Illustrated guide of feminism incontext of women empowerment

Feminism in context of women empowerment: Its Origin, History, Theory, Movements and Ideologies




Origin of feminism and women empowerment

History of feminism and women empowerment

Theories of feminism and women empowerment

Feminist Movement

Ideologies of feminism 

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Social constructionist ideologies

Cultural movements


social impact



Purpose of this document

“Illustrated guide of feminism incontext of women empowerment” is a researched based document defining basics of feminism and women empowerment. ” Illustrated guide of feminism incontext of women empowerment” is written by (A

yaz and Zulkifl). This document is intellectual property of women empowerment organization Next generation moms.

Eventually, the purpose of writing this document is to provide an in depth insight about the concept of women empowerment. Subsequently, in this document we will illustrate some generalized feminist concepts of women empowerment to some narrower specific feminist theories. Concludingly, feminism incontext of women empowerment is written to provide a more clear view of feminism to our readers.

In this document we will discuss about following topics in light of women empowerment. Meanwhile, our main focus in this document as women empowerment organization is to provide some basic concepts of feminism.

Feminism Definition

Feminism definition in a very simple and easy way

Commonly, feminism is a sequence of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that works on some mutual goals. Identically, helps to, achieve, establish and implement some  economic, political and personal social rights regarding various social issues of women. Conceptualizing feminism, it illustrates some bindings that deploy equal opportunities in regards of employment, education and equality for women.


What does feminism mean?

Uniquely, feminism mean as a political economic and cultural movement seeking to establish equal opportunities and protection rights for women.

Define feminism definition

Feminism consists of political and social theories and philosophies concerning the issues of gender inequalities, while campaigning women’s rights. However, until 1970, the term feminism or feminist did not gain widespread use, they were used in early twentieth century.

What is a Feminist? 

Feminist is a socio societal agent who alone or with a group of people undertakes a series of political or economical campaigns. Particularly, these series of campaigns are meant to bring reforms on issues related to women. Comparatively, issues such as sexual violence, domestic violence, harassment cases and equal pay with men. Ultimately, a socio societal agent involved in all or few of above mentioned activities i called to be a feminist.

Who is a Feminist?

A Feminist activist is meant to promote autonomy and integrity of women. Comparatively feminist activist protect women from rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment.

Origin of women empowerment & feminist movement

Besides this, the history of feminism can be split into three waves. These three feminist Movements are also called Modern feminism. The first wave of feminism was started in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, mainly focusing on the legal inequalities. The second feminist wave began in the 1960s and 1970s. Additionally, the second feminist wave focuses on cultural inequalities, gender norms and women’s role in society. (Women From Past into the Future)

The third wave of feminism extends from the 1990s to the present day. Eventually, the third feminist wave was the continuation of the second wave with response to its failure. Furthermore, the theory of feminism and women empowerment results by the emergence of these three feminist movements. Subsequently, theory of feminism seeks to understand the nature of gender inequality by looking into women’s social roles and experiences. Feminism has developed theories in a number of disciplines in order to respond to the problems concerning gender.

Conversely, feminist campaigns were the only responsible variable for changing the societies in western countries, impacting on their culture. Perpetually, feminist campaigns were the drivers for some serious historical changes in west while enforcing women empowerment in societies.

However, Feminism has a commitment to the goal of bringing Women into the mainstream while ensuring their quality in society. it is also been criticized by some scholars for promoting only middle class, white and educated perspectives. These type of criticisms led to the creation of ethnic and multicultural forms of feminism, for example, Black Feminism, which include feminists such as Angela Davis and Alice Walker. Similarly, some Postcolonial Feminists, such as Chandra Talpade Mohanty, criticizes Western feminism for being very much ethnocentric.

How to increase women empowerment

History of feminism / History of women empowerment

History of women empowerment

When did feminism start in the US?

Feminism starts in US, in 1948 until the first Women’s Conference that was conducted in Seneca Falls, America.

Christine de Pizan wrote Epitre au Dieu d’Amour,  in the fifteenth century, on which Simone de Beauvoir wrote that she was the first women who took up her pen for the defense of her sex. In the sixteenth century, Modesta di Pozzo di Forzi and Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa worked on the issues of women empowerment. While in the seventeenth century, Anne Bradstreet,b n Francois Poullain de la Barre and Marie Le Jars de Gournay wrote on the history of women empowerment.

Feminist movements.

