Monday, January 21, 2008

why feminism?

Recently, feminism has been regarded with the same affinity as labor unions and tax levies. The question often asked is, “what has it done for me lately?” Is the job done? Have Third Wave feminists been left with nothing to do but flounder? Let's look at some feminist theories and respective goals, shall we?
Liberal Feminists are concerned with legal recourse to secure equity with men. As a result, a huge sticking point for this group is voting rights. Everywhere men can vote women can as well, except Kuwait.
However, most countries granted men the vote prior to endowing women with full rights as citizens, except Denmark.
Men in these countries had time to solidify themselves in the notion that women are unfit for politics and women also had time to internalize the same sentiment. In the United States, the vote was granted to men as citizens in 1870 and women in 1920. This gives men a fifty-year leg up on women in the political arena. Gendered voting gaps have the result of affecting the number of women contributing to government action. In Denmark, over 25% of elected officials are women. In America, only 5-14% of women participate in elected government positions. Therefore, Feminist-driven voter education is necessary to level the political playing field in countries with historically large gender gaps in voting rights.

Marxist feminists are concerned with capitalism. According to their world view, capitalism creates and perpetuates economic inequality. In this system, women and men are stratified and valued disproportionately to their worth as people. Ipso facto capitalism is the root cause of women's economic disempowerment. Globally, 70% of those in poverty are women. This is not random, this is Neo-Liberalism. When countries are in debt, they may be eligible to take out loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As terms to the loan the IMF scrutinizes the country’s economic structure and assigns SAPs in order to appeal to foreign investment dollars. Typically, this means cuts in social and health services, which are disproportionately patronized by women. If families farm, then subsistence crops must be partially, if not completely, replaced with cash crops. Subsistence farming is the primary source of income for most women in these areas. With diminished income and no outlet for governmental support women, whose burden it is to tend to the needs of the household, are forced to find other means of income. Feminist mobilization is necessary to get women on the Board. This will give women the opportunity to shape IMF policy which affects their lives most.

According to Existential thought, the goal of humanity is to take control of the present and shape the future. Existential Feminists seek to explain and undo the reasons women are impeded from achieving selfhood and ultimate autonomy. Women’s reliance upon men is a crucial element in hindering their realization of autonomy, especially considering the age at which women and men come to this union. It is common practice, among many culture, for parents to make decisions and care for their offspring until said offspring reaches the age of maturity. Some cultures include the selecting of life mates for their young daughters under this paternal umbrella. In Niger 70% of girls and 4% of boys get married between the ages 15-19 years old. In much of the world 16-25% of girls are getting married before 19. This means that girls, who are used to having decisions made by their guardians, are handed over to men, who will take over that duty, at an elevated rate in much of the world. Only in industrialized countries is the instance of this is below 5%. When women lack self-determination, autonomy becomes impossible. Feminists, especially those apart from industrialized nations, need to expand cultural awareness to include a vision of women marrying on their own terms, if they marry at all.

The goal of Feminism is to work itself out of a job. It looks like we're still accepting applications.

data came from:
Seager, Joni. The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World. New York: Penguin Group, 2003.