Basically, the idea of feminism started long ago when women began to enquire about their mediocre eminence in society and demanded their recognition in the larger society. The first use of the phrase is traced back in the fiscal 1871 and it was incorporated in the French medical texts to undermine the people who had both sex organs (Freedman 2). In fact, feminism is associated with the various divergent movements that are ideally used to address the plight of women in the society.
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Thus, it becomes hard to single out one definition as befitting the concept of feminism. According to Freedman assertions therefore, feminism can be defined as a collection of movements that identify themselves with addressing the issue of the relegation of women in the society (1).
Feminism targets the establishment and maintenance of equality in all sections of societal life including economic, political and social facets. It has widely been associated with the idea of enthusiastically fighting for women’s rights in society and establishing gender parity as well as equality. Those who viably associate themselves with feminism are called feminists. Although the renowned feminist movements are stronger today than it was ever known before, women found globally still remain marginalized to some extent.
USA and feminists movements’ development
Despite the imperative struggle by women to fight for their universal rights, countless numbers still remain oppressed and abused. For instance, male chauvinism materializes to have dominated the world whereas supremacy is instilled from the socialization process. Furthermore, the consequent growth in practice of the oppressive tendency is equally eminent. The current feminism can be traced to the advancement of the second wave of feminism apparently realized in the United States after the first wave had laid background on realization of equity in education, property ownership and voting (Freedman 3). This wave is mapped out to the feminists’ movements that took place in United States starting from early 1960 to 1990.
In fact, the first attempt towards the realization of feminists’ ideologies was the formation of national organization for women (NOW) by Betty Friedan in the fiscal 1966. Most of the feminists had partaken to the Freedom Summers Civil Rights Movement against Segregation in Southern states where they had been radicalized through capitalism. Feminists had started to doubt the pretentious advocacy of liberation, fairness and cohesion as mere speculations (Hansen and Ilene 27).
This implies that, feminism differences evidently appeared whereby a majority were viewing cohesion as the key to gain independence over other factors while others ensued to view the struggle for equity as a sub sect of the broader fight against subjugation.
Second wave feminism incorporated Marxism into the struggle and came to be widely known as the Marxism movement. The movement argued that female oppression could not be eliminated without eradicating the capitalist social structure that created and weathers it. Marxism followers argued that women’s emancipation was connected with tussle against capitalism since repression served to benefit the rulers. Marxism and feminism differed in their view of oppression as a result of the sex difference and not on social classes as Marxists view.
While the debate ranged on, Marxists asserted that though repression represented material benefits of a certain societal class, oppression occurred among all women irrespective of their social or capitalist classes. Shulamith Firestone a radical feminist stated that it was the biological difference that sufficed the social class division and oppression. Firestone saw biological control over women as the remedy to achieve what they were fighting for. These radical feminists opted to separate from the oppressors (Gerhard 23). In 1970, radical feminism incorporated Marxists ideologies and viewed men and not capitalism as the key oppressor. Christie Delphy, a Marxist-radical feminist saw an independent women upheaval as the key towards ousting oppression.
In socialist countries, feminism had succeeded while it continued to drag in capitalist countries. Even with such evidence, pessimists still failed to see the possibility of gaining equity under socialism due to eradication of material shortage. In socialization there was a high possibility that universal scheduled economy could offer enough for all and financial independency could be relished today by the advantaged.
As opposed to socialism, capitalism centered on profit maximization could not allow women liberation. In the early 1970s, feminism divided further (Michelle 215). The Marxist joined hands with the radicals to form the Marxist-Leninist group whilst another group lagged behind to form the socialist feminists.
The socialist group precluded the biotic determinism of extremism in feminism and developed the double-system that views patriarchy and capitalism as causes of women oppression. Social feminists failed to show the correlation between the two and how racial discrimination and ageing could be incorporated in the system. They also failed to determine the cause of patriarchy and ended up joining the radical feminists in the view that only a sovereign women association could liberate women. Its failure to establish anything coherent led to its demise (Hansen and Ilene 36). The radical feminists failed to acknowledge the role played by men in their liberation.
