21st Century Feminism: Are We There Yet?
Feminism can be a tricky topic to touch upon nowadays, but fortunately, that is a good thing! This subject seems to be in constant rotation in social circles everywhere in the world, and in all fairness, it is refreshing to see.
To achieve sustainability, we must also be feminists. But why is this? As a community that enhances and highlights sustainable travel, we understand that there is more to being sustainable than to just care for the environment, because, what about the people on planet Earth? We often forget that one of the biggest crises we face is not only with nature but with ourselves as humans. Women make up more than half of the world population and yet, they remain as an underrepresented group in most aspects of life. We want to take you on a brief and practical journey to explain where feminism has been, and where feminism stands today in the 21st century, and perhaps untangle those tricky conversations around the matter.
The waves: what are those?
It is said that feminism has gone through 3 different defined waves throughout history, or that is at least for those recorded in recent history (although feminism has been centuries coming!). Historically, the movement attached to the term started gaining traction and was subsequently divided in these waves to ensure we record the progression of it correctly; let us quickly illustrate which waves these are:
The First Wave (mid 1800s to early 1900s): Characterized by the suffragist movement who strongly advocated for women’s right to vote in America (until it was achieved in 1920). Its most notable figures were Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. These women also happened to be abolitionists, which was considered the movement that triggered feminism altogether back in the Reconstruction era. The Seneca Falls Convention marked the official beginning of the movement in 1848, and it has not stopped since!
The Second Wave (the early 1960s to late 80s): this wave is said to have been triggered by the Civil Rights Movement, which ignited a new spark around topics of equality among people of color and women, especially their role in the workplace and the household. Betty Friedan, Angela Davis, and Gloria Steinem were among the notable figures of the movement at the time.
The Third Wave (the 90s and early 2000s): as it might be more relatable to us, this wave had undertones of counterculture with the rise of the riot grrrls and opened the door to conversations about intersectionality (feminism focused on ALL women – colored, of the LGBTQI+ community, etc) represented by Kimberle Crenshaw and Judith Butler. The latter also denoted and popularized the difference between sex and gender.
Ok but, where are we now?
As we build history every day, it gets a little more complicated to write and define on the go. However, some have said we are currently going through the Fourth Wave of Feminism. As Jessica Valenti put it a few years back in The New York Times, she thinks this wave is characterized by our togetherness online. We have seen the rise of the #MeToo and the Time’s Up movement, as well as the Women’s March gatherings, all being organized almost entirely online. The power of social networks like Facebook and Twitter gave us the perfect tool to amass an enormous number of people around the same interest to create change or just encourage one another to express ourselves. This has also given people a (sometimes safe) space to share their stories of domestic abuse, discrimination in the workplace and a chance for people to connect around these topics, inspire personal growth and try to make a change (through organizations such as Amnesty International).
So what is this wave about? A stronger take on intersectionality and freedom of expression for women as well as further representation in positions of power. Intersectionality itself leads to questioning femininity and what it truly means to be a woman in the 21st century, which is an evolving topic, and quite a compelling one to follow. In addition, the involvement of men in this new wave has shifted the conversation towards targeting toxic masculinity and what its elimination can do for feminism and society in general.
And are we there yet?
Like many aspects in society – constantly changing, being reinvented, and rearranging itself as we humans evolve, so is feminism. Every wave has reached new milestones and has changed the role of women in society, never in a detrimental way, but hopefully forwards. Although a lot has been achieved; better pay for women, better policies against discrimination, more women in Office and positions of power, there is still a lot to be achieved. While we celebrate all of this, we should also remark that the femicide cases and domestic abuse against women has risen during the pandemic according to the UN. This speech given just over a year ago by the UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres at The New School in New York reminds us of how far we have come, but also the long road we still have to embark to achieve gender equality.
My take on feminism and traveling
Despite the vulnerability of women in their every day lives, a whopping 85% of them make up solo travelers, and more importantly, they choose to adventure travel! Be it sustainable travel, a pilgrimage, or a city tour, it is more women who opt to travel on their own. The reasons may be unclear; however we believe it is the opportunity to explore, empathize and learn from new cultures that drives women in particular to travel alone.