The division of the Feminist wave by the scholars and feminists helps us understand the historical evolution of the feminism and feminist movements. The first wave, which started in the nineteenth century and continued until the early twentieth century. The Second wave began in 1960s, while the third wave beginning in the 1990s until the present day. As we go further, I would like to discuss below, all the three waves of feminism movements in detail to understand the historical background of the feminist movements and its ideologies

  • Feminist Movements / The first Wave of Feminism

The first wave of feminism refers to an extended period of the feminist activities during the nineteenth and early twentieth century in the United States and the United Kingdom. Specifically, it was mainly focusing on the promotion of  the equal contract and property rights for women and the opposition to the chattel marriage and ownership of married women and their children by their husbands. However, by the end of the nineteenth century, feminist activism focused particularly on gaining political power, more particularly the right of women’s suffrage. Yet, feminists such as Margaret Sanger and Voltairine de Cleyre were still active in campaigning for women’s sexual, economic and reproductive rights at that time. In 1854, Florence Nightingale established female nurses as adjuncts to the military.

In Britain, the Suffragists campaigned for the women’s vote. Moreover in 1918 the Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed in the parliament granting the vote to women over the age of 30 who owned their own houses. In 1928 this act was extended to all women over twenty one. In the United States, prominent leaders of Suffragists movement which included Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony, who campaigned for the abolition of slavery prior to becoming activists for women’s right to vote; they all were highly influenced by Quaker thought.

The United States first wave of feminism involved a wide range of women, some include, such as Frances Willard, belonged to conservative Christian groups such as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Other feminist activists, such as Matilda Joslyn Gage, were more radical, and mainly expressed themselves within the National Woman Suffrage Association or sometimes individually. American first wave of feminism is considered to have ended with the passage of Nineteenth Amendment in the United States Constitution in 1919, granting women the right to vote in all the states.

The term first wave was coined after the term second wave of feminism began to be used in the description of a newer feminist movement that mainly focused as much on fighting social and cultural inequalities as it fought for political inequalities.

  • Feminist Movement / The Second Wave of Feminism

When did Second Wave of feminism started?

Second wave of feminism refers to the period of feminist activism in the early 1960s and lasting until the late 1980s.

What was the second wave of feminism?

The scholar, Imelda Whelehan, described that the second wave of Feminism was a continuation of the first wave of feminism involving the suffragettes in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Second wave of feminism has continued existing since that time and it coexists with what is termed third wave of feminism.

What was the second wave of feminism? according to scholar Estelle Freedman

The scholar Estelle Freedman compares first and second wave of feminism by saying that the first wave focused on rights for example suffrage, whereas the second wave of feminism was mainly concerned with the other issues of equality, such as ending discrimination against women and girls.

What was the slogan of second wave of feminism and who coined it?

The prominent feminist activist and author Carol Hanisch has coined the slogan “The Personal is Political” which has  became synonymous with the second wave of feminism. The second wave feminists saw women’s political and cultural inequalities as inextricably connected and encouraged women to understand the aspects of their personal lives as being deeply politicized and as reflecting sexist power structures.

The novels, essays, monographs on philosophy, politics, and social issues, biographies, and an autobiography written by French author and philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, helped the feminist activists in many ways in the struggle to achieve their goals. She is best known for her novels, including She Came to Stay and The Mandarins, and her treatise, The Second Sex, which is a detailed analysis of women’s oppression and a foundation tract of the contemporary feminism. It was written in 1949, and its English translation was published in the 1953. Moreover, It sets out the feminist existentialism which prescribes a moral revolution.

Simone de Beauvoir, as an existentialist, accepted Jean Paul Sartre’s precept that existence precedes essence, hence “one is not born a woman, but becomes one.” The de Beauvoir’s analysis mainly focuses on the social construction of Woman as the Other. By this de Beauvoir identifies as fundamental to women’s oppression. She goes on arguing that women have historically been considered the deviant and abnormal and contends that even Mary Wollstonecraft has considered men to be the ideal towards which women should aspire. She argues that for feminism to move forward, this type of attitude must be set aside.

Betty Friedan in her book, The Feminine Mystique, wrote in 1963, criticized the idea that women could only find satisfaction through childbearing and homemaking. According to the view of Friedan’s obituary in the The New York Times, the book The Feminine Mystique ignited the contemporary women’s movement in 1963 and in the result it permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States and the countries around the world and it is broadly regarded as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century.

In the book, The Feminine Mystique, Friedan provides a hypothesis that women are victims of a false belief system that wants them to find identity and meaning in lives through their husbands and the children. According to her, such a system causes women to entirely lose their identity in order to serve their families. Betty Friedan specifically locates this oppressive system among post Second World War middle-class suburban communities. In the mean time, America’s post Second World War economic boom had led to the development of new technologies which were supposed to make household work little difficult, but that, unfortunately, often had the result of making the work of women less meaningful and valuable.

