4th Wave Feminism — What are we talking about?
Updated: Jan 22
There's no way you've missed the rebound into feminism in the past few years.
But where is it coming from? Why does it matter? How does WOMADE fit into this?
Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Following the suffragette movements across the world (1948 for Belgian women in Belgium, so only 28 YEARS before we can celebrate the centennial). Feminism is generally categorized into a series of "waves." Historically speaking though, I think it's been one large tidal wave of a movement. *
1st Wave: Right to Vote
2nd Wave: Anti-discrimination, Reproductive Rights, Deconstructing Gender Roles, Sexual Liberation
3rd Wave: Reproductive Rights, Sexual Liberation, Violence against Women, Intersectionality
4th Wave: All the above + All around badassery
Some consider we're even in the 5th Wave. You get the picture: Enough of the sexism, people!
What distinguishes the Fourth Wave is its use of social media, most notably with the #metoo push in 2017, originally started by activist Tarana Burke. The internet has brought the world together in a way that would have been unimaginable in the 80s. No one seemed to fully understand just how connected we would be. Social media platforms have given womxn** refuge and allowed them to connect with other people who have shared similar experiences.
I remember how seen people felt as Me too gained so much publicity.
Why does it matter?
I'm glad you asked! If you were born or live in a culture on planet Earth where there are men, women and more, then you are affected by sexism! (Cue: bittersweet laughter) Focusing on modern, Western cultures, the place of womxn in society was one that incorporated what we consider 'traditionally feminine' roles, ie. cleaning, taking care of children, wearing dresses, and all that blah blah blah. While none of these are inherently bad, it is generally the respect that was (not) paid to these people that is problematic.
The long present infantilization of womxn had legal repercussions, including that they couldn't vote, own property, inherit money, learn "men's professions," etc. I think we can all agree those were awful times. But now, you might be saying, "Mary, of course, that time sucked, but we're way past that!" And you'd be (mostly) right.
But culture doesn't change at the same speed as laws and womxn today are still feeling the forced subordination put in place by history's intellectual men.
Today's problems focus on small things, for example:
why womxn should be in positions of leadership in governments and companies
how to achieve equal pay for equal work in the professional world
why are womxn blamed for the actions of their aggressors
how to encourage womxn to enter STEAM professions
why we have professions considered men's or women's
why showing our emotions is healthy, not hysterical
why a mom's career is just as valuable as a dad's
how to improve womxn's health issues
I really could go on and on about these, but suffice to say, if you don't think you've experienced sexism in your life... maybe you just need to pull back the curtain.
A comedy satire show, Saturday Night Live, put together a commercial with Jason Momoa for fictional, highly over masculinized products for men. Recognizing the absurdity of marketing products like dishwashers or floor cleaners as for one gender or another, that's just the tip of seeing how sexism still firmly has us in its grips.
It's an interesting challenge to see where sexism is affecting your life. An omnipresent issue, we must all work together to put an end to it.
But wait, you're a womxn only space. Isn't that sexist?
Equality does not mean equitable. While technically there are few places that openly exclude womxn, there's nothing to ensure their safety. We are working towards a solution that gives womxn an equitable space, a place where they can come and feel at ease, allowed to focus on their work without the problematic weight of sexism pulling in and telling us where, when, and how to act.
Equality: the quality or state of being equal (of the same measure, quantity, amount, or number as another)
Equity: justice according to natural law or right;
specifically : freedom from bias or favoritism
While the free use of equality is what we generally discuss, it's equity that is really in question. While entrepreneurs all face business challenges, womxn have sexism to deal with, also. In the end, it's not an equitable situation.
WOMADE is challenging the equity in our society by providing womxn with less challenges in their daily struggle.
We are all on this long journey together. Every day we walk in public, every day we challenge a gender stereotype, every time we get out of bed in the morning and think, Today I will be the strong, warrior womxn I was born to be. We are changing the world. It's not only big actions that count. As entrepreneurs and business people, we are walking through doors every day that were shut to our predecessors. Holding each other up, giving space to other womxn, helping men understand how we're shifting culture. Together.
Keep up the excellent work, my fellow femmes warriors.
We're making the difference we want to see in the world.
More Feminist Perspectives:
Female empowerment: Big steps for Belgium, small steps for women, Nehal El-Sherif, 2019
2019 Report on Equality between Women and Men in the EU, European Commission
*Note: As any other movement, the exact dates, ideologies, and conclusions surrounding feminism is as diverse as you can imagine. My goal here, is to let you womxn know is that we are all trying to create the better version of tomorrow than was imagined yesterday.
**womxn: inclusive term used to encompass those who identify as women, trans, non-binary, +