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Natalia Mehlman Petrzela is an author and assistant professor of history at The New School. The views expressed here are her own.
This feels like a new era for women and feminism. Beyoncé sashays — or rather, slays — in front of larger-than-life letters spelling out "FEMINISM"; nudge-nudge, wink-wink onscreen references to same-sex female desire have morphed into the unvarnished and acclaimed Orange is the New Black, and a growing number of colleges are home to "SlutWalks" and affirmative consent policies.
Oh, and did I mention Hillary Clinton? She’s the first woman a major party has put forth for the presidency.
But challenges remain, from the persistent wage gap to the GOP’s determination to roll back women’s rights. Street harassment persists, LGBTQ gains are distributed unevenly; and to many, Clinton’s class politics compromise her feminist cred. The rallying cry of female empowerment is mostly stripped of its radicalism, and has been appropriated to sell everything from body wash to barre classes.
The present is complicated because the history of women and the feminist battles that got us here are, too; there’s no straight line from fighting for suffrage to free love to filling the Oval Office. Women have disagreed passionately about how to realise the goal of gender equality, and the list ahead begins to tell that messy story — emphasising feminists’ disagreements and the tension between them as much as their sisterhood.
Click through to explore 100 years of feminism through the words of 30 incredible women.
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