The phrase “Women’s Liberation” was used in the United States for the first time in 1964 and first began to appear in print by 1966. In 1968, although the term Women’s Liberation Front usually appeared in the magazine Ramparts, it was first starting to refer to the whole women movement. Moreover, bra burning also became associated with this movement, though the actual prevalence of bra burning is debatable issue.

Furthermore, one of the most strong critics of the women’s liberation movement has been the African American intellectual and a feminist, Gloria Jean Watkins who uses the pseudonym “bell hooks”, argues that this movement (women’s liberation movement) glossed over class and race and thus failed to address the issues that are dividing women. Gloria jean Watkins highlighted the lack of minority voices in the women’s liberation movement in her famous book, “Feminist theory from margin to center” which was written in 1984.

  • Feminist movement / The Third Wave of Feminism

When did the third wave of feminist movement starts?

The third wave of feminism began in the early 1990s, as a response to the failures of the second wave of feminism and also as a response against the initiatives and movements created by the second wave.

What was the aim of the third wave of feminist movement?

The third wave of feminism aims to challenge what it deems the second wave’s essential definitions of femininity, which according to them over emphasize the personal experiences of upper middle-class white women.

What was the ideology of the third wave of feminist movement?

Central to much of the third wave of feminism ideology is a post-structuralist interpretation of gender and sexuality. Feminists of the third wave often focus on micro-politics and challenges the second wave’s paradigm as to what is, or is not, better for females. The third wave of feminism has its genesis in the mid-1980s.

In what wave feminist movement leaders rooted?

The feminist movement leaders rooted in the second wave like Gloria Anzaldua, Chela Sandoval, Bell hooks, Cherrie Moraga, Maxine Hong Kingston, Audre Lorde, and many other black feminists, who sought to negotiate a space within feminist thought for the consideration of race related subjectivities.

What were the internal debates of the third wave of feminist movement?

The third wave of feminism also contains many internal debates between different feminists such as the psychologist Carol Gilligan who believes, there are important differences between the sexes and those who believe, that the sexes are not inherently different and are contented with that of gender roles are due to social conditioning.

Theory of feminism and feminist movement

Define feminist theory / empowerment theory

Empowerment theory perpetually relates to define feminist theory. Subsequently to define feminist theory or theory of feminism it is the extension of feminism into theoretical or philosophical fields. It consists work in a number of disciplines, including anthropology, economics, sociology, women’s studies, literary criticism, psychoanalysis, art history and philosophy. The theory of feminism aims to understand gender inequality and mainly focuses on power relations, gender politics and sexuality. While providing a critique of these political and social relations, much of the feminist theory also focuses on promoting the rights and interests of women.

Themes explored in the theory of feminism include discrimination, objectification especially sexual objectification, stereotyping, oppression, and patriarchy. Moreover, In the field of literary criticism, the scholar, Elaine Showalter goes on to describe the development of the theory of feminism as having three phases. The first phase she calls feminist critique, in which the reader of feminism examines the ideologies behind the literary phenomena. The second phase Showalter calls gynocriticism, in which the woman is a producer of textual meaning. The third and the last phase Showalter calls gender theory, in which the ideological inscription and literary effects of the gender system are explored.Most recent theory of feminism, such as that of Lisa Lucile Owens, has focused on characterizing feminism as the universal emancipatory movement.


Feminist Ideologies and Feminist movement

  • Political Feminist movement

Some offshoots of feminism track the political leanings of the larger society, for example, Liberalism and Conservatism, or sometimes focus on the environment. Liberal feminists seek a individualistic equality of men and women through legal and political reform without changing the structure of society. Catherine Rottenberg argues that the neo-liberal or Liberal feminism has led to the form of feminism being individualized rather than that of collectivized and becoming detached from societal inequality. Due to this fact, she has argued that Liberal Feminism cannot offer sustained analysis of the structure of male power, dominance or privilege.

