Feminist Movement

Feminist Movement

The feminist movement (also known as the Women's Movement, Women's Liberation, or Women's Lib) refers to a series of campaigns for reforms on issues such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leave, equal pay, women's suffrage, sexual harassment and sexual violence. The movement's priorities vary among nations and communities and range from opposition to female genital mutilation in one country or to theglass ceiling in another.

The movement began in the western world in the late 18th century and has gone through three waves. First-wave feminism was oriented around the station of middle or upper-class white women and involved suffrage and political equality. Second-wave feminism attempted to further combat social and cultural inequalities. Third-wave feminism (c.1980-c.1990)Doubtful. See talk topic: third wave started later and not ended. (cited from Open Boundaries University text book), includes renewed campaigning for women’s greater influence in politics.

History

The history of feminist movements has been divided into three "waves" by feminist scholars. Each deals with different aspects of the same feminist issues.

The history, events, and structure of the feminist movement is closely related to the individuals at the time, specific protests that took place, and the broader transformations taking place in American culture. The feminist movement worked and continues to work against the status quo in American society. According to bell hooks, "Feminism is a struggle against sexist oppression. Therefore, it is necessarily a struggle to eradicate the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels, as well as a commitment to reorganizing society so that the self-development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion and material desires."

First wave

The first wave refers to the feminist movement of the 19th through early 20th centuries, which focused mainly on women's suffrage. Writers such as Virginia Woolf are associated with the ideas of the first wave of feminism. In her book A Room of One's Own, Woolf "describes how men socially and psychically dominate women". The argument of the book is that "women are simultaneously victims of themselves as well as victims of men and are upholders of society by acting as mirrors to men". A common interpretation of this work is that Woolf recognizes the social constructs that restrict women in society and uses literature to contextualize it for other women.

The first women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. After 2 days of discussion and debate, 68 women and 32 men signed a Declaration of Sentiments, which outlined grievances and set the agenda for the women's rights movement. A set of 12 resolutions was adopted calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights for women.

The term "first-wave" was coined retrospectively after the term second-wave feminism began to be used to describe a newer feminist movement that focused as much on fighting social and cultural inequalities as further political inequalities.

In Britain, the Suffragettes campaigned for the women's vote, which was eventually granted − to some women in 1918 and to all in 1928 − as much because of the part played by British women during the First World War, as of the efforts of the Suffragists. In the United States leaders of this movement included Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who each campaigned for the abolition of slavery prior to championing women's right to vote. Other important leaders include Lucy Stone, Olympia Brown, and Helen Pitts. American first-wave feminism involved a wide range of women, some belonging to conservative Christian groups (such as Frances Willard and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union), others resembling the diversity and radicalism of much of second-wave feminism (such as Stanton, Anthony,Matilda Joslyn Gage, and the National Woman Suffrage Association, of which Stanton was president). Alice Paul helped to pass the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by founding the National Woman's Party with Lucy Burns. The National Woman's Party pushed for an amendment to the Constitution to legalize women's right to vote, which was ratified in 1920. In the United States, first-wave feminism is considered to have ended with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1920) granting women the right to vote.

Some of the earlier forms of feminism have been criticized for being geared towards white, middle-class, educated perspectives. This led to the creation of ethnically-specific or multiculturalist forms of feminism.

Second wave

The second wave (1960s-1980s) was concerned with gender inequality in laws and culture. It built on what had been achieved in the first wave, and began adapting the ideas to America. Simone de Beauvoir is associated with this wave because of her idea of women as "the other". This idea was touched on in the writing of Woolf, and was adapted to apply both to the gender roles of women in the household or at work, and also their sexuality. Beauvoir set the tone for later feminist theory.

The second wave of feminist activity began in the early 1960s and lasted through the late 1980s. What helped trigger this second wave was the book written by Betty Friedan.

"The key event that marked the reemergence of this movement in the postwar era was the surprise popularity of Betty Friedan's 1963 book The Feminine Mystique. Writing as a housewife and mother (though she had had a long story of political activism, as well), Friedan described the problem with no name the dissatisfaction of educated, middle class wives and mothers like herself who, looking at their nice homes and families, wondered guiltily if that was all there was to life was not new; the vague sense of dissatifaction plaguing housewives was a staple topic for women's magazines in the 1950s. But Friedan, instead of blaming individual women for failing to adapt to women's proper role, blamed the role itself and the society that created it" (Norton, Mary Beth, A People and a Nation, p. 865. 2005. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.)

During this time, feminists campaigned against cultural and political inequalities, which they saw as inextricably linked. The movement encouraged women to understand aspects of their own personal lives as deeply politicized, and reflective of asexist structure of power. If first-wave feminism focused upon absolute rights such as suffrage, second-wave feminism was largely concerned with other issues of equality, such as the end to discrimination. The feminist activist and authorCarol Hanisch coined the slogan "The Personal is Political", which became synonymous with the second wave.

