is performative. This argument leads to the conclusion that there is no single cause for women's subordination and no single approach towards dealing with the issue.

A major branch in postmodern feminist thought has emerged from the contemporary psychoanalytic French feminism. Other postmodern feminist works highlight stereotypical gender roles, only to portray them as parodies of the original beliefs. The history of feminism is not important in these writings—only what is going to be done about it. The history is dismissed and used to depict how ridiculous past beliefs were. Modern feminist theory has been extensively criticized as being predominantly, though not exclusively, associated with Western middle class academia. Mary Joe Frug, a postmodernist feminist, criticized mainstream feminism as being too narrowly focused and inattentive to related issues of race and class.

Ecofeminism links ecology with feminism. Ecofeminists see the domination of women as stemming from the same ideologies that bring about the domination of the environment. Patriarchal systems, where men own and control the land, are seen as responsible for the oppression of women and destruction of the natural environment. Ecofeminists argue that the men in power control the land, and therefore they are able to exploit it for their own profit and success. Ecofeminists argue that in this situation, women are exploited by men in power for their own profit, success, and pleasure. Ecofeminists argue that women and the environment are both exploited as passive pawns in the race to domination. Ecofeminists argue that those people in power are able to take advantage of them distinctly because they are seen as passive and rather helpless. Ecofeminism connects the exploitation and domination of women with that of the environment. As a way of repairing social and ecological injustices, ecofeminists feel that women must work towards creating a healthy environment and ending the destruction of the lands that most women rely on to provide for their families.

However, feminist and social ecologist Janet Biehl has criticized ecofeminism for focusing too much on a mystical connection between women and nature and not enough on the actual conditions of women.

The feminist movement has effected change in Western society, including women's suffrage; greater access to education; more nearly equitable pay with men; the right to initiate divorce proceedings and "no fault" divorce; and the right of women to make individual decisions regarding pregnancy (including access to contraceptives and abortion); and the right to own property.

From the 1960s on the women's liberation movement campaigned for women's rights, including the same pay as men, equal rights in law, and the freedom to plan their families. Their efforts were met with mixed results. Issues commonly associated with notions of women's rights include, though are not limited to: the right to bodily integrity and autonomy; to vote (universal suffrage); to hold public office; to work; to fair wages or equal pay; to own property; to education; to serve in the military; to enter into legal contracts; and to have marital, parental and religious rights.

In the UK a public groundswell of opinion in favour of legal equality gained pace, partly through the extensive employment of women in men's traditional roles during both world wars. By the 1960s the legislative process was being readied, tracing through MP Willie Hamilton's select committee report, his Equal Pay For Equal Work Bill, the creation of a Sex Discrimination Board, Lady Sear's draft sex anti-discrimination bill, a government Green Paper of 1973, until 1975 when the first British Sex Discrimination Act, an Equal Pay Act, and an Equal Opportunities Commission came into force. With encouragement from the UK government, the other countries of the EEC soon followed suit with an agreement to ensure that discrimination laws would be phased out across the European Community.

In the USA, the US National Organization for Women (NOW) was created in 1966 with the purpose of bringing about equality for all women. NOW was one important group that fought for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). This amendment stated that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” But there was disagreement on how the proposed amendment would be understood. Supporters believed it would guarantee women equal treatment. But critics feared it might deny women the right be financially supported by their husbands. The amendment died in 1982 because not enough states had ratified it. ERAs have been included in subsequent Congresses, but have still failed to be ratified.

In the final three decades of the 20th century, Western women knew a new freedom through birth control, which enabled women to plan their adult lives, often making way for both career and family. The movement had been started in the 1910s by US pioneering social reformer Margaret Sanger and in the UK and internationally by Marie Stopes.

The United Nations Human Development Report 2004 estimated that when both paid employment and unpaid household tasks are accounted for, on average women work more than men. In rural areas of selected developing countries women performed an average of 20% more work than men, or an additional 102 minutes per day. In the OECD countries surveyed, on average women performed 5% more work than men, or 20 minutes per day. At the UN's Pan Pacific Southeast Asia Women's Association 21st International Conference in 2001 it was stated that "in the world as a whole, women comprise 51% of the population, do 66% of the work, receive 10% of the income and own less than one percent of the property".

Gender-neutral language is a description of language usages which are aimed at minimizing assumptions regarding the biological sex of human referents. The advocacy of gender-neutral language reflects, at least, two different agendas: one aims to clarify the inclusion of both sexes or genders (gender-inclusive language); the other proposes that gender, as a category, is rarely worth marking in language (gender-neutral language). Gender-neutral language is sometimes described as non-sexist language by advocates and politically-correct language by opponents.

The increased entry of women into the workplace beginning in the twentieth century has affected gender roles and the division of labor within households. Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild in The Second Shift and The Time Bind presents evidence that in two-career couples, men and women, on average, spend about equal amounts of time working, but women still spend more time on housework. Feminist writer Cathy Young responds to Hochschild's assertions by arguing that in some cases, women may prevent the equal participation of men in housework and parenting.

Feminist criticisms of men's contributions to child care and domestic labor in the Western middle class are typically centered around the idea that it is unfair for women to be expected to perform more than half of a household's domestic work and child care when both members of the relationship also work outside the home. Several studies provide statistical evidence that the financial income of married men does not affect their rate of attending to household duties.

In Dubious Conceptions, Kristin Luker discusses the effect of feminism on teenage women's choices to bear children, both in and out of wedlock. She says that as childbearing out of wedlock has become more socially acceptable, young women, especially poor young women, while not bearing children at a higher rate than in the 1950s, now see less of a reason to get married before having a child. Her explanation for this is that the economic prospects for poor men are slim, hence poor women have a low chance of finding a husband who will be able to provide reliable financial support.

Although research suggests that to an extent, both women and men perceive feminism to be in conflict with romance, studies of undergraduates and older adults have shown that feminism has positive impacts on relationship health for women and sexual satisfaction for men, and found no support for negative stereotypes of feminists.

Feminist theology is a movement that reconsiders the traditions, practices, scriptures, and theologies of religions from a feminist perspective. Some of the goals of feminist theology include increasing the role of women among the clergy and religious authorities, reinterpreting male-dominated imagery and language about God, determining women's place in relation to career and motherhood, and studying images of women in the religion's sacred texts.

Christian feminism is a branch of feminist theology which seeks to interpret and understand Christianity in light of the equality of women and men. Because this equality has been historically ignored, Christian feminists believe their contributions are necessary for a complete understanding of Christianity. While there is no standard set of beliefs among Christian feminists, most agree that God does not discriminate on the basis of biologically-determined characteristics such as sex. Their major issues are the ordination of women, male dominance in Christian marriage, and claims of moral deficiency and inferiority of abilities of women compared to men. They also are concerned with the balance of parenting between mothers and fathers and the overall treatment of women in the church.

Islamic feminism is concerned with the role of women in Islam and aims for the full equality of all Muslims, regardless of gender, in public and private life. Islamic feminists advocate women's rights, gender equality, and social justice grounded in an Islamic framework. Although rooted in Islam, the movement's pioneers have also utilized secular and Western feminist discourses and recognize the role of Islamic feminism as part of an integrated global feminist movement. Advocates of the movement seek to highlight the deeply rooted teachings of equality in the Quran and encourage a questioning of the patriarchal interpretation of Islamic teaching through the Quran, hadith (sayings of Muhammad), and sharia (law) towards the creation of a more equal and just society.

Jewish feminism is a movement that seeks to improve the religious, legal, and social status of women within Judaism and to open up new opportunities for religious experience and leadership for Jewish women. Feminist movements, with varying approaches and successes, have opened up within all major branches of Judaism. In its modern form, the movement can be traced to the early 1970s in the United States. According to Judith Plaskow, who has focused on feminism in Reform Judaism, the main issues for early Jewish feminists in these movements were the exclusion from the all-male prayer group or minyan, the exemption from positive time-bound mitzvot, and women's inability to function as witnesses and to initiate divorce.

The Dianic Wicca or Wiccan feminism is a female focused, Goddess-centered Wiccan sect; also known as a feminist religion that teaches witchcraft as every woman’s right. It is also one sect of the many practiced in Wicca.

Gender-based inquiries into and conceptualization of architecture have also come about in the past fifteen years or so. Piyush Mathur coined the term "archigenderic" in his 1998 article in the British journal Women's Writing. Claiming that "architectural planning has an inextricable link with the defining and regulation of gender roles, responsibilities, rights, and limitations," Mathur came up with that term "to explore...the meaning of 'architecture" in terms of gender" and "to explore the meaning of "gender" in terms of architecture" (p. 71).

Women's writing came to exist as a separate category of scholarly interest relatively recently. In the West, second-wave feminism prompted a general reevaluation of women's historical contributions, and various academic sub-disciplines, such as Women's history (or herstory) and women's writing, developed in response to the belief that women's lives and contributions have been underrepresented as areas of scholarly interest. Virginia Balisn et al. characterize the growth in interest since 1970 in women's writing as "powerful". Much of this early period of feminist literary scholarship was given over to the rediscovery and reclamation of texts written by women. Studies such as Dale Spender's Mothers of the Novel (1986) and Jane Spencer's The Rise of the Woman Novelist (1986) were ground-breaking in their insistence that women have always been writing. Commensurate with this growth in scholarly interest, various presses began the task of reissuing long-out-of-print texts. Virago Press began to publish its large list of nineteenth and early-twentieth-century novels in 1975 and became one of the first commercial presses to join in the project of reclamation. In the 1980s Pandora Press, responsible for publishing Spender's study, issued a companion line of eighteenth-century novels written by women. More recently, Broadview Press has begun to issue eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works, many hitherto out of print and the University of Kentucky has a series of republications of early women's novels. There has been commensurate growth in the area of biographical dictionaries of women writers due to a perception, according to one editor, that "most of our women are not represented in the 'standard' reference books in the field".

Another early pioneer of Feminist writing is Charlotte Perkins Gilman, whose most notable work was The Yellow Wallpaper.

