When I was growing up, the concept of feminism was not mentioned often in my surroundings. I cannot recall when I encountered it for the first time. However, I can remember that for many years this term, for me, was associated with the aggression of women and with the idea of women “acting out” or “not being traditionally feminine”. I remember that feminism was regarded as something ridiculous and useless. However, I am glad that this concept eventually made its way into my surroundings as something that needs to be re-evaluated and approached critically. Having started to wonder what feminism really represented and where it originated, I learned that this phenomenon has significant historical and social weight and value that should never be disregarded.
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Unfortunately, the ideas that feminism is pointless and silly are still common. It is possible that they come from old-fashioned beliefs about gender roles and the so-called “male” and “female” spheres of careers, lifestyle, and even social behavior. As feminism first started to appear, many men felt threatened by it, as women seemed to claim for themselves many areas in which men used to dominate (Kimmel 262-264). Also, it is possible that the community where I was growing up took old-fashioned norms for granted. As it usually happens, people may stick to sets of beliefs and views that are passed from one generation to another without ever questioning them.
When it comes to my personal encounters with people who do not agree with feminism, I could share one story that is particularly memorable to me. A person whom I had considered a good friend for many years turned out to be quite a radical misogynist. He came from an old-fashioned patriarchal family. His father promoted the idea that women are only good for kitchen and cannot be trusted with anything else. Moreover, my friend was also sure that women shared his beliefs. Once, he tried to convince the mother of his other friend that cooking meals, being a housewife, and serving her husband was her only sources of happiness. When I tried to let him know that he was extremely offensive, he laughed and accused me of being “one of those feminists”. In response, I tried to explain that not all women are fond of being housewives, but he laughed again and called my statement nonsensical.
It is interesting to note that healthcare, as an industry, has seen a series of changes as the women’s health movement brought women into healthcare specialties. Naming five prominent historical moments that were parts of this movement, it is necessary to mention the Middle Ages when women practicing medicine were considered witches and banned from this field. The second key moment is the entrance of women into traditional medical practice in the 1800s. This event was followed by the formation of an official movement in the 1830s and 40s when “Ladies’ Physiological Societies” were created (Seaman and Eldridge 16). While in the 1860s the profession of a nurse was created, by 1890s women were forced to nursing specialties, a majorly oppressive breach of balance assuming that women are natural nurses who could not match the requirements of being a doctor, a predominantly male profession. The following timeline can reflect these key moments: Middle Ages (female healers are witches) – 1800s (women in official practice) – 1830s-40s (“Ladies’ Physiological Societies”) – 1860s (the establishment of nursing as a profession for women) – 1890s (women are forced to nursing specialties).
Today, there are many organizations focusing on female empowerment and support that deserve attention. One of them is EWDNA (Ethiopian Women with Disabilities National Association). This organization provides help to women who cannot access health care services on their own or require specialized education. EWDNA helps women with disabilities become more independent and self-reliant.
Kimmel, Michael S. “Men’s Responses to Feminism at the Turn of the Century.” Gender & Society, vol. 1, no. 3, 1987, pp. 261-283.
Seaman, Barbara, and Laura Eldridge. Voices of the Women’s Health Movement. Seven Stories Press, 2012.