We live in a world where most of the ideas have taken shape of ideologies and then transformed into worldwide movements. One such movement which the article is focused upon is ‘FEMINISM’.
What is feminism? What was the motive behind it? How far has it been successful?
A lot of questions linger around the word feminism for both in its support and against it.
‘Feminist’ was first used as a term in medical senses to define either the feminization of men or the masculinization of woman. It was first used in 19th century but it became a politically recognized only in 20th century.
Although the term ‘feminism’ may be of recent origins but it carries the ideas of centuries ago which can be traced back to ancient civilizations of China and Greece. But it wasn’t until 19th century that these ideas came forward in shape of organized women’s movement. One of the first texts of such movements can be taken to be MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT’S (A vindication of the Rights of Woman). By, mid-19th century this movement developed further and portrayed few more ideas in its central focus, these were: Female suffrage, right to vote etc.
First wave feminism
It was influenced by liberal ideas and values; most importantly it was influenced by the ideas of MARY WOLLSTONCRAFT. Its central theme was securing right to vote for women’s mainly because if once and for all this right was secured then all other forms of sexual prejudice and discrimination would quickly disappear.
This was strongest in those countries where democracy already prevailed. Women demanded rights which were already enjoyed by their sons and husbands. Feminists argued that the society should be organized according to principle of ‘reason’, and that mere ‘accidents of birth’ such as gender are irrelevant.
The first wave feminism ended successfully with the granting of rights to vote for women in New Zealand and in US (1893 in former and 1920 in latter).
Second wave feminism
Second wave feminism was started with the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. The second wave feminism realized that achievement of political rights and legal rights had not solved much to the problem of women. The focus now was to shift more on the personal, psychological and sexual aspects of female oppression and other right. In other words “Women’s liberation”, By 1970’s it was able to conceive gender and gender perspectives as important themes in their demand. By 1990’s it spread mostly to all parts of the developed and developing world.
It postulated the idea that it was a myth that women seek security and fulfillment in domestic life and ‘feminine’ behavior.
Third wave feminism
New forms of feminism have emerged into the modern era, also known as ‘post feminism’ or ‘new feminism’. The focus of these feminists is usually on different issues. It includes voices of low-income women, women in the developing world. One of the most notable feminism is the ‘Black feminism’, it stands against racial discrimination. And stands strong in many nations, particularly the US.
Views of feminists
Feminists argue that sexual inequality has been preserved precisely because the sexual division of labor that runs through society has been thought of as ‘natural’ rather than ‘political’. Traditionally the public sphere such as politics, art, and literature has been preserved for men while women have been confined to an essentially private existence which is centered on domestic responsibilities. Feminist have thus decided to challenge the divide between ‘public man’ and ‘private women’. Female oppression is present in all walks of life and originates at the basic level in the family itself. Feminists to support their view have advanced their theory of ‘sexual politics’, feminists use the idea of PATRIARCHY to describe power relationship, to describe the family structure and the dominance of the husband-father within it. And in turn this dominance reproduces male dominance in all other walks of life, be it in education, work or in politics.
They believe that different roles of men and women have their origin in the process of ‘conditioning’: from a very early age boy and girl are encouraged to conform their specific gender identities.
Reply to this view:
Anti-feminists argue that gender divisions in society are ‘natural’ and that both the genders merely fulfill the social roles for which nature designed them. A woman’s physical and anatomical make –up thus suits her to subordinate roles to men.
Few conservatives have argued that women are born to be housewives and mothers, and rebellion against this fate is both pointless and wrong. At best, conservatives can argue that they support sexual equality on the grounds that women’s family responsibilities are every bit as important as men’s public duties.
At least, in western countries, the social position of women improved significantly during the 20th century as a result of the achievement of the legalization of abortion and so on. However, in parts of world patriarchy still assumes a cruel form. In India, bride murders still occurs due to dowry and this dowry system ensures that female children are often unwanted in families.
In the modern world, some pseudo-feminist has started using it for their personal gains, without knowing the literal meaning of this movement. In all this modern era where feminism has achieved much more, will it be true for us to say that feminism has carried negative effects too?
For example, Women who physically abuse have a lesser punishment than men who do exactly the same (SPAIN). This in turns brings out the question that has it really been successful in achieving equality or has it just uplifted the status of women and created inequality for men. Some pseudo-feminists have started using this term ‘feminism’ for their own personal comfort. Feminism in its definite sense focuses on equity, Equity means ‘all groups should have the same outcome’, but the problem with equity is it’s group-ist (e.g. racist, sexist etc.)
Feminism is just one ideology, one among many. It has its own dogmas and its own theories. It is not science neither is it the word of God as written in the sky. You can reject feminism, as any other ideology on Earth even after listening to all the words feminists have to say and still be a decent and a rational human being. Feminism is like a culture. A culture is over determined and all of its institutions have developed to support certain primary values and beliefs, therefore both the constraint and resistance will be present.
Is egalitarian a better option?
Is it better to be an egalitarian? It simply means to fight for rights of both men and women. It’s a movement for equal rights and better chances for both genders, not splitting the world up into the historical dominant two genders! Instead of dividing the world into women why not fight for equal rights? And for stopping the old-fashion view on women as weak and men as superior?