Thursday 7 July 2016

Is there still a need for feminism in our society?


My exams are done and I can go into my second year of uni at Goldsmiths! Anyways, putting that moment of celebration aside, let's talk about this blog post. It's about what I learnt about feminism this year.

Why I'm Writing This Post:
I thought now would be a good time to start a new post. Yes, I'm writing about the things I learn in my degree, I'm aware how sad that might sound to some of you who feel I need a social life and not focus so much on my studies in the summer holidays. So to those of you who are thinking that, here are a few words explaining my thoughts on this: Fuck off. Sociology is a subject that explores people and society- in a way it looks at how the world works. You and me, we're members of this world and I (the blogger) want to enlighten you on some of the things my lecturers have opened my eyes to because they're interesting and significant to our current lives, well more specifically my life. Also this blog is called MYeyeMYway where I write about things in MY Life and one of them is Sociology, which I WANT to write about and I CAN write about it on this blog so deal with it!

Now that we've established what this new post is, and all you haters have let me explain, this post is about feminism, what it is and if it has a right to still exist in 2016. Feminism is something Sociology has helped me understand and I want to help you know more about it. Relax I'm not going to bore you with an exam style academic level essay, I think we all need a break from those now, don't you? I see you there, yes you the person who's about to leave this blog because you think I'm just another man-hating girl who's talking about things that are just part of society. Sit back down you! You've got a lot to learn about feminism, which I hope this blog (and my future posts) help you do. To sum up this post is an introduction to why feminism is still important and I plan to make more posts on the subject by discussing the different types of feminism that exist today. 

What is feminism?
Before I start explaining if feminism is still significant, I should probably give you an idea of what feminism actually is right? Go ahead, roll your eyes and exclaim "Naah then!", "Gee ya think!" "Thank you captain obvious". Are you finished with that wit of yours? Good, well put the attitude aside and think for a second; feminism doesn't really have the best reputation does it? For those of you not in the loop on the internet, I've seen loads of comments about feminists being  man-hating people, people who don't care about the issues men face in society, or how feminists today aren't fighting for important issues like they did back in the day (you know back when women couldn't vote, have a job, right to their own property etc). So to straighten things out here's a definition of feminism for you: 

Feminism is a desire to achieve gender equality and change society’s view of the position of women in today’s world.

See, gender equality which means both men and women, not just women! Basically feminism is when you explain how men and women aren't as equal as you think, so feminists try to make that happen and I'm sure if you were in a particular community and  wanted to have the same rights as everyone else, you focus on explaining why members of this community needs these rights, right? Well feminists do that by focusing on females, but they care about BOTH genders, not just one. 

Next I'll be looking at places in society with forms of gender equality. 

The Working World:
First things first, I know that in the West women are allowed to work, just like men. But what I want to look at here are the types of jobs men and women are expected to have, in other words stereotyping occupations . For instance,  men are seen as more calm, intelligent, stronger and more suited for positions of power like heads of state; in contrast, the stereotypical woman is more caring, soft and more suited for teaching and nursing. Don't you think these stereotypes can lead to divisions in labour? What I mean by that is the fact that work load and wages may not be distributed equally. Take for example maternity leave, where women receive 1 year of maternity leave, whereas men only receive a couple of weeks; to me this demonstrates how the idea that  “men go to work women stay at home and look after the kids” still exists because women are given the right to work, but are also expected to spend more time taking care of the family than men. Before you tell me this is because women are thought to be "naturally good at it" or have a "mother's instinct", let's have a look at a few news articles of how women are treated with their maternity leave shall we? Oh quit complaining I'm only mentioning one article today! A report from an ITV News article, Citizen Advice found a 25% increase in people seeking advice on pregnancy and maternity issues in the past year, as there’s an increasing amount of pregnant women having their hours cut, zero-hour contracts or no longer being employed in a company (ITV News, 2016). I think these statistics identify how feminism is still needed in today’s society, as society continues to construct specific gender roles for men and women, and an understanding that these roles are socially constructed, not biologically needs to be made. 

Lastly in terms of the jobs men and women have, 19% of women work in administration compared to 5% of men (Women’s pay and employment update 2012); higher paid positions are also gendered, as evident by the fact that in 2011 only a third of women were in management positions (Women’s pay and employment update 2012); also in relation to work hours and wages, although the split between the amount of men and women in employment is even there’s still more women in part-time work (20%) compared to men (6%) (see Office for National statistics 2013). In 2013 the pay gap between men and women was increased by 10%, however in 2015 the gap was 9.4% (see Office for National statistics 2015). This is a need for gender equality because although women are given the right to work, they don’t receive equal wages to men.  A study in Australia on managers found that women who worked long hours felt guilty because they were neglecting their family (see Wacjman and Martin 2002). MacDowell found that in order for women to achieve a higher position, they need to put on a masculine persona in regards to their attitude;  a recent case is Hilary Clinton’s campaign which has been regarded by men as being a means to “get a woman in the White House” (see, Jessica valenti 2015).

