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Philosophy

The IU Bloomington Libraries' Philosophy collection supports research and teaching in all branches of philosophy.

Introduction

Image of activists marching for women's emancipationFeminism is the belief in the social, economic, and political equality of all genders. 

This feature covers some of the history and individual movements within feminism.

Scroll down to learn more about the waves of feminism and several different philosophical movements.

Next Steps
This feature is part of a series of interrelated content in celebration of Women's History Month. If you'd like to engage further with feminism in its various forms and across media, along with women's history, consider checking out our other highlights in the Arts & Humanities department:

Online Readings

Books

Online Resources

Databases

Waves of Feminism

Lasting from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the start of the feminist movement in the United States focused primarily on property rights and women's suffrage. Many feminists felt a connection between their cause and the abolitionist movement.

Key Dates

  • 1848 - Seneca Falls Convention
  • 1916 - Margaret Sanger opens America's first birth control clinic
  • 1920 - 19th Amendment passed, granting women the right to vote

Influential Figures

Readings

Following a lull in feminist activism during the world wars, the second wave of feminism (1960s-90s) focused on gaining political equality and putting a stop to gender-based discrimination. Women began to seek greater participation in the workforce as well as equal pay. The movement also brought attention to issues of domestic violence and reproductive rights. Feminism was beginning to integrate itself with issues of patriarchy, capitalism, and class. 

Key Dates

  • 1960 - The Food and Drug Administration approves the birth control pill
  • 1963 - The Equal Pay Act is enacted
  • 1966 - Founding of NOW (National Organization of Women)
  • 1972 - Title IX is passed to protect people from sex discrimination in schools
  • 1972 - Helen Reddy's song "I Am Woman" becomes an anthem of the movement
  • 1972-79 - The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is approved by the U.S. Congress but fails to receive the required number of state ratifications
  • 1973 - Roe v. Wade gives women the right to have an abortion

Influential Figures

Readings

In the 1990s, a new wave of feminism emerged that challenged the perceived privileging of straight white women by the second wave movement. The movement also brought to the forefront sex positivity and issues of violence against women. The distinction between the third and fourth waves of feminism is unclear. While some believe we're still in the third wave, others argue that the newest fourth wave, starting in the 2010s, is defined by the fight against rape culture.

Key Dates

  • 1991 - The riot grrrl punk subculture begins
  • 1991 - Anita Hill accuses Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment
  • 1992 - The "Year of the Woman" sees a significant number of women elected to U.S. Senate
  • 2017-present - Me Too Movement
  • 2017 - Women's March

Influential Figures

Readings

Feminist Philosophies

Liberal feminism, a term that widely overlaps with "mainstream feminism," is the movement to gain gender equality through political and legal reform. The first and second waves of feminism were mostly led by proponents of this movement. Issues that liberal feminism focuses on include voting rights, equal pay, reproductive rights, and access to education.

Key Dates

  • 1920 - 19th Amendment passed, granting women the right to vote
  • 1972-79 - The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is approved by the U.S. Congress but fails to receive the required number of state ratifications

Influential Figures

Readings

Socialist feminism considers the interconnectivity of patriarchy, capitalism, and women's oppression. This movement applies Karl Marx's ideology to feminism and argues that class oppression and gender oppression are fundamentally tied together.

Key Dates

  • 1972 - The Wages for Housework campaign begins

Influential Figures

Readings

Radical feminism is a more militant form of feminism which seeks to dismantle the capitalist patriarchy. Radical feminists argue that we must completely restructure society in order to fulfill feminism's goals.

Emerging as a challenge to radical feminism, transfeminism argues that transgender women deserve to be represented in mainstream feminist movements. Transfeminists use the term "terf" (trans-exclusive radical feminist) to call out and hold accountable radical feminists who only fight for the rights of cisgender women.

Key Dates

  • 1969 - Redstockings, a radical feminist group, is founded

Influential Figures

Readings

Also called anarcha-feminism, this movement believes that women's oppression is bound together with the "involuntary hierarchy" of government. The removal of this hierarchy through anarchy is called the "feminization of society."

Key Dates

  • 1896-99 - The anarcha-feminist newpaper La Voz de la Mujer is published in Argentina
  • 1936-39 - Mujeres Libres, an anarcha-feminist group in Spain, sought recognition in the Spanish anarchist movement

Influential Figures

Readings

Many Black women felt alienated by second wave feminism. Black feminists argued that sexism, classism, and racism are part of the same hierarchical system (the "imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy"), and that therefore Black women have a unique understanding of oppression.

Key Dates

  • 1973 - National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO) is founded
  • 1974 - Barbara Smith founds the Combahee River Collective
  • 1991 - Anita Hill accuses Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment
  • 2013-present - #BlackGirlMagic movement celebrates the accomplishments of Black women

Influential Figures

Readings

Emerging in the 1980s, postcolonial feminism moves the focus to nonwhite, nonwestern women and their experiences in the postcolonial world. This movement criticizes the ethnocentrism of mainstream feminism and sees parallels between colonization and women's oppression.

Influential Figures

Readings

Like Black feminism, Indigenous feminism(s) is an intersectional perspective and movement that centers the rights, needs, and experiences of Indigenous people, with a particular focus on human and civil rights for Indigenous women, legal and land-based sovereignty for all tribes and communities, environmental justice, and decolonization.

Key Dates

  • 2012 - Idle No More protest movement is founded
  • 2016 - Canadian government establishes the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Influential Figures

Readings