Radical feminism look upon the male controlled capitalist hierarchy as the key feature of women’s oppression and the uprooting and reconstruction of society as necessary. While, conservative feminism is somewhat conservative relative to the society. Moreover, Libertarian feminism conceives of people as self owners and thus, as entitled to freedom from coercive interference. Furthermore, the separatist feminism does not support the heterosexual relationships. The lesbian feminism is thus related. Other type of feminism criticize separatist feminism as being sexist. Ecofeminism see control of land by men as being  responsible for the oppression of women and also the destruction of natural environment; ecofeminism has been criticized for focusing a lot on mystical connections between women and nature

  • Materialist ideologies

The materialist forms of feminism came out of Western Marxist thought according to Rosemary Hennessy and Chrys Ingraham. They have inspired a variety of different but overlapping movements, all of which are mostly involved in a critique of the capitalism and are focused on ideology’s relationship to the women. However, Marxist feminism argues that capitalism is the root cause of the oppression of Women, and the discrimination against women in domestic and public life and employment is the result of capitalist ideologies. While, Socialist feminism separates itself from Marxist feminism and argues that women’s liberation can be achieved by working to end both the cultural and economic sources of women’s oppression. Moreover, the Anarcho-feminists holds the view that anarchy and class struggle against the state require a struggle against patriarchy, which comes from involuntary hierarchy.

  • Black and postcolonial ideologies

The Black and Postcolonial feminism pose a challenge to some of the organizing premise of Western feminist thought, according to Sara Ahmed. During the history, feminist movements and theoretical developments of feminism were led predominantly by white middle class women from Europe and North America. However, the women of other races have come up with alternative feminism. This trend got accelerated in 1960s with the civil rights movement in United States and the demise of European colonialism in Africa, parts of Latin America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. Therefore, since that time, women in developing countries and former colonies and those who are of color or different ethnicities or those living in poverty have proposed new forms of feminism.

After early feminist movements  Womanism emerged that were largely white and middle class. While, Postcolonial feminists argue that Western feminism and colonial oppression has marginalized postcolonial women but have not turn them voiceless or passive. The Third world feminism and the Indigenous feminism are very much related to postcolonial feminism. These ideas also match with the ideas in African feminism, motherism, transnational feminism, and Africana womanism.

  • Social constructionist ideologies

The Social constructionist ideologies began in the late twentieth century as various feminists began arguing that the gender roles are socially constructed, and it is impossible to generalize the experiences of women across cultures and histories. The Post structural feminism draws on the philosophies of deconstruction and post-structuralism in order to argue the that concept of gender is socially and culturally created through discourse. While, Postmodern feminists also emphasize on the social construction of gender and the subjective nature of reality. However, a postmodern approach to feminismsheds light upon the existence of multiple truths rather than simply men and women’s standpoints, note, Pamela Abbott.

  • Cultural movements

An anti corporate stance of self sufficiency and self reliance is taken by Riot grrls. Riot grrrl’s emphasize on the universal female identity which often appears more closely allied with the second wave of feminism than with the third wave of feminism. This movement encouraged and made adolescent girls standpoints central by allowing them to express themselves. While, Lipstick feminism is a cultural feminist movement which attempts to respond to the backlash of second wave of feminism and radical feminism of the 1960s and 1970s by reclaiming signs of female identity such as make-up, clothing and having a sexual allure as due and empowering the personal choices


Views on sexuality are different of the various forms of feminism, and they have differed by historical period and also by cultural context. The feminist attitudes to female sexuality have taken some different directions. On the matters such as the sexual representation in the media, sex industry and issues regarding consent to sex under the conditions of male dominance have been specifically controversial among different offshoots of feminism.

This debate has begun in the late 1970s and the 1980s, which came to be known as the feminist sex wars, that pitted anti pornography feminism against the sex positive feminism, and some parts of the feminist movement were divided by these debates. The feminists have taken a number of positions on various aspects of the sexual revolution beginning from the 1960s and 70s. During the course of 1970s, a huge number of influential women accepted the lesbian and bisexual women as part of feminism.


The moral and political insights of the Feminist movement have inspired social scientists and the biologists to raise questions about the ways of traditional research that have explained gender, sex and relations within the social and natural worlds, says Sandra Harding. Some feminists, for example, Ruth Hubbard and Evelyn Fox Keller, has also criticized the traditional scientific discourse as historically biased towards a male perspective of science. An important part of the research agenda of feminism is the examination of the patterns in which power inequities are created and reinforced in the scientific and academic institutions. Once, Physicist Lisa Randall, said that she want to see an entire bunch of more women enter the field of science so these issues don’t have to come up anymore.

There have been a lot of criticism on the feminist methodology, one of the criticism is on the feminist epistemology, that it allows political and social values to influence its findings. Scholar and researcher Susan Haack also holds that feminist epistemology put the traditional stereotypes about the thinking of women as intuitive and emotional. Moreover, Meera Nanda also cautions that this may trap women within traditional gender roles and help to justify patriarchy.


