People have a variety of perceptions of the term feminism. At its very core, feminism is all about advocating for womens rights on the basis of equality of genders. While we are not even halfway through establishing a gender equilibrium, several women leaders have been fighting for the rights of women. In the history of the world, women have undergone oppression but thanks to these feminist icons who took the lead on so many matters of concern, the world has progressed in many ways.History of FeminismFeminism has been derived from the French word feminisme, which was coined by Charles Fourier, a socialist. Feminist history is majorly categorised into four waves.First WaveMary Wollstonecraft was one of the earliest feminists who published A Vindication of the Rights of Women in the year 1792 and endorsed that womens education should be at par with men. Then in 1848, around 200 women gathered to list out 12 resolutions, the right to vote was among one of them. Second WaveThis took place in the 1960s and 1970s through which arose the questions about the role of a woman in society. This is when three types of feminism surfaced: mainstream, cultural and radical. Third WaveAs the 1990s approached, women reclaimed their footing in society. Women became more liberal about their sexuality. It was in the year 1989 that Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term Intersectionality, referring to the intersection of different kinds of oppression. Fourth WaveMany people believe that we still belong to the third wave of feminism. With the onset of the #MeToo Movement, many believe that we have entered the fourth wave, with social media activism at the forefront and serious concerns over equality, freedom and empowerment of women. The fourth wave of feminism includes intersectionality, thereby welcoming issues of a diverse female demographic, which were once ignored by mainstream feminism.Famous Feminists of the 20th century and their contributionHere are some of the feminists in history who played a huge role in fighting for womens rights. 1. Mary Wollstonecraft: A writer, considered a founding feminist philosopher, she published A Vindication of Rights of Woman in 1792. She was a notable contributor to the Suffragettes movement, which resulted in declaring the right to vote for women in 1920.2. Simone de Beauvoir: Known for writing The Second Sex, published in the year 1949, a book that lay the road to modern feminism. She is credited with making a fearless start towards the protest for feminism.3. Eleanor Roosevelt: An outspoken lady, Eleanor was associated with womens issues even before becoming the First Lady. She wrote a newspaper column (1935-1962) that addressed womens rights even before feminism existed as a word. She was also the first delegate chosen for the United Nations. 4. Marlene Dietrich: Originally the woman who wore a pant and suit when it was considered taboo in the 1930s, the Hollywood actress made her contribution to feminism through her unique sense of fashion. 5. Betty Friedan: A strong name among womens rights activists and a writer, she wrote The Feminine Mystique (1963), majorly contributing to the second wave of feminism. She helped organise Womens Strike for Equality in 1970, which led to the popularisation of the feminist movement in America. 6. Gloria Steinem: At the forefront of womens liberation movements in the 1960s and 1970s, Gloria is also known as Mother of Feminism. She is the Co-founder of Ms Magazine and has received many honourable awards for her contribution. She remains a trailblazer of feminism even today.7. Hillary Clinton: Clinton became the first female chairperson of Legal Services Corporation in 1978. Her powerful speech in 1995 Womens right are human rights inspired many. Clinton is the only First Lady to serve in public office as the first female Senator and the first female candidate to run for Presidential Election in 2016. She has always led the advancement of women through her work.8. Oprah Winfrey: Among the major feminist icons in the world, she became popular with her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show. She has been an inspiration for all women, especially women of colour. She opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls and has also aided in building 60 schools and offered scholarships globally.9. Coretta Scott King: She was known for her work for womens rights. She was the founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the first lady to lecture at Harvard universitys Class Day.10. Maya Angelou: A powerful writer and a public speaker, she was an inspiration for women and African-American people on race and gender discrimination. She was also honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.Famous Feminists of the 21st century and their contribution Here are some of the feminist icons of the 21st century and their contribution to this great movement: Malala Yousafzai: After an assassination attempt on her by Tehrik-i-Taliban for her activism, Malala recovered from a critical condition and continued to remain an activist for the right to education for girls. She became the youngest Nobel laureate at the age of 17. She has inspired women across the world with her fearless and unshakeable spirit for such a valuable right.Sheryl Sandberg: The Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg encouraged many women to participate and stand out in the workforce through her book Lean In. She has continued to remain outspoken about the hindrances women experience being in the workforce.Angelina Jolie: An actress whose fame is inestimable, Angelina Jolie played a big role in raising awareness about breast cancer through her personal story. She shared about her empowered sense as a woman due to her health decision, encouraging women to share their breast cancer stories.Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Well-known for her TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story, Adichie has become a key author in the feminist movement of the 21st century. Many of her pieces have been influential in representing African culture and promoting womens rights.Janet Mock: A pioneering voice for transgender people, Janet has used her journalism platform to fight for trans rights. She has shared their stories on several mediums.Emma Watson: Her speech at the United Nations garnered a lot of appreciation and initiated a new project to fight against gender inequality. She has also launched the #HeForSheMovement to drive the conversation around feminism today.Tarana Burke: The initiator of the #MeToMovement in the year 2006, many consider her initiative as the fourth wave of feminism. Her work has helped thousands of women across the world to speak up about their sexual assault experiences and given them a safe space to do so.Michelle Obama: USAs first African-American First Lady is among the most influential feminist symbols in the world. She has championed the cause of access to education for girls across the globe through her Let Girls Learn Initiative. She continues to work on girls education through the Girls Opportunity Alliance. Patrisse Cullors: The co-founder of Black Lives Matter, her lead on the civil rights movement comes as the largest after the 60s and 70s. One of the most influential activists in fighting anti-black racism, she has also been forthright about the rights of black women.Current Challenges Faced by FeminismHere are some of the major challenges faced by feminism today:Educational Inequality: Despite the feminist movements, women are still not considered at par for the same educational prospects offered to men. This comes in the form of unequal pay in the workforce, prioritising of a boys education over the girl child and many similar inconsiderate dealings.Patriarchy: This is a deeply-rooted problem in our society, which is why, many sectorsbe it households, workplaces, or politicsremain male-dominated. Lack of respect as caregivers: Despite the progression of females that we see and read about, the sad truth is that women do not receive their due respect as primary caregivers of the family. That kind of unpaid labour is not given its due respect in our society, and their contribution is often underestimated. The cycle of domestic abuse/violence: Violence against women is on top of the list of challenges faced by feminism. Women are merely treated as commoditiesthe reason why they undergo emotional, psychological, sexual, and physical abuse in more ways than one can imagine.Feminism has made significant progress in advancing gender equality and challenging gender-based discrimination. However, it still faces several challenges in the contemporary world. Some of the current challenges faced by feminism include:Intersectionality: Intersectionality is a concept that recognizes the interconnected nature of various forms of discrimination, including race, class, sexuality, and gender. Feminism needs to be more inclusive and address the unique challenges faced by women of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, disabled women, and others to ensure that the movement represents the full spectrum of women's experiences.Backlash and Resistance: There is a growing backlash against feminism, with some individuals and groups actively opposing and undermining its goals. This resistance can manifest in online harassment, real-world protests, and attempts to roll back gender equality measures.Gender-Based Violence: Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, sexual harassment, and human trafficking, remains a significant challenge. Feminism continues to advocate for the eradication of these forms of violence and for better support and justice for survivors.Reproductive Rights: The fight for reproductive rights, including access to safe and legal abortion, contraception, and comprehensive sex education, continues to be a contentious issue in many parts of the world. Feminist organizations work to protect and expand these rights.Gender Pay Gap: Despite progress, the gender pay gap still exists in many countries. Women, on average, earn less than men for the same work. Achieving pay equity is an ongoing challenge for feminists.Underrepresentation in Leadership: Women are often underrepresented in political leadership, corporate boardrooms, and other positions of power. Feminists advocate for greater representation and equal opportunities for women in these roles.Toxic Masculinity: Harmful stereotypes about masculinity can perpetuate gender-based violence and discrimination. Feminism seeks to challenge these stereotypes and promote healthy and respectful expressions of masculinity.Online Harassment: Online spaces can be hostile for feminists and women in general. Cyberbullying and harassment pose real threats to women who express their opinions on gender equality and related issues.