The #MeToo Movement and the #TimesUp Movement are like sisters with their mother being feminism. Both movements look out for women, especially those being sexually abused or harassed in their respective workplace. This is a long-standing problem that women have been trying to overcome along with the issue of gender pay gap and receiving the same treatment as men. But does this mean that to be a feminist is to measure a woman’s rights and privilege against a man’s? This paper will shed light on the topic of feminism and equality.
What is the principal concept of feminism? How is it different from equality?
What is feminism?
Feminism is a significant movement that brought great changes to the lives of countless women around the globe. Feminism advocates for the rights of women to be honored. In contrary to popular belief, feminism is actually not entirely different from equality. In fact, feminism’s main goal is to achieve equality; that women should receive the equal rights, privileges, economic and political opportunities, and treatment without any form of gender discrimination.
To be more precise, feminism is more concerned about being vocal and fighting for women’s rights. But in the past few years, feminism has also been misinterpreted as women’s agenda to discriminate against men and render them inferior. This is but a misconception. Feminism does not seek to shift the balance of power to favor women; it only seeks to address injustices and disparities suffered by women. It does not attempt to overthrow men and commence a matriarchal society. Feminism only seeks to end the supposed subordination of women to men.
History of Feminism: The Four Waves of Feminism
One of the most notable movements the last two centuries has witnessed is the Four Waves of Feminism. Since the emergence of First Wave Feminism in the 19th century, tremendous changes have been achieved including the right to vote, access to full education, and the freedom to engage in employment among many others intended to uplift the status of women. Women have come a long way compared to the olden days when women were only expected to produce offspring or disregarded entirely.
It was during the First Wave of Feminism that women, the proponents of feminism, came to realize that in order to have a voice, they must first gain political power. Because of this, they have decided to fight for the women’s right to vote and later expanded their mission to tackling sexual, reproductive, and economic issues.
The Second Wave of Feminism, came after World War II. Feminists added sexuality, family, and workplace issues in their agenda. Also, many women from the Second Wave are also advocating for other matters such as the Black Civil Rights Movement and have felt like they were not being heard. Hence, they concluded that they needed to address concerns about gender equality. What spurred the Second Wave feminists to fight and have their voices amplified is their concern about the other movements that they fighting for.
In the Third Wave of Feminism, there was much less support received than in the first two. This is because various feminist outlooks and beliefs have started to emerge. Nevertheless, the fight to vanquish violence against women and the glaring difference of women and men’s treatment, privileges, economic and reproductive rights continue. This wave is all about making men grasp what feminists are fighting for.
Today’s society is currently riding the Fourth Wave of Feminism. The fight for equal treatment, privileges, pay, and rights still continue. More and more women seek and gain roles of leadership and is currently acquiring a lot of respect and following. Feminists are taking advantage of the internet by launching social media campaigns like #MeToo and #TimesUp. Today, women, high-profile or not, have learned to stand their ground and fight for equality and rights.
Despite the great progress women have achieved and enjoyed, countless women are still vulnerable today, especially in countries where women have far less freedom and access to opportunities. Thus, it does not help that feminism has acquired a negative reputation, since this can undermine attempts to help women. Clarifying what true feminism is will help in the general fight for equality.
In the past few years, the reputation of feminism has had a turn for the worse. Many have come to regard feminism with suspicion and derision, and this is partly due to the notion that feminism’s main agenda is to subjugate men and render them inferior to women. This cannot be further from the truth. True feminism is not about oppressing men; rather, true feminism is about promoting equality between men and women as well as giving women the freedom and the power to shape their own lives.
Feminism and Equality
Firstly, feminism is not about making women superior to men; instead, it is about establishing equality between the sexes. It must be noted that feminism emerged as a response to the injustices that women had suffered throughout history. For many centuries, women were denied many of the rights and privileges that men enjoyed.
Women received limited education, had few means to earn a living, and were confined to the domestic sphere as wives and mothers. As a result, most women became dependent on men and were therefore rendered vulnerable. The disadvantages women faced varied from one culture to another. In the same way, the freedoms women enjoy differed among societies. Such limitations imposed on women persisted for many centuries, and it was not until the 19th century when women began to act and truly achieve significant successes.
Despite the changes, feminism remains important today for the reason that countless women still suffer injustices. Western society easily falls into the notion that women have advanced enough and that feminism today already focuses on disempowering men. What many seem to forget is that the experience of women in nations where gender parity is high is far from that of women in other countries.
For instance, women in some countries still have no access to education and are considered as less valuable than men. Even in an advanced country like the United States, there remain institutional barriers to true equality. Women in this country, for example, are generally paid less than their male counterparts for the same amount of work. Women also disproportionately bear the bulk of domestic chores.
Therefore, feminism today is not about subverting men. Instead, it only seeks to continue the reforms started in the past and address the remaining disparities so that society could move closer to true equality. Equality can be achieved in a lot of ways; may it be by having the same positions in work as men or having men take part in domestic chores. It is not at all degrading for men.
Secondly, feminism today is about giving women the power to shape their own lives. The common image of an empowered woman is someone who is educated, has a job, and is financially independent. But as a result, the idea of a woman choosing to be a full-time housewife and mother has also come to be considered by some as a sign of lack of power and agency. In other words, some people have come to believe that female empowerment only comes in one form.
This is the type of misconception that modern feminism seeks to dispel. Feminism today is about giving women the right to choose the life they want to lead without being criticized for it. It is about providing women with equal access to opportunities such as higher education, employment, career advancement, and political representation whether they choose to avail of these or not.
In the eyes of true feminism, a woman’s informed choice to become a full professional is just as valid and as another woman’s informed choice to devote her time to caring for her children. Hence, true feminism is not about overpowering men; rather, its emphasis is on women’s capacity for self-determination.
It must be understood by everyone that feminism doesn’t seek to undermine men nor does it intend to belittle a woman’s choice on how to live her life. Feminism is an active movement that aspires to have men and women stand on the same ground and enjoy equal rights one day. Feminists only want oppression and inequality to end, to be able to diminish the gaping difference between the treatment and rights of men and women.
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Brown, S. (n.d.) Difference Between Feminism and Gender Equality. DifferenceBetween.net. http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/culture-miscellaneous/difference-between-feminism-and-gender-equality/
Grady, C. (2018, July 20). The waves of feminism, and why people keep fighting over them, explained. Vox. https://www.vox.com/2018/3/20/16955588/feminism-waves-explained-first-second-third-fourth