Feminism: Women and Gender Studies

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Introduction to Women and Gender Studies

Most communities discriminate persons on the grounds of gender and almost every recognized community has some aspects of male supremacy (Kimmel 4). These communities also have faith in biological determinism, which makes male persons to benefit from patriarchy. These are some of the issues that have stimulated the emergence of women studies. I remember one time when the principal of a certain school was recruiting staffs and I was locked out because of my biological sex category. The principal asserted that he only wanted male teachers, since the learners were very rough. I felt very embarrassed and went home wondering whether I was a lesser being.

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Basically, women studies are defined as the study of women. Women studies commenced in the late twentieth century. I think that these studies are strongly attached to feminism. Hooks defines feminism as “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression” (viii). Women studies also include a broad array of approaches, from the collection and examination of data to the depiction of women in the arts of carving, painting and digital imaging. In my opinion, women studies are very broad.

Hooks recommends that men should also be involved in women studies and feminism movements (5). However, most men are not ready to study courses related to women. One morning as I walked towards the class, I happened to listen to a conversation between some two men who were a grade lower than me. They were cracking jokes when I heard one of them say that he overheard one of the instructors saying that women studies would be made a compulsory subject in the school. From the facial expressions of this other male colleague, it was very clear to me that he was not ready to study the course. This kept me wondering how we would solve women’s problems without involving men, bearing in mind that most social problems encountered by women are rooted in men.

In my opinion, women studies should focus on the psychological and religious manners of women and men. In the United States, the majority of poor persons, single parents and sufferers of domestic cruelty are women. This implies that there is still a big discrepancy amid the life styles of men and women in the United States. Most women in the United States earn less than their men, though they are still entrusted with the roles of upbringing children and maintaining families.

Several questions always linger in my mind whenever I think about women and gender studies. First, why should the phrase gender studies should be used synonymously with the phrase women studies whereas we know that gender refers to both male and female sexes? Again, should men be involved in feminism, a movement that seeks to undermine their superiority?

Early 19th and 20th Century Suffragist Movement

Women movement in early 19th and 20th century was triggered by the prevalence of male dominance. Men thought that they were superior to women. This was particularly manifested through their description of gender roles. For instance, men’s role was to provide for their people while women’s role was to bring up children. In my opinion this was very mean, as it meant that women were not supposed to work outside their home compounds. However, involvement in freedom fights movement revived the spirit of resistance and rebellion among women which ended in present-day women’s freedom. As the movement progressed, women discovered that they could also be sexists. This shifted the movement from the anti-male outlooks. Conversely, utopian ideas of sisterhood, grounded solely on consciousness of the authenticity that all females were in some manner offended by male dominance, were obstructed by thoughts of race and class.

During this time, white men were more eager to grant women freedom considering that this could serve the benefits of preserving their preeminence. However, reformist feminist ideas focusing mainly on parity with men in the labor force surpassed the original essential foundations of existing feminism which demanded reform and overall streamlining of the culture so that the country would be antisexist.

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In my opinion, I think that the issue of race was brought into the agenda with an aim of breaking women solidarity in demanding for their rights. However, women managed to reorganize themselves leading to the accomplishment of their earlier mission.

Beginning of Second Wave Feminism

In the 19th Century science, differences amid men and women were attributed to science. A number of conservatives held the notion that biological elucidations endorsed customary gender roles while a number of feminists viewed women to be naturally superior to men in some areas (49). In my opinion, these were the key happenings that triggered the emergence of second wave feminism movement.

Women formed groups to discuss the topics of male dominion and sexism. Consciousness boosting groups became locations where women could express hostility and wrath on being victimized. However, they had little focus on plans for change and intervention. Why they failed to focus on plans for change and intervention is a matter of concern.

Increasingly, women began to either describe themselves as feminists or employ the expression of gender inequity to transform their economic position. Women of all ages behaved as if distress over gender parity or male dominion was the sole requirement for being a feminist. However, in early 1880’s the aura of a politicized sisterhood which was very important at the beginning of the feminist movement, became insignificant as the environment of inherent feminist politics was eclipsed by a lifestyle-based feminism which held the view that any female could become a member of the movement in spite of her political values. In my opinion, the feminist movement had become more mature and democratic at this point.

Body Image

Kimmel argues that violence in men occurs due to gender inequality and that if there is no discrimination amid men and women, gender violence will become a thing of the past (276). Rape also occurs as an outcome of thoughts of entitlement to women’s bodies and sentiments of helplessness in the event of dismissal by women. Kimmel asserts that “women’s beauty is experienced by men as an act of aggression: it invades men’s thoughts, elicits unwelcome feelings of desire and longing, makes men feel helpless, powerless, and vulnerable” (280). In my opinion, transforming our images of maleness can generate a less violent culture.

