Feminism can be an idea, a movement or an ideology, it seeks to empower women. Throughout history, in most cases men have been the dominant of the two sexes, always holding the position of power and having control over most women. Thus feminism aims to establish the total equality of sexes. Since the 18th century feminists have campaigned throughout the western world for women’s rights such as voting, working, playing sports, equal pay, owning property,… Feminist campaigns have been responsible for some major “societal changes” like women’s suffrage.
One of the great victories of feminism is women’s suffrage, even though it only happened recently. The 21st of November 1918 the British parliament passed a law allowing women over 30 and owning property to vote in the United Kingdom, ten years later in 1928 women were allowed to vote on the same terms as men. The 26th of August 1920 the Federal Government of the United States of America passed the 19th amendment to the constitution. This amendment states that: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”. Thus women were given the right to vote in both the UK and the USA in the first quarter of the 20th Century. This wasn’t the case in many nations though, for example women were only granted the right to vote in France in 1944 by Charles De Gaulles’ French government in exile. Yet even in the modern world we live in today, many nations and societies still discriminate women
Even though there is no such thing as a matriarchal society in Human History, lots of powerful women have ruled nations and empires throughout history. One of the most powerful women in history is Queen Victoria (1819-1901). She ruled over the largest empire in history and funded countless new technologies and scientific experiments. Queen Victoria’s reign is considered the golden age of the British Empire, it was said at her death that “the Sun never sets On the British Empire”. Queen Victoria is described as “ the Matriarch of the British Empire, she epitomized the values of her time and created a new role for the decaying British monarchy. She presided over Britain’s industrial expansion, abolition of slavery, workers’ welfare, and educational advances. She fought for all these ideas. However, Queen Victoria was horrified by the prospect of women’s suffrage. In a letter to the Scottish poet Theodore Martin, Queen Victoria stated “The Queen is most anxious to enlist everyone in checking this mad, wicked folly of ‘Women’s Rights’. It is a subject which makes the Queen so furious that she cannot contain herself”. Despite this Queen Victoria remains a symbol for women and feminists all over the world.
Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) is a great example of a feminist fighter in history. Simone was born into a wealthy Parisian family. After World War I the Beauvoir family lost a great amount of its fortune. Thus Simone could no longer rely on her dowry, so she began to learn how to make a living for herself. Simones’ family was staunchly catholic and she at one point even intended to become a nun. She abandoned her faith in her early teens and remained an atheist for the rest of her life. As an adult she became a feminist author, writing dozens of books during her life. Her most notable, The Second Sex, explains her feminist theories. She demanded women be able to access the same activities, jobs, and projects as men. The Second Sex is also said to be the beginning of second-wave feminism. Simone also refused to marry, considering it an outdated practice.
Nowadays, in most Western countries we have come far in terms of gender equality. Even though Women still earn less than men in lots of Western nations ( the United States, France,…), they have equal rights. However, there is still much progress that can be made with subjects such as Male preference for jobs or the pay gap between men and women. In the end, there will be and will have to be complete equality between the two genders.
Queen Victoria and the womens mouvement: https://www.cambridgeblog.org/2019/08/the-right-to-rule-and-the-rights-of-women-queen-victoria-and-the-womens-movement/
Feminism today: https://abcnews.go.com/US/examining-modern-feminism-wave-now/story?id=97617121
Simone de Beauvoir: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/beauvoir/
The best Simone de Beauvoir Books: https://fivebooks.com/best-books/simone-de-beauvoir-kate-kirkpatrick/