The Rise of Femininity
A woman is just an ordinary human female being with a range of social, emotional, psychological and physical attributes. The word woman can also refer to young girls or women, which refer to those who are empowered and assertive. The plural women can be used in place of woman too, in phrases like “all women” or “all people.”
In modern society we usually refer to girls and women together, even though modern society has accommodated the existence of men and boys. A lot of feminist philosophers claim that women are oppressed by gender roles which force them into certain limited alternatives, such as mother, wife or child. On the other hand, traditional gender roles have been replaced by the more flexible gender roles that are based on personal talents and abilities. Therefore it is not surprising to find that many definitions of “woman” or “feminine” include the masculine gender.
It is true that all humans have gender stereotypes. Most people do not even know that they possess them. These gender stereotypes affect children’s development and socialization from a very early age. These gender stereotypes affect the way people see women and make them into “all girls.” The same thing goes for men and make them into “all boys.” In communist countries the revolution has eliminated these gender stereotypes, but they still exist to some extent.
A number of characteristics considered feminine are associated with the Virgin mother. This motherly figure is the embodiment of motherhood and is therefore considered feminine. Motherhood also entails having a house, clothing, food, family and children. Thus, any act of reproduction is linked to reproduction which is considered masculine.
Masculine gender stereotypes associate the act of sex with the male, and the act of love with the female. Thus, loving your spouse, mother or child is considered feminine. Loving your country, teacher or father is considered masculine. All these acts of love are linked to gender roles which are determined by birth.
The feminist movement in the 20th century changed the way people looked at gender roles. With the rise of the feminist movement women reclaimed their feminine energy. Many women reclaimed their femininity through political agitation, writing and public speaking. They made gender equity at the centre of attention, which gave birth to new terms such as feminism and feminists.
Feminists have always rejected the idea of a gender essentialism, holding that it trivialises women and trivialises men. Some of the most prominent feminist philosophers are Henri J. M. Nouwen, Betty DeBerg elsessore and Julia Serrano. Some of the most important contributors to the feminist movement were also women. Barbara Smith did not hesitate to express her opinions and had a big say in the suffrage movement. Mary Beverley Day is another great example of a woman fighting for the rights of women. The suffragists were fighting for women’s right to be included in all aspects of the society and this eventually led to the First World War.
The modern era of feminism has evolved and is found today to be different from the days of the first feminism. It has embraced different approaches and theories. The two most important elements of modern day feminism are intersectional feminism and autonomism. The main theoretical perspectives on women are women of colour, women with disabilities, gay and lesbian, disabled women and bisexuals. All these women believe in the basic principle of freedom – the right of all genders to be free and equal.
Emergence of a second-wave feminism was a response to the failure of the first wave of feminism. It was critical of the more radical elements of the first-wave of feminism who focused only on women’s rights. These second-wave Feminists went for a comprehensive approach, which included issues affecting men and women. They wanted to include all spheres of social justice.
Social constructionism deals with the fact that gender roles are socially established and are not innate or biological. Biological differences between men and women have emerged because of the survival of the fittest tendency in the gene pool. Biology does not determine gender. Social construction then goes on to argue that there are certain ways in which gender is socially established and some are determined by biological factors. It further goes on to claim that these gender stereotypes arise due to the way society views the person as a whole – not only as a binary sex category such as male/female. These social constructionists claim that the way society views men and women determine not only their social construction of masculinity and femininity, but also the places they occupy in the society.
Third-wave Feminism is what you might call an outgrowth or evolution of Feminism. Unlike second-wave Feminism which looked for biological causes behind gender roles, this third-wave believes that there is no real cause for the gender disparity. Instead, it argues that the disparity occurs because of cultural norms and the power of language. Because gender is not natural, it can never be fixed and there is nothing we can do about it.