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Feminism is a
Feminism began in the 18th century with the
The word "feminism" comes from the French word "féminisme". This medical term was used to describe masculine women or men with feminized traits. When its use became popular in the United States of America, it was used to refer to groups of women who "asserted the uniqueness of women, the mystical experience of motherhood and women's special purity ". 
Feminism started with the idea that
Feminism is generally acknowledged to have "waves" as different time periods focused on different aspects of feminism, often working off the ideas presented by the wave before.
In technical terms, the first wave of feminism could be dated earlier to include pre-nineteenth century women's rights movements. In particular, the French Revolution of 1789 is often attributed as the beginning of the first demands for women's rights. This went on to inspire Mary Wollstonecraft, whose book A Vindication of the Rights of Women was published in 1792. It is widely recognized as one of the earliest significant works of feminist literacy. However, first wave feminism is usually dated as occurring between the mid to late nineteenth century and early 1900's. During the first wave, women began to realize that they must first gain political power before they could bring about social change. This wave focused on gaining the right to vote (universal suffrage). Later, the focus shifted to include sexual, economic, and reproductive concerns. 
During the inter-war years, the feminist movement declined. Anti-feminism was on the rise, focusing on the issue of women and work. Women were being 'persuaded' to return to their traditional roles in the home and give up their war jobs. There were also issues within the organized ranks of feminism itself. The ideologies and priorities of certain groups were changing. Some felt that equality with men had been reached and shifted their focus onto the needs of women as women, such as the subjects of birth control, family allowance, and protective legislature. This caused the split into the dominant groups of equality feminism and new feminism. New feminists focused on the role of traditional women in the home and as mothers. Equality feminists encouraged women to look beyond the home and fought for equality with men in every aspect of life. Equality feminists opposed protective legislature, such as maturity leave, purely on principle.
The topic of protective legislature eventually led to the divide of first wave feminism. Middle-class feminists tended to oppose protective legislature, whereas working class feminists largely supported it. This split between the previously dominant equality feminism and the rising new feminism marks the end of the first wave of feminism. 
Second wave feminism is marked by the rise of political concerns. Where the first wave of feminism dealt with women in the workforce, as well as the right to own property and vote, the second wave of feminism lobbied for 'liberation' from a patriarchal society. The key to second wave feminism was the struggle over the female body itself - how it was represented and the significance attached to the reality of biological differences.
The famous "One is not born, but rather becomes a woman" declaration made by
Second wave feminism was also characterized by the problematization of equality. Questions arose about what gaining equality would achieve, due to the societal roles men and women were still expected to fill. This led to the call for extreme change in order to revolutionize the very fabric of a patriarchal society. This was the beginning of the radical, Marxist, and socialist feminist groupings. It also marked a shift in the politics of liberal feminism, focusing more on 'sexual politics', such as the family, abortion, rape, domestic violence, and sexuality. 
Third wave feminism is generally described as the feminism of a younger generation who acknowledge both the effect and the limitations of the ideologies presented by second wave feminism. This new generation argues that the conditions which prompted second wave feminism no longer exist and therefore, feminism needs a revamping in order to be applicable to modern day. It is also argues that second wave feminism catered too much to a small group of people, namely white, middle-class, heterosexual women.
Third wave feminists largely seem to have grown up with feminism as a strong concept in society, thus influencing them from a young age. It is taught in schools and is also prominent in the media.
Third wave feminists largely focus on issues surrounding individual self-expression. This includes how identity is formed and communicated through things such as appearance, sexuality, and
Some say that a fourth wave of feminism is already upon us, prompted by the increase in internet culture. This wave is similar to the third wave but is distinguished by more advanced technology and broader ideas of equality. This wave stands more in solidarity with other social justice movements.
Fourth wave feminism uses the internet and its "call-out" culture to challenge misogyny and sexism in popular media such as television, literature, advertising, etc. This has caused companies to change how they market to women in order to avoid being "called out".