As the definition states, feminism is a movement, which means part of understanding feminism is knowing the challenges and successes in the fight to end patriarchy.
History of Feminism
Feminism is generally thought of in the western world as comprising of three waves (early-to-mid 1800s-1960s, 1960s-late 1980s, late 1980s-present). Often the waves are characterized by a primary activist movement (i.e.: the first wave is described as focusing on suffrage & voting rights), however there is also conflation of waves with historical time periods. For instance, many scholars describe anyone living today identifying as a feminist as being third wave, regardless of delineated beliefs.
Just as with other movements in history, the waves influenced one another and gave rise to new platforms of feminist activism. One such important carryover from the second wave is exemplified by the phrase “the personal is political”. Taken from the title of a 1970 essay, this flagship statement challenged the notion that social systems and structures don’t have an impact on personal decision-making (and vice versa). It offered ideological momentum to push forward reproductive rights and gave root to identity politics which largely inform the third wave’s activism.
None of this is to say that patriarchy didn’t exist before 1800, or that women didn’t fight against gender-based oppression outside of the global north/west. However, the use of the term “feminism” is a relatively new concept in human history, and was credited by and large to the efforts of white women in the U.S. (because oppression!).
If you’re a history buff, these resources can offer a more comprehensive lesson on feminism through the ages:
Learning About Feminism
Essential books for understanding feminism:
An essential reading in feminist theory, for those who want to delve deeper.
A primer in feminism, with lots of enthusiasm.
An introduction to patriarchy and feminism; great for history and terminology.
An essential primer in oppression against women and women of color.
A groundbreaking book on traditionally masculine identities and power dynamics.
Further insights into issues around contemporary notions of masculinity.
an introduction to a feminist perspective on masculinity
Free online curricula and PDF versions of books to further understanding:
Other good resources that discuss history, intersectionality and feminist activism: