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Feminism is characterised more by disagreement than by agreement. Discuss.

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Introduction

Grace Walker Feminism is characterised more by disagreement than by agreement. Discuss. Feminism is linked to the women's movement and is commonly connected with two basic beliefs: that women are disadvantaged because of their sex, and that this disadvantage should be overthrown. It highlights a political relationship between the sexes, the supremacy of men and the subjection of women. Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the rights of women (1792) is generally considered to be the first text of modern feminism, written during the French revolution. It was only during the mid nineteenth century, however, that the women's movement gained a central focus: the campaign for female suffrage, the right to vote. This period is defined as the 'first wave' of feminism, during which it was believed that if women could vote all other forms of sexual discrimination would disappear. When this was achieved at the start of the twentieth century, most believed that in winning suffrage rights, women had achieved full emancipation. The 'second wave' of feminism began in the 1960s, with publications such as Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963). This highlighted the 'problem with no name' - that is, the myth that women enjoy and find fulfilling domestic life. Both Friedan and Wollstonecraft are associated with Liberal feminism, which clearly influenced early feminism with liberals Wollstonecraft and J S Mill highlighting that as both were 'human beings', men and women should have the same rights. ...read more.

Middle

They believe that women could gain economic independence and enjoy enhanced social status if their domestic labour is recognised as productive and worthwhile by being paid. This same argument is used for the legalisation of prostitution. Millett described patriarchy as a 'social constant' running through all political, social and economic structures. Different gender roles are a result of conditioning and the institution of 'the family' must be destroyed. Liberal feminists believe in reforms to establish rights in the public sphere but give less attention to the division of labour within the family. The issue of sex and gender is initially simple within radical feminism. Radical feminist ideology is defined by it's belief that all political, social and economic structures are controlled by and favour men. Millett and Firestone agree that the nature of the sexes in equal and human nature is androgynous - therefore there is no good reason for the patriarchal system. Other 'pro-women' radical feminists however, believe that men and women are different, but equal. Liberals accept different natures and inclinations between men and women and accept that women lean towards family and domestic life because they are influenced by nature and so this reflects a willing choice. Orthodox Marxists insist upon the primacy of class politics over sexual politics - for example, the 'bourgeois family' arose as a consequence of private property - a by-product of capitalism. ...read more.

Conclusion

So the central illusion for post-feminism is that the most obvious forms of sexual oppression have been overcome. However, it is still women who are predominantly employed in poorly paid, low status and often part time jobs. So, as with 'second wave' feminism, the problem is still the subjection of women and the supremacy of men, but as in the sixties and seventies, feminists are finding ways to agree on how and why women are still being oppressed. The main argument of which is that women should have the choice to work and raise a family. This, however, means that women are held back from having successful careers, often by the 'glass ceiling' meaning that employers will not promote a woman who has or wants to have children of her own. This idea indicates a move back to liberal feminism, with it's ideas that women are influenced by nature, and so have more of an inclination towards family and domestic life. But the 'pro-women' radical feminists are a better example, with their belief that while men and women are different, they are equal and so should not be oppressed by being given worse jobs and not as many chances in the workplace, as liberalism doesn't seem to take account for the fact that many women want to raise a family and have a successful job. 1 ...read more.

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