Gender equality is the pathway to the removal of the dominance of patriarchal structures; most importantly it is allowing every individual despite their gender difference, attain the liberty to receive fair and equal treatment. However, even with the emergence of the feminist theories decades ago and feminist’s fight for women’s equal right, it is still doubtful that women have now been unchained from the slavery, which is considerably in practice from as early as the birth of mankind.
According to Rampton, (2008) it is believed that feminist acts sprouted in the early medieval period. However, she claims that it was not until the late 19th century that the efforts for women’s equal rights coalesced into a clearly identifiable and self-conscious movement, or rather a series of movements (Rampton, 2008). The feministic structures and theories had been modified in three distinct segments, termed as the three differed “waves of feminism”, namely the first wave which focused on liberal and early socialist feminism (Gillis, Howie, & Munford, 2004), the second wave which formed the radical feminism (Chrisler & McHugh, 2011) and the third wave which was more inclined towards the post-structuralist interpretations of gender identities (Chrisler & McHugh, 2011).
Furthermore, it is questionable if these theories do make any sense in reality or are just broad sets of claims for and against women and men respectively? Since feminism is a relatively broad area of debate, this paper will attempt to critique only a few aspects from its second wave. It will first of all put forward the ideology behind this stand of feminism, prior to that it will describe and define the three waves briefly. Upon doing so, it will then provide the contradicting ideas or argument which I feel has been overlooked and ignored. Furthermore, it will attempt to investigate Pacific Island countries’ view on the aspects of feminism, while uncovering the reality behind the Pacific Island women’s perception of these activists. It will then use these critiques and ideologies to summarize of all the arguments articulated.
Ideology behind the second wave of feminism
Figure: 1.0 A clear representation of the evolution of feminism
Figure 1.0 shows a clear representation of the evolution of feminism from the early 19th century to the 21st century. The major reason why this paper will only be focusing on the second wave is due to its complexity and most importantly, due to the fact that these aspects are still active in the society. Unlike this phase, the first wave seems to be quite clear in its stance, regardless the fact that it is surfing through the surface of the society to gain equity for women. However, due to its popularity being washed off by the second and third waves of feminism, it would be rather unwise to search its faults now, especially when the majority of the amendments has been made by these other phases. As for the third wave feminism, figure 1.0 portrays the diversity of its movement, it has actually managed to voice out for equal right of people of color, different class and sexuality, which was astonishingly ignored and overlooked by the other two waves. However, due to having a personal satisfaction with this movement and its continuous emergence into a much more suited advocate, particularly to suit the revolution and evolution of life at present, this era will not be critiqued.
Radical feminism which sprouted during the second wave has been famous for its confrontation against men, regardless the gender, age, class or ethnicity. According to radical feminists, patriarchy was a set of power relations, which was targeted to keep men’s control over women’s sexuality, labor and motherhood (Saracino, 2013), it later intentionally merged into the “sex role” stereotyping.
Moreover, radical feminists argue that male dominance invades the social institution, particularly marriage and male-female relationships (Chrisler & McHugh, 2011). Interpretively, this group believes that the reason behind women’s oppression is regardless of its color, class or culture but is due to the sole fact they are women (Saracino, 2013). Interestingly, radical feminist see fertility in two distinct ways, which could be one reason why radical feminists might be faced with conflict within its margins. Figure 1.0 shows that the radical feminist urge for reproductive rights, however its reproductive rights are in the sense that women should have the liberty to undergo abortion, and utilize contraceptives. Thus, such believers are tagged as radical libertarian feminists. These, activists also advocate artificial means of reproduction which they believe will be less time-consuming, as pregnancy is what restricts women to meet its space/position in the society (Daly, 2013). They demand for a complete removal of men from the social hierarchical structures. Some recent blogger have also imposed the ideas on castrating all males as they believe that the “evil of male authority and dominance lays in their testacies” ( Femetheist Devine, 2012).
Another most distressing comment made by these feminist was that “for a woman, the fetus is like a parasite which restricts her from attaining liberty”, (Brush, 2012). On the contrary, radical-cultural feminist views are dramatically different from radical-libertarian feminist views (Daly, 2013). These advocates believe that women should accommodate their fertility as it is more preferable over masculinity, and portray men as envious bodies who have an abhorrence towards women’s power to reproduce. However, they also raise concerns on rape and abuse, female subordination as well as pornography. Hence, this movement particularly perceives men as the major cause of woman’s agony.
Criticism of second wave feminism
The second wave feminist (particularly radical feminists) believes that “males dominate in the society because of their high levels of testosterone and hormonal “aggressive advantage” in competition for job”, (Connell, 2009). Likewise, it has also been noticed that the penis is usually being tagged as the source of male power (Segak, 1994; Connell, 2009). However, they seem to overlook the fact that females also have testosterone. On a scientific note, testosterone can be linked to aggression and this behavior could be the means of suppressing the females, but does this aggression link to a better intelligence level for males over female?
