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Feminism, the belief in the social, economic, and d to activity on behalf of women’spolitical equality of the sexes.
Although largely originating in the West, feminism is represented worldwide by various institutions committed rights…
Global issues :
Throughout most of Western history, women were confined to the domestic sphere, while public life was reserved for men. In medieval Europe, women were denied the right to own property, to study, or to participate in public life. At the end of the 19th century in France, they were still compelled to cover their heads in public.
And, in parts of Germany, a husband still had the right to sell his wife.
Even as late as the early 20th century, women could neither vote nor hold elective office in Europe and in most of the United States.
Women were prevented from conducting business without a male representative, be it father, brother, husband, legal agent, or even son.
Married women could not exercise control over their own children without the permission of their husbands. Moreover, women had little or no access to education and were barred from most professions. In some parts of the world, such restrictions on women continue today.
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In the ancient world:
There is scant evidence of early organized protest against such circumscribed status. In the 3rd century BCE, Roman women filled the Capitoline Hill and blocked every entrance to the Forum when consul Marcus Poncirus Cato resisted attempts to repeal laws limiting women’s use of expensive goods. “If they are victorious now, what will they not attempt?” Cato cried. “As soon as they begin to be your equals, they will have become your superiors.”
That rebellion proved exceptional, however; for most of recorded history, only isolated voices spoke out against the inferior status of women, presaging the arguments to come.
In late 14th- and early 15th-century France, the first feminist philosopher, Christine de Pisan, challenged prevailing attitudes toward women with a bold call for female education.
Her mantle was taken up later in the century by Laura Cretan, a 15th-century Venetian woman who published Epistle familiar (1488; “Personal Letters”; Eng. trans. Collected Letters of a Renaissance Feminist), a volume of letters dealing with a panoply of women’s complaints, from denial of education and marital oppression to the frivolity of women’s attire.
To rewitness some achievements of Christine de Pisan you can read the article:
The defense of women had become a literary subgenre by the end of the 16th century, when Il merito delle donne(1600; The Worth of Women), a feminist broadside by another Venetian author, Moderata Fonte, was published posthumously.
Defenders of the status painted women as superficial and inherently immoral, while the emerging feminists produced long lists of women of courage and accomplishment and proclaimed that women would be the intellectual equals of men if they were given equal access to education.
The so-called “debate about women” did not reach England until the late 16th century, when pamphleteers and polemicist joined battle over the true nature of womanhood.
After a series of satiric pieces mocking women was published, the first feminist pamphleteer in England, writing as Jane Anger, responded with Jane Anger, Her Protection for Women(1589).
This volley of opinion continued for more than a century, until another English author, Mary Astell, issued a more reasoned rejoinder in A Serious Proposal to the Ladies(1694, 1697).
The two-volume work suggested that women inclined neither toward marriage nor a religious vocation should set up secularconvents where they might live, study, and teach.
1.First-wave feminism :
- Influence of the enlightenment:
The feminist voices of the Renaissance never coalesced into a coherent philosophy or movement. This happened only with the Enlightenment, when women began to demand that the new reformist rhetoric about liberty, equality, and natural rights be applied to both sexes.
Female intellectuals of the Enlightenment were quick to point out this lack of inclusively and the limited scope of reformist rhetoric. Olympe de Gouges, a noted playwright, published declaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne (1791; “Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the [Female] Citizen”), declaring women to be not only man’s equal but his partner.
The following year Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), the seminal English-language feminist work, was published in England.
Challenging the notion that women exist only to please men, she proposed that women and men be given equal opportunities in education, work, and politics. Women, she wrote, are as naturally rational as men. If they are silly, it is only because society trains them to be irrelevant.
The Age of Enlightenment turned into an era of political ferment marked by revolutions in France, Germany, and Italy and the rise of abolitionism.
In the United States, feminist activism took root when female abolitionists sought to apply the concepts of freedom and equality to their own social and political situations.
Their work brought them in contact with female abolitionists in England who were reaching the same conclusions.
By the mid-19th century, issues surrounding feminism had added to the tumult of social change, with ideas being exchanged across Europe and North America.
The suffrage movement:
These debates and discussions culminated in the first women’s rights convention, held in July 1848 in the small town of Seneca Falls, New York. It was a spur-of-the-moment idea that sprang up during a social gathering of Lucretia Mott, a Quaker preacher and veteran social activist, Martha Wright (Mott’s sister), Mary Ann McClintock, Jane Hunt, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the wife of an abolitionist and the only non-Quaker in the group. The convention was planned with five days’ notice, publicized only by a small unsigned advertisement in a local newspaper.
Stanton drew up the “Declaration of Sentiments” that guided the Seneca Falls Convention. Using the Declaration of Independence as her guide to proclaim that “all men and women [had been] created equal,”; she drafted 11 resolutions, including the most radical demand—the right to the vote.
With Frederick Douglass, a former slave, arguing eloquently on their behalf, all 11 resolutions passed, and Mott even won approval of a final declaration “for the overthrowing of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman equal participation with men in the various trades, professions and commerce…
Mainstream feminist leaders such as Stanton succeeded in marginalizing more extreme demands, but they failed to secure the vote for women.
It was not until a different kind of radical, Alice Paul, reignited the woman suffrage movement in the United States by copying English activists.
Like the Americans, British suffragists, led by the National Union of Woman Suffrage Societies, had initially approached their struggle politely.
But in 1903 a dissident faction led by Emmeline Pankhurst began a series of boycotts, bombings, and pickets.
Their tactics ignited the nation, and in 1918 the British Parliament extended the vote to women householders, householders’ wives, and female university graduates over the age of 30.
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- The postsuffrage era:
Once the crucial goal of suffrage had been achieved, the feminist movement virtually collapsed in both Europe and the United States.
Feminism fractured into a dozen splinter groups: the Women’s Joint Congressional Committee, a lobbying group, fought for legislation to promote education and maternal and infant health care; the League of Women Voters organized voter registration and education drives; and the Women’s Trade Union League launched a campaign for protective labour legislation for women.
Each of these groups offered some civic contribution, but none was
specifically feminist in nature.
The National Woman’s Party, led by Paul, proposed a new initiativemeant to remove discrimination from American laws.
Infighting began; because many feminists were not looking for strict equality; they were fighting for laws that would directly benefit women.
Paul, however, argued that protective laws actually closed the door of opportunity on women by imposing costly rules on employers, who would then be inclined to hire fewer women.
In the United States the difficulties of the preceding 15 years were followed by a new culture of domesticity.
Women began marrying younger and having more children than they had in the 1920s.
Such television programs as Father Knows Best and Ozzie and Harriet reflected what many observers called an idyllic suburban life.
By 1960 the percentage of employed female professionals was down compared with figures for 1930.
Could women be freed from discrimination without damaging the welfare and protective apparatus so many needed?
What was the goal of the feminist movement—to create full equality, or to respond to the needs of women?
And if the price of equality was the absence of protection, how many women really wanted equality?
To come: “Part 2” … ✔