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Fourth-wave feminism is a wave of feminism that began around 2012 and is characterized by its focus on the empowerment of women and its reliance on the internet. It focuses on intersectionality, and examines the interlocking systems of power that contribute to the stratification of traditionally marginalized groups in society. Fourth-wave feminists advocate for greater representation of these groups in politics and business, and argue society will be more equitable if policies and practices incorporate the perspectives of all people.
Earlier feminists fought for and earned women greater liberation, individualism, and social mobility; the fourth wave furthers the agenda by calling for justice against assault and harassment, equal pay for equal work, and bodily autonomy. Fourth-wave feminists often use print, news, and social media to collaborate and mobilize, speak against abusers of power, and provide opportunities for girls and women. In addition to advocating for women, feminists believe that boys and men should have greater opportunities to be engaged parents to their children, to express emotions and feelings freely, and to present themselves as they wish.
The fourth wave of feminism extensively uses social media as a far-reaching platform and forum to connect women from all backgrounds and to critique and build on past feminist waves. Kira Cochrane says fourth-wave feminism is "defined by technology", and characterized particularly by the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, and blogs such as Feministing to challenge misogyny. Each wave of feminism has had specific objectives, but all have shared the underlying goal of equality, and although inclusiveness has varied in each wave's intent for equality, digital media generates a more inclusive and specific call to action by allowing feminists from various eras and backgrounds to connect, share their perspectives, and create a broader view of experienced oppression.
In 2013, many Twitter users critiqued a transphobic comment by Suzanne Moore, in a piece published by The Observer. Following allegations of sexual abuse against Harvey Weinstein in 2017, the Me Too movement spread via the Twitter hashtag #metoo. Other fourth-wave feminist campaigns include the Everyday Sexism Project, Ni una menos, No More Page 3, Stop Bild Sexism, Mattress Performance, 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman, #YesAllWomen, Free the Nipple, One Billion Rising, the 2017 Women's March, the 2018 Women's March, and Time's Up. In December 2017, Time magazine chose several prominent female activists involved in the #MeToo movement, dubbed "the silence breakers", as Person of the Year.
Hashtag Feminism has a strong presence on social media, including on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Some of the hashtags within the movement include "#bringbackourgirls", "#YesAllWomen", "#NotYourAsianSidekick" and "#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen". #GirlGaze, one of these feminist hashtags, created by Amanda de Cadenet, is an online platform where Cheryl Robinson of Forbes describes the social media project as one which "empowers Generation Z females to be creative and entrepreneurial". This platform according to Amanda de Cadenet allows young women to use #GirlGaze to create a more equal "playing field" in media, as well as emphasizes the importance of female discussion in society. Topics within the #GirlGaze community include "sexuality, beauty, body positivity and mental health" according to Looft.
In addition to the campaigns, the principle of "Privilege checking" is a common trend on social media. It is the idea that any one who holds one or more of the following identities: male, white, cisgender, straight, or affluent, has privilege, should acknowledge it, and should use it for the advancement of those without the same privilege.
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Oxford Dictionaries define feminism as "the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes"; this definition has become subject to change as the movement has adjusted through time.
Journalist Pythia Peay argued for the existence of a fourth wave as early as 2005, to focus on social justice and civil rights, and in 2011, Jennifer Baumgardner dated the start of the fourth wave to 2008. Twitter, the social network most popular with the 18–29 age group, was created in 2006, making feminism more accessible and giving rise to "hashtag feminism".
When unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis staged her 13-hour filibuster in Texas in 2013 to try to prevent an anti-abortion bill from passing, women showed support by rallying around the Texas State Capitol. Those who were not physically present used the hashtag #StandWithWendy. Similarly, women protested the sexist questions often directed at female celebrities[clarification needed] by tweeting the hashtag #askhermore.
Several incidents galvanized the movement, including the Delhi gang rape (2012), Jimmy Savile allegations (2012), Bill Cosby sexual assault cases (2014), Isla Vista killings (2014), trial of Jian Ghomeshi (2016), Harvey Weinstein allegations (2017) and subsequent Me Too movement and Weinstein effect, and the Westminster sexual scandals (2017).
Other feminist movements and "calls to action" have arisen from and characterized the fourth wave. One such movement is the "HeForShe" campaign which arose from Emma Watson's viral UN Women speech in 2014.
