If one has to take a closer look, it is apparent that gender and sexuality play an important role when it comes to identity formation and construction. More often than not, the individual’s social, economic and cultural contributions are evaluated via the specific gender roles that they portray.
The underlying foundations of society tend to create—and to a certain extent, impose canons and norms on how male and female should act and behave. It is for this reason that Devor (1989) stressed the importance of understanding of how gender and sexuality is contextualized within specific communities. However, despite of the apparent differences on how societies form and shape the gender roles and identities of its members, the patriarchal hegemony continues to spread and exist. More often than not, the value and importance of women are trapped within the domestic roles that they perform. Women, even in highly modernized societies, still experience abuse and discrimination. The seemingly gospel-truth notion that women are the weaker sex continues to persist.
Women, despite of their highly recognizable contributions in history are still located at the bottom of the social, cultural, political and economic hierarchy.The social stratification, inequality and uneven distribution of power experienced by women paved the way for the establishment of a movement that readily seeks to liberate females from the fatal fangs of a highly patriarchal society. This is no other than the Women’s Movement or the Feminist Movement. Women Movement cannot be merely described as a mere advocacy that highlights women’s rights. More than anything else, this movement is determined to redefine the bias social structures of society through encouraging participation, cooperation and instigating mass actions. Therefore, under this context, it can be argued that the Women’s Movement is also concern on creating pragmatic solutions to the major issues and concerns that beset them.
The Women’s Movement is divided into several phases. This will be explained the succeeding parts of the discussion. However aside from tracing the historical origins of the Women’s Movement, this essay will also look into some of the major issues that the movement needs to tackle and address.First-wave FeminismBanaszak (2006) mentioned that the rise of Women’s Movement was something that is expected.
Its establishment did not occur in a vacuum. Rather it is more of revolutionary change that is yet waiting for the right time to erupt. Banaszak (2006) stressed that there are four aspects that prompted the rise of feminism. These four are characterized by the increasing degree of women’s influence and participation within the social and political terrains. The first factor is attributed to the intense involvement of women in civic groups such as the church and charitable institutions (Banaszak, 2006).
There is no doubt that their participation in those organizations is instrumental in defining their roles as arbiters of moral reform and helping hand of the poor (Banaszak, 2006). Aside from that, Baanszak (2006) also mentioned that women served as peace-keepers in organizations even though they are governed by men. Thus, it cannot be denied that females ensured the group’s cohesiveness and unity. Thirdly, women also actively participated in the abolition of slavery and soon organized their own groups that were geared towards achieving equal labor rights and compensations (Bansazak, 2006).Given that women have already established their social and political presence, the evolution of first-wave feminism would not come as too much of a big surprise. One of the most evident successes of first-wave feminism is acquiring the right to vote (Code, 2000).
However, Code (2000) emphasized that first-wave feminism tends to vary if contextualized under different social settings. While it is true that first-wave feminism as for the case of the United States began when women were allowed to vote, this scenario may not be applied to other countries. But generally speaking, first-wave feminism can be best described as the initial attempt of women to break free from the highly domesticated stereotypes that were given to them (Code, 2000).
First-wave feminism demanded that equal opportunities be given to them instead of being excluded in the economic and social arena (Code, 2000). In here, it can be argued that first-wave feminism is deeply characterized as the intention to redefine and modify the prevailing paternalistic social structures wherein men would often take the spotlight.Second-wave FeminismSecond-wave feminism continued the prevailing legacies of the first-wave. However, what differentiate the second-wave is that it concentrated on wider issues (“Topics in Feminism,” 2003). Now that women can vote and that they are no longer confined in the four portals of their homes, second-wave feminism demanded more privileges in other areas such as education and corporate settings , for example (“Topics in Feminism,” 2003).
But then again, it is important to note that such issues were not tackled by first wave feminism. Perhaps it is safe to assume is that such dilemmas are more pronounced and articulated in the second-wave.Second-wave feminism’s defining characteristic is its focus on the individual rights of women.
These include the freedom to express their sexual orientations, the freedom to choose and decide on issues that revolve around divorce, abortion and reproductive health (Code, 2000). Basically second-wave feminism perpetuates the idea of women as being the sole masters of their bodies (Code, 2000). This does not necessarily translate to simply engaging into activities that fulfill their interests. Rather, it is more on women—doing the things which they see as something that is beneficial to them rather than be controlled or dictated by society (Code, 2000). Second-wave feminism is also known for its rampant call and action against the crimes and violence shown to women (Code, 2000)Third-wave FeminismFrom a critical examination, to say that third-wave feminism is a continuation of the first and second-wave, is an understatement. Kramarae and Splender (2000) shared that third-wave feminism is highly critical about the different social, cultural, economic and political experiences of women. Third-wave feminism acknowledges the fact that women belong to different race, nationality and social classes (Kramarae & Splender, 2000). Under this context, the glaring dissimilarities between each and every woman readily suggest that feminism should be understood in different ways and that varying approaches and methods should be utilized to ensure women empowerment.
Kramarae and Splender (2000) further discussed that third-wave feminism is also focused on creating its own identity—something that would differentiate them from their own predecessors. The reason behind this is that third-wave feminism is critical about the intense prerequisites of the first and second-wave on how to define and understand feminism per se (Kramarae & Splender, 2000). As for third-wave feminists such situation resulted to divisions (Kramarae & Splender, 2000).The problem with feminismDespite of the long tradition that feminism has established, the movement is beset with various problems.
The division and fragmentation that exist between different feminist groups posit an impending threat to feminism. If not immediately addressed, this situation may signal feminism’s untimely death. There is also a problem when it comes to how western feminist view the situations of their third-world counterparts. In addition to that, it cannot be denied that the failure to employ collective action, primarily because of certain differences is a dilemma that should not be taken for granted.
ConclusionIndeed, the Women’s Movement went through a long way. Amidst the odds and the struggles that it went through, the Women’s Movement or feminism for that matter has managed to survive and showed what women power really means. However, as the years go by, the movement faces high possibilities of being destroyed. Nowadays, feminism needs to confront two opponents—the patriarchal society and the unhealthy division among its firm believers.