It is impossible to talk to about modern feminism without considering the history of the movement and the individuals who were fighting for the rights people take for granted in the 21st century. The work of two activists – Harriet Martineau and Jane Addams – is especially noteworthy. Despite the former living primarily in the first half of the 19th century in the UK and the latter in the second half of the 19th century in the US, they were both dedicated to the feminist movement. The paper’s aim is to compare the perspectives of Harriet Martineau and Jane Addams on the role of women in society and theorize about what they would think of modern feminism, particularly, the #MeToo movement.
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The Comparison of Harriett Martineau And Jane Addams
The period, during which Harriett Martineau lived, proved to be a turning point in the lives of women as they were starting to participate in more activities that had been closed off to them before. The writer was at the forefront of this change, publishing many feminist essays when the movement with this name did not even exist. In those papers, the writer was primarily calling for the wider employment of women and the expansion of roles that were available to them (Chapman). Jane Addams was the leader of women’s suffrage in the US. Therefore, this social reformer spent her career advocating for women’s right to vote, stating that “the unrepresented are always liable to be given what they do not want by legislators” (Hamington). In general, her feminist beliefs were largely pragmatic and contextualized in their nature, realizing one had to outline the necessity for change.
At first glance, it might appear as if Jane Addams was much more radical and liberal in her beliefs when compared to Harriett Martineau. However, in reality, they were both individuals of their own time who realized which changes in the lives of women were realistic. The half a century between their lives is the main reason for the difference in what Harriet Martineau and Jane Addams were fighting for.
Functionalist Opinion on the Role of Women in Society
The functionalist movement, interactionist perspective, and conflict theory have each been criticized by feminists for not taking the misogyny that was present in people’s lives into consideration when outlining their opinions on society. However, at its core, all three belief systems center around the opinion that society works best when all of its parts interact with each other to provide the best result without any relation to gender roles. Therefore, all three movements would most likely consider the current system that allows women more freedom in choosing their place in society a step in the right direction.
The #MeToo Movement
The #MeToo movement is a recent movement that allowed victims of sexual harassment and abuse to come forward with their experiences. In relation to Harriett Martineau and Jane Addams, it is important to note how active they were fighting for social issues and how pragmatic their beliefs were. Therefore, it is logical to think that both women would support the #MeToo movement as it is contextualized in its nature and necessary at this time. In terms of the functionalist perspective, interactionist perspective, and conflict theory, one has to observe the gradual erasure of gender roles and remember that at its core, it did not consider gender at all. Therefore, these movements could have had a positive outlook on the #MeToo movement as it aims to help society function better.
Many activists who wrote essays and participated in rallies are to thank for the rights women have today. However, this fight continues to these days with different movements aimed at achieving equality between the genders. It is impossible to know for sure what many early feminists would think of modern developments in society due to the evolving values. However, it is believed that most of them would support current movements, including the #MeToo one.
Chapman, Grace. “Harriet Martineau: The Woman that History Forgot.” Digital Victorians, 2016. Web.
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Hamington, Jane. “Jane Addams.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2018.