Due to the simultaneous existence of multiple waves of feminism - namely the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th - , many scholars are questioning the use of the wave metaphor in feminism.” However, as it is still the primary jargon used, we will refer to the waves as such. As the fourth wave finds much of its definition in relation to the previous ones, it is important to understand what the other waves were:
Each feminist wave has a separate identity, although they get harder to distinguish and define clearly as time goes on, due to debate in academic writing and among activists.
The second wave is more difficult to comprehensively define, but it is overwhelmingly agreed to find its roots in the 1960s, and its focus shifted to social and personal rights; such as equal pay for women, choice over bodily issues, sexual liberation, and resistance to the gendered double standard in society.
There is much debate among academics and activists regarding the true definition of the third wave of feminism. It is most commonly understood as a push by younger generations to create a feminism more centered on inclusivity: centering the plights of queer and non-white women in their messaging. "[It] is an amalgamation of many different streams of theorizing—including that of women of colour and younger women disillusioned with what they perceive to make up the body of 'second wave' feminism—in intrinsically different formulations than the theorizing coming from anti-feminists."
Cochrane and feminist scholar Prudence Chamberlain describe the fourth wave as focusing on justice for women, particularly opposition to sexual harassment (including street harassment) and violence against women, workplace discrimination and harassment, body shaming, sexist imagery in the media, online misogyny, campus sexual assault and assault on public transport, and rape culture, and support for intersectionality, relying on social media for communication and online petitioning for organizing. Its essence, Chamberlain writes, is "incredulity that certain attitudes can still exist". Events and organizations included the Everyday Sexism Project, UK Feminista, Reclaim the Night, One Billion Rising, and "a Lose the Lads' mags protest".
Movements such as #girlgaze focus on male dominated industries such as photography and cinema. The ambition of the movement is to shift the male dominated narratives audiences are receiving to include the female gaze.
Books associated with the new wave include Men Explain Things to Me (2014) by Rebecca Solnit (which gave rise to the term mansplaining); The Vagenda (2014) by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter (based on their online feminist magazine, The Vagenda, launched in 2012); Sex Object: A Memoir (2016) by Jessica Valenti; and Everyday Sexism (2016) by Laura Bates (based on Bates' Everyday Sexism Project). Cosslett's and Baxter's book aims to debunk the stereotypes of femininity promoted by the mainstream women's press. Bates, a British feminist writer, created the Everyday Sexism Project on 16 April 2012 as an online forum where women could post their experiences of everyday harassment.
Third Wave Feminists began introducing the concept of Male Privilege into their writings in the 1990s, and Fourth-Wave feminists have continued to discuss this in academia and on social media. American Feminist Peggy McIntosh was one of the first modern feminists to describe this phenomenon, saying it is "an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visa, clothes, tool, and blank checks". Fourth-wave feminists have taken action to reduce and combat this "knapsack" by raising awareness of the privilege that people in different groups have. Alliance is greatly encouraged by these feminists, who believe that males and other privileged groups can still take action for social change within their communities.
Author Nikki van der Gaag discusses the damaging effects of raising young boys with privilege, citing the Consultative Group on Early Child Care and Development, "A tendency to privilege boys [...] does not teach teach boys responsibility, nor clarify what will be expected from them". Fourth-wave feminists have begun promoting solutions to avoid these issues, such as raising children as gender neutral. Professor of neuroscience at Chicago Medical School Lise Eliot points out that infants and growing children are so impressionable that any small differences in raising the child can result in large personality differences over time, resulting in reinforced gender stereotypes.
Fourth-Wave feminists have argued that these reinforced gender stereotypes create pressure for men to be breadwinners, as opposed to women, who can take on the role of homemakers. Feminists argue that these pressures to conform to stereotypes can cause gender discrimination in the workplace. According to Pew Research, a majority of women working in male-dominated workplaces believe that sexual harassment is a problem in their industry.
Author Pauline Mclaren points out that celebrities are largely at the front of fourth-wave feminism. This affirms the idea that the fight for equality is something only affluent people can enjoy because they are not held down by financial limitations. In contrast, the ability to access information on a large scale basis has allowed the fourth wave to expose the rates and discrepancies that women face in regards to poverty.
Amanda Vickery says fourth wave feminism still marginalizes Black women and women of color who are still fighting for inclusivity in the fight for gender equality. As a result, specific injustices that largely affect women of color are neglected to make way for the mainstream struggle.
Ruth Phillips says feminism falls within the broader agenda of financial, political, and environmental concerns as gender equality has become a widespread social policy concern, and is recognized as a key factor in alleviating poverty, improving women's health and achieving economic growth.
