Feminism refers to a movement and a set of ideologies aiming at redefining, identifying, and defending the political, economic and social rights of women in society. In particular, the major role of feminists is to advocate for equal chances for women in education and employment.
The theory emerged from the imaginations of various women who sought to comprehend the nature of gender inequality through the understanding of social roles and various positions of individuals in society.
The theory has a different interpretation and definition of gender and sex. Even though there are varieties of feminists, the major aim of all feminism is to fight for the rights of women in society. These aims include the fight for the reproductive and bodily rights of women.
In this regard, women should be given freedom to make decisions touching on their health. Through feminism, there is a new interpretation of gender and sex.
Scholars upholding this view observe that women should be given some reproductive rights, such as using contraceptives and procuring an abortion at will. In the modern society, what entails reproductive health is well documented.
The world agency in charge of health (WHO) notes that couples should be given the freedom to decide on the number of children they should have (Cole, & Sabik, 2010). However, people should be responsible as they make their decisions owing to the sanctity of life.
Human life is special meaning that it should not be terminated at will. Apart from deciding on the number of children, couples should always determine the spacing of their children. In this regard, women should not be discriminated.
Women in the United States have always encountered challenges that interfere with their individual fulfillment in society. Some have risen up to fight for their rights, but they hardly identify themselves as feminists due to the stigma associated with the term.
This means that women are willing to challenge the exiting social structure, but they are aware of the resistance.
Through constitutional development, women have managed to advocate for the ratification of laws that protect them from inhumane conditions, such as rape, violence and subjugation to the domain of the home.
Women are currently engaged in socio-political and economic activities in the United States, it is not enough to bring about equality. Much has to be done to ensure that women enjoy their rights, just like men.
Feminism employs the ideas of Marx to challenge the existing social structure since it supports one gender.
Therefore, it is agreed among feminists that a social structure that oppresses a majority of its people should be rejected. In this regard, feminists argue for a gender equality whereby the capability of an individual would be measured based on his or her strength, but not sexual qualities.
Women and feminism
The two concepts are closely related because one facilitates the other. Before the advent of feminism, the living conditions of women were very poor since they were perpetually pushed to the periphery, even on matters touching on their own health.
Women existed to be seen, but not to be heard since they were the properties of men. Just as men owned other properties, such as land, women were also owned in the same way.
Traditional practices could not allow women to participate in some activities, such as policy formulation and wealth accumulation. Feminism shed light on the debate since it advocated for the rights of women, particularly reproductive health.
Before feminism, a woman would simply be used as a sex object since she did not have any right. Currently, sex is considered a love affair whereby two people can only do it through consent.
Feminism advocated for the provision of free abortion, provision of free family planning contraceptives and methods, abolition of female genital mutilation, and forced marriage. Through legal ratifications, a woman in the modern society has full control of her reproductive health.
She can decide when to have a child and when to terminate a pregnancy. This freedom is attributed to the works of feminists, who have achieved a lot regarding reproductive rights of women.
The making of major decisions touching on reproduction was always the role of men, even though they are minor shareholders as far as reproduction is concerned. Women have been subjected to violence and intimidation since they are perceived as weak and helpless.
Others view women as people who should depend on men for major decisions since they do not have the moral authority to participate in societal development.
World Health Organization demands that women should be given specific rights, including the right to procure an abortion, the right to use family planning methods in order to control births, the right to access quality reproductive healthcare, and the right to access free reproductive education, which would inform their decisions.
Feminists insist that the government should offer free education on contraceptives in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
Any women should be protected from practices that would interfere with reproduction, such as gender-based violence, forced sterilization, and female genital mutilation.
A number of states have already established stricter laws related to gender-based violence. For instance, a man should be jailed for life in case he is found forcing a woman to have sex.
This is considered a violation of the woman’s reproductive right since she is expected to engage in sex with consent.
Traditional practices that interfered with female reproduction are on the decline. For instance, female inheritance in simple societies is no longer accepted. The government is opposed to the issue of forced marriage.
In the 1960s, there was a new wave of feminism, which was referred to as the second wave of feminism. The demands of feminists were not any different from the previous demands since the works of Mary Wollstonecraft were used as the basis of demands.
Women advocated for equality in terms of social relationships whereby they demanded the existence of free love and the wearing of skirts. In the United States, a number of meetings were held to spearhead talks on the ratification of laws touching on the rights of women.
Apart from previous demands, women needed equal pay in the labor industry, provision of equal education, job opportunities, free childcare services, financial empowerment, prevention of gender-based discrimination, and illegalization of inhumane actions, such as rape and violence against women.
Even though not all women have similar demands, there is a consensus among feminists that male chauvinism and discrimination are the two major problems affecting women in any society. Therefore, all women aim at achieving independence.
In this regard, they seem to agree on the ways in which they can realize their goals. Liberal feminism is concerned with equal rights meaning that women should be subjected to similar conditions as men. It does not seek any favors from members of society.