Third wave

In the early 1990s, a movement, now termed the third wave of feminism, arose in response to the perceived failures of the second wave feminism. In addition to being a response to the backlash against initiatives and movements created by second-wave feminism, the third wave was less reactive, and had a greater focus on developing the different achievements of women in America. The feminist movement as such grew during the third wave, to incorporate a greater number of women who may not have previously identified with the dynamics and goals that were established at the start of the movement. Though criticized as merely a continuation of the second wave, the third wave made its own unique contributions.

Feminist leaders rooted in the second wave, such as Gloria AnzaldĂșa, bell hooks, Chela Sandoval, CherrĂ­e Moraga,Audre Lorde, Maxine Hong Kingston, and many other feminists of color, called for a new subjectivity in feminist voice. They sought to negotiate prominent space within feminist thought for consideration of race-related subjectivities. This focus on the intersection between race and gender remained prominent through the Hill-Thomas hearings, but began to shift with the Freedom Ride 1992. This drive to register voters in poor minority communities was surrounded with rhetoric that focused on rallying young feminists. For many, the rallying of the young is the emphasis that has stuck within third wave feminism.

Scope

As a movement, these women produced the deepest transformation in American society and enlisted the largest number of participants. Underlying the specific conflicts in political economy and culture evoked an intensified awareness of gender issues to activists on all sides of the issue and to millions of other ordinary citizens. Historian Nancy Cott wrote "feminism was an impulse that was impossible to translate into a program without centrifugal results" about the first wave of the movement. What made a change in gender order feel necessary to so much of society was the fate of thefamily wage system: the male breadwinner/female homemaker idea that shaped government policies and employment in businesses. In the years of the movement women accomplished many of the goals they set out to do. They won protection from employment discrimination, inclusion in affirmative action, abortion law reform, greater representation in media, equal access to school athletics, congressional passage of an equal rights movement, and more.

Demographic changes started sweeping industrial society: birth rates declined, life expectancy increased, and women were entering the paid labor force in large numbers. New public policies emerged fitted to changing family forms and individual life cycles. The work of these women also changed the popular understanding of marriage and the very meaning of life; women came to want more out of their marriages and from men, education, and themselves.

The efforts and accomplishments of these women and organizations throughout the women's movement inspired many authors of that time to write about their personal experiences with feminism. Jo Freeman and Sara Evans were two such authors. Both women participated in the movement and wrote about their firsthand knowledge of feminism. Freeman, American feminist and writer, wrote several feminist articles on issues such as social movements, political parties, public policy toward women and many other important pieces about women. Evans wrote her experiences in books such asThe Roots of Women's Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left and Born for Liberty. Her works focused more on young women activists recognizing that the "personal is political" as well as showing how these women used discussion sessions to expand understanding of the social roots of personal problems and worked towards developing different practices to address those issues.

Part of what made feminism so successful was the way women in different situations developed their own variants and organized for the goals most important to them. All women - Native American women, working class women, Jewish women, Catholic women, sex workers, and women with disabilities - described what gender equality would mean for them and worked together to achieve it.

Cultural dynamics

The feminist movement's agenda includes acting as a counter to the putatively patriarchal strands in the dominant culture. While differing during the progression of waves, it is a movement that has sought to challenge the political structure, power holders, and cultural beliefs or practices.

Although antecedents to feminism may be found far back before the 18th century, the seeds of the modern feminist movement were planted during the late part of that century. Christine de Pizan, a late medieval writer, was possibly the earliest feminist in the western tradition. She is believed to be the first woman to make a living out of writing. Feminist thought began to take a more substantial shape during the Enlightenment with such thinkers as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Marquis de Condorcet championing women's education. The first scientific society for women was founded in Middelburg, a city in the south of the Dutch republic, in 1785. Journals for women that focused on issues like science became popular during this period as well.

The women who made the first efforts towards women's suffrage came from more stable and privileged backgrounds, and were able to dedicate time and energy into making change. Initial developments for women, therefore, mainly benefited white women in the middle and upper classes. Thus, the beginning of the feminist movement in America was a specific agenda for a certain group of women.

The different waves of feminism are not only reflective of the cultural evolution in America since the 1920s. It is also the way in which the feminist movement used different social movement tactics to encourage women in America to become active and motivate individuals to make change for all women in America. Although the feminist movement has spanned almost a century, there are ways in which to break down the timeline and recognize how women have framed the ways they have achieved different goals throughout history. "By rendering events or occurrences meaningful, frames function to organize experience and guide action, whether individual or collective".

The feminist movement has been an ongoing presence in American culture, and the group of women targeted at the beginning has since changed. The beginning of the feminist movement was seen as exclusive in that, according to bell hooks, "oppressed women... felt that our only response to white, bourgeois, hegemonic dominance of feminist movement is to trash, reject, or dismiss feminism."

