Article Review On Feminism: A Movement To End Sexist Oppression
The core problem within the feminist movement is an absence of unanimity of views on what feminism really means. Without reaching a consensus and finally being agreed upon definition of this term, people do not have a solid ground for further promotion of the feminist ideas and may soon face disinterest in this phenomenon. Many people think of it as a movement towards making women equal to men in every possible aspects of life. This is the most popularized point of view, but it brings up a question whether women understand properly what equality means. Bell hooks (2003) points out that “men are not equals in white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure, which men do women want to be equal to?” (p. 50). This all leads to acknowledging the fact that women lack common vision of what they fight for. By very many women feminism is considered to be “a struggle to end sexist oppression” (bell hooks, 2003, p. 53). This requires from every individual participant to be politically conscious. When feminism is defined in such a way, it concentrates on women's experiences. It does not aim at benefiting particular group of women or any particular race or class. In fact, it is directed towards transforming society and creating new space that would be women-centered. Some women who long for community, a sense of shared purpose and connection find them when they enter feminist organizations. This creates a “feminist” identity or lifestyle as means to eradicate sexist oppression.
In my opinion, feminist movement really suffers from the lack of proper definition. Everyone has his or her own position in this aspect and thus is often mistaken. True feminism is devoted to end sexist oppression by developing interest in politics. If women unite having a common solid ground for what they consider to be feminist movement, they will “eradicate the underlying cultural basis and causes of sexism and other forms of group oppression” (bell hooks, 2003, p. 56). This means that this struggle is no longer a struggle to gain social equality with men, it never was.
Unsettling “Third Wave Feminism”
Lots of efforts have been made by scholars to apply some kind of periodization to such a phenomenon as feminism. However, the application of certain frames to feminism trying to obtain some distinctive waves often led to misunderstandings and misrepresentations of its emerging paradigms. Dominant are those narratives which “tend to focus on three central paradigms – multicultural inclusion, identity politics, and intersectionality” (Fernandes, 2010, p. 99). The emergence of the concept of the third wave of feminism is connected with the trend within women's studies to focus on questions of differences. This means that such things as race, gender and class have been put in the center of scholars' attention. The third wave feminism now has began to include voices of women who possess diverse range of identities. But at a deeper level of study, this wave model has produced large gaps in people's understanding of the feminist scholarship. Second approach is to use the paradigm of intersectionality, an attempt to analyze in which ways “the intersection between inequalities such as race, gender, and class shaped women's lives and structured the social location of specific groups of women of color in distinctive ways” (Fernandes, 2010, p. 102). Third approach is to divide feminism evolution using “phases of intellectual development – liberal, Marxist, radical/cultural and social” (Fernandes, 2010, p. 104). The last phase serves exactly to tackle racial ans class differences between women. Some scholars as Sandoval and Anzaldua suggested their own points of view on the issue of feminism periodization and introduced new approaches to it – differential consciousness and culture/religion disruption respectively. Fernandes (2010) suggests two points that lead to misframing of feminist history. The first one is misunderstandings of the contributions of the women of color and the second – links between race and conceptions of temporality (p. 109).
In my opinion, the author is completely right that wave approach sometimes displaces second wave feminist writers who discusses race issues into a different temporal space. This means some writings are dislocated from their historical context. And I completely agree that moving from wave model to history related model will let people know more about feminism judging by its historical development.
The Politics of Black Woman's Studies
For a long time a question of women's studies had never been brought up. Today in our white-male world we have courage to use the term “Black women's studies” however this act still remains of high political significance. The fact that Black women's studies represent something that is really going on in the society, proves that some political changes happened that made this possible. And politics here is used in its widest sense meaning coexistence and cooperation between different groups in society and individuals. As Hall and Smith (1982) state “to examine the politics of Black women's studies means to consider not only what it is, but why it is and what it can be” (p. 20). The politics of Black women's studies is closely related to their lives in one particular country. The conditions for living of Black women in America were difficult. The fears and complexes they experienced historically and sometimes continue to face now obviously had a major influence on their lives. Thus their oppression as Black women have wide range of forms “specifically aimed at discrediting [their] intellectual power.” For decades they were treated only like sexual slaves or forced laborers, but they managed to maintain their own intellectual traditions without somebody's recognition or support. That is why now when they have an opportunity to prove themselves in recognized intellectual work, they try to do their best. “The birth of Black women's studies is perhaps the day of revelation these women wished for”, mention Hall and Smith (1982, p. 23). And this day brought up three significant political movements: struggles for Black liberation, women's liberation and Black feminist movement.
I totally agree with the authors that the Black women's studies form a response to the years of himiliation and slavery. Their commitment is to achieve total liberation and complete recognition of Black women and to prove that they are valuable and complex representatives of the society. Interesting fact is that these studies do not describe a “great Black women” in the history, instead they are mostly based on “ordinary” Black women's experiences whose actions enabled them all to survive.
Liberal feminism has played a great role in the women's rights movements by showing how much women are discriminated in the modern society because they are treated differently than men. It also states that not biological differences but responsibility for children and family is the main reason for women to be treated other than men. “Men legitimate their behavior through ideological and theological constructs that justify their domination” the author writes (“Liberal feminism”, p. 30). Moreover, “mothers are bounded between two powerful cultural commitments – their children and their work” (“Liberal feminism”, p. 37). Liberal feminism suggests that men and women should be treated gender-neutrally and its main achievement in the United Sates was gender equality at work and education granted by law. But still it has not been successful in overcoming belief that women and men are “intrinsically different”. Despite it gender treatment is equitable or even-handed now, women still continue to face some troubles at workplace such as gaps in salaries and job opportunities. Politically, liberal feminism has taken the best from the weapons of civil rights movement and has applied it in fighting gender inequality, leaving informal issues less successful. This have produced a glass ceiling that many women in the world see now in their career advancements. Scandinavian countries now are among those which have achieved greater level of equality because of welfare-state benefits for all representatives of the society. Women there occupy government and decision-making positions that allows them to promote their rights further. However, still many women in the world have problems with their economic freedom that produce some inequality in the society.
In my opinion, the article completely discovers the role of liberal feminism in the modern society and its problems. Despite its great achievements especially in postindustrial societies, there are gaps that require attention in the rest of the world. The key aim of the liberal feminism is not to re-structure society and challenge its established order, but to balance some of its inequities.
bell hooks. (2003). Feminism: A Movement to End Sexist Oppression [PDF document]. In R. Carole, McCain and K. Seung-Kyung (Ed.), Feminist Theory Reader (pp. 50-56). London: Rautledge.
“Liberal feminism” [PDF document]. In Gender Reform Feminisms (pp. 29-47).
Fernandes, L. (2010). Unsettling “Third Wave Feminism” [PDF document]. In N. A. Hewitt (Ed.), No Permanent Waves (pp. 98-118). Rutgers University Press.
Hall, G. T. and Smith, B. (1982). The Politics of Black Women's Studies [PDF document]. (pp. 20-24).
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