Feminism is, at heart, quite straightforward: It is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities — socially, economically, and politically. But a deeper dive into the history of feminism reveals a landscape of shifting ideologies that are divided into three, or sometimes four waves.
First came the women's suffrage movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, during which women fought bravely for the right to vote. The second wave came in the 1960s with the women's liberation movement, which sought to further erode sexist power structures. This wave had a strong focus on the personal experiences of women in relation to their political situation — "the personal is political” was a popular slogan among the movement.
From there arose third-wave feminism, and things got more complex. From the Riot Grrrl feminist punk subculture to the rise of the internet, the third wave was all-encompassing and embraced diverse racial and cultural identities. Some sociologists see a fourth wave extending from the third, largely centered around social media and campaigns such as Free the Nipple, the Women’s March, and the #MeToo movement.
Across all waves and eras, one thing has been constant: the presence of courageous women fighting for equality. Here are some quotes from famous feminists, from the suffragettes to the present day.
I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.Ruth Bader Ginsburg
A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.Eleanor Roosevelt
Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.Coretta Scott King
I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.Rebecca West
There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.Virginia Woolf
If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.Abigail Adams
When we abolish the slavery of half of humanity, together with the whole system of hypocrisy that it implies, then the “division” of humanity will reveal its genuine significance and the human couple will find its true form.Simone de Beauvoir
Men weren’t really the enemy — they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.Betty Friedan
When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed, but when we are silent we are still afraid, so it is better to speak.Audre Lorde
We are the women our parents warned us against, and we are proud.Gloria Steinem
We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help to free the other half.Emmeline Pankhurst
If a woman never lets herself go, how will she ever know how far she might have got? If she never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run?Germaine Greer
I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.Maya Angelou
To all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.Hillary Clinton
Of course I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in.Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not as two opposing sets of ideals.Emma Watson
If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?Malala Yousafzai
Welcome to the fourth wave of feminism… What's happening now feels like something new again. It's defined by technology: tools that are allowing women to build a strong, popular, reactive movement online.Kira Cochrane
This is a battle that we will win. Because women are wittier, brighter, stronger and braver than a misogynistic and patriarchal world has given us credit for.Laura Bates
The fact is that worth is a matter of opinion, and opinion is informed by culture. And if that culture is as male-biased as ours is, it can’t help but be biased against women. By default.Caroline Criado Perez
You’re not too fat. You’re not too loud. You’re not too smart. You’re not unladylike. There is nothing wrong with you.Jessica Valenti
There is inherent strength in agency. #MeToo, in a lot of ways, is about agency. It’s not about giving up your agency.Tarana Burke
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