Often, the three waves of Feminism are recognized as examples of how values have been identified, shared, and transformed, and the feminist movement as a whole has worked to redefine certain standards of its agenda in order to include a broader spectrum of people. For example, the movement later included women of different races and sexual orientations. It was only in the fall of 1971 that NOW (National Organization of Women) "acknowledged, ‘the oppression of lesbians as a legitimate concern of feminism’"

The feminist movement continues to support and encourage women to pursue their goals as individuals who deserve equal opportunity. "The Foundation of future feminist struggle must be solidly based on a recognition of the need to eradicate the underlying cultural basis and causes of sexism and other forms of group oppression," according to bell hooks.

Liberation in the U.S.

The phrase "Women's Liberation" was first used in the United States in 1964, and first appeared in print in 1966. By 1968, although the term Women's Liberation Front appeared in the magazine Ramparts, it was starting to refer to the whole women's movement. Bra-burning also became associated with the movement, although this term is a misnomer as no bras were actually burned at the Miss America protest. The term "liberation" is one that needs to be contextualized within American society. It is assuming that the oppressed are all women in America. The work of the feminist movement has had liberation as a specific goal for women but the agenda has evolved as culture has transformed and the issues being addressed by the feminist movement have increased. Keeping in mind that the "Optimism about the outcome of a collective challenge will thus enhance the probability of participation; pessimism will diminish it" allowed women who therefore achieved some sense of liberation to feel accomplished with the time and energy they were dedicating to the movement.

Participation lacked in respect to the broader spectrum of women in America, specifically women who were not white and part of the middle to upper class. The transitions made throughout history, however, helped to expand the efforts of the feminist movement to include women of different race, class, and sexual orientation. Different actions have been seen to be highlights of women's liberation, but it was a goal of the greater movement rather than one specific moment in history. One of the most vocal critics of the women's liberation movement has been the African-American feminist and intellectual Gloria Jean Watkins (who uses the pseudonym "bell hooks"), who argues that this movement glossed over race and class and thus failed to address "the issues that divided women". She highlighted the lack of minority voices in the women's movement in her book Feminist theory from margin to center (1984).

The division between women in America has been the result of differences of race, class, and sexual orientation. It has been "Racism that keeps women from uniting against sexism." It is important not to view race or gender with an eye of oppression (Bhavnani 80). The origins of women's liberation in America can be identified as being part of two branches that essentially started the feminist movement and more specifically the actions towards women's liberation. The older of the two branches included the formation of organizations such as Women's Equity Action League, Human Rights of Women, and the National Organization of Women (NOW). These organizations were primarily concerned with the legal and economic obstacles facing women. Men and women worked to address issues of working women, gender roles, salary, and opportunities of women in the workforce. The second branch identified as the younger branch included a larger number of smaller groups that focused specifically on different activities. The efforts of the younger branch was influenced by the events and actions of the Civil Rights Movement, and the motivation to create change came from groups like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) who targeted college campus communities to get involved. By increasing awareness about women's issues individuals were motivated to educate themselves, whether it was through experience or academics.

The difference between the older and younger branches is their organization and structure. The older branch is more likely to work with the structure of society whereas the younger group tend to defy the institutionalized aspect of working with the system. The younger branch makes up many different groups which tended to form among friend circles creating challenges like diversifying the groups. These two branches are important to recognize because they allow the history of the feminist movement to be contextualized within American culture. The branches help to identify the efforts that have gone on in social circles, college campuses, and cities all over the country.

Social changes

The feminist movement effected change in Western society, including women's suffrage, the right to initiate divorce proceedings and "no fault" divorce, the right of women to make individual decisions regarding pregnancy (including access to contraceptives and abortion), and the right to own property. It has also led to broad employment for women at more equitable wages, and access to university education.

The United Nations Human Development Report 2004 estimated that when both paid employment and unpaid household tasks are accounted for, on average women work more than men. In rural areas of selected developing countries women performed an average of 20% more work than men, or 120% of men's total work- an additional 102 minutes per day. In the OECD countries surveyed, on average women performed 5% more work than men, or 105% of men's total work-an additional 20 minutes per day. However, men did up to 19 minutes more work per day than women in five out of the eighteen OECD countries surveyed: Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Israel, and The Netherlands. According to UN Women, "Women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property."

