As is said in Understanding Feminism by Peta Bowden and Jane Mummery, feminism is what feminism does. Meaning thereby, feminism has come to be defined in all these years by the way its practices and ideologies are formed within a movement. Therefore, in an attempt to define feminism, we must understand the waves of feminism in order to analyse women’s oppression and submission in the male dominant society.
The first wave of feminism which emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century arose in an attempt to aid women with the basic legal rights focused on universal adult suffrage. The second wave is considered to be a further step in promoting women’s equal rights, better education opportunities for women that would help them recognise their role in society. Initiating an expansion of the rights of women, in the 1990s the third wave of feminism also attempted to shift its focus into the socio-cultural lives of women i.e. violence against women, reproductive rights, eco-feminism, intersectionality, sex positivity and transfeminism.
In the technology-driven world, the aim of the fourth wave allowed women to join together on the social media platform to share their stories (also referred to as internet activism). These stories were inspired by incidents that were rooted in body shaming, sexual assaults and the very famous #MeToo movement. However, on the other side of the coin as much as these waves aimed at revolutionising the world with an aim to leverage the socio-economic-political-cultural position of women in society, there have been a lot of issues which still remain barely scratched on the surface.
A brief look into the current global scenario
Amidst the fourth wave of feminism, the Taliban successfully implemented a ban on women’s education and other human rights for almost 500 days, adding the ban on higher education for women recently. Ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus, there has been an increase in the report calls describing the atrocious conditions of women victims as a result of domestic violence. And even after the stringent restrictions and lockdowns come to an end almost globally, the increased violence has again shifted from the domestic sphere to the public sphere i.e. streets and public spaces.
Moreover, recently after the Global Gap Index released its 2022 key findings on the state of gender disparity, the global gender gap has been closed by 68.1%. The repercussions of such a vast disparity clearly signify that it will take another 132 years to reach full gender parity, the index report stated. In fact, recently the question posed by Rohini Godbole (Indian Institute of Sciences) about the need to have more direct studies on gender issues in science in India recently proved concerning.
The possible answer: Is there a need for a fifth wave of feminism?
These recent trends that are emerging against feminism and the upholders of feminism, women, are clearly indicating that even after such colossal upsurges, there is still a lot more that needs to be achieved. After almost a century of back-to-back waves, the global scenario seems such that it calls for the need of a fifth wave of feminism. A fifth wave could possibly focus on reiterating the fact that women’s rights are equal to basic human rights. The fact that women should no longer be compared to men because it is this comparison that leads to differences. These differences are in turn inevitable.
Instead of comparing “us” to men, we should focus on creating our own identities. At the moment, our identities are formulated by comparing our liberation to men, but once we create our own identities and our own set of rules and practices, there is no need for comparison and struggle between the two genders. In a review essay by Margaret A McLaren, she writes that “The debate about the importance of identity, both individual and collective, is central to contemporary feminist theory.”
Since feminism is already an attempt to initiate an individual identity for women. The dire need of the hour is to comprehend this “identity-making procedure”. To cut out the process of differentiating and instead focus on strong identification which will reduce this gender disparity.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
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