In the 1960s the genre of science fiction combined its sensationalism with political and technological critiques of society. With the advent of feminism, questioning women’s roles became fair game to this "subversive, mind expanding genre". Two early texts are Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and Joanna Russ' The Female Man (1970). They serve to highlight the socially constructed nature of gender roles by creating utopias that do away with gender. Both authors were also pioneers in feminist criticism of science fiction in the 1960s and 70s, in essays collected in The Language of the Night (Le Guin, 1979) and How To Suppress Women's Writing (Russ, 1983). Another major work of feminist science fiction has been Kindred by Octavia Butler.

Riot grrrl (or riot grrl) is an underground feminist punk movement that started in the 1990s and is often associated with third-wave feminism (it is sometimes seen as its starting point). It was Grounded in the DIY philosophy of punk values. Riot grrls took an anti-corporate stance of self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Riot grrrl's emphasis on universal female identity and separatism often appears more closely allied with second-wave feminism than with the third wave. Riot grrrl bands often address issues such as rape, domestic abuse, sexuality, and female empowerment. Some bands associated with the movement are: Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Excuse 17, Free Kitten, Heavens To Betsy, Huggy Bear, L7, and Team Dresch. In addition to a music scene, riot grrrl is also a subculture; zines, the DIY ethic, art, political action, and activism are part of the movement. Riot grrrls hold meetings, start chapters, and support and organize women in music.

The riot grrrl movement sprang out of Olympia, Washington and Washington, D.C. in the early 1990s. It sought to give women the power to control their voices and artistic expressions. Riot grrrls took a growling double or triple r, placing it in the word girl as a way to take back the derogatory use of the term .

The Riot Grrrl’s links to social and political issues are where the beginnings of third-wave feminism can be seen. The music and zine writings are strong examples of "cultural politics in action, with strong women giving voice to important social issues though an empowered, a female oriented community, many people link the emergence of the third-wave feminism to this time". The movement encouraged and made "adolescent girls’ standpoints central," allowing them to express themselves fully.

The "Feminist Sex Wars" is a term for the acrimonious debates within the feminist movement in the late 1970s through the 1980s around the issues of feminism, sexuality, sexual representation, pornography, sadomasochism, the role of transwomen in the lesbian community, and other sexual issues. The debate pitted anti-pornography feminism against sex-positive feminism, and parts of the feminist movement were deeply divided by these debates.

Anti-pornography feminists, such as Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, Robin Morgan and Dorchen Leidholdt, put pornography at the center of a feminist explanation of women's oppression.

Some feminists, such as Diana Russell, Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Susan Brownmiller, Dorchen Leidholdt, Ariel Levy, and Robin Morgan, argue that pornography is degrading to women, and complicit in violence against women both in its production (where, they charge, abuse and exploitation of women performing in pornography is rampant) and in its consumption (where, they charge, pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, and reinforces sexual and cultural attitudes that are complicit in rape and sexual harassment).

Beginning in the late 1970s, anti-pornography radical feminists formed organizations such as Women Against Pornography that provided educational events, including slide-shows, speeches, and guided tours of the sex industry in Times Square, in order to raise awareness of the content of pornography and the sexual subculture in pornography shops and live sex shows. Andrea Dworkin and Robin Morgan began articulating a vehemently anti-porn stance based in radical feminism beginning in 1974, and anti-porn feminist groups, such as Women Against Pornography and similar organizations, became highly active in various US cities during the late 1970s.

Sex-positive feminism is a movement that was formed in order to address issues of women's sexual pleasure, freedom of expression, sex work, and inclusive gender identities. Ellen Willis' 1981 essay, "Lust Horizons: Is the Women's Movement Pro-Sex?" is the origin of the term, "pro-sex feminism"; the more commonly-used variant, "sex positive feminism" arose soon after.

Although some sex-positive feminists, such as Betty Dodson, were active in the early 1970s, much of sex-positive feminism largely began in the late 1970s and 1980s as a response to the increasing emphasis in radical feminism on anti-pornography activism, and to the ideas of anti-pornography feminists like Robin Morgan, Andrea Dworkin, and Catharine MacKinnon, who argued that sexual expressions such as pornography, sadomasochism, transexualism, and other "male" modes of sexuality are a central cause of women's oppression.

Sex-positive feminists are also strongly opposed to radical feminist calls for legislation against pornography, a strategy they decried as censorship, and something that could, they argued, be used by social conservatives to censor the sexual expression of women, gay people, and other sexual minorities. The initial period of intense debate and acrimony between sex-positive and anti-pornography feminists during the early 1980s is often referred to as the Feminist Sex Wars. Other sex-positive feminists became involved not in opposition to other feminists, but in direct response to what they saw as patriarchal control of sexuality.

Since the 1990s, other feminists such as Patricia Petersen, have argued that pornography may serve an important function for women - reduce the likelihood that they will be raped or victims of other forms of sex crimes.

Since the early twentieth century some feminists have allied with socialism. In 1907 there was an International Conference of Socialist Women in Stuttgart where suffrage was described as a tool of class struggle. Clara Zetkin of the Social Democratic Party of Germany called for women's suffrage to build a "socialist order, the only one that allows for a radical solution to the women's question".

In Britain, the women's movement was allied with the Labour party. In America, Betty Friedan emerged from a radical background to take command of the organized movement. Radical Women, founded in 1967 in Seattle is the oldest (and still active) socialist feminist organization in the U.S. During the Spanish Civil War, Dolores Ibárruri (La Pasionaria) led the Communist Party of Spain. Although she supported equal rights for women, she opposed women fighting on the front and clashed with the anarcho-feminist Mujeres Libres.

Revolutions in Latin America brought changes in women's status in countries such as Nicaragua where Feminist ideology during the Sandinista Revolution was largely responsible for improvements in the quality of life for women but fell short of achieving a social and ideological change.

Scholars have argued that Nazi Germany and the other fascist states of the 1930s and 1940s illustrates the disastrous consequences for society of a state ideology that, in glorifying women, becomes anti-feminist. In Germany after the rise of Nazism in 1933, there was a rapid dissolution of the political rights and economic opportunities that feminists had fought for during the prewar period and to some extent during the 1920s. In Franco's Spain, the right wing Catholic conservatives undid the work of feminists during the Republic. Fascist society was hierarchical with an emphasis and idealization of virility, with women maintaining a largely subordinate position to men.

Some feminists are critical of traditional scientific discourse, arguing that the field has historically been biased towards a masculine perspective. Evelyn Fox Keller argues that the rhetoric of science reflects a masculine perspective, and she questions the idea of scientific objectivity. Primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy notes the prevalence of masculine-coined stereotypes and theories, such as the non-sexual female, despite "the accumulation of abundant openly available evidence contradicting it". Some natural and social scientists have examined feminist ideas using scientific methods.

Modern feminist science is based on the view that many differences between the sexes are based on socially constructed gender identities rather than on biological sex differences. For example, Anne Fausto-Sterling's book Myths of Gender explores the assumptions embodied in scientific research that purports to support a biologically essentialist view of gender. Her second book, Sexing the Body discussed the alleged possibility of more than two true biological sexes. This possibility only exists in yet-unknown extra-terrestrial biospheres, as no ratios of true gametes to polar cells other than 4:0 and 1:3 (male and female, respectively) are produced on Earth. However, in The Female Brain, Louann Brizendine argues that brain differences between the sexes are a biological reality with significant implications for sex-specific functional differences. Steven Rhoads' book Taking Sex Differences Seriously illustrates sex-dependent differences across a wide scope.

Carol Tavris, in The Mismeasure of Woman, uses psychology and sociology to critique theories that use biological reductionism to explain differences between men and women. She argues rather than using evidence of innate gender difference there is an over-changing hypothesis to justify inequality and perpetuate stereotypes.

The relationship between men and feminism has been complex. Men have taken part in significant responses to feminism in each 'wave' of the movement. There have been positive and negative reactions and responses, depending on the individual man and the social context of the time. These responses have varied from pro-feminism to masculism to anti-feminism. In the twenty-first century new reactions to feminist ideologies have emerged including a generation of male scholars involved in gender studies, and also men's rights activists who promote male equality (including equal treatment in family, divorce and anti-discrimination law).. Historically a number of men have engaged with feminism. Philosopher Jeremy Bentham demanded equal rights for women in the eighteenth century. In 1866, philosopher John Stuart Mill (author of "The Subjection of Women") presented a women’s petition to the British parliament; and supported an amendment to the 1867 Reform Bill. Others have lobbied and campaigned against feminism. Today, academics like Michael Flood, Michael Messner and Michael Kimmel are involved with men's studies and pro-feminism.

A number of feminist writers maintain that identifying as a feminist is the strongest stand men can take in the struggle against sexism. They have argued that men should be allowed, or even be encouraged, to participate in the feminist movement. Other female feminists argue that men cannot be feminists simply because they are not women. They maintain that men are granted inherent privileges that prevent them from identifying with feminist struggles, thus making it impossible for them to identify with feminists. Fidelma Ashe has approached the issue of male feminism by arguing that traditional feminist views of male experience and of "men doing feminism" have been monolithic. She explores the multiple political discourses and practices of pro-feminist politics, and evaluates each strand through an interrogation based upon its effect on feminist politics.

Pro-feminism is the support of feminism without implying that the supporter is a member of the feminist movement. The term is most often used in reference to men who are actively supportive of feminism and of efforts to bring about gender equality. The activities of pro-feminist men's groups include anti-violence work with boys and young men in schools, offering sexual harassment workshops in workplaces, running community education campaigns, and counseling male perpetrators of violence. Pro-feminist men also are involved in men's health, activism against pornography including anti-pornography legislation, men's studies, and the development of gender equity curricula in schools. This work is sometimes in collaboration with feminists and women's services, such as domestic violence and rape crisis centers. Some activists of both genders will not refer to men as "feminists" at all, and will refer to all pro-feminist men as "pro-feminists".

Anti-feminism is opposition to feminism in some or all of its forms. Writers such as Camille Paglia, Christina Hoff Sommers, Jean Bethke Elshtain and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese have been labeled "anti-feminists" by other feminists. Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge argue that in this way the term "anti-feminist" is used to silence academic debate about feminism. Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young's books Spreading Misandry and Legalizing Misandry explore what they argue is feminist-inspired misandry. Christina Hoff-Sommers argues feminist misandry leads directly to misogyny by what she calls "establishment feminists" against (the majority of) women who love men in Who Stole Feminism: How Women Have Betrayed Women. "Marriage rights" advocates criticize feminists like Sheila Cronan who take the view that marriage constitutes slavery for women, and that freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage.