The social climate in America has definitely evolved throughout history. The definitions of feminism, feminist, and feminist theory are no longer a monolithic term. There are multiple dimensions to the movement that encompass all different aspects of American culture. In America "most people are socialized to think in terms of opposition rather than compatibility". Social changes have not only included the right to vote, greater equality in the workforce, as well as reproductive rights, but also the recognition of injustices and the ways in which both men and women can work to change them. According to bell hooks, in order to create change it is essential to recognize that "exploited and oppressed groups of women are usually encouraged by those in power to feel that their situation is hopeless, that they can do nothing to break the pattern of domination"

Language

Feminists are often proponents of using non-sexist language, using "Ms." to refer to both married and unmarried women, for example, or the ironic use of the term "herstory" instead of "history". Feminists are also often proponents of usinggender-inclusive language, such as "humanity" instead of "mankind", or "he or she" in place of "he" where the gender is unknown.

Gender-neutral language is a description of language usages which are aimed at minimizing assumptions regarding the biological sex of human referents. The advocacy of gender-neutral language reflects, at least, two different agendas: one aims to clarify the inclusion of both sexes or genders (gender-inclusive language); the other proposes that gender, as a category, is rarely worth marking in language (gender-neutral language). Gender-neutral language is sometimes described as non-sexist language by advocates and politically-correct language by opponents.

Heterosexual relationships

The increased entry of women into the workplace beginning in the 20th century has affected gender roles and the division of labor within households. Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild in The Second Shift and The Time Bind presents evidence that in two-career couples, men and women, on average, spend about equal amounts of time working, but women still spend more time on housework. Feminist writer Cathy Young responds to Hochschild's assertions by arguing that in some cases, women may prevent the equal participation of men in housework and parenting.

Feminist criticisms of men's contributions to child care and domestic labor in the Western middle class are typically centered around the idea that it is unfair for women to be expected to perform more than half of a household's domestic work and child care when both members of the relationship perform an equal share of work outside the home. Several studies provide statistical evidence that the financial income of married men does not affect their rate of attending to household duties.

In Dubious Conceptions, Kristin Luker discusses the effect of feminism on teenage women's choices to bear children, both in and out of wedlock. She says that as childbearing out of wedlock has become more socially acceptable, young women, especially poor young women, while not bearing children at a higher rate than in the 1950s, now see less of a reason to get married before having a child. Her explanation for this is that the economic prospects for poor men are slim, hence poor women have a low chance of finding a husband who will be able to provide reliable financial support due to the rise of unemployment from more workers on the market, from just men to women and men.

Although research suggests that, to an extent, both women and men perceive feminism to be in conflict with romance, studies of undergraduates and older adults have shown that feminism has positive impacts on relationship health for women and sexual satisfaction for men, and found no support for negative stereotypes of feminists.

Religion

Feminist theology is a movement that reconsiders the traditions, practices, scriptures, and theologies of religions from a feminist perspective. Some of the goals of feminist theology include increasing the role of women among the clergy and religious authorities, reinterpreting male-dominated imagery and language about God, determining the place of women in relation to career and motherhood, and studying images of women in the religion's sacred texts.

The feminist movement has affected religion and theology in profound ways. In liberal branches of Protestant Christianity, women are now allowed to be ordained as clergy, and in Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism, women are now allowed to be ordained as rabbis and cantors. In some of these groups, some women are gradually obtaining positions of power that were formerly only held by men, and their perspectives are now sought out in developing new statements of belief. These trends, however, have been resisted within most sects of Islam, Roman Catholicism, andOrthodox Christianity.

Christian feminism is a branch of feminist theology which seeks to reinterpret and understand Christianity in light of the equality of women and men. While there is no standard set of beliefs among Christian feminists, most agree that God does not discriminate on the basis of biologically determined characteristics such as sex. Their major issues are theordination of women, male dominance in Christian marriage, and claims of moral deficiency and inferiority of abilities compared to men. They also are concerned with the balance of parenting between mothers and fathers, and the overall treatment of women in the church.

Early feminists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton concentrated almost solely on "making women equal to men". However, the Christian feminist movement chose to concentrate on the language of religion because they viewed the historic gendering of God as male as a result of the pervasive influence of patriarchy. Rosemary Radford Ruether provided a systematic critique of Christian theology from a feminist and theist point of view.

Islamic feminism is concerned with the role of women in Islam and aims for the full equality of all Muslims, regardless of gender, in public and private life. Although rooted in Islam, the movement's pioneers have also utilized secular and Western feminist discourses. Advocates of the movement seek to highlight the deeply rooted teachings of equality in the Quran and encourage a questioning of the patriarchal interpretation of Islamic teaching through the Quran, hadith(sayings of Muhammad), and sharia (law) towards the creation of a more equal and just society.

Jewish feminism seeks to improve the religious, legal, and social status of women within Judaism and to open up new opportunities for religious experience and leadership for Jewish women. In its modern form, the movement can be traced to the early 1970s in the United States. According to Judith Plaskow, who has focused on feminism in Reform Judaism, the main issues for early Jewish feminists in these movements were the exclusion from the all-male prayer group orminyan, the exemption from positive time-bound mitzvot, and women's inability to function as witnesses and to initiatedivorce.

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