For centuries, women have been speaking out about the inequalities they face as a result of their sex. However, “feminism” as a concept did not emerge until 1837, when Frenchman Charles Fourier first used the term féminisme. Its use caught on in Britain and the US during the ensuing decades, where it was used to describe a movement that aimed to achieve legal, economic, and social equality between the sexes, and to end sexism and the oppression of women by men.As a consequence of differing aims and levels of inequality across the globe, various strands of what constitutes feminism exist. The evolving ideas and objectives of feminism have continued to shape societies ever since its conception, and as such, it stands as one of the most important movements of our time—inspiring, influencing, and even surprising vast populations as it continues to develop. Male dominance is rooted in the system of patriarchy, which has underpinned most human societies
for centuries. For whatever reasons patriarchy came into being, societies required more regulation as they became more complex, and men created institutions that reinforced their power and inflicted oppression on women. Male rule was imposed in every area of society—from government, law, and religion, to marriage and the home. Subordinate and powerless to this male rule, women were viewed as inferior to men in terms of their intellectual, social, and cultural status. Evidence of women challenging the limitations imposed by patriarchy is
sparse, mainly because men controlled the historical record. However, with the onset of the Enlightenment in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and the growing intellectual emphasis on individual liberty, pioneering women began to draw attention to the injustices they experienced. When revolutions broke out in the US (1775–1783) and France (1787–1799), many women campaigned for the new freedoms to be applied to women. While such campaigns were unsuccessful at the time, it was not long before more women took action.