Paper Topic (1 simple line): Feminism: taking into account the different values, cultures, and religions of women worldwide. Feminism shouldn’t be a set standard.
This paper addresses how Feminism can provide a narrow worldview and, unfortunately, discounts women from different backgrounds, values, religions, cultures, and beliefs on what it means for them to be liberated and empowered. The standard definition of Feminism doesn’t encompass all women and what it means for them to be equal. To build up its argument, the paper will look at some historical background of Feminism and its effects on the current view of Feminism. The questions asked in this research paper would be defining, understanding, and identifying what it means to be liberated from different perspectives. Realizing the different outlooks and views of other women can help understand what makes them feel equal. The paper will also look at intersectional Feminism as one of the solutions to the current challenges that have inhibited Feminism from representing the plight of women from all backgrounds. The methodology used will be secondary sources from class readings.
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Feminism has been defined as the process of working gender equally. Women can experience gender discrimination in various ways as they can be treated unequally politically, economically, legally, and socially. Feminism provides a way through which people can have a conversation around issues of gender equality and make the world more equal for all. However, in theory, the definition of Feminism seems to be perfect. However, it fails to put into context that equality is not a fixed-term for everyone (Boucher 25). The equality that Feminism talks about as currently composed means equality in the western ways of democracy. With this being the case, some standards are set too high for some women in certain countries and cultures to achieve. As set standards, Feminism dictates what women should get to be empowered and treated equally (Robbins and McGowan 71). However, it’s important to ask whether this generalized view of what women need what every woman wants? This paper will look at some historical background on Feminism and build an argument that Feminism has failed to capture what it means for all women from all parts of the world.
Despite the delays in achieving its goals, the history of Feminism goes back several centuries. According to the writing of Simone de Beauvoir, the history of Feminism goes back to the fifteenth century. Beauvoir writes that during this century, “the first time we see a woman take up her pen in defense of her sex” (Gueye 275), and that woman was Christine de Pizan. Other feminist writers followed in the 16th and 19th century and the waves of Feminism begun. The first wave was experienced during the 19th and early 20th century in the UK and the US. The first wave originally opposed the ownership of married women and their children by their husbands as they were treated as part of the property that the husband owned. In this line, Feminism sought to promote equal employment and property ownership for women in society (Edward 19). However, by the end of the 19th century, the focus of the feminists’ activism changed to women gaining political power, and the most crucial agenda was women’s suffrage. The second wave of Feminism began in the 1960s and extended to the late 1980s. Some scholars argue that the second wave emanated from the first wave despite the divergence in their advocating (Robbins and McGowan 71). The second wave, unlike the first wave, which largely advocated for women’s suffrage, the second wave advocated for equality for all women. This wave was largely influenced by the phrase “the personal is political,” which was supposed to sensitize women that the cultural and political discrimination that they were facing were connected. Thus to be liberated, a woman needed freedom from both. The third wave followed later in the 1990s, which was set as a response to the second wave’s viewed failures (Boucher 28). The 3rd wave sought to remove the essentialist definition of second-wave Feminism, which emphasized the experiences of the upper-middle-class women leaving out the rest of the women population, which needed liberation. Some of the women groups who felt left out in the second wave of Feminism and sought better inclusion were black women who were denied the opportunities to lead in feminist organizations based on their race. Despite the changes made during the various waves to create an equal world for all women, the standards of Feminism were still too general to accommodate all women (Edward 17). As a result, the 2000s came in with a new wave in which the forces in the UN opposed the implementation of feminist agendas based on culture, religion, and traditions.
Education is one of the main barriers to the implementation of feminist agendas. In this case, some women in some places have no opportunity to get an education. As a result, illiteracy makes them adhere to the patriarchal society setting and accept it as their lifeways. Combined with other factors such as religion and culture, illiteracy makes some women the worst enemies against empowering them. Some women, who undergo domestic violence, fail to report. When others do it, these women hide the facts and, in some cases, deny that such unfortunate incidents happened to them. According to a study conducted on some women who had gone through domestic violence in 2018, they preserved their issues more personal than a general issue that affects women (Gueye 275). The study attributed this perception to their main issues: lack of education, culture, and religion. Also, seeking equality for women, which is advocated by contemporary Feminism could have little effect on such women even if they were to accept it. Seeking equal political opinion and representation, for example, would have less meaning past what is written on paper in assurance the equality (Boucher 32). This would result from the fact that these women do not have adequate education to make an independent decision and will end up either dependent on their cultures or other social forces in society, which would most likely disfavor women’s election in places of power (Heathcote 16). Illiteracy among some discriminated women, especially in developing countries, also makes t5hem unemployable. As a result, even if the playing ground was to be leveled, their society has taught them to be housewives and take their families alone, and thus they do not possess the necessary skills required to get a job. Without a job or a source of income, women are financially dependent on men, and any attempts to liberate them would be futile as they are not financially stable to cater to their needs.
