Feminism: It’s the dawn of the 21st century and one of the concepts that have gained significant popularity and attention is Feminism.
You might hear the word so much and in so many different contexts that you cannot help but ask ‘what is feminism?’ or ‘what is the meaning of feminism?’
But like so many other things, Feminism happens not to have one universal meaning, and the entire concept means different things to different people, but one of the most accepted definition is that Feminism is the desire, belief, or ideology that women and men should have equal rights, chances, and opportunities.
Who is a feminist? A feminist is any person of any gender who believes that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities and also takes action, speaks up or in some other way provides support to this ideology.
Do you believe that men and women should have equal rights? If yes, you might just be a feminist after all!
In so many ways over the years, women have felt deprived as a result of not having equal opportunities, especially when it relates to something good!
While the core ideology of Feminism revolves around equal rights, there are several other theories around Feminism that make the concept seem somewhat divided. This creates a particular group of feminists want to identify with only the values that their sect represents and not with other beliefs.
FEMINISM: 3 FEMINIST THEORIES THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT
1. Radical Feminism
This theory upholds the belief that every fiber of society has been tailored to favor men and that society as a whole needs to have a radical or total change where male supremacy is completely eliminated.
Radical feminists argue that men have more social power than women, which they exert by oppressing women.
In the eyes of a radical feminist, patriarchy which is a system of society where men hold power and exclude women from positions of social, economic and financial power has become the order of the day.
A radical feminist is like a totalitarian, they want things to change, and they wish for it to change drastically and immediately.
Radical feminists believe that it is time for women to overcome some of what they have termed as setback, for instance, a woman does not need to have a man to live a happy life or to procreate. The aim of this and some other radical feminist ideologies is to cut down on the obstacles that hold women back and to therefore make a woman have equal opportunities with a man in her workplace or other aspects of life.
Radical feminism is often viewed as being extremist, and most of the advocates are seen as angry, bitter people, the truth in this assertion is however unproven.
2. Socialist Feminism
Socialist Feminism focuses on eliminating the factors that hinder the equality of women socially and calls for social reform, especially at work places.
For instance, a socialist feminist will advocate for equal pay of women and men on the same job level or for those doing the same jobs.
Socialist feminist also argue that gender pay gaps exist and have been normalized to ensure that women are forever denied what is due to them.
Socialist Feminism originated in the 1960s as a response to gender specific capitalism and economic oppression and so regardless of the skin color, the social class, the religious believes, or any other social factor that exists, women should be treated fairly and given the same opportunities as men because women and men are first human beings before the question of gender came in.
3. Cultural Feminism
Cultural Feminism is an ideology that naturally, women and men have core differences and that the female essence has been suppressed as opposed to being encouraged.
Cultural feminist focus more on the difference between men and women as opposed to the similarities and this acknowledgment of the difference for the cultures feminist means that women and men ought to have different roles.
In addition to this, the cultural feminist acknowledges biological differences which are based on the reproductive capacities of the woman.
Feminist Movements: What they want
There have been several feminist movements over the years, and many have been classified as the first, second, third, and fourth wave of Feminism.
Regardless of this classification of the movements, the feminist movement generally exists to advocate for equal rights and opportunities.
Some of the rights that feminists advocate for include;
1. Fair and equal pay in the workplace
This means bye-bye to gender pay gaps. A woman deserves to be paid what she is due regardless of her gender, sexual orientation, or cultural background.
Oprah Winfrey, one of the most successful talk show hosts in the world, did recount her experience when she was just coming up, she said that her male counterparts were being paid significantly higher than she was, and when she approached management to address it, she was told that she was not married and had fewer responsibilities than her male colleagues, therefore not entitled to the same pay regardless of the fact that they did the same work.
Oprah has since become an advocate of women rights and women empowerment but some of these oppressive policies still exist in the workplaces today hence the reasons why feminist movements also continue to exist to counter these policies and beliefs.
2. Reproductive rights
Reproductive rights have become a big issue in today’s world, and as women are coming into the full realization of themselves and fighting for equal rights all-round, they would also like the right to not bear children unless of course they want to.
Hand in hand with this is the call for society to have a change, this means that the pattern of shaming women who do not have children must come to an end.
Women should have children when they want to and in the circumstances that they choose. If a woman decides to be a single mother or to patronize a sperm bank in order to have children, this should be her decision without external judgment.
3. Stop Sexual harassment
Whether at work, at home, in schools, public places, or private establishments, women have faced severe sexual harassment over time.
These gender-based sexual harassment range from physical, sexual harassment like rape, attempted rape, and verbal sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment in the workplace manifests in different ways but two of the most common ways are;
I. Quid pro quo
This is originally a Latin phrase meaning ‘this for that’ or which references an exchange of some sort. For instance, sex for a promotion, sex for work benefits, sex for bonuses, or sex for allowances, the list is inexhaustive.
II. Hostile work environment.
While this may not be termed sexual harassment by some people, where the sexual actions of top management officials or people in the position of power in the workplace makes it uncomfortable or unconducive for others to do their jobs. This constitutes sexual harassment, and this holds true regardless of the gender of the harasser.