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History of feminism

A Women's Lib march in Washington, D.C. in 1970.

The history of feminism is the history of feminist movements and their efforts to overturn gender inequality. Feminist scholars have divided feminism's history into three "waves". Each is described as dealing with different aspects of the same feminist issues. The first wave refers to the feminism movement of the 19th through early 20th centuries, which dealt mainly with the Suffrage movement. The second wave (1960s-1980s) dealt with the inequality of laws, as well as cultural inequalities. The Third wave of Feminism (1990s-current), is seen as both a continuation and a response to the perceived failures of the Second-wave.

Limiting the history of Feminism to the history of the modern Feminist Movement has been criticised by some authors as ignoring women's opposition to patriarchy over the course of thousands of years. For example, Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women, put forth ideals now recognized as feminist, as an outgrowth of the enlightenment values espoused in the late 18th, early 19th centuries. Although some find the use of the term feminist prior to its coinage (sometime around 1880) "anachronistic", others prefer to see "feminism" as a self-conscious and systematic ideology beginning in the late eighteenth century.

The word "feminism" appeared first in France in the 1880s, Great Britain in the 1890s, and the United States in 1910. The Oxford English Dictionary lists 1894 for "feminism", and 1895 for "feminist". Prior to that time "Woman's Rights" was probably the term used most commonly, hence Queen Victoria's description of this "mad, wicked folly of 'Woman's Rights' ". It was the London Daily News that coined the term, and by importing it from France, automatically branded it as dangerous. "What our Paris Correspondent describes as a 'Feminist' group...in the..Chamber of Deputies".

Defining feminism can be challenging, but a broad understanding of it includes women and men acting, speaking and writing on women's issues and rights and identifying social injustice in the status quo. Activists who discussed or advanced women's issues prior to the existence of the "feminist" or "women's rights" movements are sometimes labelled 'protofeminist'. (see: Botting and Houser's '"Drawing the Line of Equality”', 2006) This term has been criticized because it potentially detracts from the importance of their contributions.

Marie Urbanski refers to this as erasing women from history in her account of Margaret Fuller's life. Others such as Nancy Cott stress the need to see feminism retrospectively and inclusively as "an integral tradition of protest", Where periodicity schemes have been defined by a culture, in which some voices are silent, engaging those voices creates an awkward fit with other "communities of discourse".

First-wave feminism refers to a period of feminist activity during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century especially in the Anglosphere. It focused primarily on gaining the right of women's suffrage. The term, "first-wave," was coined retrospectively after the term second-wave feminism began to be used to describe a newer feminist movement that focused as much on fighting social and cultural inequalities as further political inequalities.

In Britain, the Suffragettes campaigned for the women's vote, which was eventually granted − to some women in 1918 and to all in 1928 − as much because of the part played by British women during the First World War, as of the efforts of the Suffragettes. In the United States leaders of this movement include Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who each campaigned for the abolition of slavery prior to championing women's right to vote. Other important leaders include Lucy Stone, Olympia Brown, and Helen Pitts. American first-wave feminism involved a wide range of women, some belonging to conservative Christian groups (such as Frances Willard and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union), others resembling the diversity and radicalism of much of second-wave feminism (such as Stanton, Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage and the National Woman Suffrage Association, of which Stanton was president). In the United States first-wave feminism is considered to have ended with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1919), granting women the right to vote.

Second-wave feminism refers to a period of feminist activity beginning in the early 1960s and lasting through the late 1980s. Second Wave Feminism has existed continuously since then, and continues to coexist with what some people call Third Wave Feminism. The second wave feminism saw cultural and political inequalities as inextricably linked. The movement encouraged women to understand aspects of their own personal lives as deeply politicized, and reflective of a sexist structure of power. If first-wave feminism focused upon absolute rights such as suffrage, second-wave feminism was largely concerned with other issues of equality, such as the end to discrimination.

The Third-wave of feminism began in the early 1990s. The movement arose as responses to perceived failures of the second-wave. It was also a response to the backlash against initiatives and movements created by the second-wave. Third-wave feminism seeks to challenge or avoid what it deems the second wave's "essentialist" definitions of femininity, which (according to them) over-emphasized the experiences of upper middle class white women. A post-structuralist interpretation of gender and sexuality is central to much of the third wave's ideology. Third wave feminists often focus on "micropolitics," and challenged the second wave's paradigm as to what is, or is not, good for females.

In 1991, Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas, an African-American man nominated to the Supreme Court, of sexual harassment that had allegedly occurred a decade earlier while Hill worked as his assistant at the U.S. Department of Education. Thomas denied the accusations and after extensive debate, the Senate voted 52-48 in favor of Thomas. In response to this case, Rebecca Walker published an article in a 1992 issue of Ms. titled "Becoming the Third Wave" in which she stated, "I am not a post-feminism feminist. I am the third wave." Hill and Thomas’ case brought attention to the ongoing presence of sexual harassment in the workplace and reinstated a sense of concern and awareness in many people who assumed that sexual harassment and other second wave issues had been resolved.

The history of Third Wave feminism predates this and begins in the mid 1980s. Feminist leaders rooted in the second wave like Gloria Anzaldua, Bell Hooks, Chela Sandoval, Cherrie Moraga, Audre Lorde, Luisa Accati, Maxine Hong Kingston, and many other feminists of color, called for a new subjectivity in feminist voice. They sought to negotiate prominent space within feminist thought for consideration of race related subjectivities. This focus on the intersection between race and gender remained prominent through the Hill-Thomas hearings, but began to shift with the Freedom Ride 1992. This drive to register voters in poor minority communities was surrounded with rhetoric that focused on rallying young feminists. For many, the rallying of the young is the emphasis that has stuck within third wave feminism.

Whilst in the pre-modern period there was not a formal feminist movement, nevertheless there were a number of important figures who argued for improving women's rights and autonomy. These range from the medieval mystic and philosopher Ibn Arabi, who argued that women could achieve spiritual stations as equally high as men to Nana Asma’u, daughter of eighteenth-century reformer Usman Dan Fodio, who pushed for literacy and education of Muslim women.

The labor force in the Caliphate were employed from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, while both men and women were involved in diverse occupations and economic activities. Women were employed in a wide range of commercial activities and diverse occupations in the primary sector (as farmers for example), secondary sector (as construction workers, dyers, spinners, etc.) and tertiary sector (as investors, doctors, nurses, presidents of guilds, brokers, peddlers, lenders, scholars, etc.). Muslim women also held a monopoly over certain branches of the textile industry, the largest and most specialized and market-oriented industry at the time, in occupations such as spinning, dying, and embroidery. In comparison, female property rights and wage labour were relatively uncommon in Europe until the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the 12th century, the famous Islamic philosopher and qadi (judge) Ibn Rushd, known to the West as Averroes, claimed that women were equal to men in all respects and possessed equal capacities to shine in peace and in war, citing examples of female warriors among the Arabs, Greeks and Africans to support his case. In early Muslim history, examples of notable female Muslims who fought during the Muslim conquests and Fitna (civil wars) as soldiers or generals included Nusaybah Bint k’ab Al Maziniyyah, Aisha, Kahula and Wafeira, and Um Umarah.

Renaissance humanists such as Vives and Agricola argued that aristocratic women at least required education; Roger Ascham educated Elizabeth I, and she not only read Latin and Greek but wrote occasional poems, such as On Monsieur’s Departure, that are still anthologized. However, women who were exceptionally accomplished were described as manly or called witches. Queen Elizabeth I was described as having talent without a woman’s weakness, industry with a man’s perseverance, and the body of a weak and feeble woman, but with the heart and stomach of a king. The only way she could be seen as a good ruler was for her to be described with manly qualities. Being a powerful and successful woman during the Renaissance, like Queen Elizabeth I meant in some ways being male, a perception that unfortunately gravely limited women’s potential as women.

Women were given the sole role and social value of reproduction. This gender role defined a woman's main identity and purpose in life. The ancient philosopher Socrates was well-known as an exemplar to the Renaissance humanists as their role model for the pursuit of wisdom in many subjects. Surprisingly, Socrates has said that the only reason he puts up with his wife, Xanthippe, was because she bore him sons, in the same way one puts up with the noise of geese because they produce eggs and chicks. This analogy from the revered philosopher only propelled the claim that a woman's sole role was to reproduce.

Marriage during the Renaissance was what defined a woman. She was who she married. When unmarried, a woman was the property of her father, and once married, she became the property of her husband. She had few rights, except for any privileges her husband or father gave her. Married women had to obey their husbands and were expected to be chaste, obedient, pleasant, gentle, submissive, and, unless sweet-spoken, silent. In the 1593 A.D. play, The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, Katherina and Bianca’s father treats his daughters like property; the man who gives the best offer gets to marry them. When Katherina is outspoken and wild, society shuns her; she is seen as a wayward woman – a shrew – who needs to be tamed into submission. When Petruchio tames her, she readily goes to him when he summons her, almost like a dog. Her submissiveness is applauded, and the crowds at the party accept her as a proper woman since she is now "conformable to other household Kates".

The famous Renaissance salons that held intelligent debate and lectures were obviously not welcoming to women. This blatant denial would lead to problems that educated women faced and contribution to the low probability that a woman would get educated in the first place.

Marie de Gournay (1565-1645), the last love of Michel de Montaigne who published posthumously his Essays, wrote two feminist books, The Equality of Men and Women (1622) and The Ladies' Grievance (1626).

The 17th century saw the development of many nonconformist sects which allowed more say to women than the established religions, especially the Quakers. Noted feminist writers on religion and spirituality included Rachel Speght, Katherine Evans, Sarah Chevers and Margaret Fell.

This increased participation of women was not without opposition, notably John Bunyan, leading to persecution, and emigration to the Netherlands and the Americas. Over this and preceding centuries women who expressed opinions on religion or preached were also in danger of being suspected of lunacy or witchcraft, and many like Anne Askew died "for their implicit or explicit challenge to the patriarchal order".

In France as in England, feminist ideas were attributes of heterodoxy, such as the Waldensians and Catharists, than orthodoxy. Religious egalitarianism, such as embraced by the Levellers, carried over into gender equality, and therefore had political implications. Leveller women mounted large scale public demonstrations and petitions, although dismissed by the authorities of the day.

