It goes without saying that the issues of gender equality are still on the agenda of the present-day world, even though the gender inequality was detected quite a while ago. Despite all the efforts of the world’s most prominent feminists, women still have to fight for their rights; however, it seems that the feminist ideas have been shaped and changed considerably since the time when the entire feminist issue started. Analyzing the specifics of the present-day feminism, one can possibly realize what challenges the feminists of today face, as well as the possible ways to face these challenges.
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To start with, it is obvious that there is a considerable difference between the pioneers in feminism and the modern feminists. Although the basic principles of feminism remain the same, the entire movement seems to have changed over the past few decades, which must mean that feminists have some of their demands met. However, it is worth checking if there are any other reasons why the feminist movement is not as tense as it used to be a while ago. Comparing the demands of the feminists of the XX century to the ones of the modern feminism, one must note that the given demands are not as intense as they used to be. For example, according to Kate Millett, male domination has been taking place for such long time that certain ideas considering women taking the lead role seem completely implausible:
Why does no one ever remark that every avenue of power in our culture including the repressive forces of the police – entirely in male hands? Money, guns, authority itself, are male provinces. Even God is male – and a white male at that” (Millett, 1968, para.5).
Therefore, the first and the foremost demands of the first wave of feminists concerned fighting for the basic human rights. When it comes to analyzing the present-day feminists and their demands, one must admit that their protests are less intense: “‘Second-wave’ feminism also has a significant liberal component. Liberal feminism has dominated the women’s movement in the United States; its major spokesperson has been Betty Friedan, whose The Feminine Mystique marked the resurgence of feminist thought in the 1960s.” (Heywood). It seems that the modern idea of feminism is less focused and yet more objective, since feminism is nowadays split into several fields: “The major traditions within feminism are the following:
- Liberal feminism
- Socialist feminism
- Radical feminism
- New feminist tradition” (Heywood).
Hence, the question arises whether the feminist movement of the XXI century is less meaningful than the one of the XX century. However, taking a closer look at the goals which feminists pursue, one can claim with certainty that the XXI century feminist movement is just as important as the one of the prior century. Indeed, until women have the rights which are fully equal to the ones which men have, and the instances of chauvinism and gender inequality are over, feminist ideas will always be topical.
However, it is also worth noting that the instances of female rights infringement occur not only when it comes to the relationships within wider social spheres, like the sphere of employment, politics or law; as a matter of fact, it becomes evident that the society is based completely on chauvinist ideas once one considers some of the modern family values. Indeed, taking a closer look at the way a family is considered in the modern society, one will see that in a typical family, the role of a woman is that one of a babysitter and the one to create the “heart and home” while a husband is supposed to take the leading role of a breadwinner:
In their role as housewives, women relieve men of the burden of housework and child-rearing, allowing them to concentrate their time and energy upon paid and productive employment. In that sense, the sexual division of labour between men, who undertake waged labour in factories or offices, and women, who carry out unwaged domestic work, promotes economic efficiency. (Heywood)
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Even though the given idea is being shaped, for women nowadays tend not to leave their workplaces when creating a family, it goes without saying that the pressure of the family issues along with the ones at work makes a women finally accept the traditional idea of a family and stop her social, professional and personal growth, devoting herself completely to her family, which in the given situation is completely patriarchal.
The society, on the other hand, is also on no account a place for feminist ideas; based on patriarchal ideas, the society also puts the women who are fighting for their rights under considerable pressure. It is important to mention that the role which a woman traditionally takes in a family impacts her image in a workplace considerably:
In bearing and rearing children, women are producing labour power for the next generation and thus guaranteeing future production. Women are also responsible for socializing, conditioning and even educating children, thereby ensuring that they develop into disciplined and obedient workers. (Heywood)
Therefore, the society expects that women take the accepted pattern of behavior and perform the suggested functions without questioning the latter. Although the given pattern can be broken, it takes much time and effort to go against the social prejudice. Obviously, the existing society is fully patriarchal.
Finally, addressing the issue of the political in the gender problem must be addressed. According to Millett, the relationships between the sexes are first of all political in the sense of “powerstructured relationships, the entire arrangement whereby one group of people is governed by another, one group is dominant and the other subordinate” (Millett, 1968, para. 1) Indeed, it is clear that in the relationships between a man and a woman, one of the two is supposed to take the lead. Hence, according to Millett, gender relationships are to be based not on the idea that the male must always take the lead, but on equality, reasonability and trust: “As we awake and begin to take action, there will be enough of us and we will have both a purpose and a goal – the first truly human condition, the first really human society” (Millett, 1968, para. 35).
Hence, it is obvious that, despite a considerable time lapse, there are still a lot of unsolved feminist issues on the agenda. While some of the basic human rights have been granted to women almost all over the world, there are still a number of rights which women can and must have. Therefore, even though at present, the demands of feminists have not been fully met yet, which means that the legacy is going to continue. However, since the modern women already have a number of rights, the fight for the remaining ones might seem redundant. Nevertheless, the process of women liberation is far from being over – there is still a lot to strive for.
Heywood, A. 2007, “Feminism”, in Political ideologies, Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke, UK. Web.
Millett, K. 1968, Sexual politics. Web.