Overall, I'm aware a possible argument is that  both men and women receive similar gender expectations and it’s also difficult to find employment, as nowadays more people have university degrees, job contracts are temporary and internships are targeted at specific people. However what I'm trying to say here is ask you, although both sexes can work and job hunting isn't easy, have we really reached the point where it's no longer expected for jobs to be gender based, wages are the same and people in power are respected despite their gender? If you're answer to this question is no, then shouldn't people campaign for this, so gender equality exists in the work place? Yes, so why can't people who are working for gender equality in employment identify themselves as feminists and by doing that aren't they demonstrating how feminism is needed to strive for gender equality in the work place? i t think you're answer will help you see how feminism still has a purpose in our society. 

Domestic Duties:
I'm aware we're no longer in the 1950s where women were housewives, doing all the cooking and cleaning and it’s now thought that housework is split evenly amongst heterosexual couples. But is that just an idea or a proven fact?  A survey study in Norway found that in 60% of couples' women did “somewhat more” work, and only 25% of couples shared the domestic work evenly (see slagsvolt and Hansen 2012).  The study also found that couples who were younger, had no children and were in high socio-economic jobs shared the housework. Now I'm not saying the solution to evening out the domestic duties is to never have children, nah ah; what I'm highlighting is the fact that having kids is a life changing decision and new roles and responsibilities are made, which at times can mean it's difficult to split everything fairly. 

It could even lead to the idea of a family myth; one such case is in in Hachchild’s study where Even and Nancy came to an upstairs and downstairs agreement, Nancy would clean the kitchen, living room, bedrooms and Evan would do the garage. To me this was a means to save their marriage as neither of them wanted a divorce. Also in reality, Nancy was doing the same amount of work she was doing before, and although she believed in the new feminist ideals of the time she was living in a way that didn’t agree with them (see Hachchild 1989). Nancy also worked full-time as a social worker and enjoyed the job, however she then switched to part-time because she needed to make time for her household duties and take care of their child, whilst Even did not; Even felt that by working he was giving Nancy a “gift” to work part-time so she could manage both work at the office and work at home (see Hachchild 1989). Similarly, to this in the study on Australian managers found that the men didn’t feel guilty about their long-hours and felt justified by the fact that they were providing for their family (see Wacjman and Martin 2012). According to Lisa Wade heterosexual marriages benefit men more than women, as it’s a moment of subordination for them, as women subordinate themselves and their careers to their relationship, their children, and the careers of their husbands (Lisa Wade 2016). In terms of paid Housework there are 52.6 million domestic workers in the world and 83% of these are women. 

Household issues can also be important in the public sphere, because as of April 2015 a policy was made for men to have maternity leave (up to 37 weeks paid). In countries like Sweden and Norway there is a “Daddy quota”, so by law father’s must have maternity leave. In contrast in America maternity leave is only 12 weeks. Overall, from this we can see that women are still expected to do more of the household chores and taking care of the children. Perhaps a solution to this issue is education and communication. I'm a firm believer in the fact that if you communicate with people about your issues, you'll reach an understanding and with education you can teach others the need for a new way of thinking and what that new way is. Therefore communication and education are key factors in creating fair domestic roles, which I think is an important factor in feminism which aims to ensure both men and women are treated the same in society; in other words isn't feminism needed so we understand who does the housework in a relationship?

Post Feminism:
The final point I'm going to make is the fact that  men and women are mostly seen as equal, since it’s now thought that men are being emasculated and that feminists are anti-men and not all women agree with the feminist ideas (Ahmed 2010). Post-feminism is also seen as a “sensibility” because the media constructs gender, by giving us gender representations and neutralising feminist ideals. I suppose you could argue that feminism is now part of mainstream culture instead of showing a need for gender equality? For instance, Jenifer Lopez is a pop culture celebrity and feminist, as seen by her music which consist of a theme where women are entitled to know and ask for what they want, as well as receive the same respect as men (see, Kat George 2016). I think a good example of this is her song “Ain’t your momma” to me both the song and comments made by people on the internet suggest she’s trying to say that women shouldn’t be expected to do all the housework in the home and should receive some respect from men for doing this. 