This century also saw more women writers emerging, such as Anne Bradstreet, Bathsua Makin, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, Lady Mary Wroth, and Mary Astell, who depicted women's changing roles and made pleas for their education. However, they encountered considerable hostility, as exemplified by the experiences of Cavendish, and Wroth whose work was not published till the 20th century.

Astell is frequently described as the first feminist writer. However, this depiction fails to recognise the intellectual debt she owed to Schurman, Makin and other women who preceded her. She was certainly one of the earliest feminist writers in English, whose analyses are as relevant to day as in her own time, and moved beyond earlier writers by instituting educational institutions for women. Astell and Behn together laid the groundwork for feminist theory in the seventeenth century. No woman would speak out as strongly again, for another century. In historical accounts she is often overshadowed by her younger and more colourful friend and correspondent Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.

The liberalisation of social values and secularisation of the English Restoration provided new opportunities for women in the arts, an opportunity that women used to advance their cause. However, female playwrights encountered similar hostility. These included Catherine Trotter, Mary Manley and Mary Pix. The most influential of all was Aphra Behn, the first Englishwoman to achieve the status of a professional writer. Critics of feminist writing included prominent men such as Alexander Pope.

In continental Europe, important feminist writers included Marguerite de Navarre, Marie de Gournay and Anne Marie van Schurmann (Anna Maria van Schurman) who mounted attacks on misogyny and promoted the education of women. In the New World the Mexican nun, Juana Ines de la Cruz (1651-1695), was advancing the education of women particularly in her essay entitled "Reply to Sor Philotea". By the end of the seventeenth century women's voices were becoming increasingly heard, becoming almost a clamour, at least by educated women. The literature of the last decades of the century being sometimes referred to as the "Battle of the Sexes", and was often surprisingly polemic, such as Hannah Woolley's "The Gentlewoman's Companion". However women received mixed messages, for they also heard a strident backlash, and even self-deprecation by women writers in response. They were also subjected to conflicting social pressures, one of which was less opportunities for work outside the home, and education which sometimes reinforced the social order as much as inspire independent thinking.

The Age of Enlightenment was characterised by secular intellectual reasoning, and a flowering of philosophical writing. The most important feminist writer of the time was Mary Wollstonecraft, often characterised as the first feminist philosopher. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is one of the first works that can unambiguously be called feminist, although by modern standards her comparison of women to the nobility, the elite of society, coddled, fragile, and in danger of intellectual and moral sloth, may seem dated at first, as a feminist argument. Wollstonecraft saw that it was the education and upbringing of women that created their limited expectations based on a self-image dictated by male gaze. Despite her perceived inconsistencies (Brody refers to the "Two Wollestoncrafts" ) reflective of problems that had no easy answers, this book remains a foundation stone of feminist thought. Wollstonecraft believed that both sexes contributed to the inequalities and took it for granted that women had considerable power over men, but that both would require education to ensure the necessary changes in social attitudes. Her legacy remains the need for women to speak out and tell their stories. Her own achievements speak to her own determination given her humble origins and scant education. As Pope attacked Astell and Montagu, so Wollstonecraft attracted the mockery of Samuel Johnson who described her and her ilk as 'Amazons of the pen'. Given his relationship with Hester Thrale it would appear that his problem was not with intelligent educated women, but that they should encroach onto a male territory of writing. For many commentators, Wollstonecraft represents the first codification of "equality" feminism, or a refusal of the feminine, a child of the Enlightenment. Other important writers of the time included Catherine Macaulay.

In other parts of Europe, Hedvig Charlotta Nordenflycht was writing in Sweden, and what is thought to be the first scientific society for women was founded in Middelburg, in the south of Holland in 1785. This was the Natuurkundig Genootschap der Dames (Women's Society for Natural Knowledge). which met regularly to 1881, finally dissolving in 1887. However Deborah Crocker and Sethanne Howard point out that women have been scientists for 4,000 years. Journals for women which focused on science became popular during this period as well.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, although individual women, and some men, were speaking out, it is doubtful how influential they were, other than to create awareness. There was little sign of change in the political or social order, nor any evidence of a recognizable women’s movement. By the end of the century the voices of concern were beginning to coalesce into something more tangible. This paralleled the emergence of a more rigid social model and code of conduct, that Marion Reid (and later John Stuart Mill) would refer to as a ”Womanliness” that admitted to “self-extinction”. While the increasing emphasis on feminine virtue partly stirred the call for a woman’s movement, the tensions that this role duality caused for women plagued many early nineteenth century feminists with doubt and worry.

In Britain, no statement as eloquent as Wollstonecraft's ‘’Vindication’’ would appear till Reid published her ‘’A plea for women’’ in 1843 which set an agenda for the rest of the century, including voting rights for women.

Caroline Norton was a woman who became active in advocating rights for women, the absence of which, upon entering into marriage, she had become painfully aware of. The publicity that she generated, including her appeal to Queen Victoria, helped establish one of the first women’s movements, Barbara Leigh Smith’s (Barbara Bodichon) Married Women’s Property Committee, which took up her cause.

While many women, including Norton, were wary of organized movements, their actions and words often motivated and inspired such movements. Amongst these was Florence Nightingale whose conviction that women had all the potential of men but none of the opportunities drove her to a career that would make her a national figure as a scientist and administrator even if the popular image of her at the time emphasized her feminine virtues more. The paradox of the gulf between the achievements which we recognize now, and how she was portrayed underline the plight that women of talent and determination faced at the time.

Women were not always supportive of each other’s efforts, and often distanced themselves from other feminists. Harriet Martineau and many others dismissed Wollstonecraft’s contributions as dangerous, and deplored Norton’s candidness, but seized on the abolition of slavery campaign she had witnessed in the United States, as one that should logically be applied to women. Her ‘’Society in America’’ was pivotal in that for the first time it caught the imagination of women who urged her to take up their cause.

Anna Wheeler had come under the influence of the Saint Simonian socialists while working in France, advocated suffrage and attracted the attention of Benjamin Disraeli, the Conservative leader, as a dangerous radical on a par with Bentham. Later she was to be the inspiration for William Thomson.

Earlier centuries had concentrated on women’s exclusion from education as the key to their being relegated to domestic roles and denied advancement. The education of women in the nineteenth century was no better, and Frances Power Cobbe was but one of many women who were calling for reform. But now many other issues were opening up as battlegrounds including marital and property rights, and domestic violence. Nevertheless women like Martineau and Cobbe in Britain, and Margaret Fuller in America, were achieving journalistic employment which placed them in a position to influence other women. If ‘feminism’ had not been invented, certainly women like Cobbe were referring to “Woman’s Rights”, not just in the abstract, but as an identifiable cause.

Just as Jane Austen had addressed the restricted lives women faced in the early part of the century, Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell and Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) depicted the limitations of a Victorian marriage and the different futures in store for brothers and sisters in the same family. In her autobiographical novel Ruth Hall (1854), American journalist Fanny Fern describes her own struggle to support her children as a newspaper columnist after her husband's untimely death. Louisa May Alcott penned a strongly feminist novel, A Long Fatal Love Chase (1866), that concerns a young woman's attempts to flee from her bigamist husband and become independent; in the process, she tries most of the respectable occupations – seamstress, paid companion, nun – open to women at the time.

Some male authors, too, recognised the injustice women faced; the novels of George Meredith and George Gissing and the plays of Henrik Ibsen also outlined the plight of women of the time, and Meredith’s Diana of the Crossways (1885) is an account of Caroline Norton’s life. One critic later called Ibsen's plays "feministic propaganda".

Part of the rationale of nineteenth century feminists was not only a reaction to the injustices they saw but the increasingly suffocating Victorian image of the proper role of women and their "sphere". This was the "Feminine Ideal" as typified in Victorian "Conduct Books", notably those of Sarah Stickney Ellis. "The Angel in the House" (1854-1862) was a long poem by Coventry Patmore, whose image of wedded love in the title soon came to be the symbol of the Victorian feminine ideal.

Barbara Leigh Smith and her friends started to meet regularly during the 1850s in Langham Place in London to discuss the need for women to present a united voice to achieve reform. This earned them the name of the Ladies of Langham Place. They included Bessie Raynes Parker and Anna Jameson. Issues they took up focused on education, employment and marital law. One of the causes they vigorously pursued became the Married Women’s Property Committee of 1855. They collected thousands of signatures for petitions for legislative reform, some of which were successful. Smith had also attended the first women’s convention in Seneca Falls in America in 1848. Smith and Parker wrote many articles, both separately and together, on education and employment opportunities, and like Norton in the same year, Smith summarized the legal framework for injustice in 1854 in her “A Brief Summary of the Laws of England concerning Women”. Playing an important role in the “English Women's Journal”, she was able to reach large numbers of women, and the response of women to this journal led to their creation of the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women (SPEW). The Langham Ladies continued to provide inspiration, infrastructure and funding for much of the women’s movement for the remainder of the century.

Their task was not made easier by the reluctance of even those women who had themselves been outspoken, to unconditionally embrace such a radical idea, and who in their own words reveal the conflict of competing emotions. These included Evans, Gaskell and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who herself used the phrase "women’s rights" in Aurora Leigh, in addition to Caroline Norton.

Harriet Taylor published her ‘’Enfranchisement’’ in 1851, and wrote about the inequities of family law. In 1853 she married John Stuart Mill, providing him with much of the subject material for ‘’The Subjection of Women”. Taylor’s relatively low profile after her marriage has been a subject of speculation, but Mill was perhaps in a better position to translate theory into action.

Emily Davies was another woman who would encounter the Langham group, and with Elizabeth Garrett would help create branches of SPEW outside of London. While obtaining education remained largely a privilege rather than a right, the small group of women who were able to do so, were then able to campaign for women as a whole, realizing it was not just a portal to employment and financial self sufficiency but that the denial of education was tied to women’s expectations and their self image of their potential and worth.

The interrelated themes of barriers to education and employment continued to form the backbone of feminist thought in the nineteenth century, as described, for instance by Harriet Martineau in her 1859 article “Female Industry” in the Edinburgh Journal. The economy was changing but women’s lot was not. Martineau, however, remained a moderate, for practical reasons, and unlike Cobbe, did not support the emerging call for the vote.