To achieve this equality, the constitution should be reviewed to reflect the interests of all societal members. In other words, the law should be drafted to protect women from inhuman conditions. Through the law, an individual’s sex would not be used to judge his or her performance in society.
From a liberal perspective, the differences between men and women are not natural, but instead they are creations of the society. The differences are the result of socialization process whereby women are brought up knowing that they are inferior to men.
Marxist feminism has a different interpretation of the relationship between men and women. It views the relationship between women and men as characterized by subordination and exploitation, which is a typical feature of the capitalistic society.
Ever since the advent of private property, women have always been viewed as the property of men. In the same way the rich owns the working class, men also own women. Women are against this type of relationship in the modern society.
This means that are compared to the working class (proletariat) while men are the bourgeoisie since they own everything in society.
The argument that femininity results to the unsuitability of women to engage in political activities has its origin in the feminist theory.
Cole and Sabik authored an article that assesses if the attractive and unattractive aspects of femininity, which match the Feminine Interpersonal Relations (interpersonal charm) and Feminine Self-Doubt (submissiveness and passivity), have impacts on the successful involvement of women in politics (Cole, & Sabik, 2010).
Conventionally, Feminine Interpersonal Relations were linked with higher political involvement and effectiveness when compared to Feminine Self-Doubt.
The upshots are conferred with consideration to the midlife advancement of women and the femininity socialization of Black women.
Identification of the function of feminine attributes, such as nurturance and compassion in political endeavors (as found in Feminine Interpersonal Relations), may promote women approving feminist convictions to engage in politics.
Duncan, on the other hand, surveyed the relative significance of feminism generation and the feminist label to a group of 667 women that were marching in demand for Reproductive Rights.
Weak feminists were seen to identify themselves with the feminist label, approving several attitudes and viewpoints of strong feminists with less dedication to equalitarianism.
In his analysis, the feminist label was significant in elucidating the relationship of women to feminism as opposed to the generation. This aspect designates that disclosure to a group ideology could connect persons across generations.
Feminists had a feeling of inferiority when they judged themselves against their male counterparts and possessed similar attitudes, such as strong qualities (Duncan, 2010). Education concerning feminism could make the feminists have a dedication to equality.
Duncan evaluates the manner in which feminism associates itself with the sexual harassment, which is a great challenge facing women. Two pointers of feminism were evaluated in the study, including self-recognition and involvement in feminist activism.
Two kinds of sexual molestation were gauged, which included sexual advances and gender molestation.
Feminist identification signified lesser gender molestation encounters. Nevertheless, feminist-identified women accounted highest reduction in job gratification (Holland, & Cortina, 2013).
It was established that, feminist activism is connected to greater experiences of both types of molestation.
Moreover, irrespective of feminist activism or identification, women that had experienced sexual molestation were highly likely to fix the sexual molestation tag to their encounters than women who had faced gender molestation alone.
Hooks initiated a well-liked theory of feminists, which is anchored in a good sense and the perception of mutual understanding. The vision presented by Hooks is that of a beloved society that pleases everybody and is dedicated to equality (Hooks, 2000).
The author underscores the fact that the most controversial and challenging concerns facing feminists in the contemporary world include encompassing violent behavior, ethnicity, work, and reproductive rights.
With the use of customary awareness and candor, the author calls for feminists that are free from disruptive hindrances, but endowed with thorough discourse to join hands in fighting for their rights.
Hooks reveals that feminism, instead of being perceived as an obsolete impression or one restricted to scholarly leaders, should be perceived as reality for everyone.
In his contribution on the debate touching on feminism, McCabe evaluated the relationship among various variables, including feminist self-identity, political inclinations, socio-demographics and a scope of gender-associated approaches.
The research was supported by information from the General Society Survey of 1996.
The study found out that just 20 percent of American women identify themselves as feminists while 80 per cent of women believe that both men and women ought to be socially, politically and economically equal (McCabe, 2005).
Equalitarianism is the most extensively accredited factor among women. Findings disclose that feminists can be very educated city women who are free to be liberals or Democrats.
The feminist self-identity considerably associates itself with opinions concerning the effect of the movement of women on equality.
The scholar recommends the significance of examining collections of attitudes concerning perfect gender conformities, evaluations, and distinguishing other forms of approach.
It is unfortunate that most women in society approve feminist values, but do not identify themselves as feminists. Moradi, Martin and Brewste analyzed the initiative of women founded on the presumption of personality as a probable feature in feminist non-identification.
The first study conducted by the above scholars introduced the theoretically positioned Feminist Threat Index and assesses its psychometric qualities with statistics from 91 students.
The second study examined a theoretically founded intervention set to decrease the scale of feminist threat and enhance the extent of feminist identification, by permitting students to interrelate with a diverse group of feminists (Moradi, Martin, & Brewster, 2012).
The intervention decreased the scale of threat and raised the extent of feminist identification considerably in the group, but there was no change in the comparison set.
Several groups of individuals have reacted to feminism and both men and women either support or oppose it, with support for feminist perceptions being more common as compared to self-identification as a feminist.
