Feminist activism is rooted in each individual woman’s right to be herself/hisself/themself as unapologetically as possible while being treated equitably and free of gender biases. It’s a movement that’s evolved over generations and has come to signify many different things for women around the world. Though activism is often associated with anger or uprising, we also believe that celebration is its own form of activism through defiant joy.
At Party Positivity, we’re all about breaking down the stereotypical, patriarchy-centric milestones of womanhood and redefining celebrations on our terms. Our celebrations are feminist AF, and we happen to think feminist activists throughout history would be quite proud of how far we’ve come.
But before we get into our party positive take on current feminism, let’s take a look back at what brought us here in the first place.
According to a report by the United Nations (UN) Women, we can trace the earliest whisperings of feminist activism back to the French Revolution of the late 1700s. While, many people think feminism started with the U.S. suffragettes in the early 1900s. However, a wider intersectional lens opens our eyes to the muti-national, multi-regional, and multi-agenda roots of feminism. The struggle and fight against gender oppression may seem like a clear unifying thread amongst the various transnational feminist movements. But it is significant to recognize the complexity and contextual experiences (e.g, imbalances related to power, socioeconomic status, and privilege) that impact women outside of Western, industrialized nations which in turn diversifies feminist activism around the world.
For example, in regards to the U.S.’ history on feminism and suffrage, it is important to take note of the critical role that Native American women played in inspiring the beginning of such movements, as well as their exclusion from the traditional narrative around feminist activism. Pioneers of the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. were originally inspired by the Native American women of the Haudenosaunee nation. Not only were these Native American women actively involved in matters pertaining to politics, but they helped shape the local economy. Although feminist activism began to grow in popularity, early in the 1900s in the U.S., it heavily favored the rights and suffrage of White women. Given that the rights of minority groups such as Native American women as well as Black, Latin, and Asian women were not fully represented, history often fails to acknowledge the pivotal roles that these women of color, nonetheless, played in the U.S.’ early feminist movement.
The following feminist waves, as cited in the UN report above, loosely characterize the efforts of a generation (or generations) of feminists. At the core of each of these feminist waves is the challenge of illiberalism and the demand for gender justice. It’s an imperfect way, though, of thinking about feminism as a whole because it generalizes and oversimplifies something that can’t be neatly divided into chunks. We recognize that women-led campaigns and movements have become widespread and are not limited to a single country and region nor issue. However, for purpose of this discussion and general digestion of the expansive and powerful array of feminist activism, we’ll use the U.N.’s classification of global feminist waves as a summary.
These waves not only refer to movements across the U.S., but to the feminist activism that has occurred throughout the global North and South. While Brazilian feminists have fought for democracy, Senegalese women have advocated for equal social and economic status, women activists in India have worked tirelessly to end gender-based violence, and Chilean women have marched and assembled in masses to enshrine abortion access into their constitution.
The first wave of global feminist activism was born in the early 1900s, with the emergence of collective feminist action. This nearly worldwide movement encapsulated women’s fight for suffrage (the ability to vote and participate in life as full citizens) and demanded equal familial rights, equal pay for equal work, and access to higher education. This first wave also incited an anti-capitalism agenda amongst feminists.
The second wave of global feminism, emerging in the late 1960s, gained a foothold in academia (the first wave of feminists had won access to higher education) and came with a new generation of youth. A raising of conscientiousness burgeoned throughout this second wave as inspired by the concurrent peace, anti-war, and sexual liberation movements sprouting around the globe. These activists were more impatient for social and political change and took a more international approach to women’s issues. For instance, second wave feminists brought about many of the world’s women-only civil society/non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The next new wave of global feminism roughly spanned the 1980s and the 1990s. During this third wave, feminist activism became mainstream within politics, against the backdrop of the fall of authoritarianism and the rise of democratization in several regions around the world. The generation leading the charge heavily focused on political and legislative reform, both on a national and a global level.
As a result of women now gaining more seats as policymakers and leaders in government, academia, unions, and NGOs- this wave witnessed the feminist agenda formally incorporated into international human rights frameworks and charters, hence codifying women’s rights into policies and laws in certain parts of the globe.
