The development and growth of feminist movements and gender roles were accompanied with the emergence of various theoretical models that explained the roles of women and their positions in the society. Each theoretical model approached women issues in a different way. Though distinct on how they approached feminism, all the theoretical perspectives have an agreement on the need to continue improving women’s positions and roles in the society (Gilmore, 2004).
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Most of these feminist theories put more emphasis on the inferior position and oppressions of societal women. Moreover, these theories yearn to bring necessary changes that may result in the desirable women liberty and consequently offer equal rights and opportunities to them.
The history of feminist movement and the changing roles of women have revolved around the theme of liberation, equal rights and opportunities. Early feminist movements championed for equal rights and opportunities for women at workplaces.
This later evolved into the struggle for the legalization of women rights which were widely perceived as a lasting liberation for women and the end to oppression (Gilmore, 2004). The achievements of the struggle dramatically resulted into the changing roles of women as many women accessed education and developed their careers.
However, the means and how these feminism movement goals together with the spirit of gender roles were achieved, differed depending on the theoretical approach given to feminism.
In this regard, it is essential to single out feminist movement models that explain the origin of women oppression and offer solutions to such issues in the current society (Freedman, 2003). This paper discusses the liberal and socialist feminism theories while comparing and contrasting their concepts so as to identify if they explain the origin of women oppression.
Comparing and contrasting social feminist theory with liberal feminist theory
Basically, liberal feminism tries to locate the derivation of oppressions of women in the society. The theory asserts that women oppression started at the point where they lacked equal opportunities and civil rights as well as in the ancient societies which had links with the sexual role socialization processes.
In fact, liberal feminism claims that the liberation of women can be realized only when sexist discrimination is removed in order to allow women to have equal opportunity for pursuing their full individual development potentials the same way men do. This implies that liberal feminist framework lays much emphasis on legal and social reforms.
Such reforms must ensure that policies are made to generate equal prospects for females and institute individual civil rights which warrant that no person is deprived of the chance of accessing the available social-economic systems due to class, race or sex (Arriaga & Foshee, 2004). Besides, liberal feminism assumes that when the public is re-educated on issues relating to sex role socialization processes, there is optimism in realizing a more egalitarian and liberated gender associations.
Socialist feminism in contrast tries to locate the basis of women oppressions on the capitalist systems interactions. The systems were anchored on class imbalances which saw the patriarchal systems having their roots in gender inequalities. Due to these kinds of interactions within the social systems, women were subordinated and oppressed via misusing their labor within the marketplaces.
They were insistently underpaid for the efforts they gave at the markets while they received no payment at all for their home labors (Moghadam, 2005). Currently, the reality is that women are oppressed on the basis of class systems which are reinforced via chauvinist practices and attitudes. The socialist feminism intends to eradicate both male dominance and capitalism so as to stop the oppression of women.
When contrasted to the liberal feminist reform oriented theoretical framework, socialist feminism put more emphasis on the need to revolutionize the societal changes so that the apparent inequity in power distribution can be eliminated. In this case, equality does not materialize in form of the available opportunities alone, but it crucially takes into consideration the rewards.
Thus, the socialist feminism perspective facilitates and demands that all women race and class experiences are understood as a means of comprehending and alleviating their oppressions (Al-Ali, 1994).
However, to essentially achieve women liberation, the feminist strategy should allow women to be aligned with other groups of oppressed individuals so that common oppression grounds can be found. This might help them to resist the subordination of women both at home and in the market places.
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Evaluation of socialist and feminist theories
Whereas feminism appears to be grounded on various fundamental premises, it emanates that there is not even a universally or single feminism version that is utterly accepted. When feminism theory is critically analyzed, only a major theme called definition diversity emerges.
As a definitional concept, feminism incorporates a description of the contemporary realities, the proposed strategies affecting societal women, analyses of both positive and negative elements that mark the present reality as well as explanations concerning feminism roots. In the analysis of societal women status, different insights have been established based on specific feminist framework used (Adam & Ofori-Amanfo, 2000).
Each framework generates variant social world interpretations and equally influences the conclusions, observations and assumptions which are made concerning the societal women experiences (Basile, 2004). Furthermore, the frameworks influence the change strategies which are utilized to amend such women oppression experiences and status.
The goals of liberal feminist movement were closely linked to those of the civil rights movement that generally brought about the social consciousness specifically the respect of human rights and liberties. Most importantly, the civil-rights movement eliminated the social inequality and discrimination in society (Freedman, 2003).
Whereas the civil rights movements looked at the whole society, liberal feminist movement specialized on the rights of women. In essence, the rise of liberal feminist movement was hugely stimulated by the civil rights movement. The liberal feminist movement majorly used the ideals and methods applied by the civil rights movement that included the non-violent means.
