Updated: Sep 23
This article will highlight the underlying layers of feminism for different groups of people. ‘’The wave formally began at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 when three hundred men and women rallied to the cause of equality for women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (d. 1902) drafted the Seneca Falls Declaration outlining the new movement's ideology and political strategies’’ (Rampton, 2015). However, in essence, the feminist movement in a sense slowly started before 1848. In 1792 a book called ‘’A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’’ written by Mary Wollstonecraft was published. The book sparked a dialogue early on as it raises questions on the issue of women’s education and work, as well as the objective treatment they were subjected to. This in turn caused great controversy. The outlook on feminism and the underlying layers has evolved. We are currently finding ourselves in the fifth wave of feminism, however, we are still fighting for more inclusivity, diversity and in actuality the acknowledgment of intersectionality within the movement. The question remains: does feminism still have to grow further to be more inclusive? In my mind, yes it absolutely does. From the start of the movement, certain people have been excluded and the acknowledgment of others’ struggles sometimes does not find themselves at the forefront of the movement nor has it been considered at times. To give more of a context on what feminism is, it is the belief that all people of all gender identities or non-conforming are equal which aims to establish political, social, and economic equality and inclusion towards all identities. However, within the sexes and people that identify as non-binary, there is still a difference in the starting point of what rights people are fighting for. At this point, not everyone has the same rights, therefore, the rights they are fighting for differs for every person/group of people. The ultimate goal is to achieve equality among the sexes, however, the battle in itself is not against, and with the sexes, inequality exists within these groups as well. People of color do not have the same liberties as none people of color have when it comes to the stigma that is set on them whether it be on a political, social, economic, and/or personal level. An example of the different starting points can be shown in a Teen Vogue article written by Susan Bloch. This article details the movements that were established to fight for women’s right to vote and the underlying layers of this movement. One of the more known starting points for the fight for equality is when the Declaration of Sentiments was signed in 1848 in the US; which proclaimed women’s right to vote, to hold government positions, and receive an appropriate education. The women’s movement to vote went on for decades, with more movements establishing under the same guise to include all women and not some women. ‘’The first group was called the National women’s suffrage association which fought for women’s right to vote through a national amendment; whereas the second group was called the American women’s suffrage association as the groups did not agree on minorities’ women’s right to vote. The second group believed in the fifteenth amendment which prohibited voter denial because of race and approached voting rights state-by-state’’ (Bloch, 2020). Ultimately, women received the right to vote in 1919 when the nineteenth amendment was signed into law by only two votes, however, this right was not given to all women as many women of color were excluded. The agreement had to be ratified, ultimately leading to white women being able to legally vote in 1920. ‘’In 1924 native women were given the right to vote, in 1943, Chinese women got the right to vote, and in 1965 Black and LatinX women were given the right to vote’’ (Bloch, 2020).
This once again, shows how far the starting point of equal rights lie for people of color, people of the LGBTQ+ community, and how it lies much further for intersectional people. Another example of the underlying layers of feminism is the stigmas that are set on certain people. These stigmas can be shown by entailing the discussion that took place, the articles that were written, and messages that were sent on Kauthar Bouchallikht of GroenLinks who was chosen by a popularity vote to be in the 2nd Chamber of the Dutch government. Kauthar Bouchallikht identifies herself as a progressive, liberal feminist Muslim who focuses on climate change. Instantly, Kauthar was questioned not only on what she believes in, how she chooses to dress and what she stands for but she was also bombarded with stigmas that other people set on her. Because Kauthar is a Muslim woman that wears a Hijab according to these people she cannot be and is not a feminist, progressive nor liberal woman. According to them what she says and what she looks like do not equate, however, had it been another woman that does not share the same belief nor wears a hijab it all of sudden is not even questioned. This only raises the following question; How on earth is dictating whether women can wear certain garments in schools, workspaces, functions, and buildings not oppressive? Not only is Kauthar fighting these stigmas that are set on her. She is also fighting misogyny, discrimination, and racism. Progressiveness is favoring the social norm. In this day and age wouldn’t it be progressive not to judge others and allow them to identify themselves? People are more dead set on placing their own narrow-minded, regressive, and hypocritical stereotypes on her than allowing her to identify herself. Not only has Kauthar faced these issues, so have others in different parts of the world, such as Ilhan Omar who has faced stigmatization in the US, as has Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. We have Sylvana Simons in the Netherlands, who is combating institutional racism. Next up we have Lisa Ginneken, the first transgender woman to be sworn in the Dutch Parliament. The change that is much needed is slowly occurring but not at a pace that is fast enough. Because all these women have fought stigmas regarding their identities and what/who they represent, they continue to be stigmatized. Feminism is rooted in the fight for equality for all. We have seen this battle in the message that has been sent that women have the right to freely choose what to wear, when to wear it and how to wear it. And that does not and should not be dictated by anyone else but themselves. However, time and time again the hypocrisy kicks in and the message that has been sent seems to only be meant for a few. An example of this is the fact that women that choose to wear a hijab in a Western country often find themselves belittled, stigmatized, and stripped of their freedom to choose what to wear. In France and Belgium, women are not allowed to wear a hijab anymore in Universities, which is a direct violation of their religious freedom and the freedom to choose what to wear. People tend to have the idea that women that choose to wear a hijab or dress modestly are all of sudden submissive, oppressed, and not in tune with what actual freedom is. When these same people are perfectly fine with oppressing these same women by denying them the right to choose what they want to wear or fight for what they believe in. These same individuals that yell that hijabs are not a part of the 21st century nor acceptable in a Western country turn around and accept the other forms of discrimination girls face in schools. There are dress codes that do not allow girls to wear tank tops or off-the-shoulder blouses and the list continues. Girls have been sent home to either wear something different so that they cannot potentially distract their classmates. The only message that is being sent is that we have a long way to go to accomplish actual equality within the spectrum as people are not only fighting for equal rights for all genders but also within genders. As within genders the rights of people are not upheld and respected evenly. At this point, I would like to ask what the embodiment of feminism is? And if we are allowed to call ourselves feminists if we still have narrow-minded, stereotypical, and problematic stigmas towards others? The embodiment of Feminism is that those that are affected by the patriarchal world are meant to be more the center thereof. Women do tend to embody feminism as they are actively affected by certain laws that are being implemented which violate their human rights and leave them not in control of their bodies. For example; women in Poland are denied the right to terminate a pregnancy. Ultimately leaving others in control of their body as they are being denied this right. To me, the embodiment of feminism is upholding the ideology that you believe in. I firmly believe in the social, economic, political, and personal equality of everyone's rights. Therefore, I refuse to uphold negative stereotypes and harmful views of certain groups of people. I truly believe that everyone has the right to identify themselves. It is not my job to tell people who they are but to accept them for who they are. By Amaal Ali