The history of feminism is complicated. The story is a little different depending on time, place, and culture. Different eras had different goals. Most historians pull agree that all the groups that work for women's rights are feminist. There are historians that think that feminism should only be applied to the modern feminist movements.
Modern feminism is divided into "waves".
The first wave political feminist movement was in the late 19th and early 20th century. The main issue that these feminist worked for was sufferage, working conditions and educational rights for women and girls.
The second wave feminists were from the 1960s through the 1980s. This group of feminists tackled issues of inequality of laws, cultural inequalities, and the role of women in society.
The third wave feminist groups took over in the 1980s and are what we are dealing with today. They tackle issues like birth control, abortion, sexual liberation, and gender equality.
These waves have various splinter groups that I have listed below.
Amazon feminism: Focuses on the image of the female hero, both fictional and real, in literature and art, and is particularly concerned with physical equality. Opposes gender role stereotypes and discrimination against women, particularly images of women as passive, weak, and physically helpless.
Anarcho-feminism: Anarchist branch of radical feminism based on the work of Emma Goldman. Focuses on critiquing society based on race, gender, and social class.
Cultural feminism: Focuses on women’s inherent differences from men, including their “natural” kindness, tendencies to nurture, pacifism, relationship focus, and concern for others. Opposes an emphasis on equality and instead argues for increased value placed on culturally designated “women’s work.”
Difference feminism: See cultural feminism. Emphasizes women’s difference/uniqueness and traditionally “feminine” characteristics; argues that more value should be placed on these qualities.
Erotic feminism: German-based feminism emphasizing the philosophical, metaphysical, and life-creating value of erotic life. Argues that sexuality opposes war and is thus distinctly feminine.
Ecofeminism: Argues against patriarchal tendencies to destroy the environment, animals, and natural resources. Focuses on efforts to stop plundering of Earth’s resources, often drawing parallels between exploitation of women and exploitation of the Earth. Frequently connected with spirituality and vegetarianism.
Equality feminism: Focuses on gaining equality between men and women in all domains (work, home, sexuality, law). Argues that women should receive all privileges given to men and that biological differences between men and women do not justify inequality. Most common form of feminism represented in the media.
Essentialist feminism: Focuses on “true” “biological” differences between men and women, arguing that women are essentially different from men but equal in value (i.e.,“separate but equal”).
Feminazism: Militant form of radical feminism that embraces the hostile term “feminazi” (taken from the “Nazi” reference to fascism), originally and most often used as a hateful label for feminists. These feminists are often highly disliked by popular culture and ghettoized as “crazy” and “outrageous".
Feminism and women of color: Focuses on multiple forms of oppression (race and gender in particular, but also sexuality and social class). First feminism to draw attention to the whiteness of mainstream feminism and the need to look at race and gender.
Fourth-world feminism: Focuses on the power relationships between colonizers and (native) colonized people. Argues against the process of colonization, whereby native cultures are stripped of their customs, values, land, and traditions and forced to adopt the colonizers’ ways of life.
French feminism: Movement by a set of French feminist thinkers (Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Simone de Beauvoir, Monique Wittig, Hélène Cixous, and others), mainly in the 1970s, who reshaped feminist thought by adding a philosophical focus to feminist theory. These feminists were associated with several male intellectuals of the time, including Derrida, Bataille, and Barthes.
Individual/libertarian feminism: Argues for minimal government intervention, anarchy, and an end to capitalism. Focuses on individual autonomy, rights, liberty, independence, and diversity.
Lesbian feminism: Diverse feminism based on the rejection of institutionalized heterosexism, particularly the primacy of the nuclear family, and the lack of legal recognition afforded to lesbians. Argues that lesbian identity is both personal and political, and actively works against homophobia.
Liberal feminism:See equality feminism. Focuses on working within institutions to gain equality for women (e.g., the vote, equal protection under the law) but does not focus on changing the entire institution (e.g., doing away with government). Often at odds with radical feminism.
Marxist/socialist feminism: Attributes women’s oppression to a capitalist economy and the private property system. Argues that capitalism must be overthrown if the oppression of women is to end. Draws parallels between women and “workers” and emphasizes collective change rather than individual change.
Material feminism: Late-19th-century movement to liberate women by improving their material conditions, removing domestic responsibilities such as cooking and housework, and allowing women to earn their own wages.
Moderate feminism: Similar to liberal feminism; sees the importance of change within institutions. Argues for small steps toward gender equality. Often comprised of younger women who espouse feminist ideas without calling themselves “feminists.”
Pop feminism: Focuses on caricatures of “girl power” idols and “Wonder Woman” images. Sometimes derided by feminists, but often attracts young women interested in empowerment but uninterested in social change and activism. Examples includePowerpuff Girls, She-Ra, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Charlie’s Angels.
Postcolonial feminism: Emphasizes a rejection of colonial power relationships (in which the colonizer strips the colonized subject of her customs, traditions, and values). Argues for the deconstruction of power relationships and the inclusion of race within feminist analyses. Usually includes all feminist writings not from Britain or the United States.
Postfeminism: Feminism informed by psychoanalysis, postmodernism, and postcolonialism. Emphasizes multiple forms of oppression, multiple definitions of feminism, and a shift beyond equality as the major goal of the feminist movement.
Postmodern feminism: Critiques the male/female binary and argues against this binary as the organizing force of society. Advocates deconstructionist techniques of blurring boundaries, eliminating dichotomies, and accepting multiple realities rather than searching for a singular “truth.”
Psychoanalytic feminism: Uses psychoanalysis as a tool of female liberation by revising certain patriarchal tenants, such as Freud’s view on mothering, Oedipal/Electra complex, penis envy, and female sexuality.
Radical feminism: Cutting-edge branch of feminism focused on sweeping social reforms, social change, and revolution. Argues against institutions like patriarchy, heterosexism, and racism and instead emphasizes gender as a social construction, denouncing biological roots of gender difference. Often paves the way for other branches of feminism.
Reformist feminism: Believe that gender inequality can be eliminated through legislative or electoral reforms without the need to alter the capitalist system itself.
Separatist feminism: Advocates separation from men, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Argues for women-only spaces, large and small, including lesbian separatist living communities, women-only music festivals, and consciousness-raising groups. Often emphasizes healing and connection between women that male-patriarchal spaces prohibit. Sometimes promotes spelling “women” as “womyn” in order to remove “men” from the word “women.”
Socialist feminism: Blend of Marxist feminism and radical feminism. Argues against capitalism and for socialism, saying that collective efforts to overthrow existing economic systems ultimately will benefit women.
Third-world feminism:See postcolonial feminism. Emphasizes feminist scholarship outside Britain and the United States and the ways in which capitalism shapes all relationships of dominance. Shows how oppression of women by men is similar to oppression of third-world countries by first-world countries.