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Gender Justice and Feminism

The word feminism comes from Latin root Femina which means woman, ism is a suffix that has Greek origin which turns a noun into a verb that speaks of a process, belief, practice or view. So, combined feminism basically means a set of ideas or ideology related to women.

Charles Fourier a Utopian Socialist and French philosopher is credited with having coined the word feminisme in 1837.[1] The words féminisme (feminism) and feminist (feminist) first appeared in France and the Netherlands in 1872.[2]

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, feminism is the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state.

According to Dr. Susan Currie Sivek, Feminism is a movement that seeks equality for people of any gender. It is founded on the belief that people should be able to pursue any opportunity and demonstrate any characteristic regardless of gender.

Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies, aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal political, cultural, economic and social rights for women. A Feminist advocates or supports rights and equality of women.[3]

Question arises why there is a need for the same? What led to this movement?
The answer to the same lays in the difference between the terms Sex and Gender. One may believe for these to be the same, but there is a difference between the two. While one (sex) is a biological term the other (gender) is created by society. Society adds up value to the term be it the social norms, moral values, etc.; biologically there are no values attached to it.

By the means of Internalization and Social Conditioning, women as a Gender are created by society. The term internalization is a submission of terms ‘internal’ that means from within and ‘zation’ that denotes a process; internalization is a process of systematically putting ideas within one person. While on other hand social conditioning is a sociological process by which a person and his beliefs are molded in such a way as suited by the society in general. Ideas and beliefs are put in women since birth that they can’t help but actually agree to them.

One reason behind this can be that they actually don’t have any other belief than what has been taught for so long to them. Women were oppressed, subjugated, exploited, not only physically but also ideologically.

Women are thought to be weak emotionally, intellectually, physically, psychologically, etc. while on the other hand, men are thought to be everything that women are not and more. One of the major reasons behind the same is patriarchy.

In the simplest terms Patriarchy is a social system in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property.[4] Patriarchy therefore creates a power structure whereby women are systematically suppressed. Not only this, but it is also to be noted that not all women are sisters. One who is oppressed today may become oppressor in future.

It is a very rare chance for people to have same thinking always. There are always some differentiations in interpretations and understanding of people. Feminism too has different schools of thoughts.
Sameness Approach: It being a humanist approach suggested that every individual, being a human share some common attributes but it failed to address the issue that along with sharing attributes they are at differences too. John Struat Mill was one of the supporter of this school of thought.

Difference Approach/ Gynocentric Approach: It acknowledged the differences between male and their female counterparts and valued them accordingly. Carol Gilligan is of its advocates.

Dominance Approach: This approach had no issues with sameness or difference approach, rather it talked of an altogether different problem. The problem for oppression of women is not in their physical attributes but the problem is of dominance and until and unless it’s dealt with, the condition of women won’t get better. Catherine Mackinnon supported this school of thought widely.

The history of modern western feminist movement is divided into different waves. Each deals with specific aspect of same feminist issue. Many of the political thinkers are associated with it and supported it. Mary Wollstonecraft, John Struat Mill, Gloria Steine, Rebecca Walker, etc. are to name a few.

Waves of Feminism:
# First wave Feminism: 19th and early 20th century (1910s to 1950s), focusing on women's suffrage, property rights, political candidacy and representation in the government. Women movement quoted “Personal is political”.

# Second wave Feminism: 1960s to 1980s, focusing on reducing inequalities in sexuality, family, the workplace, reproductive rights, de facto inequalities, and official legal inequalities. Betty Friedan gave voice to women across when she published her book “The Faminine Mystique” in 1963 about her dissatisfaction in being confined to the role of wife and mother.

# Third wave Feminism: 1990s to 2008, focusing on embracing individualism and diversity. It arose because of a realization that women are of many colors, ethnicities, nationalities, religions and cultural background. It embraces the change and talked about universal womanhood.

# Fourth wave Feminism: 2008 to present-day, focusing on combating sexual harassment, assault and misogyny. This wave saw to the implementation of Feminism in harsh realities rather than just developing the concept in books.

# Fifth wave Feminism: Journalist Caitlin Moran's concept of future feminism. It includes women showing their oppression through technology and making it (technology) a instrument to be used in this movement.

