Origins of Feminism – Feminism Essay Sample
Feminism is a set of movements and ideologies aimed at creating and protecting women’s equal political, economic, and social rights. This includes the desire to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist is a person who is a supporter of women’s equality rights.
It is believed that feminism was created on the basis of the social utopias of Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen, and other similar thinkers of that era. But the main founder of the feminism known to the world was Friedrich Engels, who in his work The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State defined the oppression of women as the most ancient and rigid form of oppression in the history of mankind. Thus, feminism was a kind of Marxism, communism, another totalitarian reorganization of society for the elect.
It was believed that as soon as women received the right to vote, women and other women-elected leaders could quickly be on the board. The subsequent collapse of such hopes was the first major disappointment of feminism, which came to the crisis and the fall of the first wave of feminism of the 20th century. However, in the end, a historical image of feminism was created, which fights for equal rights for women.
The Second World War and the subsequent restoration pushed feminism to the background. The received shock from the war and the deficit of men made regular traditional relations relevant. But experience, when millions of women throughout the western world replaced men in factories and plants, will still be in demand by activists of the women’s movement, but so far women willingly left jobs to men and returned to the role of housewives.
An ancestor of the second wave of feminism is Betty Friedan with her book The Feminine Mystique. Leftist Marxist ideas stirred the heads of Western youth, which they thought would be a chance to change the “rotten world of capitalism.” At this time, Michel Foucault appears with his revolutionary idea of “there is no sex.”
Thus, in the 1970s, feminism completely formed its ideological base with three leading messages:
1. The patriarchate is the oppression of women, the same form of oppression as the oppression of slaves, and the woman is an unhappy victim of this millennial oppression.
2. The patriarchate had not always existed, and there was a bright era of matriarchy before its existence.
3. Gender is not biological, but social, and is invented by the patriarchate to oppress women, therefore, under appropriate conditions, it is possible to achieve the elimination of gender and everything that accompanies it.
The family, as an instrument of patriarchy, was also created to oppress women. Following the ideas of feminism, the woman had to leave the family, where she was just a slave, and engage in all kinds of work. As a result, the woman will become independent from man and finances will be used for further destruction and final liquidation of the patriarchate. Following the demand for the right to work, followed demands for social benefits that would allow a woman to combine work and raising children at the first time after birth.
One of the first and concrete gains of the second wave of feminism is the requirement for divorce to grant women the priority right to custody of children.
The second wave of feminism emphasizes that the achievement of equal rights does not necessarily imply the achievement of equal opportunities. The objective of this movement is to announce a special position for women, and to reveal inequalities woven into our daily lives.
In the 1990s, the third wave of feminism was born. This new round in understanding gender inequality is associated with rethinking of the category of experience itself. This rethinking has two main aspects. The first is the rejection of the perception of women (and men) as a kind of homogeneous group that shares similar experiences and similar interests. Attention to the categories of class, race, and sexuality makes it clear that some women – educated, wealthy, white, heterosexual – are in a privileged position towards other women and can oppress them.
The second aspect is that experience does not exist outside its interpretation. If for feminism of the second wave the key manifestation of discrimination was the practical difficulties experienced by women in everyday life, then feminism of the third wave focuses on discursive constructs that limit our ideas about ourselves and other people. The deep cause of gender inequality lies in the fact that our thinking is subordinated to binary oppositions that separate masculine and feminine, mind and emotions, the gender norm and its deviation.
It is important to remember that the division of feminism into three waves is a convention and an attempt to structure and describe a complex and multifaceted phenomenon. Within each of the waves there is a powerful inner development, and each of them should be viewed in the context of a particular society.
At present, people mostly associate “feminism” with radical feminism. This is one of the reasons why many young women stay away from this movement, or avoid using the terminology introduced by so-called “new wave” feminism. Nevertheless, the basic values promoted by feminism (equality of rights and opportunities regardless of sex) have become such an inalienable and universally accepted part of culture that deviation from these values and rules causes rejection of the majority of people (both men and women) who do not classify themselves as feminists.
1. Cohen, Y., Steenbergen, C. “European Feminisms, 1700-1950: A Political History.” Canadian Journal of History, 1 Dec. 2002, p. 11.
2. Friedman, M., Stanford, S. “Skeptical Feminism: Activist Theory, Activist Practice.” Resources for Feminist Research, 22 Sep. 2004, p.32.
3. Nachescu, T. “Re-defining Feminisms.” Journal of International Women’s Studies, 1 Oct. 2009, p.43.
4. Thompson, B. “Multiracial Feminism: Recasting the Chronology of Second Wave Feminism.” Feminist Studies, 22 June 2002, p.3.
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