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Feminism: Historical Perspective and Implications to Christian Understanding of the World


Feminism is the recognition that throughout history, people have been treated differently depending on their biological gender and associated norms. Society provided an unequal degree of power to men and women, while the views on gender have exacerbated wage inequality, discriminatory treatment at work and school, and unequal access to resources and political power. In addition, most societies resorted to organized and individual violence to strengthen these male-dominated gender norms. This paper focuses on analyzing how feminism changed the mindset of people, which affected the position of women, gender relationships, and Christian views.

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Mindset Before and After Shift and Gender Relations

On a larger scale, the meaning of feminism is understood as the desire for the equal rights of women with men in all spheres of society. The main components of this concept include the nature of women, their places and roles in society, and the nature of global oppression of women. Historically, feminism emerged as a social movement aimed at achieving equality between the genders, primarily through the empowerment of women.

Violence against women and people, who are perceived as women or who identify as women, was the norm in most societies until the feminism movement. Women have been abused by men at all times and in all parts of the world. This violence against women took various forms: from official and organized, such as the systematic rape of women in armies during the war, to what took place in the context of home – domestic violence. Some forms also occurred in conditions of unequal social power, such as sexual assaults on university campuses.

The first wave of feminism began in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with the main focus on the struggle to achieve legal gender equality. During this period, suffrage played a major role in the struggle of women for the civil right to vote. Having arisen in England, suffrage later became widespread in the United States. This period was the time of social unrest and the spread of utopian ideas. Namely, American feminism was born out of several equality movements.

One of these movements was the workers’ rights movement, which advocated for increasing the living wage of working women, as well as safe working conditions in Massachusetts and other cities in New England. In the 1840s and 1850s, the workers of New England factories marched to the Boston legislature, demanding higher wages, shorter working hours, and safe working conditions.

Feminism was also present during the American Civil War when women were nurses and volunteers at the front. When they returned home, they wanted the have access to education and various professions. After the Civil War, women fought for the right to dispose of their property since, by law, they could not control their income and savings. The Married Women’s Property Act 1884 gave them greater financial independence from their husbands. The men in the Legislative Assembly agreed to this because in this case, the creditors could not come to the families of the soldiers and take away the property that their wives obtained during the war.

After the Second World War, Eleanor Roosevelt and women delegates from different countries organized the UN Convention on the Rights of Women of the World. As a result, in 1979, the UN adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). From this day, females from all over the world can turn to this convention as a guarantor of their rights. Great success was achieved as a result of the work of all the activists.

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Women received the opportunity to defend their rights by directly contacting international judicial bodies. The key principles of the women’s movement at the end of the 20th century were non-violence and humanistic values, egalitarianism, and partnership. These principles laid the basis for relations between a man and a woman, emphasizing the recognition of their differences and complementarity with equal social opportunities.

After the shift, the mindset of women changed significantly, and it was expressed in their newly-acquired abilities and views on their roles and opportunities. They acquired the ability to take mortgages and get loans for business development. This allowed many females to organize their companies and independently earn money for a living. The attitudes of females became more enthusiastic about their own abilities and potential successes, including career opportunities and family organization. However, in popular culture, there is a tendency towards the normalization of violence against women in songs and music videos. The concentration of women among the least paid and most exploited workers in the world remains high, and a small number of women is presented in the position of political authorities.

Importance of Change and Implications

Feminism entailed many changes in Western society, involving giving women the right to vote in elections, file for divorce, have control over their own bodies, and the right to decide which medical intervention is acceptable. A wide choice of professions with a salary more or less comparable with that of men of the same profession; as well as many other social changes can be noted. These changes affected the mindset of society by making the problems of women more transparent and discussed in public. The traditional gender stereotypes were subjected to doubts: feminine and masculine characteristics were reconsidered.

For example, such male characteristics as independence, aggressiveness, and analytical thinking were attributed to females as well. Gender relations were challenged and viewed differently since women acquired the opportunity to choose between a career and care for children. However, this issue still causes many controversies since many women are forced to choose even when they would prefer to have both of the mentioned components.

A family is one of the institutions that were subject to change in terms of people’s attitudes towards it. Now, women are freer to choose the opportunities that are open for them, but some feel significant discomfort from the need to play the role of a superwoman, maintaining a balance between career and care for the home. In response to the fact that in a new society, it is more difficult for a woman to be a good mother, many proponents of feminism note the lack of a sufficient number of pre-school education institutions. In addition, instead of shifting the responsibility for raising and caring for children exclusively to mothers, many fathers began to be more actively involved in this process, recognizing that this is their responsibility too.

The increased number of working women impacted gender roles in heterosexual families by setting new problems regarding equality. Feminists found it to be unequal for females to perform more than half of the domestic duties and care for children in a family with both parents working outside the home. In this case, it is also noted that the financial input of working males is not linked to attending household duties.

Accordingly, it seems to be critical to stress that it led to the fact that young females from low-income families are less likely to get married since their perceived chances of finding a man with reliable financial support is low. Nevertheless, the studies show that feminism affected positively the creation of healthy relationships between women and men. The use of gender-neutral language is another example of a beneficial impact of feminism, which is expressed in the inclusion of both sexes in a language.

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Due to the perceived destruction of the traditional way of life, many males are opposed to the feminist movement because they consider it the cause of rejecting the usual roles that were traditionally prescribed to men and women depending on their gender. In this regard, it is said that there are a number of natural differences between men and women and that the whole society only benefits from their recognition.

Others believe that children develop more harmoniously if they are brought up in a family, where there are a courageous father and a feminine mother. According to this opinion, divorces, single-parent families, or families with homosexual partners are seen as a more significant threat to the development of a child than living in a complete family with frequent conflicts between parents. In fact, the obligatory pursuit of such a family model is criticized as something unnecessary and idealized. Such a situation shows that despite the achievements of feminism, many people remain opposite towards its ideas.

Speaking of the impact of feminism on Christian perceptions of the world, one should note that significant changes occurred. Greater attention was given to the role of women in churches and among religious authorities. The primary impact was made in terms of a new agenda of interpreting texts, theologies, and practices in the context of equality between men and women. Compared to the previous male dominance in Christianity, it was stated that God cannot discriminate based on biological sex. In the liberal branches of Protestant Christianity, women acquired the opportunity to be members of the clergy.

In reformist and reconstructivist Christianity, for example, they can become priests and singers. Within these groups of Christian reformism, women have gradually become more or less equal to men through access to some senior posts. Their mindset now is closely associated with the exploration and new interpretation of religious beliefs, texts, and practices. At the same time, the search of relevant explanations to such concerns as the ordination of women and perceived ability inferiority between women and men is considered to be important.


To conclude, it is essential to state that some feminists argue that much more needs to be done in the future. Due to the fact that Western society began to treat women more equally, many issues that were considered exclusively feminine in the past ceased to be perceived as such. While women were perceived as beings belonging to men before feminism, they received rights and opportunities after it. The mindset of society altered towards women in terms of the family, job, household, relations, religion, and society as a whole.

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