Feminism has been affecting culture in many ways, and has been theorised in relation to culture by many scholars. One of feminism’s most significant innovations has been to seriously examine ways that women receive popular culture, according to Timothy Laurie and Jessica Kean, given that, too much pop culture is made by men for the men. This is reflected in a number of forms, including film, literature, music and other screen cultures.


  • Socialism

During and after the nineteenth century some feminists have been allied with socialism, whereas other feminists have criticized the ideology of socialism for being not sufficiently concerned about women’s rights.  An early activist of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), August Bebel, published his work Die Frau und der Sozialismus, which was the struggle for equal rights between genders with social equality in general. However, In 1907, an International Conference of Socialist Women in Stuttgart was held where suffrage was being described as a tool of class struggle. The Britain’s labour party allied with the feminist movement, while in the United States., Betty Friedan emerged from to take the leadership. However, Radical Women is the oldest  feminist socialist organization in the United States and still it is active to the present day.

  • Fascism

Fascism on feminism has been prescribed dubious stances by women’s groups. Among other demands concerning social reform which were presented in the Fascist manifesto of 1919 was expanding the suffrage to Italian citizens of age 18 and above, also including the women, accomplished in 1946, after the defeat of fascism and eligibility to stand for office for all from age 25. However, this demand was specifically championed by special Fascist women auxiliary groups and only partially realized in 1925, under the pressure from Prime Minister Benito Mussolini’s conservative coalition partners

  • Neoliberalism

Neo-liberalism has been strongly criticized by the feminist theory for having a negative effect on the women workforce population across the world, particularly, in the global south. The Masculinist objectives and assumptions continue to dominate geopolitical and economic thinking. Experiences of women in non-industrialized developing countries reveal often damaging effects of modernization policies and orthodox claims that development benefits every individual.


Social Impacts of feminist movement

The feminist movement has brought a huge and effective change in the Western society, most importantly women’s suffrage; more nearly equitable pay with men; greater access to education; the right to initiate divorce proceedings; the right of women to make individual decisions regarding pregnancy, including access to abortion; and her right to own property

  • civil rights

Beginning from 1960s, the feminist campaign for women’s rights  was faced with mixed results, as in the United States and the United Kingdom. However, other European countries agreed to ensure that the discriminatory laws would be phased out across European Community.

  • jurisprudence

Feminist jurisprudence examines the relationship between women and law. It mainly addresses questions about the history of social and legal biases against women and also about the enhancement of their legal and political rights. Feminist jurisprudence provides a reaction to the philosophical approach of legal scholars, who usually see law as a process for perpetuating and interpreting a society’s universal, gender neutral ideals. The feminist legal scholars argues that this approach fails to acknowledge the values of women or legal interests or the harms that they may experience or anticipate.

  • Language

The proponents of gender neutral language has argued that the use of gender specific language often indicate male superiority or reflects a state of society that is unequal. The Handbook of English Linguistics, has rightly put that masculine pronouns and gender specific job titles are instances where English linguistic convention has been historically treated men as prototypical of all the human species.

  • Patriarchy

Theory of feminism characterizes patriarchy as constructed socially and historically, which can be overcome by critically analyzing and revealing its manifestations. While Some radical feminists have proposed that, as patriarchy is too deeply rooted in society, the only viable solution is separatism. The other feminists have been criticizing these views as being anti men.



How people are responding for Feminism today

For Feminism today, different people and groups of people are responding strongly. Today, both men and women have been among its critics and supporters. The American university students, both men and women, for the support of feminist ideas are more common than self identification as a feminist today. The United States’s media tends to portray feminism now a days too much negatively. Moreover, today feminists are less often associated with day-to-day activities of regular women.

However, as a recent research has concluded that, as people are exposed to self identified feminists and to the discussions relating to different forms of feminism, their own self identification with feminism increases. Roy Baumeister has been criticizing feminism and says, feminist look at the top of society where there are mostly men and draw conclusions about society as a whole, there are mostly men at the top. But if we look at the bottom, really at the bottom, we will find mostly men there, too.

How people opposed to feminism today?

Some people have also opposed feminism on the basis that it is contrary to traditional values or religious beliefs. These anti feminists goes on arguing, for example, that the social acceptance of divorce and non-married women is bad and harmful for society, and argues that men and women are fundamentally different and therefore, their different traditional roles in society should be maintained at any level. While, other anti feminists oppose the entry of women into the workforce, political office, and also the voting process, as well as opposing the lessening of the authority of males in families.

Feminism Quote by Doris Lessing From “The Golden Notebook”

“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.”
― Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook

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