I remember going through social media during the fall of 2017 and seeing many similar posts by women I had known for years. They all posted similar stories with the hashtag metoo.
I was grief stricken by the magnitude of the problem. The truth being shoved in the face was bone chilling. Something that amazed me even then was people of the world coming together to fight.
It made me think about the bumpy road that our predecessors took. They walked so we could run. Feminist movement started with scattered efforts to bring the discrimination into light.
Now, we are in the fourth wave of feminism and we are trying to find the answers to complex questions about intersectionality, trans rights, gender identity, gender sensitivity and so on.
In this article, I’ll be focusing on the main idea about fourth wave feminism and the relationship it shares with gender sensitivity.
History and Meaning of Feminism
The feminist movement refers to the political campaigns and social movements whose main aim is to end sexism, sexual exploitation and oppression. It aims to bring radical as well as liberal reforms on issues which are the result of inequality in the social, political and cultural status of men and women.
But, where and how did it originate? Traces of feminist awakening can be seen as early as 1495 in Christine de Pizan’s works and her allegorical response to the misogynistic writing of the times.
The feminist movement, in all its glory, only began and developed in America in the 1800s. Later on, the world, starting with Europe followed the example, though gradually.
What are the Four Waves of Feminism?
As a way of differentiating the emerging movements, the concept of “waves of feminism” was introduced in the 1960s.
Many people believe that the wave analogy oversimplifies the complicated history of feminism and argue that the movements were often overlapping.
The First Wave Feminism:
It started with the first organised political movement that originated in the United States in the year 1848. It focused mainly on abolitionism and their main focus was on white women’s rights.
The Second Wave Feminism:
It places itself in the 1960s and 1970s. The second wave feminist movement looked deeply into what oppressed the women. It questioned the traditional gender roles and established the queer theory.
The second wave also introduced a new area of science: women’s studies. But, it was still largely marginalising women of colour.
The Third Wave Feminism:
It encouraged women to express their individuality and sexuality. It was more sensitive to the overlapping categories such as race, gender, class and sexual orientation.
The Fourth Wave Feminism:
The fourth wave feminism is the feminism of the present day and is explained in more detail in the next section.
The Blanket of Fourth Wave Feminism
“I do not wish (women) to have power over men; but over themselves.”
― Mary Wollstonecraft
Some people argue that the fourth wave feminism is in fact a continuation of the third wave. It is heavily fueled by social media activism.
Fourth wave feminism asks the hard questions about equality and freedom.
The focus is now not only to the oppression of women in various and subtle manners, but also on its root cause. Fourth wave feminism brings attention to the system that allows suppression and oppression.
Fourth wave feminism is also much more inclusive towards women of colour and trans women than the preceding stages. It brings light to the issues relating to gender sensitivity, gender identity, sexual harassment, violence against women, pay gap and other sexist practices at workplace.
With the touch of technological revolution, the fourth wave feminism saw movements like #metoo and women talking more openly and freely about sexism and arguing for gender sensitivity.
What is Gender Sensitivity?
Gender sensitivity is the process by which we give consideration and acknowledgement to the difference in roles and responsibilities of men and women to understand and prioritise needs in relation to a person’s context while giving equal respect to all, irrespective of their gender.
To put it simply, gender sensitivity is the practice of acknowledging the differences between all the genders and respecting those differences.
For example, instead of paying low wages to women on the grounds that they prioritise their family over work, the men can share the domestic responsibilities too.
This serves in two ways. First, the workload of the woman would decrease and as a result, her performance at work as well as at home would improve.
Secondly, it would place the man in the domestic setting more, where he can have the opportunity to bond more deeply with the children. This is fulfilling for both, the man and the woman.
Gender sensitivity also includes questioning the stereotypes and understanding the importance and need of positive discrimination for all genders.
The Dynamics Between Fourth Wave Feminism and Gender Sensitivity
The intervention of technology during the fourth wave feminism has made it easier for people to connect with each other and share their stories. It has also made literature accessible and ideas abundant.
Informed and educated practices have somewhat started taking the stage. Women don’t want to be equal to men. They simply want to be women without paying the price for it. The same goes for all the other genders. As a result, gender sensitivity is changing from an idea to a practice.
Fourth wave feminism, with its very idea of inclusion for all, has made gender sensitivity integral. We cannot be inclusive if we don’t understand the concept of individual differences between and within groups.
Fourth wave feminism, unlike the previous stages, questions freedom and empowerment. It tries to relate these ideas to the context and lives of each individual to give them the necessary support and bring about gender sensitivity.
“We all require and want respect, man or woman, Black or white. It’s our basic human right.”
― Aretha Franklin
With the advent of fourth wave feminism, the lesser read and known issues are being tackled. Many organisations, educational institutions and households still need to work on their current practices to bring gender sensitivity. But, the work is in progress with small steps being taken each day.
Hopefully, the fourth wave will end in such a way that we won’t need any new waves and gender sensitivity will become as prevalent as gender stereotypes once were.
Do you have anything you want the world to know about fourth wave feminism or an inspiring story about gender sensitivity? Let us know in the comment section!