Despite the many years of feminist activism, little has been achieved as culture and religion have in many parts of the world opposed the views of Feminism. In this case, men have continued to grow at high speed while women are still behind. Feminists have seen this trend as the result of continued favor upon men. However, despite these favors that the society grants to men, feminists fail to understand that they are “trying to sensitize the world to the unwarranted and unacceptable marginalization of women.” (Robbins and McGowan 72). Some have cultures that have put a bad face on the feminist agendas. For example, many religions have put the males as the heads both in society and in the house. Religion and culture greatly influence people’s beliefs, and fear of punishment makes many of them fear changes that go against the rules of their traditions (Heathcote 19). Therefore, in this case, some changes that are advocated by Feminism, such as the dissolution of gender roles in the family, have faced objection from both women and men. With many men in power, there has been a slow trend in implementing gender-equality policies in many countries. Even when formulated, these policies have weak implementation strategies, especially due to a lack of adequate support. Weak implementation strategies have included strategies that seek to give women free and gender-specific positions in places of power. This does not necessarily make them equal to the men but stronger than other women, and thus the change that is achieved is small.
The general perception that all women are the same is wrong in many ways, key among them being the background women come from. The people who fight for feminist agendas, in many cases, use the term woman to refer to all women. However, they forget that all women’s background is not the same, and thus the efforts that they put end up seeking opportunities for well-educated women who can get employment opportunities and better their lives (Robbins and McGowan 74). If this is the assumption that the fulfillment of the rights of only a small percentage of women who well off represent the plight of all women, then Feminism is wrong. According to Dineo, for example, poverty in Africa has a woman’s face as women remain at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Diseases such as HIV/AIDS continue to affect many women than men in Africa, destroying some of their attempts to progress in the societal stratification. Despite this ugly face of gender disparity in Africa, Africa has been said to have made significant strides in ensuring gender equality. The African Union, for example, has been having taken a major step in ensuring gender parity in its decision-making roles. In the year 2003, the AU appointed five female members and five male members (Dineo). Other women play significant roles within various structures within the AU. These attempts are good for women, but what percentage of African women have they helped? How deep do they go in solving the plight of local African women? These attempts are only affecting the middle- and upper-class women in the society who, in many cases, are enjoying promotions and better salaries while the majority of the women on the ground continue to suffer despite the significant achievements made in achieving gender equality.
Feminism has also failed to recognize the fact that gender inequality is exercised in a racialized patriarchal society. The agendas of Feminism have failed to address the issues of women of color and immigrants. In this case, having been discriminated against in other ways due to their race, women of color and other immigrants in the west have been forced to leave their children at home to take care of the children and houses of the liberated white women. Ignoring the plight and experiences of women of color and taking the experiences of white women assumes the sameness of women’s experience that does not exist (Heathcote 27). As a result, the assumption that there exists common oppression against women is false and inhibits people from seeing social reality. Borrowing from the history of colonialism, for example, one can tell that the claim for common oppression is not existent. In settler’s farms, the white women did not own land, slaves, and property. However, she was served by several black women who helped her in various domestic chores (Perrry 18). Many of these women had families and were either unpaid slaves or paid meager wages for their labor. Therefore, they struggled to maintain their families, but all happened under the hands of fellow women who were white. Slavery and colonialism are gone, but the same trend continues but in a newer and more explainable version. Nobody forces these women of color and immigrants to take care of domestic roles in white women’s houses, but social circumstances force them. They take a little share of what white women get and strain to sustain their lives and families.
Feminism should broaden its view of discrimination from women against patriarchal forces in society to women against all forms of discrimination. Without leveling all forms of discrimination, the world will be far from achieving equality (Robbins and McGowan 74). Even with well advocated feminist agendas, women who experience other forms of discrimination will be behind others who are less discriminated in other aspects. Therefore, there is a need that feminists adopt intersectional Feminism, which looks at how the social identities of women overlap, creating compounding experiences for women. Intersectional Feminism objects to the separation of forms of discrimination such as gender, race, sexuality, and disability, among others, as some women are victims of all these forms of discrimination, and their experience is not a result of gender discrimination only (Perrry 21). For example, the people who are most affected by gender-based violence in many parts of the west are the poorest, black or immigrant women, women in the rural areas, young girls, women living with disabilities, and trans youths. Marginalized communities are also the most hit by natural disasters, and women are the most affected. For example, in countries affected by instability, poor women are victims of sexual abuse victims.
In a nutshell, the attempt by feminists to achieve an equal society for all women is wrong as it fails to recognize the different cultural, religious, and social backgrounds of women in various parts of the world. The definition of Feminism has been based and developed on the western view of democracy and equality. Thus, Feminism in the past has failed to address the needs of women outside some social groups such as the middle- and upper-class women, white women, and educated women. Women outside these groups still face significant discrimination and end up taking the domestic roles that the upper-class women left behind as they got their liberation. Therefore, Feminism must take into account the problems of different groups of women in the world. One way of doing so is intersectional Feminism that incorporates all forms of discrimination and seeks to liberate women from all of them. As it is said that nobody is free unless everyone is free, implementing intersectional Feminism helps create a better, fairer, resilient, and equal societies.
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