Throughout history, women have starred in their struggle to achieve equal representation with men in society.
The gender struggle has been involved in different stages, processes and changes. The trajectory of the changes achieved, thanks to the feminist movement, has been divided up to the present in three stages, called the waves of feminism, currently entering the fourth wave of feminism
The first wave of feminism took place in the French revolution, being called enlightened feminism. Later from the mid-nineteenth century, until the end of World War II, the movement embarked on the second wave, liberal-suffragist feminism and in In the sixties, the third wave of feminism, sixty-feminist feminism or contemporary feminism appears. Nowadays we live in the fourth wave of feminism, feminism after the eighties, how it is popularly called.
Enlightened Feminism Wave
The French Revolution (1789) set the main objective of achieving the legal equality and of political freedoms and rights, but soon the great contradiction that marked the struggle of the first feminism: freedoms, rights and the legal equality that had been the great conquests of the revolutions liberals did not affect the woman.
In the French Revolution, women’s voices began to express themselves in a collective way. Among the French enlightened who developed the ideological program of the revolution, highlights the figure of Marquis de Condorcet who in his work Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Spirit (1743) claimed recognition of the social role of women.
In this context, Mary Wollstonecraft (England) writes the work A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), in which he makes a plea against the exclusion of women in the field of goods and rights that Rousseau’s political theory designs.
This work becomes the first classic of feminism in strict sense. For Wollstonecraft, the key to overcoming female subordination was access to education. Educated women could also develop their independence economic accessing paid activities. However, Wollstonecraft did not give importance to political claims and made no reference to the right to vote for women.
A vindication only managed to transfer their ideas to small circles of intellectuals. Something similar happened with the Declaration on the Rights of Women and the Citizen, written by Olympia de Gouges (1791). Olympia de Gouges denounced that the revolution had forgotten women in their egalitarian and liberating project. Their demands were freedom, equality and political rights, especially the law to the vote for women.
Rousseau’s conceptualizations that were aimed at rearranging exclusion took strength and were philosophers like Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard and Nietzche who led this philosophy.
The first to address the reconceptualization of the sexes was Hegel, who in the Phenomenology of the Spirit explained that the destiny of women was the family and that of the state and men could not contradict themselves. Schopenhauer added that the male sex embodies the spirit, while nature is the female sex and that continuity in nature is the fundamental characteristic in nature. That is, the feminine is a strategy of nature to produce being.
The second wave of feminism, socially known as suffragism, took place between the mid-nineteenth century and the fifties of the twentieth century, at the end of World War II.
The movement began in the United States, where four women joined the struggle for the independence of the country and the cause for the liberation of slaves. These two facts resulted in the woman beginning to deal with social and political issues. Given this, suffrage was born, which pursued two objectives: the right to vote for women and educational law, which remained related, since the movement defended that with the possibility of being educated, it would be more difficult to deny them the right to vote.
The suffrage movement in England emerged in 1951 and tried to continue democratic procedures in achieving its objectives for almost forty years. The English suffragists managed to have John Stuart Mill as an ally, who presented the first petition in favour of the female vote in Parliament and was a reference to think non exclusive citizenship.
The strength of the movement began when the four women who had fought for independence and slaves in the US traveled to England to attend an anti-slavery congress, in which they were denied entry because they were women. After several years of fighting in England, John Stuart Mill positioned himself as an ally of the movement, indicating that the solution in the struggle of women was to eliminate discriminatory legislative positions since once these restrictions were eliminated, women could leave the subordination and begin to become independent.
However, it was not until the Second World War that English women obtained their right to vote; since during the war, women began to occupy the jobs of the men who had gone to war. Before that, society could not oppose its demands. Against this, by the 1930s, the vast majority of developed countries had reconsidered and recognized the right to vote for women.
Still, after all the effort, when the war ended, the media and governments focused on the goal of removing women from the work force, returning them home, a manoeuvre called the Mysticism of Femininity.
After World War II, governments and the media of the masses committed themselves to a double objective: to take women away from jobs obtained during the war period by returning them to the home and diversifying production manufacturing. Women had to find destiny in the role of housewife comfortable and not go out to compete in the labour market. But the mystique of femininity was causing serious disorders in the female population.
Immediately before this manoeuvre, a fundamental work had occurred for feminism, The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (1949). This book is not known whether to consider it a culmination of suffragism or openness to the third wave of feminism.
Simone de Beauvoir analyzes women as the other, the Female sex is the other side of the mirror of the evolution of the male world and provides a non-biological analysis stating
One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.
Freedom is the central idea of this work, however it fell into a vacuum because it occurred in the same moment when the mystique of femininity was being forged.
The Third Wave
The third wave feminism came in the sixties, where in the face of the Mysticism of femininity women felt empty because of the role they should play in society: that of mother, wife and housewife. It was then that Betty Friedan created the National Women’s Organization (NOW), becoming the most representative female organization of liberal feminism.
Liberal feminism was characterized by its opposition to inequality, and not in terms of oppression and exploitation, it was about reforming the system to acquire gender equality. Liberals argued that the basis of the problem was focused on the exclusion of women in the public sphere, using their right to enter the labour market.
Feminism After the Eighties
In the 1980s a reactive conservative formation appeared, trying to relegate the feminist movement. While in some countries it was tried to create equality bodies to build a conservative female model, in others, for its very different political sign, the small feminism present in public authorities claimed visibility through the quota system and parity through positive discrimination.
It was clear that the power, authority and prestige remained in male hands. With a “glass ceiling” on all hierarchical and organizational scales, the visibility issue became objective and the quota system was the tool that allowed women to ensure presence and visibility in all sections in public.
A multitude of small and informal groups appeared in which women met, exchanged experiences, promoted self-awareness, etc. In recent years, many of these groups have been transformed into associations that offer support to women, often with programs subsidized by state agencies.