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  • Marina Ballarim Targa Cavalari

The Expansion of Feminism

In the last meeting of Girls for the World, we discussed the feminist agenda, seeking to understand the origins of the movement, as well as some of its kinds, and talked about some of its most current discussions.

Feminism has roots that go way back, having emerged with the suffrage movement in the late nineteenth century. Upper-middle-class white women participating in this cause fought for the right to vote in several countries, often supported by husbands directly involved in politics.

Thus, the fight for women's suffrage, which represented the first feminist wave, was not free from secondary political interests, since many of the participants only sought, based on the possible conquest, to help their husbands.

It is important to analyze the political and social context of the United States at the time, as the country's suffragettes had a great influence in promoting and strengthening the cause. Having been abolished in 1863, slavery was still an extremely recent subject and, therefore, the newly freed black population also sought the right to suffrage. The two simultaneous fights ended up colliding and a rivalry was created.

Black people, who were still very disadvantaged, defended the importance of the conquest as quickly as possible, so that they could get out of the extreme precariousness in which they lived. Other women, in turn, did not seem to understand that urgency, the difference between the two groups and the influence of their privileges.

This subject is addressed by Angela Davis in her book Racism in the Women's Suffrage Movement (Women, Race & Class). “For Douglass [a 19th century black liberation advocate], voting was not a means to guarantee the hegemony of the Republican Party in the South. It was basically a measure of survival – a means of guaranteeing the life of the mass of its people,” says the author.

The achievement of the right for which they were fighting, therefore, would not make the two groups equal. The necessity of granting the vote to both is, of course, the same; the urgency for this, however, was different. And, from the negligence of the suffragists, who ignored such a visible problem, it is possible to see how feminism emerged as an exclusionary and elite movement, which ignored many of the problems and experiences of black women and from different social classes, for example, and sought to solve only the problems of white women. The expansion of this to other groups is very recent and much needed.

In the second wave of feminism, which began in 1945 and encompasses personalities such as Simone de Beauvoir, the movement began to slowly expand into other groups and the participation of transgender women, for example, was no longer so frowned upon in some types of feminism, which represented a minimal advance towards the equality of all participants. Only in the third wave, however, which started in 1980 and continues until today (some people believe that, in fact, this wave ended in 2010 and, since then, the fourth wave – online – emerged), the subject of globalization of feminism came to be discussed more forcefully.

It is also worth mentioning the raunch culture, which emerged in the third feminist wave. It is characterized by the appropriation of sexualization and vulgarization of women by themselves, as a form of empowerment. It was from this that feminism became better known, being frowned upon by many people who did not agree with the form of protest used by this movement, in which women went to the streets half-naked, claiming their rights.

From the emergence of new types of feminism, such as intersectional feminism, which encompasses, in addition to gender issues, issues related to race and social class; other experiences, in addition to those that were part of white feminism, came to be considered and the fight expanded. This kind of feminism recognizes that women do not suffer the same oppressions, as so many other issues are involved. Black feminism later originated from this kind and has a great influence and importance in the current context.

Even greater advancement is needed if full equality within the cause is to be achieved. Although white feminism has already evolved a lot, starting to accept different struggles, the privilege is still visible, and this must be analyzed so that improvements can happen. In a scenario of seeking to achieve gender equality, equality, initially, among women who fight for it is essential. “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”, said Simone de Beauvoir. The achievement, in this way, is joint, and can only be complete with the acceptance and collaboration of all groups, based on an understanding of the privileges, the different life stories and the different oppressions that each woman suffers.

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