#MeToo Movement: While the #MeToo movement has shed light on issues of sexual harassment and assault, it also faces challenges, including concerns about due process and the potential for backlash against accusers.Global Inequality: Feminism is not a monolithic movement, and its challenges vary by region. In some parts of the world, gender inequality is deeply entrenched, and feminist activists face significant risks to their safety and freedom.Environmental Justice: The feminist movement is increasingly recognizing the intersection between gender and environmental justice. Women are often disproportionately affected by environmental degradation and climate change, making this a pressing issue for feminist advocacy.Economic Empowerment: Achieving economic empowerment for all women remains a challenge. This includes addressing the barriers that prevent women from pursuing and excelling in careers, especially in male-dominated fields.Access to Education: In some parts of the world, women and girls still face barriers to accessing quality education. Feminist organizations work to ensure that education is accessible to all, regardless of gender.Addressing these challenges requires ongoing advocacy, education, and activism. Feminism continues to evolve and adapt to the changing landscape of gender equality, working to overcome these obstacles and advance the cause of women's rights and gender justice.What can you do as a feminist for the next generationsSome of the very integral steps to pursue as a feminist for the next generations:Intersectionality: Take into account the struggles of every woman. It is very important to focus on the invisibility of those belonging to the marginalised section and to understand that every womans experience and identity are different. Resourcing: It involves investing in womens leadership, seeking a holistic perspective towards power imbalance, adopting of feminist foreign policies, etc. This requires overcoming the structural problems and seeking a wholesome-society-approach than being dependent on just a few sponsorers. Partnerships: Women face multiple issues, be it gender-based violence, the political power dominance in the hands of men, or economic justicethe list is endless. Therefore, taking lead roles across all sectors of the world is crucial to building a world that recognises women the way they should be. Accountability: It involves the creation of a vigorous framework that ensures actions over the ease of setting up commitments. A set target in the direction of achieving feminist goals is integral to progress in the right direction. Starting at Home: Nurture your kids without gender bias and break free from the social conditioning of role, behaviour, etc. Educate your children about equality.The impact created by these famous feminists in the worldHere are some of the women who created a stir around the world recently, leading by example that feminism comes best by the action taken. These feminist icons have created an impact in their unique way: Alexandria Ocasio Cortez: An American politician and activist, this 32-year-olds unwavering confidence and progressive politics have helped in giving rise to a new generation of voters. Olivia Rodrigo: Her album Sour was the biggest release of 2021. Her music took the world by storm with her feminist messages, in an appeal to young women to not impose unrealistic beauty standards influenced by social media. Kamala Harris: The first woman and also the first person of colour to become the Vice President of the United States of America garnered attention by breaking an almost two-century barrier and nailing her stance with the statement, You may be the first to do many things. Make sure youre not the last.Jacinda Ardern: As New Zealands Prime Minister, her leadership resulted in one of the best public health outcomes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Her quick implementations led to very few outbreaks at a time when the world was suffering.Naomi Osaka: A four-time Grand Slam champion set a great example for athletes around the world by sharing her experience of withdrawing from the press conference that gave her anxiety and the importance of prioritizing mental health.New AdditionsNaomi WolfNaomi Wolf, a prominent feminist author, is known for her influential book 'The Beauty Myth,' which examines the societal standards imposed on women.Germaine GreerGermaine Greer, an Australian writer and academic, is celebrated for her groundbreaking feminist book 'The Female Eunuch.'Angela DavisAngela Davis, a scholar, author, and activist, has been a tireless advocate for racial and gender justice.Bell HooksBell Hooks is a feminist scholar and author, renowned for her writings on the intersection of race, class, and gender.Alice WalkerAlice Walker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is known for her book 'The Color Purple' and her contributions to black feminism.Audrey TangAudrey Tang, a Taiwanese digital minister, advocates for digital democracy and gender equality in the tech industry.ConclusionFamous feminists throughout history and in the contemporary world have made significant strides in the ongoing battle for gender equality. Their dedication and contributions continue to inspire future generations to carry the torch of feminism forward, shaping a more equitable world for all.FAQs1.What is feminism?A-Feminism is a social, political, and cultural movement that advocates for the equality of the sexes, challenging gender-based discrimination and advocating for women's rights.2.Who were some key figures in First Wave feminism?A-Prominent figures in First Wave feminism include Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who fought for women's suffrage.3.How did the Third Wave of feminism differ from the Second Wave?A-The Third Wave of feminism expanded its focus to include intersectionality, recognizing that women's experiences vary based on their race, sexual orientation, and other factors.4.What are some current challenges faced by feminism?A-Current challenges include gender-based violence, workplace discrimination, reproductive rights, and the fight for intersectional equality.5.How can I contribute to the feminist movement?A-You can contribute by supporting women's organizations, educating yourself and others, and advocating for equal rights in your community and workplace. Your efforts can make a difference for future generations.