Slowly the efforts of women like Davies and the Langham group started to make inroads. Queen’s College (1848) and Bedford College (1849) in London were starting to offer some education to women from 1848, and by 1862 Davies was establishing a committee to persuade the universities to allow women to sit for the recently established (1858) Local Examinations, with partial success (1865). A year later she published “The Higher Education of Women.” She and Leigh Smith founded the first higher educational institution for women, with 5 students, which became Girton College, Cambridge in 1873, followed by Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford in 1879. Bedford had started awarding degrees the previous year. Despite these measurable advances, few could take advantage of them and life for women students was very difficult.

In 1878, the University of Calcutta became one of the first universities to admit female graduates to its academic degree programmes, before any of the British universities had later done the same. This point was raised during the Ilbert Bill controversy in 1883, when it was being considered whether Indian judges should be given the right to judge British offenders. The role of women featured prominently in the controversy, where English women who opposed the bill argued that Bengali women, who they stereotyped as ignorant and uneducated, are mistreated by their men, and that Indian men should therefore not be given the right to judge cases involving English women. Bengali women who supported the bill responded by claiming that they were more educated than the English women opposed to the bill, and pointed out that more Indian women had degrees than British women did at the time.

As part of the continuing dialogue between British and American feminists, Elizabeth Blackwell, one of the first women in the US to graduate in medicine (1849), lectured in Britain with Langham support. They also supported Elizabeth Garrett’s attempts to assail the walls of British medical education against virulent opposition, eventually taking her degree in France. Garrett’s very successful campaign to run for office on the London School Board in 1870 is another example of a how a small band of very determined women were starting to reach positions of influence at the level of local government and public bodies.

Campaigns gave women the opportunity to test their new political skills, for disparate elements to come together, and for them to join forces with other social reform groups. One such campaign had been the campaign for the Married Women’s Property Act, eventually passed in 1882. Next was the campaign to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts of 1864, 1866 and 1869, which brought together women’s groups and utilitarian liberals such as John Stuart Mill. Women in general were outraged by the inherent inequity and misogyny of the legislation and for the first time women in large numbers took up the rights of prostitutes. Prominent critics included Blackwell, Nightingale, and Martineau and Elizabeth Wolstenholme. Elizabeth Garrett did not support the campaign, though her sister Millicent did. Later she admitted the campaign had done good. However, Josephine Butler, already experienced in prostitution issues, a charismatic leader and a seasoned campaigner, emerged as the natural leader of what became the Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts (1869). This demonstrated the potential power of an organised lobby group. The association successfully argued that the Acts not only demeaned prostitutes, but all women and men too by containing a blatant double sexual standard. Butler's activities resulted in the radicalisation of many moderate women. The Acts were repealed in 1886.

On a smaller scale was Annie Besant's campaign for the rights of match girls and against the appalling conditions under which they worked demonstrated how to raise public concern over social issues.

The fight for women's suffrage represents one of the most fundamental struggles of women, because explicitly denying them representation in the legislature gave a very clear message of second class citizenship. No campaign has embedded itself so deeply in popular imagination than that of women's suffrage over the past 250 years. However it took a long time to work its way up the list of priorities to gradually become the dominant issue. The French Revolution accelerated this, with the assertions of Condorcet and de Gouges, and it was women that marched on Versailles. This reached its climax with the founding of the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women (1793) which included suffrage on its agenda, before being suppressed at the end of that year. However, this ensured that the issue was on the European political agenda. German women were involved in the Vormärz, a prelude to the 1848 revolution. In Italy Clara Maffei, Cristina Trivulzio Belgiojoso and Ester Martini Currica were politically active in the events leading up to the events of 1848 there. In Britain suffrage emerged in the writings of Wheeler and Thompson in the 1820s, and Reid, Taylor and Anne Knight in the 1840s.

The Langham Place ladies again played a central role in women's suffrage, and set up a suffrage committee in 1866 at a meeting at Elizabeth Garrett's home, renamed the London Society for Women's Suffrage in 1867. Soon similar committees had spread across the country, raising petitions, and worked closely with JS Mill. Denied outlets by establishment periodicals, women like Lydia Becker started the Women's Suffrage Journal in 1870. Other publications included Richard Pankhurst's Englishwoman's Review (1866). Tactical disputes were the biggest problem, and the membership of various groups varied over time. One issue was whether men like Mill should be involved. As it was Mill also withdrew as the movement became more aggressive with each disappointment. The political pressure ensured debate, but year after year was defeated in parliament. Despite this the women benefited from their increasing political experience, which translated into slow progress at the level of local government and public bodies. However, the years of frustration took their toll, and many women became increasingly radicalised. Some refused to pay taxes, and the Pankhurst family emerged as the dominant influence on the movement, having also founded the Women's Franchise League in 1889.

The Isle of Man was the first free standing jurisdiction to grant women the vote (1881), followed by New Zealand in 1893, where Kate Sheppard had pioneered reform. Some Australian states had also granted women the vote. This included Victoria for a brief period (1863-5), South Australia (1894), and Western Australia (1899). Australian women received the vote at the Federal level in 1902, Finland in 1906, and Norway initially in 1907 (completed in 1913).

Women's history in the twentieth century can be depicted as a story punctuated by conflagrations in which they both participated to an unprecedented degree, and which both profoundly altered the demographics and power relationships of the landscape they found themselves in.

The Edwardian era saw a loosening of Victorian rigidity and complacency; women had more employment opportunities, and were more active, leading to a relaxing of clothing restrictions.

Women's rights were dominated by the increasing clamour for political reform and votes for women. The charismatic and controversial Pankhursts took the political initiative, forming the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903. As Emmline Pankhurst put it, votes for women were seen then as no longer "a right, but as a desperate necessity". At the state level, Australia and the United States had already given the vote to some women, and American feminists such as Susan B Anthony (1902) visited Britain. While the WSPU is the best known suffrage group, it was only one of many, such as the Women's Freedom League and the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett. WSPU was largely a family affair, although externally financed. Christabel Pankhurst became the dominant figure and gathered friends such as Annie Kenney, Flora Drummond, Teresa Billington and Ethel Smythe around her.

Veterans such as Elizabeth Garrett also joined. In 1906, the Daily Mail first labeled these women 'suffragettes' as a form of ridicule, but the term was quickly embraced to describe a more militant form of suffragist, which were becoming increasingly visible with their marches and distinctive Green, Purple and White emblems, while the Artists' Suffrage League created dramatic graphics. Even underwear in WPSU colours appeared in stores. They quickly learned new ways of exploiting the media and photography. The visual record they have left remains vivid, such as the 1914 photograph of Emmeline, shown here. As the movement became more active deep divisions appeared with older leaders of the movement parting company with the radicals. Sometimes the splits were ideological, and others tactical. Even Christabel's sister, Sylvia, was expelled.

Slowly but surely the protests became more vigorous and included heckling, banging on doors, smashing shop windows, and eventually, by 1914, arson. In 1913, one member of the group, Emily Davison, sacrificed herself on Derby Day, dying under the King's horse. These tactics produced mixed results of sympathy and alienation and many protesters were imprisoned, creating an increasingly embarrassing situation for the government. Matters progressively worsened, with hunger strikes, then risky force feeding, and eventually the notorious Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act 1913, nicknamed the Cat and Mouse Act which allowed women to be released when their illness or injury became dangerously acute, but officers were then not prevented from arresting and charging these women again once they recovered. Although it could be argued, as did Reginald McKenna, the Home Secretary, that this was relatively humane, since a number of these women appeared ready to die for their cause.

If the aims were to reveal institutional sexism in British society, they certainly created publicity, but it may have been as much the methods as the cause. They did, though, draw attention to the brutality of the legal system at the time. One can only speculate where things might have led, had not the First World War intervened in August 1914.

At the beginning of the 20th century, feminist science fiction emerged as a sub-genre of science fiction which tends to deal with women's roles in society. Feminist science fiction poses questions about social issues such as how society constructs gender roles, the role reproduction plays in defining gender and the unequal political and personal power of men and women. Some of the most notable feminist science fiction works have illustrated these themes using utopias to explore a society in which gender differences or gender power imbalances do not exist, or dystopias to explore worlds in which gender inequalities are intensified, thus asserting a need for feminist work to continue.

In the First World War women entered the labour market in unprecedented numbers, often in new sectors. They discovered that their work outside the home was now valued, but also left large numbers of women bereaved and with a net loss of household income. Meanwhile the large numbers of men killed and wounded created a major shift in demographic composition. War also split the feminist groups, with many opposed to the war, while other women became involved in the White Feather campaign.

Women's demand for the vote could no longer be ignored, and the Representation of the People Act 1918 enacted in February of that year gave men almost universal suffrage, and the vote to women over 30 years of age till the Representation of the People Act 1928 provided equal suffrage for men and women. It also shifted the socioeconomic make up of the electorate towards the working class, favouring the Labour Party who were more sympathetic to women's issues. The first election was held in December, and gave Labour the most seats in the house to date. The electoral reforms also allowed women to run for parliament. Although Christabel Pankhurst narrowly failed to win a seat in 1918, in 1919 and 1920 both Lady Astor and Margaret Wintringham won seats for the Conservatives and Liberals respectively, by succeeding to their husband's seats. Labour swept to power in 1924, including Ellen Wilkinson. Constance Markiewicz (Sinn Féin) was the first woman to be elected, in Ireland in 1918, but as an Irish nationalist, refused to take her seat. Astor's proposal to form a women's party in 1929 was unsuccessful, which some historians feel was a missed opportunity, and there were still only 12 women in parliament by 1940. Women gained considerable electoral experience over the next few years as a series of minority governments ensured almost annual elections. Close affiliation with Labour also proved to be a problem for NUSEC, which had little support in the Conservative party. However, their persistence with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was rewarded by the passage of the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928.

Women received the vote in Denmark and Iceland in 1915 (full in 1919), the USSR in 1917, Austria, Germany and Canada in 1918, and many countries including the Netherlands in 1919, and South Africa in 1930. French women did not receive the vote till 1945. Lichtenstein was one of the last countries, in 1984.

