Fourth-wave feminism

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Fourth-wave feminism is a wave of feminism that began around 2012 and is characterized by a desire for the empowerment of women[1] and its reliance on the internet.[2] It focuses on intersectionality,[3] 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.[3]

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.[4] Fourth-wave feminists often use print, news, and social media to collaborate and mobilize, speak against abusers of power, and to provide opportunities for girls and women. In addition to advocating for women, feminists point out 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.[5]

Social media[edit]

Fourth-wave feminism is associated with the use of social media,[6] with Kira Cochrane saying 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.[6][7][8][9] Following allegations of sexual abuse against Harvey Weinstein in 2017, the Me Too movement spread via the Twitter hashtag #metoo.[10]

Examples of 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.[11][12][13]


Journalist Pythia Peay argued for the existence of a fourth wave as early as 2005, one focusing on social justice and civil rights,[14] and, in 2011, Jennifer Baumgardner dated the start of the fourth wave to 2008.[15] Twitter, the social network most popular with the 18–29 age group, was created in 2006,[16] making feminism more accessible and giving rise to "hashtag feminism".[17]

When unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis staged her 13-hour filibuster in Texas in 2013 to try to prevent a pro-life bill from passing, women showed their support by rallying around the Texas State Capitol. Those who were not physically present used the hashtag #StandWithWendy. Similarly, women protested the often sexist questions directed at female celebrities[who?][clarification needed] by tweeting the hashtag #askhermore.[18]

Several scandals have 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).[10][19]


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.[6][1][20] Its essence, Chamberlain writes, is "incredulity that certain attitudes can still exist".[21] Events and organizations included the Everyday Sexism Project, UK Feminista, Reclaim the Night, One Billion Rising, and "a Lose the Lads' mags protest".[6]

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).[22] Cosslett's and Baxter's book aims to debunk the stereotypes of femininity promoted by the mainstream women's press.[23] 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.[24]


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.[25]

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, 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.[26]

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".[27]


Date Event Sources
16 April 2012 Laura Bates creates the Everyday Sexism Project for women to report sexist encounters. [24]
Aug 2012 Lucy-Anne Holmes starts No More Page 3 to stop The Sun in the UK publishing images of topless women. [28]
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. [29]
Alissa Quart coins the term hipster sexism. [30]
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. [31]
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. [32]
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. [33]
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. [34]
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. [35]
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". [36]
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. [34]
21 January 2017 2017 Women's March supports women's rights and protests inauguration of Donald Trump. [37]
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. [34][38]
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. [11]
1 January 2018 Time's Up, a movement against sexual harassment, is founded by Hollywood celebrities in response to the Weinstein effect and #MeToo. [39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Abrahams, Jessica (14 August 2017). "Everything you wanted to know about fourth wave feminism—but were afraid to ask". Prospect.
  2. ^ Grady, Constance (20 July 2018). "The waves of feminism, and why people keep fighting over them, explained".
  3. ^ a b Munro, Ealasaid (5 September 2013). "Feminism: A fourth wave?". The Political Studies Association. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  4. ^ Phillips, Ruth; Cree, Viviene E. (21 February 2014). "What does the 'Fourth Wave' Mean for Teaching Feminism in Twenty-First Century Social Work?". Social Work Education. 33 (7): 930–43. doi:10.1080/02615479.2014.885007. ISSN 0261-5479.
  5. ^ Chamberlain, Prudence (2017), "Introduction", The Feminist Fourth Wave, Springer International Publishing, pp. 1–19, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-53682-8_1, ISBN 9783319536811
  6. ^ a b c d Cochrane, Kira (10 December 2013). "The Fourth Wave of Feminism: Meet the Rebel Women". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Solomon, Deborah (13 November 2009). "The Blogger and Author on the Life of Women Online". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  8. ^ Zerbisias, Antonia (16 September 2015). "Feminism's Fourth Wave is the Shitlist". NOW Toronto. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  9. ^ Cochrane 2013.
  10. ^ a b For Cosby, Ghomeshi, #MeToo and fourth wave, see Matheson, Kelsey (17 October 2017). "You Said #MeToo. Now What Are We Going To Do About It?", The Huffington Post.
  11. ^ a b Zacharek, Stephanie; Dockterman Eliana; and Sweetland Edwards, Haley (6 December 2017). "The Silence Breakers", Time magazine.
  12. ^ Redden, Molly, and agencies (6 December 2017). "#MeToo movement named Time magazine's Person of the Year", The Guardian.
  13. ^ For page three, see Thorpe, Vanessa (27 July 2013). "What now for Britain's new-wave feminists – after page 3 and £10 notes?", The Guardian.
  14. ^ Peay, Pythia (2005). "Feminism's Fourth Wave". Utne Reader. No. 128. Topeka, Kansas: Ogden Publications. pp. 59–60. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  15. ^ Baumgardner 2011, p. 250.
  16. ^ Brodzky, Brandon (18 November 2014). "Social Media User Statistics & Age Demographics for 2014". LinkedIn Pulse. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  17. ^ Bennett 2014.
  18. ^ Chittal, Nisha (26 March 2015). "How Social Media is Changing the Feminist Movement". MSNBC.
  19. ^ For Savile and fourth wave, see Chamberlain 2017, pp. 114–15

