2023 / 2 / 20
One of the many goals of this research lies in tracing the continuities and divergences in fundamental feminist ideas and tenets. Therefore, I am going to tackle the development of feminist theories as to the roots of gender inequality and its prevalence, and the various feminist political solutions and remedies proposed based on these theories. I will be conflating ideas from different feminist writers, in which each perspective has propelled important contributions to improving women s status, but each also contains shortcomings. Feminist ideas have been subject to recursive changes as the-limit-ations of one set of ideas were critiqued and addressed by what was thought to be a better perception about why women and men are unequal. A substantial progress has not been marked by any means, because many of the inly debates went on concurrently, and in fact they are still going on. And because all feminist perspectives have tackled the problems of sexism and gender inequality, and all have surmised remarkable strategies for remedying these problems, all feminisms are still hitherto very much taking effect. Therefore, there are continuities and convergences, as well as serious disputes, among the different feminisms. Feminism has incorporated ideas from different perspectives, and many feminists have altered their views over the years. Because this first section does not per se study the ideas of a particular feminism but analyzes different perspectives that have emerged from many theorists, I will speak of feminisms. What I am trying to examine is feminist theories concerned with why women and men are unequal, feminist gender politics, and the strategies for quelling sexism and alleviating gender inequality. The reason why feminist theories keep changing is that with deeper probing into the sources and proliferation of gender inequality, feminists have developed more complex views about gender, sex, and sexuality. Gender is currently understood as a social fact, a personal identity, and a network of relationships between and among men and women. Sex is no longer seen as a one-way express of the body´-or-basic means for human reproduction, yet as a complex web of genes, hormones, physiology, environment, and attitude, with ever-changing effects. Sexuality is perceived to be socially constructed as well as physiologically based and emotionally expressed. One idea shared by most feminists concerning gender inequality is that it is not an individual issue but is deeply ingrained in the structure of societies. Gender inequality harkens back to the organization of marriage and families, industry and the economy, politics, organized religions, the arts, and similar cultural productions, and indeed the very language we use. Making women and men equal, therefore, demands social and not individual solutions. I have classified the feminist perspectives into four basic categories that reflect their theories and political strategies regarding gender inequality. These are liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, socialist feminism, and radical feminism.
Liberal feminism bases its critique of patriarchal institutions on their failure to recognize the equal aptitude and status of women. Liberal feminists view the capability of being rational as the basis of moral decision making. Rationality, thus, and the respect for autonomy and self-determination are the utmost important for liberal feminists. The oppression of women, in this sense, results from depriving women of education and equal opportunities. Liberal feminists do not provide any profound critique of particular social institutions, but instead suggest that the problem of women s oppression boils down to exclusion. Freedom for them will be achieved when women are provided with equal access to education, vocations, and positions of power and are enshrined equally under the law. The liberal feminist view of emancipation does not tackle the underlying structure of patriarchy. It in fact operates under the very same Western, rationalist perception of the world. Despite the disagreements that might arise about our understanding of this underlying structure, its roots, at least as they impact many women, patriarchy remains indomitable. This system, simply defined, has oppressed women for large sweeps of history and threatens to destroy the planet as well, as we shall see later. Indeed, an overall theory of liberation must include this.
Marxist feminists offer an analysis of the system and suggest that the path to liberation must be devoid of economic disparities. Following Karl Marx, this category believes that the oppression of women is part of a larger problem that is the oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie. Once private property is eliminated and the primary mechanism of alienated labor superseded, once human beings have equal access to the means of production, they will be finally free. For Marxist feminists, the liberation of women is related to the process of engaging women into production. Marxist feminists address the problem of classism´-or-hierarchies and appreciate the importance of understanding human beings in relation to their circumstances in history. Marxist feminists draw on Marx s premise of the human history as the existence of living human individuals. The nature of these latter relies on the material condition that determine the process of their production. Human existence is not determined by consciousness, but by life. Consciousness, therefore, has a material basis. History of humanity is nothing more than the history of industry and exchange. Our consciousness of this history is not pure, yet changeable. Capitalism has alienated humans from their real conditions of existence and production. The state, a manifestation of capitalist hegemony, will be overthrown only through a communal/communist revolution. This will result in the abolition of the alien relation between humans and what they personally produce. The proletariat exists world-historically, and so must its activity, communism, establish itself as global. Communism is an ideal in which reality must submit itself to it. The concept itself reflects two important ideas. First, mode of production is the basis of all history. Second, revolution and armed struggle are the driving force of history. Liberation, in this vein, means that it is historical and not intellectual. The oppressed classes are given the illusion that ideas are the universal spirit of the world, yet what they believe in is simply the manufacturing of the ruling class, because the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas. Under communism, individuals are subject to nature, and under capitalism, they are seen as natural instruments of production.