As with many movements, women soon discovered that political change does not necessarily translate into an immediate or noticeable change in circumstances, and with economic recession they were the most vulnerable sector of the workforce. Many had been made redundant by the end of hostilities. Some women who had held jobs prior to the war were obliged to give them up to returning soldiers. With limited franchise, the NUWSS needed to change its role. The new organisation, the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (NUSEC) still advocated equality in franchise but extended its scope to examine equality in the social and economic area. Legislative reform was sought for those laws that were discriminatory, including family law and prostitution. One area of division which is significant in the light of later developments was between equality and equity, which addressed accommodation to allow women to overcome barriers to fulfillment. In more recent years this has been referred to as the "equality vs. difference conundrum". Eleanor Rathbone, who became an MP in 1929, succeeded Millicent Garrett as president in 1919. She expressed the critical need for consideration of difference in gender relationships as "what women need to fulfill the potentialities of their own natures". A more formal split appeared with the 1924 Labour government's social reforms, with a splinter group of strict egalitarians forming the Open Door Council in May 1926. This eventually became an international movement, and continued till 1965. Other important social legislation of this period included the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 (which opened professions to women), and the Matrimonial Causes Act 1923. In 1932, NUSEC separated advocacy from education, and continued the former activities as the National Council for Equal Citizenship and education became the role of the Townswomen's Guild. The council continued until the end of the Second World War.

As feminism sought to redefine itself, new issues rose to the surface, one of which was reproductive rights. Even mentioning these could be hazardous. Annie Besant had been tried in 1877 for publishing Charles Knowlton's Fruits of Philosophy, a work on family planning, under the Obscene Publications Act 1857. Knowlton had previously been convicted in the United States. She and her colleague Charles Bradlaugh were convicted but acquitted on appeal, the subsequent publicity resulting in a decline in the birth rate. Not discouraged in the slightest, Besant followed this with The Law of Population.

Similarly in America, Margaret Sanger was prosecuted for her Family Limitation under the Comstock Act 1873, in 1914, and fled to Britain where she met with Marie Stopes until it was safe for her to return. Sanger continued to risk prosecution, and her work was prosecuted in Britain. Stopes was never prosecuted but was regularly denounced for her work in promoting birth control. Even more controversial was the establishment of the Abortion Law Reform Association in 1936. The penalty for Abortion had been reduced from execution to life imprisonment by the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, although some exceptions were allowed in the Infant Life Preservation Act 1929. Following the prosecution of Dr. Aleck Bourne in 1938, the 1939 Birkett Committee made recommendations for reform, that like many other women's issues, were set aside at the outbreak of the Second World War.

The Second World War was extraordinarily liberating and empowering for women, since most working-age men were away from their homes and jobs. Much moreso than in the previous war, large numbers of women contributed to life outside the home — especially in skills and professional expertise — as a result of the educational and employment opportunities that opened to them in the absence of the male workforce. The popular icon Rosie the Riveter became a symbol for a generation of working women.

However, at the end of the war women again found that many of their apparent gains disappeared or were taken away. This occurred across the board in the fields of industry, employment, and business. Women's forays into the military (WAC, WAAF, etc.) and sports were short-lived as well — for example, women's baseball, where women had proven they were at least as good as men, but were not wanted after the war's end. Despite the gains made over the first half of the twentieth century, the essential problems of discrimination, inequality, and limited opportunities reappeared after World War II ended and men returning from combat re-established their previous positions.

Consequently, the gradual emergence of a new feminism after World War II was referred to as second-wave feminism, to reflect the hiatus the war had created and the new directions taken following women's experiences during and after that war. Later it also became common to refer to feminism prior to World War II as first-wave feminism.

In 1963, Betty Friedan published her exposé The Feminine Mystique, giving a voice to the discontent and disorientation many women felt in being shunted into homemaking positions after graduating from college. In the book, Friedan explored the roots of the change in women's roles from essential workforce during World War II to homebound housewife and mother after the war, and assessed the forces that drove this change in perception of women's roles.

Over the following decade, the phrase and concept “Women’s Liberation” began to be discussed.

While people sometimes use the expression “Women’s Liberation” to refer to feminism throughout history, the term is relatively recent. “Liberation” has been associated with women’s aspirations since 1895, and appears in Simone de Beauvoir in 1953. The phrase “Women’s Liberation” was first used in 1964, and appeared in print in 1966. It was in use at the 1967 American Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) convention, which held a panel discussion on it. By 1968, although the term Women’s Liberation Front appeared in “Ramparts” it was starting to refer to the whole women’s movement. In Chicago, women disillusioned with the New Left were meeting separately in 1967, and publishing Voice of the Women’s Liberation Movement by March 1968. When the Miss America Pageant was held in September, the media referred to the demonstrations as Women’s Liberation, and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union was formed in 1969. Similar groups with similar titles appeared in many parts of the United States. Bra-burning (actually a fiction) became associated with the movement, and the media coined other terms such as “libber.” Women’s Liberation, compared to various rival terms for the new feminism which co-existed for a while, captured the popular imagination and has persisted, although today the older term Women’s Movement is used just as frequently.

1960s' feminism — and its theory and activism — was informed and fueled by the social, cultural, and political climate of that decade. This was a time when there was an increasing entry of women into higher education, the establishment of academic women's studies courses and departments and feminist thinking in many other related fields such as politics, sociology, history and literature, and a time when there was increasing questioning of accepted standards and authority.

It also became increasingly evident, almost from the beginning, that the Women's Liberation movement consisted of multiple "feminisms" — due to the diverse origins from which groups had coalesced and intersected, and the complexity and contentiousness of the issues involved. Starting in the 1980s, one of the most vocal critics of the whole movement has been bell hooks, who comments on lack of voice by the most oppressed women, glossing over of race and class as inequalities, and failure to address the issues that divided women.

Following the changes in women's consciousness provoked by Betty Friedan's 1963 exposé The Feminine Mystique, in the 1970s new feminist activists took on more political and sexual issues in their writings.

Feminist writing in the early 1970s ranges from Gloria Steinem (Ms. Magazine 1970), to Kate Millett's Sexual Politics. Millett's uses her bleak survey of male writers and their attitudes and biases to demonstrates her thesis that sex is politics, and politics is power imbalance in relationships. Her pessimism is reflected in her description of "the desert we inhabit". From the same period come Shulamith Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex, Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch, Sheila Rowbotham's Women's Liberation and the New Politics and Juliet Mitchell's Woman's Estate, the following year. Firestone based her concept of revolution on Marxism, referred to the "sex war", and interestingly, in view of the debates over patriarchy, claimed that male domination dated to "back beyond recorded history to the animal kingdom itself". Co-founder of Redstockings, Firestone, considered a radical, put "feminism" back in the vocabulary.

Greer, Rowbotham and Mitchell represent an English perspective on the growing revolution, but as Mitchell argues, this should be seen as an international phenomenon, but taking on different manifestations relating to local culture. British women too, drew on left political backgrounds, and organised small local discussion groups. Much of this took Bartplace through the London Women's Liberation Workshop and its publications Shrew and the LWLW Newsletter. Although there were marches, the focus was on what Kathie Sarachild of Redstockings had called consciousness-raising. One of the functions of this was, as Mitchell describes it was that women would "find what they thought was an individual dilemma is social predicament". Women found that their own personal experiences were information that they could trust in formulating political analyses.

Meanwhile in the United States women's frustrations crystallised around the failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment during the 1970s. Against this background appeared Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will in 1975, introducing a more explicit agenda directed against male violence, specifically male sexual violence in this treatise on rape. Perhaps her most memorable phrase was "pornography is the theory and rape the practice", creating a nexus that would cause deep fault lines to develop, largely around the concepts of objectification and commodification. Brownmiller's major contributions are this book and In our Time (2000), a history of women's liberation. Less well known is Femininity (1984) a gentler (compared to the bitterness of her earlier work) deconstruction of a concept that has had an uneasy relationship with feminism. One of the first women to develop the implications of pornography further was Susan Griffin in Pornography and Silence (1981). Moving beyond Brownmiller and Griffin's position Catherine MacKinnon, and Andrea Dworkin with whom she collaborated took up a position that is generally regarded as the extreme radical end of the spectrum, and therefore not widely supported in the movement. However, their influence in debates and activism on pornography and prostitution has been striking, in particular at the Supreme Court of Canada. Their position has been characterised as an extreme politicisation of sex, in which an individual woman's experience is generalised, so that women as a class are seen to be victims. This is a position that many feminists, civil libertarians and jurists find uncomfortable and alienating. MacKinnon, who is a lawyer, has a style considered to be frequently angry and acerbic. "To be about to be raped is to be gender female in the process of going about life as usual" She has described the perception of the inferiority of women as springing from misogyny, and is unconvinced that women ever express agency in their relationships with men. Sexual harassment, she says "doesn't mean that they all want to fuck us, they just want to hurt us, dominate us, and control us, and that is fucking us." To some radical feminists, she is a female Martin Luther King, the only person to truly express the pain of being woman in an unequal society, and to portray that reality through the experiences of the battered and violated, which she claims to be the norm. A useful evolution of this approach has been to transform the research and perspective on rape from an individual experience to a social problem. Caution should also be used in sharply dichotomising feminism and assigning terms such as liberal or radical to feminist writings. For instance Denise Schaeffer argues that MacKinnon actually relies on a number of fundamental liberal tenets.

One difficult issue that second wave feminism had to deal with was the increasing visibility of lesbianism within and without of feminism. Lesbians felt sidelined by both gay liberation and women's liberation, where they were referred to as the "Lavender Menace", provoking The Woman-Identified Woman from the Radicalesbians in 1970. Jill Johnston's Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution followed in 1973. Many lesbians felt that they should be central to the movement, representing a fundamental threat to male supremacy. In its extreme form this was expressed as the only appropriate choice for a woman. One of the more colourful lesbian feminist writers of this period was Rita Mae Brown. Eventually the lesbian movement was welcomed into the mainstream women's movement. The threat to male assumptions they represented turned out to be real in that their presence in the woman's movement became a target of the male backlash.

One of the main fields of interest to these women was in gaining the right to contraception and birth control, which were almost universally restricted until the 1960s. With the development of the first birth control pill feminists hoped to make it as available as soon as possible. Many hoped that this would free women from the perceived burden of mothering children they did not want; they felt that control of reproduction was necessary for full economic independence from men. Access to abortion was also widely demanded, but this was much more difficult to secure because of the deep societal divisions that existed over the issue. To this day, abortion remains controversial in many parts of the world.

