#Women'sHistoryMonth: Why Third-Wave Feminism Matters

Feminism has affected American society since the beginning, albeit with some boundaries, but through the second and third wave, it has become more accessible. In the nineteenth century, the Seneca Falls Convention only included upper and middle class white men and women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton set the agenda for the first feminist movement, focusing on women’s suffrage. Women’s participation in politics helped break the domestic expectation and opened up a world of opportunity.

The second wave grew out of the anti-war movement, when minorities became more aware of their lack of societal status. Sex was the main focus, and women longed for reproductive rights like birth control. This wave resulted in Roe v. Wade, giving women a right to safe abortion, and the Equal Opportunities Amendment, guaranteeing social equality. Unlike the first wave, feminists began talking about a more inclusive movement, including women of all races.

The third wave began in the mid-1990s and continues into the present-day (some people have claimed the fourth wave started in 2014) and aims to be completely intersectional. Following women that sat in jails for attempting to vote – for what are we fighting? Don’t we have equality already?


Identity and Body Image

“Don’t you need a vagina to be a woman?”

Third-wave feminism places a unique emphasis on inclusivity. Gender is a social definition of identity, while sex is male or female. Several cultures have more than two genders, including Native Americans. Those who only believe in two genders are in denial of the worldwide concept, but modern feminists are open to including anyone who may identify as a woman or non-binary. Participants don’t need a vagina or breasts to want equal opportunities; we are stronger together. Like Ariana Grande said on International Women’s Day: "It ain't feminism if it ain't intersectional."

There's also a recent trend of body positivity, especially on social media. Feminists are making efforts to make women feel happy in their bodies. There are more plus-sized and transgender models, and people are holding companies accountable if their models are just skinny blondes. Cheers to leaving Victoria's Secret in 2018! 

Protection of Reproductive Rights

“But what about the fathers?”

With recent governmental attacks against abortion rights and the defunding of Planned Parenthood, feminists are more aware of the rights the second wave handed down to them. Donald Trump appointed two Supreme Court justices, including Brett Kavanaugh, who are vocally Anti-Roe v. Wade. With a majority Republican Supreme Court, states wanting to pass laws restricting abortion, despite precedent, will likely be supported by the highest court.

Trump also recently made a move to defund family-planning programs that perform abortions. Therefore, Planned Parenthood – where abortions are only 3 percent of services each year – will no longer be funded by the government. Ohio also made a move to defund Planned Parenthood, which was supported by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on March 12.

With this recent attack on women’s reproductive rights, third-wave feminists need to step up and fight for their right to birth control.  

Gender Equality

“Oh, you want equality? That means I can punch you right?”

Feminists today wish to fight against the belief that women are inferior, specifically in business and the public and private spheres. Contrary to the popular belief that women earn the same amount as their male counterparts, women made about $11,000 less in 2010. Additionally, industries that are majority women, such as PR, have little woman leadership. This is due to multiple factors, including women leaving hostile environments, misogyny in the workplace and women being less likely to negotiate pay. CEOs and other women leaders in the workplace cite a need to learn golf or sports in order to relate to their male peers. If they don’t adapt, then they would lose opportunities.

Feminists also want to prevent casual misogyny in the public and private spheres. Specifically, they want to target a particular language, such as “slut” or “b!tch," as well as violence against women. Although men also suffer from sexual assault, women constitute the majority of victims in sexual harassment and assault cases. They are also less likely to be taken seriously, especially with social media’s focus on the 2 percent of women that lie about their assault. Domestic violence is also extremely prevalent worldwide. Although it happens every day, one study on the 2010 World Cup found a 37.5 percent increase in domestic violence cases after the game. Women are taught to carry pepper spray around campus or to the grocery store and to make an effort to respect men out of fear of potential violence. Third-wave feminists long to fight the misogyny that leads to this type of violence and discrimination in the workplace and beyond. Only then will women be truly equal to their counterparts.