Though the wins in governmental positions were commendable, critics of the mainstream movement were disappointed to see so much reliance on the state and less action in the streets which was a hallmark of the prior waves of feminist activism. According to younger feminists, activism had not only become complacent, but inadvertently emphasized elite White women. Starting around 2012 may be classified as the fourth wave of global feminist activism. Ultimately, this led to the period we’re in now.
At the turn of the century, the younger generation grew frustrated with the lack of tangible results they were promised that would accompany policy and legal changes. This generation of feminists is hungrier and more impatient for change than ever. The fourth wave includes more defensive campaigns to fight for rights gained in previous waves that have come under threat from conservative constitutions. For example, the U.S. #MeTooMovement has urged women to open up about their experiences with rape, sexual harrassment, and abuse- thus making more perpetrators accountable; and, reproductive health advocates in the U.S. are rallying in outrage against the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade that once safeguarded legal and safe abortions for American women.
This fourth wave also includes eruptive anti-patriarchy revolutions facilitated by social media such as the “Taa Marbouta” women’s empowerment campaign in Egypt and viral solidarity for women protestors in Iran who are cutting their hair in public places and burning their hijabs as a response to the wrongful death of Mahsa Amini and as an uproar to decades of unjust treatment of Iranian women.
Another cornerstone is the strong alignment with diversity, inclusion, and anti-racist causes. This younger generation unabashedly celebrates diversity across economic, religious, gender, racial, ethnic, age, and sexuality lines. New feminism has adopted radical inclusion and catalyzed champions not only for women’s rights, but for LGBTQIA+ and environmental justice as well.
All of this talk of fighting and battles leaves people that don’t understand the true foundation of feminist activism with a bad taste in their mouths. To some, feminism is more broadly associated with anger and aggression. However, what they may not realize is that activism takes many forms, especially in this fourth wave. Today’s feminist activism thrives within social media, in women prisons, at the halls of justice, in theatre, at voting polls, in our work settings, and in rallies and protests. It is not confined by boundaries; in fact, we are seeing feminist activism bud in new and positively surprising places. In this fourth wave of global feminism, resistance is diverse, and diversity is our greatest strength.
Just like feminist activism, resistance takes many forms, and one of them is joyful celebration. In an oppressive system that marginalizes women, the simple expression of joy is revolutionary.
Celebration, in general, as activism and resistance is not a new idea. In fact, it’s where we draw our values as a business; it’s the basis of our mission here at Party Positivity. We empower women to celebrate their authentic selves….on their terms….and we define this in itself as activism, party positivity style! By being party positive, celebrations become our form of resistance.
Now, that doesn’t mean we should ignore the world’s problems and just keep partying. We have to recognize that having the means to celebrate is a privilege. Low-income women, women working paycheck to paycheck, women who are chronically ill, or women caring for someone at home might not have the ability to participate in such celebrations of joy.
Celebration as an act of resistance is not an excuse to party while the world burns, but it is also an important aspect of activism that keeps hope and joy alive in such trying times. For instance, with the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, we were left bereft with grief. We lost a monumental cornerstone of women’s reproductive rights. To face this monstrous hurdle and still maintain dignity and joy through our own celebrations is an act of utmost resistance. To be able to come together and find joy through community and each other is revolutionary. We must recognize that our fight is far from over, but we must not abandon joy in the process as author/activist/doula adrienne maree brown exclaims in her concept of “Pleasure Activism” .
Feeling fired up? Ready to stick it to the man and celebrate as your most authentic self?! You deserve to celebrate whatever you want, whenever you want.
Party positive celebrations are our form of resistance against gender oppression in this fourth wave of feminist activism. At Party Positivity, we believe that our own personal celebratory occasions serve as yet another space for today’s feminism. Through celebration, we can make statements of empowerment, authenticity, and freedom of expression.
Some of the ultimate forms of feminist activism today can be found in the diverse and unsung celebrations we choose to throw for ourselves, family, friends, and co-workers. Here are just a few of the party positive, celebration-worthy occasions that resist the confinements of the patriarchy and welcome our new form of feminist activism. Party Positivity embraces the activism in celebrations and calls on all womxn to use their authentic life milestones as a force for feminism.
And so many more!
Remember: Acts of joy and Party Positive celebrations are great ways to join the broader conversation about feminist activism. Get involved by celebrating yourself! When you do, be sure to share your memories on social media and use the hashtag #BePartyPositive.
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