These developments in sexual behavior have not gone without criticism by some feminists. They see the sexual revolution primarily as a tool used by men to gain easy access to sex without the obligations entailed by marriage and traditional social norms. They see the relaxation of social attitudes towards sex in general, and the increased availability of pornography without stigma, as leading towards greater sexual objectification of women by men.

Immediately after the war a new international dimension was added by the formation of the United Nations. In 1946 the UN established a Commission on the Status of Women. Originally as the Section on the Status of Women, Human Rights Division, Department of Social Affairs, and now part of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). In 1948 the UN issued its Universal Declaration of Human Rights which protects "the equal rights of men and women", and addressed both the equality and equity issues. Since 1975 the UN has held a series of world conferences on women's issues, starting with the World Conference of the International Women's Year in Mexico City, heralding the United Nations Decade for Women (1975-1985). These have brought women together from all over the world and provided considerable opportunities for advancing women's rights, but also illustrated the deep divisions in attempting to apply principles universally, in successive conferences in Copenhagen (1980) and Nairobi (1985). However by 1985 some convergence was appearing. These divisions amongst feminisms included; First World vs. Third World, the relationship between gender oppression and oppression based on class, race and nationality, defining core common elements of feminism vs. specific political elements, defining feminism, homosexuality, female circumcision, birth and population control, the gulf between researchers and the grass roots, and the extent to which political issues were women's issues. Emerging from Nairobi was a realisation that feminism is not monolithic but "constitutes the political expression of the concerns and interests of women from different regions, classes, nationalities, and ethnic backgrounds. There is and must be a diversity of feminisms, responsive to the different needs and concerns of women, and defined by them for themselves. This diversity builds on a common opposition to gender oppression and hierarchy which, however, is only the first step in articulating and acting upon a political agenda." The fourth conference was held in Beijing in 1995. At this conference a the Beijing Platform for Action was signed. This included a commitment to achieve "gender equality and the empowerment of women". The most important strategy to achieve this was considered to be "gender mainstreaming" which incorporates both equity and equality, that is that both women and men should "experience equal conditions for realising their full human rights, and have the opportunity to contribute and benefit from national, political, economic, social and cultural development".

In the eighteenth century, the French Revolution focussed people's attention everywhere on the cry for "égalité", and hence by extension, but in a more limited way, inequity in the treatment of women. In 1791, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen elicited an immediate response from the writer Olympe de Gouges who amended it as the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, arguing that if women were accountable to the law they must also be given equal responsibility under the law. She also addressed marriage as a social contract between equals and attacked women's reliance on beauty and charm, as a form of slavery.

During the nineteenth century, conservative postrevolutionary France was not a favourable climate for feminist ideas, as expressed in the counter-revolutionary writings on the role of women by Joseph de Maistre and Viscount Louis de Bonald. Further advancement would have to wait for the revolution of 24 February 1848, and the proclamation of the Second Republic which introduced manhood suffrage, and hopes that similar benefits would apply to women. Although the Utopian Charles Fourier is considered a feminist writer of this period, his influence was minimal at the time.

In France, with the fall of the conservative Louis-Philippe in 1848, feminist hopes were raised, as in 1790. Several newspapers and organizations appeared. Eugénie Niboyet (1800-1883) founded La Voix des Femmes (The Women's Voice), as the first feminist daily newspaper in France 'a socialist and political journal, the organ of the interests of all women'. Niboyet was a Protestant woman who had adopted Saint-Simonianism, and La Voix des Femmes attracted other women from that movement, including the seamstress Jeanne Deroin (1805-1894) and the primary schoolteacher Pauline Roland. Unsuccessful attempts were also made to recruit George Sand. The enthusiasm was short lived; feminism which was allied with socialism was seen as a threat as it had been under the previous revolution, Deroin and Roland were both arrested, tried and imprisoned in 1849. With the emergence of a new, more conservative government in 1852, feminism would have to wait until the Third French Republic.

The Groupe Français d'Etudes Féministes were French women intellectuals at the beginning of the twentieth century who translated part of Bachofen's cannon into French, and campaigned for family law reform. In 1905 they founded L'entente which published many articles on women's history, and became the focus for the intellectual avant garde advocating higher education for women and entry into the professions. Meanwhile socialist feminists, the Parti Socialiste Féminin, adopted a Marxist version of matriarchy. Aline Vallette depicted the overthrow of matriarchy with capitalism exploitation of labour. But like the Groupe Français, they saw the struggle as being for a new age of equality, not a return to a prehistorical matriarchy. French feminism of the end of the Twentieth century is mainly associated with the psychoanalytical Feminist theory, notably with the thinking of Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva and Hélène Cixous.

Perhaps the most notable figure of the women's movement during the Iranian revolution and in post-revolution Iran was Shirin Ebadi. She won the Nobel Prize for advocating democracy and human rights, especially the rights of women and children. Ebadi in collaboration with figures like Simin Behbahani, Mehrangiz Kar, Elaheh Koulaei, Shahla Sherkat, Jila Bani Yaghoob, Mahboubeh Abbas-Gholizadeh, Azam Taleghani, Shahla Lahiji, and others directed the women's movement in Iran in the late 20th century and at the turn of the new millennium.

In 1992, Shahla Sherkat founded Zanan (Women) magazine, which focused on the concerns of Iranian women and tested the political waters with its edgy coverage of reform politics, domestic abuse, and sex. It is the most important Iranian women's journal published after the Iranian revolution, systematically criticizing the Islamic legal code. It argues that gender equality is Islamic and that religious literature has been misread and misappropriated by misogynists. Mehangiz Kar, Shahla Lahiji, and Shahla Sherkat, the editor of Zanan, lead the debate on women's rights and demanded reforms. On August 27, 2006, a new women's rights campaign was launched in Iran. The "One Million Signatures" campaign aims to end legal discrimination against women in Iranian laws by collecting a million signatures. The supporters of this campaign include many Iranian women's rights activists and also international activists as well as many Nobel laureates.

With the rise of feminism across the world, a new generation of Indian feminists has emerged. Women have developed themselves according to the situations and have become advanced in various fields. They have become independent in respect of their reproductive rights. Contemporary Indian feminists are fighting for and against: individual autonomy, rights, freedom, independence, tolerance, cooperation, nonviolence and diversity, domestic violence, gender, stereotypes, sexuality, discrimination, sexism, non-objectification, freedom from patriarchy, the right to an abortion, reproductive rights, control of the female body, the right to a divorce, equal pay, maternity leave, breast feeding, prostitution, and education. Medha Patkar, Madhu Kishwar, and Brinda Karat are feminist social workers and politicians who advocate women's rights in post-independent India. Writers such as Amrita Pritam, Sarojini Sahoo and Kusum Ansal advocate feminist ideas in Indian languages. Rajeshwari Sunder Rajan, Leela Kasturi, Sharmila Rege, and Vidyut Bhagat are Indian feminist essayists and critics writing in English.

Japanese feminism as an organized political movement dates back to the early years of the 20th century, when Kato Shidzue pushed for birth-control availability as part of a broad spectrum of progressive reforms. Shidzue went on to serve in the National Diet following the defeat of Japan in World War II and the promulgation of the Peace Constitution by US forces. Other figures such as Hayashi Fumiko and Ariyoshi Sawako illustrate the broad socialist ideologies of Japanese feminism, that seeks to accomplish broad goals rather than celebrate the individual achievements of powerful women.

Feminism in Norway has its political origins in the movement for women's suffrage. Women's issues were first articulated in the public sphere by Camilla Collett (1813-1895), widely considered the first Norwegian feminist. Originating from a literary family, she wrote a novel and several articles on the difficulties facing women of her time, and in particular forced marriages. Amalie Skram (1846-1905) also gave voice to a woman's point of view with her naturalist writing.

The Norwegian Association for Women's Rights was founded in 1884 by Gina Krog and Hagbart Berner. The organization raised issues related to women's rights to education and economic self-determination, and above all, universal suffrage. Women's right to vote was passed by law, June 11, 1913 by the Norwegian Parliament. Norway was the second country in Europe after Finland to have full suffrage for women.

The development of feminism in Poland and Polish territories has traditionally been divided into seven successive "waves".

The 1920s saw the emergence of radical feminism in Poland. Its representatives, Irena Krzywicka and Maria Morozowicz-Szczepkowska, advocated women’s independence from men. Krzywicka and Tadeusz Żeleński both promoted planned parenthood, sexual education, rights to divorce and abortion, and equality of sexes. Krzywicka published a series of articles in Wiadomości Literackie in which she protested against interference by the Roman Catholic Church in the intimate lives of Poles.

After the Second World War, the Polish Communist state (established in 1948) forcefully promoted women’s emancipation at home and at work. However, during Communist rule (until 1989), feminism in general, and second-wave feminism in particular, were practically absent. Although feminist texts were produced in the 1950s and afterwards, they were usually controlled and generated by the Communist state. After the fall of Communism, the Polish government, dominated by ‘pro-Catholic’ political parties, introduced a de facto legal ban on abortions. Since then some feminists have adopted argumentative strategies borrowed from the American ‘Pro-Choice’ movement of the 1980s.

Feminism in America took a slightly different course than in Britain, and was slightly more advanced. The antislavery campaign of the 1830s provided a perfect cause for women to take up, identify with and learn political skills from. Attempts to exclude women only fuelled their convictions further, and were instrumental in moving women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott firmly into the feminist camp, leading to the 1848 Seneca Falls (New York) women’s convention, where a declaration of independence for women ("A Declaration of Sentiments") was drafted. Barbara Leigh Smith describes her meeting with Mott there in her American Diary, one of many links between the movements on each side of the Atlantic. The Declaration of Sentiments became the focus for the organised women's rights movement in America. Sarah and Angelina Grimké were examples of other women who moved rapidly from the emancipation of slaves to the emancipation of women, while Sojourner Truth, a freed slave, pointed to the injustice of freeing slaves and then only giving the vote to black males. The most influential writer of the time was the colourful journalist Margaret Fuller whose Woman in the Nineteenth Century was published in 1845. Her dispatches from Europe for the New York Tribune also helped create a universality in the women's rights movement. Had she lived, she was expected to become the leader of the women's rights movement. Her involvement with prostitutes was the beginning of a long and at times difficult relationship between the women's movement and prostitution. Another notable feminist of this period is Lucy Stone.

