Feminism referred to as an assembly of movements that have a common objective to defend the political, social or political welfare of women. Additionally, feminism seeks to advocate for equal opportunities for women in employment and education. Feminist theory emerged through women groups. The main aim is to have a decisive understanding of the nature of gender inequalities through examining the lived experiences and social role of women. Earlier forms of feminist campaigns faced criticism since it only advocated for the rights of the white, the middle class and the elite. Such biases led to creation of ethnic based forms of feminisms. Over time, it is important to acknowledge the feminist activists have achieved a lot in their campaigns. For instance, legislations pertaining contracts entered by women, ownership of property and voting rights and protected girls and women from sexual harassment, domestic violence and sexual assault. They have also advocated and achieved autonomy, bodily integrity and equal pay for women and reproductive rights especially in the West (Gubrium & Holstein 2007, p. 18).
Around the world, philosophers argue that feminism has different objectives and goals. Most western historians assert that activist movements that advocate for the rights of women should be considered as feminist movements even though they did not use the term themselves. Feminism has gone a long way to the present day. The work by the activists can be divided into waves. The first wave included women suffrage movements of the 19th and 20th centuries advocating for women’s rights to vote. The second wave comprised the movements that advocated for the liberalization of women that started at around 1960. Lastly, the third wave that comprised of movements that continued advocating for the demands of the second wave.
Feminism theory is an extension of feminism in the philosophical and theoretical fields. It includes works in a variety of disciplines namely sociology, economics, literary criticism, history, women studies and anthropology. The feminist theory mainly focuses on gender inequalities, power relation and sexuality. In literary criticism, Elaine show alter describes the growth of feminist theory occurred in three phases. The first is ‘feminist critique’, which tries to examine the ideologies underlined in the literary phenomena. The second is ‘gynocriticism’ in which the woman is a producer of textual meaning. The last phase is the gender theory in which the gender and sex systems are explored.
Feminists have a different understanding of a ‘woman’. To them `woman’ is not a sex term but a gender description that depends on social and cultural attributes. In the process, they distinguish sex as male and female from gender as male and female. In Toril Moi’s essay sourced from Helene Cixous, work ‘An imaginary utopia’ there is an examination of exclusions from oppressive structures and possible ways of escaping from the trap of tradition of mastery. Cixious opposes the traditional forms of writing and ultimately writes a new history. In writing mastery is critical. Mastery can be described as power or knowledge. Cixous recognizes mastery as a discourse, which she can opt to use yet she prefers a feminine discourse. By refusing genre, she is generally refusing mastery. We also understand that écriture feminine as explained is an interference with mastery. It is observed that Cixous use of language disrupts the social structure since it disrupts the linguistic structure in the first place. The disruption is evidenced by changing of meaning of words that greatly influences the view of women in society since it is the society that develops the language out of the cultural context which in turn establishes the subject.
Feminists have achieved their rights through political movements. They are active in politics by associating with parties depending on their ideologies such as conservatives and liberals (Nfah-Abbenyi 1997, p.12). Liberals feminists seek equality between men and women through legal and political reforms without interfering with the society structure. Radical feminism considers the male dominated capitalist hierarchy as the basic feature defining women oppression hence they want a total reconstruction of society. Conservative feminism considers being conservative according to the society it resides. Separate feminism is against heterosexual relationships and, lastly, libertarian considers individuals as self-owners hence entitled to personal freedom. Through the various movements, the feminist activists have been able to fight for their rights and created awareness amongst other women.
Rosemary and Chrys Ingra ham argue that feminism grew from western Marxist thought and have inspired a number of movements. All that it contained is a critique and analysis of capitalism. Additionally, there is a focus on the ideology’s relationship towards women. Marxist feminism outlines that capitalism is the main cause of women oppression and that the discrimination against women both domestically and in employment is caused by the capitalist ideologies. Socialist feminism can be distinguished from Marxist feminism through the argument that women’s liberty can be achieved by bringing to an end of the cultural and economical sources of women oppression. Anarchy feminists believe that class struggle and anarchy governance against the state needs fighting against patriarchy.
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On black and postcolonial ideologies, the feminists challenge to organizing bodies of Western feminist thought. In the past, feminist movements were and the white, middle class educated women in North Ameribca and Western Europe dominated developments. However, women that were discriminated formed other activist groups. Post colonialists women hold that colonial oppression marginalized them but did not turn them voiceless.