Fourth-wave feminists such as Jacob Bucher have written about stereotypes regarding men's uncontrolled desire and objectification of women. Bucher points out that gay men specifically are stigmatized by this since they lie outside of the typical standard for masculinity. Intersectionality is a concept which illuminates interlocking issues within marginalized communities, in this case Bucher is highlighting the connection between masculinity and LGBT+ issues.
One criticism of fourth-wave feminism is that it depends on technology. As Ragna Rök Jóns[who?] argued in Bluestockings Magazine in 2013, "[t]he key problem that this '4th Wave' will face will be the disproportionate access to and ownership of digital media devices." The fourth wave is left with the "inherent classism and ableism" created by giving the biggest voice to those who can afford and use technology. Social media is growing among nations and areas that have higher rates of social injustice, but that growth is slow since many of these people do not have the money to engage in the online discussions.
A second criticism is that when fourth wave feminists began mainstreaming activism, corporations have capitalized on the movement to make money through advertisements. Dawn Foster, author of the book Lean Out, discusses how large corporations such as Dove embracing feminism may actually be watering down the message which often criticizes capitalism as an economic system.
Another criticism of fourth-wave feminism is that when women believe that the world is set against them through social systems such as patriarchy, then they will abandon all efforts instead of competing with men as equals. Author Joanna Williams writes in The American Conservative that fourth-wave feminism encourages women to "call upon external helpmates, like the state and ugly identity politics that push good men away".
It is argued that when people participate in Twitter activism, they may not feel the need to do anything else to help the effort. In an article for Newuniversity.org, Alex Guardado argues that after contributing their say, people just "continue on with their day, liking other posts or retweeting". Some may think of themselves as activists while never bothering to attend a single rally or extend their message beyond their Twitter fan base. While various feminist campaigns have spread via social media, the term slacktivism was coined to describe the mass media users who may speak out on their online platform but do little else to stimulate social action outside of their online platform.
Munro says that the call out culture of fourth wave feminism risks marginalizing and separating people who could serve better as allies over minor disagreements.
Jennifer Simpkins of The Huffington Post argued in 2014 that fourth-wave feminism had created a hostile, Mean Girls–like atmosphere, in which women are more likely to tear each other down. "I've actually never once been belittled and attacked by a man for believing in the cause of feminism ... but women are just about lining up to take a whack at the shoddy piñata of my personal tastes and opinions".
Munro provides the critique that mainstream feminism is focused on the struggle of the middle class white woman. This is an issue because women and their gendered issues are not uniform and many variations in issues are a result of related issues such as race, sexuality, and class. Social campaigns that cast celebrities as the face of the movement, such as the Me Too movement, have been criticized because celebrities often represent the privileged sectors of society which in turn negate the efforts to expand upon the intersectionality of feminism.
Other critiques of Fourth-Wave feminism is its lack of clear evidence in most cases of social media use. Along with this, some argue that though all issues should be dealt with, smaller issues must not be inflated to a higher level by the feminist movement. One example of this is Matt Damon's response to the Harvey Weinstein case, "I do believe that there is a spectrum of behavior, right? [...] There's a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?" Social media also can be seen as ineffective as it brings down "bogeyman" individuals rather than, "invent[ing] a different language or logic that can excise or alter the structures of oppression" as Burgess describes.
As fourth-wave feminism became popular in the United States, other countries were also dealing with similar issues. Although the reactions of local governments differed, the movement of fourth-wave feminists in the United States had a significant effect around the world. Some local alternative hashtags to #MeToo included #AndNow or NowWhat in Canada; #WoYeShi (en: MeToo) in China; #BalanceTonPorc (en: DenounceYourPig or ExposeYourPig)  in France; #NotinMyName in India; #QuellaVoltaChe (en: The Time That) in Italy; #BoycottAliZafar, #BoycottTeefainTrouble, #TeefaisTrouble in Pakistan; #BabaeAko (en: I am a Woman) in the Philippines; and #YoTambien (en: MeToo) in Spain.