Internet feminism is another example of this because the internet is where a lot of today’s feminist activism occurs like an online campaign by, Women, Action & the Media and the Everyday Sexism Project managed to have Facebook to ban pro-rape content (Goldberg 2014). However, Michelle Goldberg also argues that this version of feminism has become toxic, due to the “slashing righteousness of other feminists”, she gives an example of Puerto Rican trans woman Katherine Cross who sometimes hesitates to write something because she may write something that’s offensive for some women and consequently receive backlash from other feminists (Goldberg 2014). I believe what Goldberg is saying is that internet feminism has caused some women’s issues to be kept quiet in order to avoid criticism from fellow feminists. Also it can be argued that sexuality has become more liberal in society, as police dancing classes are socially accepted and female nudity is viewed as “women empowerment”; a recent case of this is when Kim Kardashian posted a nude selfie and claimed it represented empowerment and embracing your body and sexuality. However, in reality this may actually mean marketing because the celebrity makes money with her body which is society’s standards of beauty and posting nudes on Instagram allows her to get attention and charge advertisers $200,000 to $400,000 to use the photo (see, Lunn 2016). Also in terms of sexual harassment , Fraser asks if Sexual harassment is real or something constructed by society? (see Fraser 1997). I think it’s an important issue in society that needs to be addressed because, in some countries women are not treated seriously in court when they claim to have been raped; a recent example of this is American singer Kesha’s claim that her manager raped her 10 years ago when she was 18, was rejected by the Manhattan Supreme Court judge.

Lastly, it can be argued that only white-feminism has been achieved, as different racial groups and women from other countries don’t receive the same gender equality rights. For instance, Badó argues that because of mainstream feminism women in the Eastern Europe Post-Communist world can’t access the newest feminist theology and development (Badó 2015). Badó  suggests a way to create a Post-Communist Eastern European wave of feminism is to have the feminist ideals adapted into post-communist and communist context, as Badó states that in Romania (and Eastern Europe) the public sphere was a refuge for the Communist state, and the private sphere still consists of the traditional men/women gender hierarchy. Another important aspect to consider is religious influences because in the rural areas the Church’s influence is important. Badó explains that in Romania 55% of the population live in villages where patriarchal tradition is very powerful; it’s also still the norm for women to work, endure and suffer more than men and domestic violence is permanently and traditionally present (Badó 2015). Also religion is an important part of some people’s lives and recently some “mainstream” feminists have had to choose between their religion and feminist ideals (Midden 2012). She found that even though Muslim women’s issues are discussed in Opzij (Dutch magazine), these women are not really involved in the discussions about feminism. In the articles about Muslim women, choices are evaluated from a universal view on feminism. Feminism, in these cases, is approached as something quite fixed. For instance, there were no articles in which authors discussed whether and how feminism and Islam could be combined (Midden 2012).

Different countries also have different views on gender equality; in a video on Facebook women in Saudi Arabia explained how they were free to work, look after their family and study , but when reading the comments section I found that although they were able to do this, in many Muslim countries women needed to get their husband, brother or father’s approval to do so; also the film Wajda we learn that in Saudi Arabia it’s frowned upon for women to ride a bike and men are able to oppose what women do, (like get a shorter haircut) and also have a second-wife if their first wives can no longer have children (see, Haifaa al-Mansour 2012). To me this identifies how gender roles are socially constructed because in some countries society dictates what men and women can or can’t do. In terms of non-white feminism Britney Cooper argues that feminism enable women of colour, particularly black people to explain why gender issues are also racially important because they can create a political movement by expressing a need for the policies Copper mentions (see, Cooper 2016). Overall, from post feminism and different types of feminism we can identify how it's thought feminism is no longer needed, because there's more gender equality, and has become an internet trend. However it also enables us to recognise how there are still issues of gender equality in different parts of the world and for different races, which is why feminism is still important.

Is there still a need for feminism in our society? 
To finish I hope this blog post has made you think twice when answering this question and understand feminism is still significant in ensuring society moves forward, people are treated the same and the ideals of feminism are entering a new era. Overall, I hope you found this blog post informative and if you want to know more "read around the subject", there are loads of articles and books out there for whatever it is your looking for in regards to feminism and everything mentioned above. This post was meant to be an introduction into what feminism is and its importance. I intend to continue by talking about the different types of feminism, perhaps my next feminism post will be on white-feminism, what it s and why despite the fact that other forms of feminism should be higher on the list, white-feminism still has a purpose? I'll do some research on the subject for another post and leave it for another time. I'll also talk about black-feminism and feminism and Islam, along with other things once doing some further research. 

Anyways i hope you enjoyed my new Sociology Series, feel free to leave a comment on what you want me to discuss next when it comes to feminism. 

Bye for now!