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Gender Identities and Politics of Women’s Activism Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 5th, 2021


Every society promotes specific human behaviors, norms, and ideas that resonate with the established values, gender roles, and ethical principles. This kind of practice informs the understanding of identity. Many scholars and researchers analyze this concept as a social construct since it dictates a person’s position, relationship with others, and connections in a given community. The outcome is a symbolical representation of ideas, thoughts, and even emotions that pertain to a specific person or group. This paper applies the constructs of politics and identity to women’s activism and the challenges many women face when challenging established gender expectations. It goes further to explain why some female groups oppose such actions or initiatives.

Main body

Identity can differ significantly when describing a self, group, state, or society. This is true since groups in a particular state might have diverse views, roles, positions, and expectations. This means that the concept of identity is applicable to a state, a community, a social group, or a given individual. The term “identity” is, therefore, defined as what an individual or group is in a given society (Emejulu, 2018).

Every person or community is expected to focus on established gender norms and responsibilities if desired outcomes are to be recorded. Although identity and politics might refer to different ideas, the outstanding fact is that they are inseparable. This is true since politics is what defines the way people are governed or pursue their objectives (Sa’ar, 2001). Identity becomes a powerful tool for informing the politics specific individuals, societies, or states associated with. The outcome is a leadership model that is implemented in such a way that the targeted followers prioritize their needs and concerns in accordance with their cultural, ethnic, sexual, racial, or sexual goals.

These notions of identity and politics are essential when analyzing and defining gender roles and expectations in every society. For instance, many communities have been associated with a wide range of responsibilities that are designed for specific groups, such as children and women. There are also specific positions and identities that have been associated with women. This kind of social reality has resulted in diverse challenges, including disempowerment of females, denial of natural liberties and rights, and poor education attainment (Kandiyoti, 1988). Young children are forced to take up roles of homemakers even if they are underage or premature.

In some African settings, females are forced or required to go through female genital mutilation (FGM). This is common malpractice that continues to attract the attention of women rights activists and leaders. Fortunately, the changes experienced in the modern world have created new identities and gender roles that remain unacceptable in specific regions. Some women in these societies have worked tirelessly and collaborated to challenge such gender expectations (Emejulu, 2018).

Due to the presence of the above-outlined issues, they have decided to engage in activism and identify oppressive norms and social constructs. Such feminists usually promote actions, behaviors, attitudes, and initiatives that can challenge the existing status quo, thereby being able to pursue their objectives (Kandiyoti, 1988). Unfortunately, these groups encounter numerous setbacks that make it impossible for them to succeed.

For example, the majority of them might be labeled or identified as rebels in their own communities. Others are usually exiled, murdered, or forced to go through certain rituals. Emejulu (2018) goes further to indicate that women who oppose such expectations may lose their jobs, fail to win their counterparts’ support, or be rejected in their own societies. The lack of resources and financial support is another outstanding barrier that affects the success of such individuals. Consequently, they end up lacking visibility or incapable of engaging in future social dialogues that have the potential to transform their experiences.

The nature of these predicaments explains why many female activists have been reluctant to engage in protests. Emejulu (2018) argues that such problems will continue to discourage more women from participating fully in organizations that oppose social norms and inappropriate gender expectations. There are also specific women who chose to fight existing practices in their respective societies, such as polygamy or polyandry.

Such individuals will have increased chances of being punished and even denied to marry (Sa’ar, 2001). This challenge has remained a major barrier for many women to promote ideas and notions that support their welfare. Sa’ar (2001) indicates that women who engage in activism or become too powerful in their respective families and societies will lose the protection of their brothers, husbands, and fathers. Their fellow sisters and mothers will be unwilling to associate with them. These obstacles continue to discourage many women from challenging the gender expectations and roles in their societies. This is a clear indication that the selected authors offer similar arguments regarding the issue of gender-based struggles in different regions.

Opposition to Women’s Struggles and Efforts

The existence or establishment of a patriarchal society explains why many women tend to be opposed to the struggle for a better life. This is the case since they prefer coping mechanisms that will help them avoid conflicts with each other (Kandiyoti, 1988). the decision to adopt is an effort that arises from the identifiable systems that promote domestic or cultural practices. The understanding of social identity makes it impossible for many people in different communities to have a positive idea regarding the issue of modern feminist consciousness (Kandiyoti, 1988). According to them, it is appropriate to support every social consensus instead of attacking it.

This practice will make it possible for them to reduce potential struggles and challenges that can result in community breakdown. Narayan (2008) goes further to indicate that many women believe that the transformation of marriages and family steps is not necessary. This is the case since the process tends to defy the natural arrangements existing between men and women.

The issue of kinship emerges as another reason why many women will not be willing to engage in activism. Sa’ar (2001) indicates that they have reduced chances of being identified with their respective families. The main role they have to do is to promote their husbands’ goals. The loyalty of women to their respective social norms or groups is something that many community members consider respectable and appropriate. Sa’ar (2001) goes further to present an additional argument to explain why women ignore the relevance or role of activism.

He argues that Arab women embrace strategizing capabilities in an attempt to achieve their objectives and support the posterity of the community (Sa’ar, 2001). This kind of practice explains why many women continue to receive untimely support from their respective fathers, brothers, and other members of society.

The existence of defined traditions is a major reason why many women in the underdeveloped worlds would be unwilling to struggle for their rights. They have become institutionalized in their respective communities and focus on their social and group identities. Narayan (2008) approaches the same question from a different perspective. He explains why there is a need for women to acknowledge that gender identities and roles can change without necessarily having to challenge established norms (Narayan, 2008).

The most important thing is to have honest conversations that are aimed at tackling most of the challenges different women encounter in their respective societies. This means that female activists can struggle for better life without fearing issues that might emerge. Those who are opposed to this kind of struggle should think critically and consider actions that will address most of the problems they face and eventually make them successful.


The concept of identity explains why women tend to be identified and defined from a societal perspective or norm. The above discussion has utilized this idea to explain why gender roles and expectations have remained a reality in every society. Women who decide to challenge such roles and positions through their behaviors, activities, or feminist attitudes usually encounter numerous challenges, such as rejection, punishment, lack of resources, and terminated support.

There are also those who fail to associate with strategies in an attempt to improve women’s welfare because of the established norms, social principles, and expectations. In conclusion, any action plan aimed at changing the current status quo will benefit more females without undermining the integrity of the targeted culture and its political objectives.


Emejulu, A. (2018). On the problems and possibilities of feminist solidarity: The Women’s March one year on. Progressive Review, 24(4), 257-273. Web.

Kandiyoti, D. (1988). Bargaining with patriarchy. Gender and Society, 2(3), 274-290.

Narayan, U. (2001). “Westernization”, respect for cultures and third-world feminists. In S. Seidman & J. C. Alexander (Eds.), The new social theory reader (pp. 376-389). New York, NY: Routledge.

Sa’ar, A. (2001). Lonely in your firm grip: Women in Israeli-Palestinian families. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 7(4), 723-739.

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"Gender Identities and Politics of Women's Activism." IvyPanda, 5 July 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/gender-identities-and-politics-of-womens-activism/.

1. IvyPanda. "Gender Identities and Politics of Women's Activism." July 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/gender-identities-and-politics-of-womens-activism/.


IvyPanda. "Gender Identities and Politics of Women's Activism." July 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/gender-identities-and-politics-of-womens-activism/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Gender Identities and Politics of Women's Activism." July 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/gender-identities-and-politics-of-womens-activism/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Gender Identities and Politics of Women's Activism'. 5 July.

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