As the importance of social media for "creating and sustaining feminist community" is understood, "diversity and creativity continue to characterize feminist activism" around the world in the 21st century. People questioned the reflections of "the current, Internet-based fourth wave" feminism and investigated the difference of it. Moreover, some governments try to build a strong relationship with society, which encouraged people to be supportive of the "'new feminism' or 'young feminism'" movement. For instance, in Canada, after the #MeToo hashtag started trending in October 2017, hundreds of people began to promote the fourth-wave feminists for the movement. The support of the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has spread another hashtag, #AndNow, which became famous because of the creation of the possibility to discuss how to solve sexual harassment or abuse in the workplace and to help people fight for equity between all people. Furthermore, in India, the movements or protests with large numbers of women, such as the 2003 Blank Noise Project, the 2009 Pink Chaddi (underwear) movement, the 2011 SlutWalk protest, the 2015 Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage) movement and the 2017 Bekhauf Azadi (Freedom without Fear) March, changed the perspective through femininity. With the expansion of actions, people started to discuss the long-term and deep-rooted issues, such as gender inequality, sexual violence, child marriage, sex-selective abortions, and dowry-related violence, and they questioned women's freedom, choice, and desire in the society. According to the senior lecturer, Alka Kurian, the influence and power of the campaign made the government expand the legal definition of rape, introduced "harsher punishment for rapists and criminalizing stalking and voyeurism", showed "a new kind of Indian femininity that was comfortable with her modernity and sexuality" and started the rise of fourth-wave feminism in India.
Other countries, which experience the effects of fourth-wave feminism by movements or protests that planned independently or without the support of government, include Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
|16 April 2012||Laura Bates creates the Everyday Sexism Project for women to report sexist encounters.|||
|Aug 2012||Lucy-Anne Holmes starts No More Page 3 to stop The Sun in the UK publishing images of topless women.|||
|Sept 2012||Eve Ensler founds One Billion Rising to end sexual violence against women.|
|Sept 2012||Allegations lead to the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal.|||
|Alissa Quart coins the term hipster sexism.|||
|16 December 2012||The 2012 Delhi gang rape sparks protests in India and global outrage.|
|2014||Free the Nipple argues for women's right to show breasts in public.|
|Feb 2013||Cao Ju (pseudonym), first woman to bring gender-discrimination lawsuit in China, wins 30,000 yuan and apology from the Juren Academy.|||
|7 March 2013||Anita Sarkeesian launches Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.|
|December 2013||Kira Cochrane's book All the Rebel Women: The Rise of the Fourth Wave of Feminism published.|||
|22 January 2014||President Barack Obama launches the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.|
|April 2014||Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, criticizes UK's "boys' club sexist culture".|
|24 May 2014||#YesAllWomen begins in response to the 2014 Isla Vista killings.|||
|Aug 2014||Gamergate begins, leading to sexist harassment of female video-game developers and widespread condemnation.|
|14 September 2014||Female graduate student at the University of Miami reports Colin McGinn for sexual harassment, sparking debate about sexual harassment within academia.|
|20 September 2014||Emma Watson launches HeForShe at the UN.|
|Sept 2014||Emma Sulkowicz begins Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight) to highlight campus sexual assault.|
|27 October 2014||Release of 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman.|
|Nov 2014||First women speak out about the sexual assault by Bill Cosby.|||
|Oct 2014||Kristina Lunz starts Stop Bild Sexism to stop the German Bild newspaper from objectifying women.|
|31 October 2014||#BeenRapedNeverReported tweeted millions of times in response to the Jian Ghomeshi sexual-assault allegations in Canada.|||
|Dec 2014||Comic book Priya's Shakti features an Indian girl who is gang raped.|
|23 December 2014||Time magazine writes that 2014 "may have been the best year for women since the dawn of time".|||
|22 September 2015||Launch of blog "Breasts Are Healthy", to assist women to appear in public bare-chested without police interference.|
|1 February 2016||Trial of Jian Ghomeshi begins in Toronto.|||
|21 January 2017||2017 Women's March supports women's rights and protests inauguration of Donald Trump.|||
|5 October 2017||Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations first reported by The New York Times.|
|10 October 2017||#MeToo campaign, based on a slogan created in 2007 by Tarana Burke, begins in response to the Weinstein allegations.|||
|30 October 2017||The first 2017 Westminster sexual scandals appear on the Guido Fawkes blogsite.|
|6 December 2017||Time magazine names #MeToo campaign as Person of the Year.|||
|1 January 2018||Time's Up, a movement against sexual harassment, is founded by Hollywood celebrities in response to the Weinstein effect and #MeToo.|||
For Isla Vista killings, see Bennett, Jessica (10 September 2014). "Behold the Power of #Hashtag Feminism". Time.