It is very difficult to answer this question. As Cameron (2020, p. 20) points out, it is certainly “something complicated”, because it is complex and diverse both in terms of its political and ideological content, and to this day it remains a decentralised and amorphous movement.
As Cameron (2020) points out, feminists in their history may all espouse the same ideals of freedom, equality, and justice, but they all had different meanings in their practical application within the vastly diverse group of feminists.
This is why Chronaki (2013c) states that feminist thought can not easily be integrated into a single and solid epistemological position and political agenda, because the term refers to various beliefs and aspirations that are often incompatible with each other (https://el.wikipedia.org/wiki/feminism)
As Athanassiou (2006, p. 16) points out, feminism provides a framework for interpreting the conditions – historical, political, cultural – that shaped social injustice against women, through a hegemonic discourse of gender, but also includes the framework of action of the subjects to achieve social and political change. As a term, feminism contains “multiplicity of meanings and interpretive strategies”, which have historically changed and which have been for feminists “the object of controversy and conflict“.
Sifaki (2015) points out that its beginning as an idea goes back to the beginning of the 15th century associated with a literary tradition, where women writers defended the rights of women and protested against the inferior position and the social injustices against them. As a political movement, however, it appeared in the late 18th century in France, while the terms ‘feminism’ and ‘feminists’ ‘ were first used in the 19th century (Cameron, 2020).
From France, the interest in the feminist movement shifted to England, 70 years later, with the struggle for suffrage and the basic principle of gender equality. Around the same time, we see the emergence of feminism in the United States. and the first Declaration of Emotions (1848), with demands concerning the right to vote and the claim of rights, in general, in relation to problems faced by women of the time, either at home or at work (Sifaki, 2015).
However, Cameron (2020, p. 21) emphasises that despite its diversity and its various manifestations, what is considered common is the basic belief that women are in a subordinate position in society and experience injustices in various forms in society, because of their gender. Also, that this situation of women can and must change through political action.
It should be stressed that, within this context, we should see “women” not as a single group, but rather as a diverse group, where race, social status, nationality, religion and definitely place of residence (Global North or Global South) are intertwined. The result of this entanglement is the different effects and consequences of sexism and racism that women experience, resulting in conflicts of interest between them (Cameron, 2020, p. 22).
The course and development of the feminist movement is linked to the challenges of each era and to some extent to the effort of each new generation to differentiate itself from the previous one. This is described in terms of time periods presented as waves. However, as Cameron (2020) points out, each new wave should not be considered as undoing and replacing the previous one. Instead, each time the legacy of the older waves remains visible in the present. The course of the feminist movement in the context of these “waves” will be presented immediately below.