Throughout 19th century feminism raised as a movement of equalizing social, political, economic and domestic rights of women. This also included the scope of more opportunities for them in education and in office. Women were not allowed to take part in any sort of political activity or an activity which involved exposure of women and rise of their position. This movement was started through pen in west.
“Feminism should persist in seeing itself as a component or offshoot of enlightenment modernism, rather than as one more ‘exciting’ feature in a postmodern social landscape (Lovibond, 1993 Postmodernism: A reader cited in Aslam, 2012).”
Ahead of 1850s, the upcoming years were a glory for women who supported feminism as the movement got enhancement during this period. The alarming increase in the number of women craving for financial income was damn to high. It drew attention of international media towards the white women of Europe’s upper and middle class. The number single women in this aspect was greater than the women who were married. They were very few alternatives available for them to get married and have children. Feminism developed throughout 19th and 20th century gradually. Some experts called this gradual uplifting of feminism as “Waves of Feminism” and describe it three steps.
First Wave of Feminism
As mentioned above feminism strengthened its footing gradually throughout the 19th century by starting from the first phase. We can call ‘the first wave’ of feminism in early 19th century with the first serious step taken to achieve equality for feminine soul in some spheres of life. For example, social and legal representation of women along men through media were encouraged. It was not until the 1850s that the feminist movement got the grassroots growth officially and emerged worldwide due to its participant’s firm footing and steadfastness (Aslam, 2012:4).
Marry Wollstonecraft took a major part in progressing the development of feminism in England by expressing the structure of feminine communities of middle and upper class of England. The official body was formed under the leadership that came from the head quarter in Langham Palace in United Kingdom. Barbara Bodichon (1827-91) and Rayner Parkes (1829-1925) raised voice for middle class feminine bodies by meeting to talk about an issue and later forming an organization under which the first women’s journal published the ‘Great Britain’.
Main Agenda of First Wave of Feminism
The main cause of feminism was not to support the working women, nor the married women, but the unmarried ones in the middle of whole Victorian society. They were mainly concerned with the carrier, education and the find way of an alternative life for those who tend marrying not. They were actually concerned with the security to give psychological confidence to women that they can live with a masculine power too. Some of the modern feminine souls of those days considered themselves doing a social work instead of leading a movement and didn’t considered themselves as feminists, even the term was not yet introduced and later became to public awareness in 1895. The members of first wave feminism couldn’t address and express properly the problems faced by overall feminine bodies but they actually could express what they had experiences in their own personal lives.
Later they also became in favor of the married women and started working to secure their rights too. Their major successes included the introduction of college education for chaps. The education system at secondary level for women was also changed a lot by the influence of feminist movements. The privilege of residence for married women also remained a major objective of this movement for a long time. Opportunities were increased for educated women for participating in nationwide examinations and even worldwide carriers.
Major milestone was achieved as soon as the “Women’s Property Act of 1870” was introduced. The dedication brought some colors to the lives when the court started taking positive steps towards the rights of diverse women and the increasing facilities for care of their children but the movement really remained unsuccessful regarding the aspect of giving vote power to women which was later resolved after the first world war.
Second Wave of Feminism
The ‘First World War’ indicated towards the demolishment of the first wave and feminism was relighted by the struggle of Marsha Lier who renewed the movement and invented the term “The Second Wave Feminism”. All the struggles and achievements remained in Europe and here came USA with a totally different atmosphere and nothing achieved. Gender discrimination was at its peak, women were not allowed to take part in social activities and they had to gain a lot as the European women did. They were generally ignored as the priority taking issue of “Civil War” emerged and prevailed. Women started taking actions against the war and the discrimination and joined their hands together in form of groups to increase their importance and raised their slogans to get attention after being frustrated by consistent ignorance and gender discrimination at the second class level. Students also greatly got involved as feminine souls were not given such importance regarding education as the masculine were awarded.