Socialist feminists have propounded a much more inclusive theory than the Marxist feminists. While maintaining a strong emphasis on historical and material roles, socialist feminists specifically combine a gender analysis with a class analysis. They call for a radical transformation of most existing institutions: the family, organized religion, education, enforced heterosexuality, government, and economy. For the most part, however, socialist feminists have not yet addressed the systematic oppression of women and its relation to oppression in general. Radical feminism for the most part studies the connection between woman and animals/nature.
These feminists celebrate this connection and attempt to empower it by negating the value of its opposite. In other words, radical feminists see women as closer to nature and men as closer to culture and hence reject the cultural in favor of the natural. They embrace what they consider to be women s traditional values such as caring, nurturing, interdependence-and reject the individualist, rationalist, and oppressive values typically associated with men. On this view, the widespread oppression and exploitation of women are the responsibility of the patriarchs, men. Radical feminism locates its critique in its vision of a future in which the oppressor and the oppressed do not perforce disappear-;- they simply change positions.
Broadly speaking, feminism´-or-feminist theory is a constellation of movements and theories that seek to rethink and redefine relations between men and women. Its main premise and objective rest in its defense of equal political, economic, and social rights, and equal opportunities for women. The feminist movement began its struggle against male-dominated Western culture in the 19th century. Feminism could be divided into three major phases´-or-waves. The first wave characterized the movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries, which struggled against the deplorable working and social conditions that women underwent. It also called for equal voting and educational rights for women. The second wave (1960s-1980s) expounded what is well known as patriarchy and its connection to sexism, as well as male cultural superiority and the role of women in society. The third wave of feminism (1990s-2000s) tackles the concept of, among many others, dualism, intersectionality, and interconnectedness as crucial for the liberation of women and the entire biosphere from male dominance.
Along with attempts to gain social and political recognition, considerable efforts were dedicated to examining representations and conceptualizations of women in male-dominated literature. Literary feminism has brought our attention to male-dominated literature that has marked the upward of Western culture. Additionally, it emphasized the substantial role of female writers in exposing patriarchal order and bringing women to a new position of literary production and consumption.
Kate Millet’s Sexual Politics (1970) is a paragon of how eminent twentieth-century writers like D. H. Lawrence and Henry Miller perceived and represented women in their writings. Millet found that although their works were highly acclaimed by critics and seen as liberatory towards women, several male characters acted based on superiority and exploitation towards female characters. She analyzes the relationship between sex and power and their connection to the denigrated status of women and concludes that the nature of relations that govern the private´-or-domestic sphere is an extension of the public one. In other words, the private sphere is political. It is a political space whereby the same male/female, sex/gender, and superior/inferior relations exist as in the public sphere.
Feminism focused right from the beginning on the impact of negative stereotyping of women in art, literature, and entertainment industry, and how this formed a hindrance to achieving full equality for women. The theory is predicated upon the fact that the personal and the political are intertwined. Their basis is normative in asserting that social relations between men and women can be changed and overbalanced.
Feminist theory locates its critique of domination in assuming that patriarchy,´-or-male-dominated Western culture, and its hierarchical forces are the root cause of women oppression. The way in which women have been historically conceptualized and treated in the Western world has resulted in degrading everything associated with women´-or-femininity, whereas concurrently praising every aspect of men and masculinity. Feminism is concerned with unveiling this dualistic mindset and male-dominated system of social relations, namely the dominant male/female, sex/gender, and self/other oppositions.
The theory has relied upon examining literary representations of women as victimized by male domination. It was primarily committed to an ideology of sex equality, and henceforth many of feminist philosophers and critics have concentrated on scrutinizing the causes and roots of sexism, the social and political construction of gender, and their powerful connection to the oppression of women.