Word Of The Month: Feminism
Here is Dr. Suchitra Dalvie’s column – Word Of The Month. This month it’s Feminism.
So what really is feminism ? While there are many ways of defining it, this explanation comes closest — it is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.
And what do feminists want? Historically, feminists have campaigned for women’s rights in property, voting, bodily integrity, autonomy and reproductive rights. Feminists have worked to protect women and girls from violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault. They have also campaigned for equal pay, paid maternity leave and against objectification, oppression and patriarchy.
The history of the modern western feminist movements is divided into three “waves”.
- The first wave comprised women’s suffrage movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, promoting women’s right to vote.
- The second wave from the 1960s campaigned for legal and social equality for women. The feminist activist and author Carol Hanisch coined the slogan “The Personal is Political”, which became synonymous with the second wave.
- The third wave is considered to be a continuation of, and a reaction to, the perceived failures of second-wave feminism, beginning in the 1990s.
Feminism had complex interactions with the major political movements of the twentieth century such as socialism, fascism, civil rights movement and now neo liberalism and globalization.
The feminist movement has managed to make some headway in Western society, with significant gains being the women’s right to vote, access to education, right to own property although they are still struggling for equal pay for equal work .
Some feminist campaigning also helped reform attitudes to child sexual abuse. The view that young girls cause men to have sexual intercourse with them was replaced by that of men’s responsibility for their own conduct, the men being adults.
In international law, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international convention adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and described as an international bill of rights for women. It came into force in those nations ratifying it.
And then there is a New Age feminism as described rather well by the website Sexy Feminist:
“Unlike the old notion of feminism, the new age feminist does not demand to be treated the same way as a man. She demands that the differences between men and women are recognized, understood, and accommodated for. This woman is not completely career-minded. She may have children or someday want children. A new age feminist knows there is great joy in both a career and a family. And she is entitled to both.
This woman is a HUGE advocate for the proper and respectable treatment of women who become pregnant, take maternity leave, and wish to continue nursing when returning to work. She believes we need to fight for the women who have their promotions and job security threatened by employers because a woman may become pregnant.
Women give birth. There is no way around it. Without it, society stops. Women should not be punished for being women.”