Some examples include improper touching, using sexual profanity, displaying explicit or graphic sexual materials in common spaces etc.
4. Equal political rights
Some feminist movements exist to advocate for equal political rights. This means more women in politics, more women in government positions, more women as head of institutions, and more women as CEOs.
This notion has birthed several phrases that aim to make women feel inclusive and to show women that certain positions are not reserved exclusively for men, these days the term ‘girl boss’, ‘boss babe’ amongst other power slang exists to portray the fact that being a boss is not a thing of gender.
Feminists are advocating for women to be seen as much as men are, this means more women in the media, more women on television, more women writers, more women editors, more women in lead roles, and the list goes on and on.
This position is not an anti-men move but an effort to balance out what many women see as the aftermath of years of patriarchy.
The bottom line is that feminist believe that more women should be able to participate and be involved and to improve the visibility of women significantly.
As unbelievable as it may seem in today’s world, the United Nations Inter Agency Task Force on rural women site women as making up for a staggering two thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people.
Even though some measure of progress has been made in the last century, women still make up a huge part of illiterate people.
Research has shown that every additional year of education eventually increases a woman’s wages by 10- 20%, hence the importance of education.
4 FACTORS THAT HAVE POPULARIZED THE FEMINISM MOVEMENT
You might start to wonder at this point why so much of this is emphasized now or why feminism has somewhat become a huge deal.
Here are some factors that have popularized Feminism today.
With the huge advancement in technology and the ease of communication, the world has become a global village, communication across continents have become as easy as the click of a mouse, a simple tweet can now reach millions of people in seconds, and TV programs have a global reach.
With all of these advancements, it has become incredibly easy for women to compare experiences and share their stories.
A woman in Japan knows what the working conditions and treatment that a woman in America receives. A woman in Peru also knows what’s happening far away in Africa.
With this improved communication, women and men have become increasingly aware of the disparity and the unequal rights of women all over the world.
The internet on its own also play a major role in popularizing Feminism with some prominent write-ups or speeches being hailed for maintaining a feminist standpoint.
Several social media pages that support Feminism now exist today, thereby driving even more awareness.
When a writer and self-acclaimed feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote an essay titled ‘We should all be feminist’ it would seem as though this was what the world had been waiting for!
2. Collective awareness amongst women in local communities
Women have generally become tired of what appears to be a system that does not favor them. Regardless of who the woman is or where she is from, you will find out that most societies all over the world are similar, and women have been designed to be at the bottom of the social, economic, and financial chain.
Women in local communities are coming to the realization that there is more to being a woman than being relegated to traditional roles.
3. More Women are becoming educated
According to an independent finding by the UNICEF, the last few decades have seen great improvements in the education of women and between 1970 and 1992 alone. The enrollment rate of girls in both primary and secondary schools in developing countries has almost doubled as it rose from 38% to 68%.
What this means is that as opposed to probably 100 years ago when the formal education of women were not prioritized, things have indeed changed, and more women are getting educated. With this education comes awareness and the desire to flatten the curve against gender-based violence, harassment, and generally unequal rights and opportunities.
4. More women are now a part of the workforce and occupy white-collar jobs
With education comes awareness, and this awareness has qualified more and more women for important positions. Education will make a woman more confident and informed, and this reflects in all spheres of her life. A happy, confident woman will be a better mother, wife, friend, and individual.
As more women take on jobs, they start to understand that key societal reforms are not made from the kitchen; they are made from being a part of the corporate and governmental processes and decision making.
Some feminists find themselves not quite fitting into any of the feminist theories, and this has birthed intersectional feminists.
The intersectional feminist is more of a modern-day feminist. She/he understands that times are changing, and no one school of thought knows it all.
Intersectional Feminism is like that greedy person who wants a bit of everything at the buffet table.
It takes the wonderful attributes of almost every theory and merges it into one.
The intersectional feminist understand feminist positions but is not very extreme about them.
We have seen some of the reasons why feminist do what they do and support the ideas that they support and as human beings, I hope that you understand the importance of respecting the other person so much that we understand the need for them to make their own decisions.
And so if a woman wants to have more than a dozen kids, by all means, she should, if she can carter for them and wants to do so.
Similarly, if another woman decides not to have kids at all, she should also feel free to make that decision!
Contrary to the modern-day stigma that has somehow come to be attached to the word, ‘feminism’ is not a dirty word, and being a feminist does not mean that you are an angry or bitter person or worst still, that you are anti-men or that you hate men.
Feminism is not targeted at any gender but it is only more pronounced or more associated with women because indeed women have been at the unfavorable end of society for so long. This is evident in almost every sector of society.
We must all do better as a community, as a society, as a people, and we must remember that some men are also disadvantaged or may have also been victims of harassment, rape or gender-based violence. While we fight for women’s rights and equality which is undeniably important we must take into consideration the male gender in general, what is the point of Feminism if it seeks to marginalize men?