The feminist theory has analyzed the social construction of masculinity and its significance for the objective of gender equality. The social development of masculinity is viewed by the feminism as problematic since it associates male with competition and aggression and rein forces unequal gender relations. The concept of masculinity is considered harmful to men as it narrows their choices, limits their sexuality and blocks emotional connections with women. Some feminists are involved in activism on issues pertaining men, for instance, male rape and spousal battery. Participation of males in feminism is encouraged since it is perceived to be an important strategy towards gender equality. Most of the pro feminists and male feminists are active in feminist’s theory, women right activism and masculinity studies. Though some urged that men engagement in the feminism issue is vital, it is necessary to note that this infringes the social relationship existing between men and women (Ridout 2010, p. 23).
It is also important to note that feminism has had an effect on culture. For instance, the feminist movement resulted in both feminist’s fiction and nonfiction, creating new history in women’s writing. It contributed to the historical revolution to believe that women are not strong and productive. The widespread interests of women in literature writing can be associated with the general reassessment and growth of the literary canon. Interests in gay and lesbian literature, postcolonial literature, working peoples writing and writing by people of color have resulted in expansion of literature. Another aspect under the culture is music. The genre emerged due to the expression of the second wave movements together with peace movements, civil rights and labor. Feminists became concerned about their role in music in the 1980s and later grew to be great composers and performances. The great hits by women changed the traditional view about women.
Visual arts as an aspect were accomplished through the feminists’ art movement. The art movement was aimed at making an international reflection of the woman’s life and experience and to improve the contemporary art. It aimed to achieve awareness among women on art practice and art history. The feminist movements worked hard for the realization that women’s art was not an exception to the normal way of art history. Additionally, significant number of feminists acknowledged lesbianism and bisexuality as part of the feminism while others considered it minor as they pursued their goals.
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‘Baby boy’ a song by Beyonce featuring Sean Paul is a song that revolves around love. It is about a girl who wants the boy, ‘baby boy’, to fulfill her fantasies and picturing the two of them going out there for an adventure. This can be related to the definition of sexuality where a person of the other sex has erotic experiences and responses. Human sexuality impacts on political, cultural and legal aspects of life. ‘Stupid girls’ is a video by an American musician called Pink. The video shows Pink to be an angel and a demon both trying to influence the future life of a young innocent girl. The two videos have one thing in common. There is the desire to be guided in the right way in both. This can be related to the role of feminists who have in one way or another used their influence to create awareness. The role played by Pink as a stupid girl who without the knowledge and information cannot be a female president.
We therefore notice that feminists have played a critical role in championing for the rights of women. Since the 17th century a lot has been achieved despite the challenges that tend to persist. This has been put forward through the various theories like the literary theory, film theory in which the feminists have taken many different approaches in describing the cinema. This includes discussion of role of women characters in specific film narratives or genres. It is therefore important to note that in the last two decades feminists’ theory have influenced the general transformation.
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It is also significant to recognize the function played by feminists in inspiring scientists and biologists to ask and research the reasons as to why and how traditional researchers have explained sex, gender and relations within the social and natural world. There have been reactions towards feminism either from both men and women, this can be pro-feminism or anti-feminism. Pro-feminism refers to the support of feminism without necessarily being in a feminist movement. The term describes mostly men who are in support of feminism. Their activities include offering sexual harassment workshops, running community education workshops and counseling men who perpetrate violence. Pro-feminism promotes activism to discourage pornography, gender based violence and promoting equality among all people. Anti-feminism opposes either partly or wholly. In the 19th century, the opposition was mainly to deny women the right to vote and afterwards felt there was no need for women to go to higher learning institutions. There are those who felt that women should form part of the labor force, join unions or control their sexualities. Additionally, some opposed feminism on the basis that it was contrary to their religious beliefs and tradition. For instance, some argued that divorce was against their traditional customs. We can therefore conclude feminism made a significant step in the fight for the rights of women and equalities. Through various articles by feminists, the world is aware of the role of women in political, social and economic aspects. It is also encouraging to see that women have taken their roles seriously and are working towards full liberty and creating awareness to those women still marginalized. It is encouraging to see that men have gradually accepted that women too have rights and sexuality that must be respected.