Introduction of Feminism
Mary Wollstonecraft, Fredrich Engels, Bell Hooks, Betty Friedan and the list goes on - these are western figures that will automatically pop up in one's mind when the word "Feminism" is mentioned. But before the Declaration of the Rights of Woman, medieval female Hindu poets had begun to condemn gender inequality; Muslim female writers were already denouncing injustices and discrimination against women in the early 20th century. Therefore, even though the most significant and earliest form of Feminism saw its birth in the United Kingdom, Feminism itself is neither a western nor new concept.
As mentioned (in the explanation for the Timeline of Events), Feminism basically deals with gaining equal rights for women and gender equality through political, social and theoretical measures. Broadly, this is absolutely accurate but specifically, this is absolutely imprecise. Equal rights and gender equality are defined differently by people. Therefore, Feminism takes on many forms and comes in waves that at varying degrees and circumstances, it includes different definitions. There are many activist groups and movements that promote Feminism. However, this article will focus on giving a brief introduction to the 3 types of Feminism which is the most fundamental understanding to it.
Note: Developed countries are modernised countries which have at least a 60% of industralisation. Thus, it is inevitable that all of the figures mentioned in this article are western nations as the earliest industrialised nations are mostly Western countries and the earliest "definable" form of Feminism happened to take shape there.
Individualist Feminism is built upon the Individualist theory. The Individualist theory is developed in the 17th century and one of its major influences is John Locke's Second Treatise of Government (1689). Essentially, the theory states that each individual has the rights and freedom to execute these rights without being interfered by others, so long so they are limited within the societal and judicial framework of society. The acquisition and nature of these rights are debatable.
By and large, Individualist Feminism deals with the individual woman. It affirms that they are rational human beings and not just sexual beings. Traditional virtues of chastity, gentleness and obedience etc are stereotypical societal perceptions of what women as sexual beings and not as rational beings should be like. This means that women should have equal rights as men. Thus, women should be given freedom and equal civil rights and, access to education and work. Also, to a certain degree, a woman must be independent to enjoy the privileges mentioned above. Lastly, it is not necessary for a woman to be a wife or a mother.
Notable personals include Mary Wollstonecraft, Margaret Fuller and John Stuart Mill.
Unlike individualism, socialism does not have a unique doctrine of its own. However, early socialist theorists of the early 19th century were unison in their beliefs that a social order which encourages competition to access of resources would lead to misery and economic crises. An order or a system of production and redistribution would remove this poverty and exploitation, therefore, allowing a more equal society. As to how this is to be attained is controversial as well.
Socialist Feminists are men. The reason for this is that as men were formulating ideas on socialism, they realized that equality has to be achieved within the household too. Since under socialism, there is no privatization of goods and properties to pass on to the next generation, females need not to be subjugated in the household to take care of the children and thus, they also need not to be restricted to the household only. In an individualist and competitive society, women would be competing with their physical strength and added duty of a homemaker. Therefore, a cooperative society would not place any sex at a disadvantageous position thus allowing equality of happiness for both sexes.
Even though these events do not take place in developed countries, an interesting point to note is that women's struggle for liberation tends to take place during revolutions when more equality is demanded by the people. For example, Alexandra Kollontai, a Marxist who lived during the Russian revolution, saw women's liberation as part of the fight against capitalism. Another woman would be Oympe De Gouges, a butcher's daughter who lived during the French revolution, wrote in the famous Declaration of the Rights of Woman (1791) that women should be given voting rights and emphasised the importance of women having access to education.
Notable personals include William Thompson, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, August Bebel and Charles Fourier.
Individualist and Socialist Feminism limit a sexual nature to male and female which subsequently form gender roles. They struggle to fight for more social rights and a crossing of gender roles of the females. But unlike these two, Radical Feminism believes that human beings are sexless and androgynous even though biologically, females rear children. Therefore, gender and sometimes, even sex does not exist.
Radical Feminism is so newly yet widely explored that many of its ideas are almost "inconceivable" by many but some of which have already taken shape in our society today. As with the other two types of Feminism, the degree of "radicalism" differs with each radical feminist. Some ideas of Radical Feminism include: femininity is created by man at his own interest; Greer's belief that women's sexual nature are not passive but as active as men's and Millett's notion that there "should be no restrictions to all sexual activities which include taboos such as homosexuality, pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex and bastardy etc" . Essentially, radical feminists hope to overthrow a patriarchal society by the reordering of society and opposing all gender roles.
Notable personals include Simone de Beauvoir, Germaine Greer and Kate Millet.