Marxism is rendered irrelevant in the current feminism and became replaced by post-modernism. Post-modernist contend that it is possible to establish a society where equality is present. Nevertheless, in male ruled countries women create a counter-culture of writing, acting and singing to avoid discrimination and politics. They practice moderation rather than engaging in legislations on the grounds that they will trespass the male territories.
This movement that started in the late 1970s is known as cultural feminism and instead uses female empowerment as an alternative to feminism. While cultural feminists argue that a lot of written history existed, modern historians stress that male historians have out written them. Cultural feminist echo the popular conformist inclinations of the elite. Current feminists engage in silent activities like working in rape centers and abortion hospitals that only address the results but not the sources of oppression. Others engage in movements to increase feminine representation. In the United States the wage gap still remains.
This gap is sustained by the sexist collective assertiveness and not difference in ability. Feminists have currently moved to address issue of pornography and synthetic fertilization. Susan Faludi 1991 book named ‘Backlash: The Undeclared War against Women’ identifies how public view is contrived and manipulated by capitalists to repress the women (Roth 43). The plight of women has continued to be immensely abused right from childhood to adulthood by societal institutions. Women continue to suffer from rape, sexual abuse and home violence.
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It is a societal constructed system that places man as the central unrivaled figure controlling the women, children and assets. It depicts a male-rule system that depends on female repression for its survival. Feminism characterizes it as a key oppressive tool used by the society against them. The macho creation of the variance between male and female is the main change between equity and oppression.
Patriarchy includes all societal systems that create and sustain the male supremacy over women (Michelle 216). Radical feminists argue that separation is the only answer since patriarchy is deeply entrenched in the society. Although some criticize the view taken by the radical feminists, second wave feminism caused a stir due to their anti-patriarchal stance. Post-modernism has incorporated the use of cultural feminism as a way of curbing and ending female insubordination.
Political movements and women associations
Early US feminism associated itself with the rightists through the National Woman’s Party and from 1960s to date aligned itself with The National Organization for Women. Post-modernists in USA sought to disengage themselves from the politics. Further, political ideologies gave birth to the socialist and capitalist systems that form the basis upon which feminism is grounded. Former feminists argued that it was the capitalists who propagated female oppression to achieve their personal interests (Haeberle 27). Marxism stated that oppression could only be eradicated if capitalism was done away with. In the 20th century, socialism has been seen as the remedy to women oppression.
Men and masculinity
It is a social edifice that is regarded by feminists as a major problem due to its connotation with male ferocity, rivalry and women insubordination. It is used to support patriarchal system in the society that exposes women to oppression and inadequate gender associations. Societal edifice of masculinity has been responsible for rape, sexual harassment and family violence that are faced by women. Feminists have realized that there is a need to integrate male to feminists’ studies in order to comprehend full communal obligation to gender parity. Although it is important, it can be challenging due to the entrenched patriarchal societal influence in gender association and its deep roots in society (Roth 56).
Strengths and limitations of acts of resistance in feminism
Radical feminists believed in isolation as the probable solution to end oppression. The radical feminists assumed that organizations involving men could not successfully fight for their course. Patriarchy was to them the major cause of oppression. Due to its deep-roots in society, the solution was to exclude men from the struggle. They failed to recognize the role of men in the struggle as they held the key to their liberation (Michelle 216). In other instances, radical feminists achieved more than the socialists feminists. Resistance is unfruitful in some instances since women are subjected to abuse in form of domestic violence and sexual harassment by men.
Freedman, Jane. Concepts in the Social Science: Feminism. Buckingham, Philadelphia. Open University Press, 2001. Print.
Gerhard, Jane. Desiring Revolution: Second-Wave Feminism and the Rewriting of American Sexual Thought, 1920 to 1982. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2001. Print.
Haeberle, Erwin. The Sex Atlas.New Popular Reference Ed. New York. The Continuum Publishing Company, 1983. Print.
Hansen, Karen and Ilene Philipson J. Women, Class, and the Feminist Imagination: A Socialist-Feminist Reader. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press, 1990. Print.
Michelle, Arrow. It Has Become My Personal Anthem: I Am Woman, Popular Culture and 1970s Feminism. Australian Feminist Studies Journal, 22 (2007): 213-230. Print.
Roth, Benita. Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana, and White Feminist Movements in America’s Second Wave. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.