The failure of better organized second wave feminism movement insisted the linguists and other related individuals of all fields, especially feminists, to wage another movement to conclude the movement for feminine souls. It was called the third-wave of even the post-feminism which indicated the pure aim of concluding the issue. It distinguished itself from the second wave feminist movement by the aspects of every phase of feminine life which aimed at sexuality mainly. Female empowerment was developed sexually and female heterosexuality was boosted by the objectives of third wave feminism. The division of women into lower/upper/middle class and colors was harshly condemned by the feminists who followed the third wave feminism. Aslam (2012) described this part in a unique way as:
“Third-wave feminism is a phrase determined with several different variations of feminist action and research, whose real limitations in the historiography of feminism are a topic of controversy, but are often noticeable as starting in the Early and recurring to the existing” (Aslam, 2012:6).
Achivements of Third Wave of Feminism
The period between 1960s and 1990s victimized the effects of post second feminism and pre-third wave feminism which made it historic at its part with the development of the though and understanding that women are of “many colors, civilizations, cultures, regions, verities, and beliefs along with their social backgrounds” (Aslam, 2012). The third-wave encompasses a vast area as it deals with latest trends in feminine world keeping in view essentialism, femininity, heterosexuality, structuralism, gender differentiation, leadership and gender interpretation.
Another additional aspects of third-wave is it being called post-feminism. Since the 1980s there have been different things which need separation in clarification while discussion of feminism. The range of viewpoint differed and this part needed an exclusive name which was fulfilled by using the term post-feminism in termed along with post-modernism. The post-feminists remained in the circle of feminism but still criticized the third wave feminists as they thought that the feminine soul has achieved everything it needed to complete its body during the second wave feminism. Some linguists and literary personalities also went upon the idea that this thinking discrimination is main difference which caused the emergence of the term post-feminism. Even though the modern writers and researchers are aware of the conscience difference which is blamed of being a backlash of feminist movement.
The participants of second wane feminism faded away until 1980s and a few were left insisted upon the beginning of third-wave feminism and argued that feminist movement should include the major global issues faced by feminine body instead of just focusing over the upper middle class of Europe. The issues they asked about to be viewed included rape, incest, prostitution and homosexuality and some cultural specifications such as the major gender discrimination at woman’s part in Africa and Middle East. This slogan was raised in order to understand the relation of racism, colonization, homosexuality and classifications with the gender inequality and distributions prevailed across the globe. The oppression towards women and the effects of dominance of masculine soul in patriarchal society also caused this idea to develop as for as possible in whole world.
Feminist Literary Criticism/Theory
Discussing the “feminist theory” more broadly we enter the phase of “feminist literary criticism” in the Victorian age the women of England’s upper and upper middle class were treated very badly as they were not allowed exposed themselves and get some attention by expressing their abilities. So it was obvious that every single action by a feminine soul was condemned harshly and the good abilities and talents always remained hidden from the world. This discrimination prevailed a state of hue and psychological complex amongst women. The aspect created a great problem and soon it became a social issue to promote the thinking of women and make the feminine community arise. Some men also joined their hands and starting preaching about the heavenly places where men and women were treated equally regardless of any gender discrimination and racial difference.
“The belief in the fact that there is a plural vision of this world which gives more importance to women and consider them equally significant as men, unaware of their class, is well explained in and advocated in feminist theory” (Richards: 1992 cited in Bibi, 2013:18).
Lois Tyson suggested of this being the major reason of women’s work on literature not considered equally important and wise as men’s. Another linguist Lisa Tuttle described the “feminist literary criticism” as “the way of asking new questions of old texts” (Bibi, 2013: 19).
The class of feminism which deals with the discrimination, opposition and oppression towards women by the patriarchal dominance of societies, covered under this topic by the name “radical feminism”. The superiority of men in many aspects of life kept women away from being in power. The “radical feminism” discusses this phase in detail and keeps a check on the solutions of this problem in literary circles (Bibi, 2013:19).
The students and researchers of “radical feminism” faced deep seated criticism against their views for taking the side of feminine soul which raises different issues over the time in all the classes regarding sexual harassment, homosexuality, discrimination, racial difference and class-based discrimination and lesbian production due unwilling to work with men as for their discrimination.