There seems to be no scientific evidence that male aggression contributes towards it begin more intelligent and gaining power. Even if testosterone contributes towards intelligent then why it does high testosterone link to criminology? If men are intelligent due to high testosterone levels then why do radical feminist assume that all men are criminals and rapists? Additionally, if a greater testosterone level would mean more cognitive strength than removing these “men of power and intelligence” would mean letting the weaker party overrule (Cawley, 2007). Thus, this could explain Steven Goldbergs claims in Why Men Rule (1993), “to protect women from failure” (Connell, 2009). Therefore, It rather inhumane to think so negative about men that castrating them happens to be one of the possible ways to erase their masculinity.
Furthermore, in countries such as the United Kingdom statistics show “that domestic abuse against men is increasing in the UK and we do not deny or belittle women’s violence against men or violence in same-sex relationships” (White Ribbon Campaign, 2013). Could the pride of masculinity be the reason behind men not raising their voice against the domestic violence they face. How could radical feminist overlook this aspect?
Moreover, these feminists claimed that women’s oppression had nothing to do with their race, class or ethnicity but only the fact that they were women. However, this aspect is absolutely based on the assumption because considering communities such as that of the Rabians and Tongans, women seem to be given the upper hand over men (Hedstorm, 2013). Therefore, there seems to be difference in the power relations in the various ethnic and racial groups. Hence, radical feminist might need to be looking at a much broader prospect.
Likewise, radical feminist believe that fertility is the major drawback for a woman, however they seem to be missing the point that not being able labor a child was not an option for the males. It should be understood that both male and female contributes towards fertility and reproduction and that this structure was designed by nature “not by choice”. Most importantly, these feminists should also consider the fact that there are many couple particularly in the present century who wish to have children but are rather infertile thus, technology such as artificial insemination was designed to assist them to fulfil their dreams of parenting a child (MNT, 2011).
It is also doubtful if men are actually envious of their woman for being able to mother a child? However, if this was true then why would men have sexual intercourse with women? Why fertilize the egg in the first place if it’s disturbing to accept women as makers of the future generations? Hardly any literature expresses the ideology that men envy women for such a course. Therefore, radical-cultural feminist need to reason this out which a much stronger scientific evidence. Hence, it is advisable for these second wave feminists to also consider is the individual priorities, as well as legal and cultural constrains before being judgmental against men.
Pacific Island countries’ view on the aspects of feminism
Are there feminist activists in the Pacific Island Countries (PIC)? Upon going through numerous literatures, it was seen that hardly any PIC’s women’s movement groups wish to be identified as feminists. According to Chetty, (2007) the groups do not wish to be called feminist but women’s movement instead because of the negativity and criticism feminism faces all around the world. In the past and till now the women from the Pacific island countries are also faced with gender based stereotyping. These women have always been seen as the servants to man, domestic workers and most importantly inferior to them. They had also been deprived of access to quality education and participation in politics or social movement (Chetty, 2007).
However, at present not much has changed, education has been the major area of change in these patriarchal structures but numerous gender based stereotyping are now surfacing. These patriarchal structures are difficult to remove from these communities due to it being closely intact with the cultural boundaries. The PICs particularly Fiji has a close linkage to the cultural and traditional norms and beliefs therefore removing these patriarchal structures would be rather impossible. However, in the urban areas, the fight for women’s liberty has been quite effective. Women being able to attain a higher level of qualification, leadership roles and employment in male dominated areas are some common examples.
However, unlike the women from the western countries these PICs are rather suppressed by their gendered roles that they fear to raise their voice against their slavery and inferiority. Taking Chetty’s (2007) claims into consideration, these women might be scared to be called feminist because they are not prepared to welcome the discrimination and critique they will get from the men of their home countries. This shows that women of the Pacific have in fact accepted their defeat and are happily serving in their gendered roles.
Will PIC women ever be able to fight again these gender based biases, it is obvious that modernization has struck the PICs long ago and indeed these western aspect particularly the third wave feminism has also invaded these islands. However, a complete change and removal of gender based steryotying is held by a the fine treads of time. On the contrary, in some PICs women are given the upper hand in term of inheritance of social status and paternal property right. Despite this, they still do not get the upper hand in leadership roles. Could radical feminists’ aspect of male dominance due to musculity be a the reason behind this? Were men appointed these dominating roles to “protect the females from failure” mentioned earlier? Thus, this area needs a much needed research to understand the PICs struggle to attain equality for both the genders.
Summary and suggestions
Despite approaching the 21st century, the struggle for gender equity which dates back to the early 19th century still seems to be in the pipeline. The feminism theorists and activists have defiantly done a great job in fighting for women’s rights and freedom. However, some elements of the feminism waves such as the second wave are prompt to great criticism. It is advisable for these activists to gather their facts and evidence before structuring their theories and movements, especially for issues as such which are at a very sensitive stage in the society. Indeed, the fight for women’s rights and liberty to equal opportunities has started its work in the PICs but will this lead to a cultural loss? Hence, more research needs to be done to investigate the need for the feminist movement in the PIC and its effects on the traditional society.
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