    For Isla Vista killings, see Bennett, Jessica (10 September 2014). "Behold the Power of #Hashtag Feminism". Time.

  20. ^ Martin, Courtney E.; Valenti, Vanessa (15 April 2013). "#FemFuture: Online Revolution" (PDF). Barnard Centre for Research on Women.
  21. ^ Chamberlain 2017, p. 115.
  22. ^ Bates 2014.
  23. ^ "Letter from the Editor". The Vagenda. 19 January 2012.
  24. ^ a b Aitkenhead, Decca (24 January 2014). "Laura Bates Interview: 'Two Years Ago, I Didn't Know What Feminism Meant'". The Guardian.
  25. ^ Jóns, Ragna Rök (19 August 2013). "Is the '4th Wave' of Feminism Digital?". Bluestockings Magazine.
  26. ^ Guardado, Alex (3 March 2015). "Hashtag Activism: The Benefits and Limitations of #Activism". New University. University of California, Irvine.
  27. ^ Simpkins, Jennifer (20 January 2014). "'You Can't Sit with Us!' – How Fourth-Wave Feminism Became 'Mean Girls'". The Huffington Post.
  28. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa (27 July 2013). "What now for Britain's new-wave feminists – after page 3 and £10 notes?". The Guardian.
  29. ^ Chamberlain 2017, pp. 114–115.
  30. ^ Quart, Alissa (30 October 2012). "The Age of Hipster Sexism". New York Magazine. Archived from the original on 2 November 2012.
  31. ^ FlorCruz, Michelle (3 February 2014). "Chinese Woman Wins Settlement in China's First Ever Gender Discrimination Lawsuit". International Business Times.
  32. ^ Cochrane, Kira (2013). All the Rebel Women: The Rise of the Fourth Wave of Feminism. London, UK: Guardian Books. ISBN 9781783560363.
  33. ^ Grinberg, Emanuella (27 May 2014). "Why #YesAllWomen took off on Twitter", CNN.
  34. ^ a b c Matheson, Kelsey (17 October 2017). "You Said #MeToo. Now What Are We Going To Do About It?", The Huffington Post.
  35. ^ Gallant, Jacques (31 October 2014). "Twitter conversation about unreported rape goes global", Toronto Star.
  36. ^ Alter, Charlotte (23 December 2014). "This May Have Been the Best Year for Women Since the Dawn of Time", Time magazine.
  37. ^ "Women's March Floods Washington, Sparking Rallies Worldwide". Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  38. ^ Garcia, Sandra E. (20 October 2017). "The Woman Who Created #MeToo Long Before Hashtags". The New York Times.
  39. ^ "Reese Witherspoon, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Aniston: See Who's Given $500k, More to Fight Harassment". People Magazine. 2 January 2018. Retrieved 22 January 2018.


Further reading[edit]