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F-word: The Past and Present of Feminism by Blanka Pillár

Feminism is a broad, multifaceted system of ideas ubiquitous in an ever-changing world, yet not easily defined. It is at once a centuries-old struggle, a peaceful aspiration, an everyday event, a distant thought, a passion, an inspiration, a force, an emotion, a concept and an action.

However, this complexity did not emerge spontaneously; proto-feminists speaking out as individuals appeared as early as the 14th century, the group struggles date back to the 17th century, and the movement only began to take shape in the second half of the 19th century. The history of emancipation is moving, inspiring and unique: past, present and future, it holds so much uniqueness and magic for those open to its ideology.


Feminism is often divided into so-called waves, according to the struggles of the militants of the time, why they were fighting in a particular period and what methods they used. The public opinion is that there are three, some say four, categories of defining events, but there is no sharp line or boundary between the phases; the goals are sequential, often overlapping or building on each other.

(Mr. Leggs by Dacron)


This stage is not yet part of the typical period of the battle for equal rights, but the idea of emancipation was already present. It was mainly educated writers and other historical figures who represented their revolutionary ideas. Still, as no united front was formed, most could not break out of the existing oppressive system. The works of Christine de Pizan in the 14th century were all modern narratives and ballads that challenged the representation of women of the time. The 17th century saw the first play written by a woman criticising the marriage of convenience. These works quickly became popular but did not bring about any significant change.


The main goal of the first wave of activists was to win fundamental rights; they wished to vote, own property, and receive a general education. Many of the feminists who espoused these principles also tried to speak out against slavery, but activism was also a male-dominated role. These circumstances inspired them to join forces with their fellow women in similar situations and fight against racial and gender discrimination. Until the 1860s, the two efforts were intertwined, and it was during this period that Sojourner Truth's speech "Aint I a Woman1?" was written, which has since become a double symbol of anti-racism and feminism. However, the movements then split, and the well-known suffragettes emerged, whose radical methods became the dominant figures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women's Social and Political Union, a radical movement that protested with hunger strikes, building demolitions and other drastic methods. In November 1910, protesters marching to parliament to campaign against the defeat of the Women's Suffrage Bill were brutally attacked. After continued fighting and the First World War, women were finally granted the right to vote in the UK in 1928.


The main themes of the second wave were sexual violence, the pursuit of physical freedom and equality in the labour market. In the 1960s, behind the apparent idyll, American homemakers often experienced profound unhappiness, and women of colour were only allowed to take physical jobs regardless of their abilities. In addition to all this, it was not long before sexual harassment of women became a daily occurrence and one of the most pressing problems. In 1963, a young journalist, Gloria Steinem, went undercover as a waitress at the Playboy Club for a month to observe the famous place at close quarters. She wrote about her experiences of being repeatedly harassed and subjected to racist remarks for New York magazine and then founded the influential feminist magazine Ms., in which she argued, among other things, for the right to abortion, which was finally granted to American women in 1973 after the Roe v. Wade trial.

THE THIRD WAVE (the 1990s to 2012)

The last past period covers much more ground than its predecessors. Examples include queer theory, masculinity and femininity, changing the ideal of the feminine as mediated by the media, and the fight against rape-allowing cultures. It stresses that everyone has their own feminism, the concept is not uniform, and individuals have different ways of doing things and priorities, but there is no problem with that. This period is also the beginning of the girl power movement, which is much more subdued and more about women's equality through pop culture. The most important outcome of the whole cycle is the idea that there is no universal image of women and that different branches of feminism can work alongside each other and, indeed, need each other; therefore, acceptance and collaboration are essential.


Unfortunately, the struggle for equal rights has yet to achieve its goal; however, the fighters have been able to win for themselves over the centuries. One of the obstacles is the everyday perception of feminism, which is mainly negative. It is important to note that emancipation is not intended to oppress anyone but to bring the idea of equality to the world. Everyone who believes in this is a member of the movement.

Works cited

Blanka Pillár (she/her) is a sixteen-year-old writer from Budapest, Hungary. She has a never-ending love for creating and an ever-lasting passion for learning. She has won several national competitions and has been a columnist for her high school’s prestigious newspaper, Eötvös Diák. Today, she is not throwing away her shot.

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