The liberal feminist movement was founded on the premise that women were constantly oppressed especially by their male counterparts and their position in society had to be changed to achieve desirable equality (Ezekiel, 2002). Liberal feminist movement used the legal reforms and political struggle in an attempt to achieve their desired goal.
The beliefs among the liberal feminists are that women can only improve their position in society through increased political and wider economic participation and involvement (Moghadam, 2005). Having the capability to influence the political decision making processes and take on the political power, are the main steps in influencing the legal reforms that aim at improving the women position and roles in the society.
Nevertheless, the liberal feminist movement did not put much emphasis on eliminating the economic inequality which emanates from the political inequity. In this regard, the liberal feminists did not look at the importance of economic inequality that existed between men and women (Evans, 2004). In fact, the political inequality will obviously endure provided the economic inequalities persist. The principles, goals, concepts and achievements of liberal feminist movements have been criticized by the socialist feminist movements.
Socialist movement views the development of gender roles in society as evolutionary. They view the changes that have occurred in gender relationship and roles as evolutionary and a historical process (Shortt, 1998). The argument is that the development of gender roles and relationships from the traditional perspective to the modern views are generally determined by the evolutionary factors. The factors comprise of the biological, cultural and environmental impacts that changes human behavior.
From the evolutionary perspective, gender and society are founded on the concept that gender relations are dependent on the human evolution (Evans, 2004). The evolution concept is basically the differences in behaviors of males and females over time.
The behavior differences are influenced by factors including genetic, cultural heritage and physical environment (Freedman, 2003). It is essential that the roles and relationships between men and women can be explained from the traditional perspective which incorporates changes that have taken place overtime.
Taking into consideration the genetic influence, the differences in the roles and positions of women and men in society are dependent on their favorite reproductive style (Ezekiel, 2002). In other words, the difference in reproductive style exists between the two genders while the trends in their reproductive successes are determined by dissimilar features.
The successes of these reproductive styles are assessed differently, hence, resulting into the consequence of human behavior evolutionary development (Ezekiel, 2002). The result of evolutionary development is that each of these different genders performs different functions in relation to their parental accomplishment.
It is also essential to take into consideration the significance of social environment in shaping gender roles. Generally, gender roles are shaped by the environmental stereotypes and biases that exist in society (Freedman, 2003). In fact, social behavior and norms that govern gender roles are determined by these stereotypes and biases.
Hence, it is not quit possible to violate these gender roles. The deviation from the established gender roles will automatically lead to protest from various societal parts particularly those who feel that such deviations violate the societal standards (Gilmore, 2004). The consequence will be that gender roles are highly reliant on the existing societal norms.
The socialist feminist theory is based on the belief that the association between men and women is founded on the ensuing opportunities and economic rights. The women socio-economic positions clearly define both their ascribed and acquired societal statuses which emerge when they relate with men.
The socialist feminists in this context put more emphasis on the deprived societal economic positions and claim that the poor economic statuses of women accrue mainly because they are observed to be inferior to men. Hence, they are disadvantaged to access any viable economic opportunities (Shortt, 1998).
Conversely, the socialist feminism claim that the persistent change in women’s position in the twentieth century emanated due to the increased growth in the levels of economic opportunities. That is to say, when contrasted to the liberal feminist theory, the socialist feminist theory recognizes women economic equality before the legal and political equalities.
This is because all the social, legal and political affiliations are constructed from the economic relations. Socialist feminist similarly accepts the fact that the qualitative consistent change in women’s positions might only occur when social revolution takes places to eliminate any form of equalities.
Therefore, when all the above discussed feminism framework issues are taken into consideration, it might sound well by stating that women commitments and men independence can properly be defined by the gender role differences. These are usually acquired in their socialization processes as well as when they learn their respective cultural standards that are logically hereditary from the historical cohorts.
In this respect, the different women and men behaviors together with the gender differences can critically be expounded on from the evolutionary perception. However, given that different feminists’ theoretical frameworks have tendered varying recommendations that could assist in the elimination of variant women and men’s positions, choosing a framework which can essentially address the issue of societal women oppressions is of great essence.
The liberal feminist perspective stipulates that the political and legal reforms are very essential and form the key components of instruments that might eliminate inequities between women and men. Nonetheless, although equality can be realized through destroying the patriarchal society, socialist feminists avow that women economic statuses and positions can be improved through revolutionizing the societal changes to liberate the oppressed women so that apparent inequity in power distribution can be eliminated.
Thus, social feminist demand for social revolution serves as the best approach of dealing with the aforementioned current women oppression. This is because the socialist feminists believe that equality cannot be realized if major overhauls within the societal structure do not take place, yet this need a lot of time to be accomplished.
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