Each wave of feminist movement, though in different era and ideology has addressed issues of gender inequality, whether legal, political or social.
It also talked about educating women not just about their rights but also academically, so as for them to have a stand in society of their own and for them to be the efficient wheel along with men to run the chariot called society smoothly.

Feminism aims at gender justice. It aims for equality rather than superiority of women. At the normative heart of feminism lies the belief that nobody should be a disadvantage because of their sex.[5]

Gender justice to refer to a world where everybody, women and men, boys and girls are valued equally, and are able to share equitably in the distribution of power, knowledge and resources. It seeks to see all people free from cultural and interpersonal systems of privilege and oppression, and from violence and repression based on gender.

Gender inequality is primarily an issue of unequal power relations between men and women. It violates human rights, constrains choice and agency, and has negative impacts upon people’s ability to participate in, contribute to and benefit from social, political and economic development. It is essential that we work together and use our influence to create just and equitable relationships between women and men in order to achieve fair, sustainable, resilient and thriving communities.

The impacts of gender injustice are experienced most severely by women and girls. Women may face discrimination at home and in the work place. They make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s poor. Women suffer heavily in times of war and conflict but are significantly under-represented at peace tables and in governance structures. Cultural constraints may hinder women’s movements and access to health care. The valuing of boys over girls leads to female foeticide and infanticide. Millions of girls and women are affected by female genital mutilation, early and forced marriage and violence based on gender.
Gender inequality can also place unnecessary demands upon men and boys. Where economic and political power is concentrated among an elite few, where there is conflict and displacement of whole communities, where there are uncertain climatic changes and the depletion of natural resources, it is increasingly hard for men to live up to the traditional gendered expectations that most societies place on them. Gender justice brings greater freedom and increased well-being to all.
Gender inequality is failing women and girls, and men and boys.[6]

Though it is true that Feminism truly works for promoting equality, it’s the term Gender Justice or Gender Equality that should be preferred in today’s world. For feminism passes the ball in court of women. It may seem to some that rather than bringing equality, it’s actually trying to make women dominant.
We say at one hand that women are oppressed, but let’s not forget that it is mostly the women who are the oppressor. So, one cannot just say that women are weak, they are powerful but that’s just a portion. When we look at the whole picture it says another thing.
No doubt that women do lag behind but there has been progress. After all one can’t change years of thinking and beliefs in few seconds. It surely will take time. Time is the essence.

Also feminism in my opinion, though a wide concept still it is a part of Gender Equality project that aims to bring Gender Justice. Thus, the two concepts go hand in hand with each other and are the call of new world.
We have covered a long way from being to orthodox and rigid to being modern and liberal in our way of thinking and beliefs.

The world where there were just two sexes now does recognize transgenders. The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Movement has gained popularity and support. The movement, a part of gender justice project though is facing challenges, but it being recognized itself is a big feat.
Thus, even though we have covered a long distance, we still have a long way ahead of us to mark the milestone of Equality in terms of Gender and to serve Justice to it.

Gender Justice and Feminism, the social issues that our society deals with have turned political issues too. They have indeed gained popularity but what they actually need is proper support and implementation rather than bookish or in-say ideals, for someone has greatly said “Action speak louder than words”.
It’s easier said than done. We speak a lot of these issues but when it comes to really implementing them and supporting them, we back off. We really need to practice what we preach.

At last, I would say that we have miles ahead of us, but surely we’ll reach the destination or the goal we aimed for.

[1] Goldstein, Leslie F. (1982). "Early Feminist Themes in French Utopian Socialism: The St.-Simonians and Fourier". Journal of the History of Ideas.
[2] Dutch feminist pioneer Mina Kruseman in a letter to Alexandre Dumas – in: Maria Grever, Strijd tegen de stilte. Johanna Naber (1859–1941) en de vrouwenstem in geschiedenis (Hilversum 1994) ISBN 90-6550-395-1, p. 31
[3] Beasley, Chris (1999). What is Feminism?. New York: Sage. pp. 3–11. ISBN 9780761963356
[4] Wikipedia, Patriarchy
[5] GENDER JUSTICE BY ANCA GHEAUS, Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy

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