The involvement of male and generally everyone is encouraged by feminists. This is a plan aim at attaining the dedication of the entire society to gender equality.
The findings of the above scholars present researchers and other stakeholders with adequate information that would be used in evaluating and decreasing the threat to feminist identification.
Previous studies have shown that the majority of women in the US support feminist objectives, but they do not consider themselves feminists. Consideration concerning the opinions of people as regards to feminism could foretell rejection of the feminist identity.
Different from this hypothesis, every woman who participated in such studies, irrespective of feminist recognition, had a conviction that other people had a negative perception towards feminists. Feminists were believed to be homosexuals as compared to being heterosexual.
Ramsey, Haines, Hurt, Nelson, Turner, Liss, and Erchull, (2007) talked about connection between the perceptions of feminists and the conviction they possess as to the way other people see them.
The scholars discussed the disagreement between the search for gender equality and the yearning for sexual gratification, which is a great challenge to feminists.
In the second-wave, feminists were on opposite sides of a sequence of controversial discussions concerning issues, such as pornography, prostitution and heterosexuality, with some women supporting gender oppression and others backing sexual satisfaction and empowerment.
The third-wave seeks to join up the principles of gender equality and sexual liberty and respects the decisions of women on the aforementioned principles (2010).
Whereas this perspective is at times seen as insignificantly approving all that a woman decides to do as a feminist, Snyder-Hall affirms that the third-wave does not present an unreflective approval of selection, but a great reverence for pluralism and self-fortitude.
Being a feminist is perceived as a tag, which is related to activism, convictions and other groupings.
With the application of online surveys, where 220 American women took part, an article by Yoder, Tobias and Snell (2011) evaluates the distinctive and combined effect of feminist self-identification on the welfare of women, equality, and activism.
Self-identity was clearly discussed as a dual affirmation of being a feminist or not, which by itself was associated with high feminist activism, as well as the effect of feminist convictions.
Moreover, self-identity, contrary to feminist convictions, was not associated with personal welfare or interpersonal equalitarianism. There is thus the need for self-identity for improved feminist action.
In their analysis, Zucker and Bay‐Cheng (2010), focused on chauvinism, which is prevalent in the modern United States. It bears unconstructive impacts on women.
Feminist approaches could safeguard women against the impacts of sexism, though there is an ideological difference between women, which interferes with feminist mindset, but snubs the identity and the self-recognized feminists.
Women bear the mindset and not the identity, which seems to be self-interested and may only engage in less joint efforts in support of the rights of women.
The negative depiction of feminism and feminists has made many women to believe in equality, but do not consider themselves feminists.
Nevertheless, this study reveals that as individuals are exposed to self-identified feminists and discourse regarding different types of feminism, their extent of self-identification as feminists rises.
In this regard, comprehension of whether the refusal of the feminist label is founded on fear of stigma related to the identity, neoliberal convictions, or other elucidations is significant to the people organizing for equality.
The Choice of the Topic
“Women and their acceptance of feminism” is chosen as the topic of the paper since a number of scholars talk about it. The paper discusses women and their acceptance of the attributes that make them female.
The paper highlights that despite the fact that quite a number of women fight for gender equality, they only support feminist objectives. Surprisingly, these women fail to consider themselves as feminists.
They, however, portray male characteristics of superiority in different aspects of life. Women should not only back feminist activities, but also accept their positions as women.
Cole, R., & Sabik, J. (2010). Associations between femininity and women’s political behavior during midlife. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34(4), 508-520.
Duncan, E. (2010). Women’s relationship to feminism: effects of generation and feminist self‐labeling. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34(4), 498-507.
Holland, J., & Cortina, M. (2013). When sexism and feminism collide the sexual harassment of feminist working women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 37(2), 192-208.
Hooks, B. (2000). Feminism is for everybody: Passionate politics. Brooklyn, NY: South End Press.
McCabe, J. (2005). What’s in a label? The relationship between feminist self-identification and “feminist” attitudes among US women and men. Gender & Society, 19(4), 480-505.
Moradi, B., Martin, A., & Brewster, M. (2012). Disarming the threat to feminist identification: an application of personal construct theory to measurement and intervention. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 36(2), 197-209.
Ramsey, R., Haines, E., Hurt, M., Nelson, A., Turner, L., Liss, M., & Erchull, J. (2007). Thinking of others: Feminist identification and the perception of others’ beliefs. Sex Roles, 56(10), 611-616.
Snyder-Hall, C. (2010). Third-wave feminism and the defense of “choice”. Perspectives on Politics, 8(1), 255-261.
Yoder, D., Tobias, A., & Snell, F. (2011). When declaring “I am a feminist” matters: Labeling is linked to activism. Sex Roles, 64(2), 9-18.
Zucker, N., & Bay‐Cheng, Y. (2010). Minding the Gap Between Feminist Identity and Attitudes: The Behavioral and Ideological Divide Between Feminists and Non‐Labelers. Journal of personality, 78(6), 1895-1924