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Feminism and Sexual Equality


The topic of Feminism and Sexual Equality is one of increasing importance in America and the world at large. Over the last century and especially the last 50 years the increases in female equality and rights have been exponential. For centuries women could not own property, vote, or even divorce. Now due to activism and progressive policies that were achieved through hardship and struggle the Women’s Rights Movement and Feminism have won great victories. In this essay I will explore some of the reasons for this and the history of this movement as it began in the nineteenth century.

The beginning of this movement was in the 1800’s. When middle class bourgeois women had been removed from the agrarian lifestyle of previous generations they became aware of their changed circumstances. These women were generally urban dwelling house wives who were forced to live in a manner that had nothing to do with their circumstances. As they did not live on farms anymore there was no reason to be full time housekeepers. They had ample time to spend and wished to begin advancing their own lives just as their husbands did. They wished to be allowed to go to University and educate themselves like men.

The first wave of Feminism began in the mid to late 1800’s and ending in the early 1900’s. This brought with it the goals of seeking marital equality, rights to education, property rights, and finally ended with Women’s Suffrage. The second wave was to begin in the 1960’s reaching its heights in the 70’s it focused on marital rights regarding divorce and spousal rape and even more on reproductive rights such as divorce and contraception. The third wave began in the 1990’s was focused on what were perceived failures or backlashes against the second wave. The third wave focused on challenging traditional notions of femininity and sexuality as well as broadening the struggle against discrimination in the workplace and in public.

The Feminist movement has been largely successful in its accomplishment of its goals though there is always work to be done. From early leaders like Simone de Beauvoir to Gloria Steinem the movement for Feminism and Sexual Equality has always had dynamic leaders willing to go the distance in their struggle for change. What began as a small movement among women in western countries has spread across the world changing women’s live for the better wherever they are. The movement looks ahead to a brighter future continuing its success as it has in the past.