This period saw the contributions of Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage amongst others. Stanton and Gage saw the church as a major obstacle to women's rights. They therefore welcomed the emerging literature on matriarchy, and both Gage and Stanton produced works on this topic, Stanton's "The Matriarchate or Mother-Age", and Gage's "Woman, Church and State", neatly inverting Bachofen's thesis and adding a unique epistemological perspective, the critique of objectivity and the perception of the subjective.

Stanton made an astute observation regarding assumptions of female inferiority "The worst feature of these assumptions is that women themselves believe them". However this attempt to replace "androcentric" theological tradition with a "gynecentric" view made little headway in the women's movement which was dominated by religious elements, and she and Gage were largely ignored by subsequent generations.

Stanton, Anthony and many others led a 50 year battle for women's suffrage. Their first victory was in 1869 when Wyoming Territory extended equal suffrage to women. That same year the legislature in the Utah Territory passed an act giving women in Utah the right to vote. These rights were later revoked by the US congress in the Edmunds-Tucker Act in 1887, but restored by Utah in 1895. Gradually individual States joined them.

Nancy Cott draws a distinction between modern feminism and its antecedents, particularly the struggle for suffrage. In the United States she places the turning point in the decades before and after women obtained the vote in 1920 (1910-1930). She argues that the prior woman movement was primarily about woman as a universal entity, whereas over this 20 year period it transformed itself into one primarily concerned with social differentiation, attentive to individuality and diversity. New issues dealt more with woman's condition as a social construct, gender identity, and relationships within and between genders. Politically this represented a shift from an ideological alignment comfortable with the right, to one more radically associated with the left.

In the immediate postwar period, Simone de Beauvoir stood in opposition to an image of "the woman in the home". De Beauvoir provided an existentialist dimension to feminism with the publication of Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex) in 1949. While more philosopher and novelist than activist, she did sign one of the Mouvement de Libération des Femmes manifestos. The resurgence of feminist activism in the late 1960s was accompanied by an emerging literature of what might be considered female associated issues, such as concerns for the earth and spirituality, and environmental activism. This in turn created an atmosphere conducive to reigniting the study of and debate on matricentricity, as a rejection of determinism, such as Adrienne Rich and Marilyn French while for socialist feminists like Evelyn Reed, patriarchy held the properties of capitalism.

Elaine Showalter describes the development of Feminist theory as having a number of phases. The first she calls "feminist critique" - where the feminist reader examines the ideologies behind literary phenomena. The second Showalter calls "Gynocritics" - where the "woman is producer of textual meaning" including "the psychodynamics of female creativity; linguistics and the problem of a female language; the trajectory of the individual or collective female literary career literary history". The last phase she calls "gender theory" - where the "ideological inscription and the literary effects of the sex/gender system" are explored." This model has been criticized by Toril Moi who sees it as an essentialist and deterministic model for female subjectivity. She also criticized it for not taking account of the situation for women outside the west.

Ann Taylor Allen describes the striking gulf between the collective male pessimism and fin-du-siècle angst of male intellectuals such as Tönnies, Weber and Simmel, at the beginning of the twentieth century, compared to the optimism of their female counterparts, whose contributions have largely been ignored by social historians of the era. Feminists were well aware of Weber's "iron cage", it is just that they saw it as a starting point, not a finishing point.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the sociology of the family was one of the more prominent concerns of feminist theorists, who have been incorrectly typified as accepting the historical fact of primal matriarchy, whereas their interest was more in an empowering symbolism in interpreting the social issues they confronted. They used Bachofen and the rejection of an inevitable patriarchy to address family law reform and sexual morality. Feminists were sceptical about the objectivity of those who wrote about objective culture, as expressed in their perceived androcentricity. Jeanne Oddo-Deflou, leader of Groupe Français d'Etudes Féministes, went so far as to state that male rejection of Bachofen by male intellectuals was good enough reasons for females to embrace him. She rejected the emotion-rationalism dichotomy association with matriarchy and patriarchy, and with Stanton, asserted that rationality was as much an attribute of any mother-age civilisation as of patriarchy, and that it was mainly patriarchal behaviour that was logically irrational.

In English academic circles, the challenge to patriarchy started to permeate a variety of disciplines. Jane Ellen Harrison, a classicist, working from Friedrich Nietzsche's Bachofen inspired interpretation view of Greek culture argued that it was a shift in Pantheons that influenced the loss of matrilineal Greek culture with its more "primitive" pantheistic deities to a patriarchate both on Olympus and on Earth. Many other feminist theorists incorporated matriarchal approaches. These include the American Charlotte Perkins Gilman and British Frances Swiney. Gilman developed the idea of matriarchate as imaginative, pointing out how the trivial male role of fertilisation was responsible for "arresting the development of half the world" and depicts how rationality and emotionality can co-exist harmoniously in her utopian novel Herland. Swiney utilised Bachofen's work and his successors, such as Mona Caird, in addressing the social concerns of suffragettes, including sexually transmitted disease, infant mortality and prostitution, and founded a group, the League of Isis that produced a number of empowering works. These women's work in turn would be popularised by the reform minded periodicals of the time (such as The Suffragette, The Vote, The Malthusian, Westminster Review). More controversial, was the way these views were used to uphold or challenge the standards of sexual morality, which were very asymmetrical. Generally British writers upheld the standards but expected them to apply to men equally, while in the Netherlands and Germany they were challenged.

While the majority of feminists supported enforcement of paternal responsibility, the minority used the more radical matriliny argument that support of mothers and children was a state responsibility, and that women should not be humiliated by pursuing fathers. In Holland this was the Vrije Vrouwen (Free Women), through their journal Evolutie, edited by Wilhelmine Drucker in the 1890s. In Germany Ruth Bré (Elisabeth Bouness) founded the Bund für Mutterschutz (League for the Protection of Mothers) in 1905, and took this further advocating a matriarchal society of single mothers, while the league attracted many prominent reformers, female and male, including Helene Stöcker, Lily Braun and Henriette Fürth, they did not support her radicalism, believing that the genders should not be separated in a more evolved social model. However all groups supported equality of rights. The inspiration for these views came largely from Ellen Key in Sweden who believed that matrilineality was closest to nature. The Bund für Mutterschutz advanced the "New Ethic" of women controlling their own sexual and reproductive needs, as a creative and life providing force. For instance Fürth believed that motherhood transcended marriage. Disproportionate to their numerical size, these sexual radicals set a new agenda for the discussion of morality in the west. Understandably, many saw these new ideas as alarming, and threatening.

The moderate majority is represented by groups such as the Bund Deutscher Frauenvereine (League of German Women's Organizations) led by Marianne Weber (who was married to Max Weber), and who warned against belief in “lost paradise”. Weber repudiated Bachofen in her ‘’Wife and Mother in Legal History’’ along socialist interpretations, distinguishing between matrilineality and the status of women. Interestingly she argued for marriage to protect the status of children, without doubting the need for this in the first place. However she also rejected the inevitability of the status quo, portrayed further evolution to equality, reform of family law, and although describing monogamy as an ideal, went so far to suggest it was not for everyone, and that non-monogamous relationships were not immoral, views she shared with her husband.

In France, Madeleine Pelletier was equally sceptical about historical patriarchy, but more so some of her colleagues flowery symbolism which she suspected was actually confining. In a foreshadowing of Betty Friedan she pithily summed up the hiatus between male worship of the goddess and emancipation “Future societies may build temples to motherhood, but only to lock women into them.” She also held, what for those times were radical views on the need for women to control their reproductive rights.

In striking contrast to Freudian theory is his contemporary feminist Catherine Gascoigne Hartley, whose The Truth about Woman appeared in the same year as Totem and Taboo, based on the same material. To Hartley (also known as Mrs Walter Gallichan), Atkinson's readings were biased, and that it could easily have been the actions of women opposing patriarchy that brought about matriarchy, if only short lived. But to her patriarchy was equally unstable, and she saw the latter day women's movement as one restoring social justice. "It is the day of experiments...We are questioning where before we have accepted, and are seeking out new ways in which mankind will go...will go because it must".

However, despite all of these disagreements, there were common elements, an acceptance of some form of nonpatrilineal kinship in the past, the evolution of family kinship structures, and a belief in the evanescent nature of the status quo. Common to both male and female socialist writers were challenges to traditional views of family, this includes Gilman, Braun, Fürth and Alice Melvin. Some of the most radical ideas in American writing are found in Elsie Clews Parsons’ ”The Family” (used as a textbook), which included premarital sexual relationships, trial marriage and sexual liberation from better provision of contraception. These views attracted some negative media publicity, however discussions about kinship were now widely held. Countess Franziska zu Reventlow was a bohemiam who became a member of the mainly male Georgekreis (George circle), but parodied them, and predicted the sinister outcome of their male Dionysian view of liberated women.

Thus, most of what seemed radical ideas of the late twentieth century had already been described in the early years of the century.

Psychoanalytic theory emerged during the debate on kinship, and kinship and gender relations form the core of the theoretical writings, and has been portrayed as one of the elements containing feminism. It origins can be found in the Romantic, and in particular Bachofen's representation. The matriarchy-patriarchy conflict is central to Sigmund Freud's work, and to the schism that followed between him and Carl Jung. Freud's theories can be seen to be centred around the triangular Oedipus complex, the patricidal relation between child and father, and incestuous desire for the mother, as a model for the development of each individual's personality. The correspondence between Freud and Jung reveals their conflicting concepts of universal patriarchy on the former's part, and the yearning for liberation and return to matriarchy of the latter. Freud disliked feminist sexual radicalism, but echoed some of it "Mother-right should not be confused with gynaecocracy". The centrality of Oedipal desire is best expressed in Totem und Tabu (1913). He based his anthropological speculation on the work of J.J. Atkinson, who in turn was influenced by Darwin. Freud proceeded to layer Greek myth onto the Darwinian ethology of the herd and the polygamous dominant male, challenged by its male offspring, a position challenged by anthropologists, but which became influential in twentieth century culture. In Freudian analysis, Bachofen's world is now seen as the story of individual psychological evolution, a psychic recasting of ontogeny mirroring phylogeny.

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