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The mass media, through films and televisions communicates that a modern woman should be thin, as opposed to having a large body mass (Hooks 34). In other words, the media considers femininity to be solidly related to physical size with specific stress on slimness. In this light, the media is a gender organization that greatly impacts gender relations as it composes and mirrors what should be deemed as feminine or masculine. As an effect, femaleness is directly related to physicality. In my opinion, this fascination with thinness is a reaction in opposition to the economical, political and social influence that women have achieved over the years. Although women have achieved increased social authority, their romanticized bodies have greatly reduced in size, while the romanticized men bodies continue to increase. Hooks also criticizes conventional media for their depressing representations of African women (Hooks 34).

In my opinion, the media influences feminist and masculine activities. For instance, the media depicts that boys are supposed to engage in physically demanding activities such as sports and athletics. Also, as common in most schools, boys perform well in science subjects and poorly in languages and humanity subjects. On the other hand, most girls perform excellently in languages and humanity subjects, but perform poorly in science subjects. I think that this happens because the media has made girls to believe that they can only handle less physically involving courses while the boys have been made to believe that they can handle more physically demanding courses.

Moreover, a false and disparaging notion of masculinity destructs boys by deterring them from putting as much endeavors as they are supposed to in their learning, although it persuades them to be overconfident about their capacities. In my opinion, this notion forms a false opposition amid girls and boys, presupposing that educational modifications taken to improve girls’ performance deter boys’ educational progress. However I think that these modifications, for instance teacher guidance, augmented attentiveness to personal learning manner and new classroom structures, enable larger figures of boys to acquire enhanced learning.

Sex and Gender, Binaries and Feminisms

Kimmel asserts that when we declare that gender character is socially built, what we imply is that our characteristics are a fluid collection of the meanings and manners that we build from the morals, images, and instructions that we come across in our humanity (100). In my opinion, our gendered characteristics are both deliberate, implying that we opt to develop into who we are, and pressurized, implying that we are usually forced, authorized, and at times physically whipped into compliance. Kimmel argues that,

“For some of us, becoming adult men and women in our society is a smooth and almost effortless drifting into behaviors and attitudes that feel as familiar to us as our skin. And for others of us, becoming masculine or feminine is an interminable torture, a nightmare in which we must brutally suppress some parts of ourselves to please others—or simply to survive. For most of us, though, the experience falls somewhere in between: There are parts we love and wouldn’t part with, and other parts where we feel we’ve been forced to exaggerate one side at the expense of others. It’s the task of the sociological perspective to specify the ways in which our own experiences, our interactions with others, and the institutions combine to shape our sense of whom we are. Biology provides the raw materials, while society and history provide the context, the instruction manual that we follow to construct our identities” (100).

In my opinion, gender is a land of foundations since foundations create gender disparities, making women to experience discrimination and inequity. For example, women’s careers are salaried less than men’s careers, just because of the sexual category with which they are allied to and not because of the aspects of the careers themselves.In my opinion, this is the highest level of prejudice. However, Kimmel suggests a number of remedies that can be applied on this matter including: “implementation of pay equity acts, comparable worth programs, interventionist strategies in hiring and promotion, and institution of family friendly workplace policies such as on-site day care, flexible working hours, and parental leave” (100). I think that if these remedies are carefully implemented, most women issues at work place would be solved.

Prior to feminist movement and sexual freedom, several women found it hard, or else impracticable, to claim healthy sexual organization. Sexist philosophy, which was made clear to women from origin, explained that the realm of sexual pleasure and sexual longing was regularly and solitary for male, and that only an immoral woman would express her sexual desire. In my opinion, this was not only a chauvinist act, but also a violation of biological rules.

Also, prior to invention of dependable methods of family planning, women sexual claim habitually led to forced impregnation and the risk of illegitimate abortion. In my opinion, we have not gathered enough information to let the humanity to recognize the sexual turmoil and dismay that women experienced before the invention of dependable family planning methods. I get afraid when I try to picture the world when women were coerced to have sex, bearing in mind that there were no methods of birth control. I can’t figure out the number of abortions that used to happen. Well, I also wonder where religious leaders were when all this was happening.

Regardless of how often feminist philosophers talked on the subject of equality, the dynamics of supremacy and subjection stirred up in the sexual field during events of sexual need and the ratification of sexual craze. There was not a thing that defied the foundations of feminist critique of heterosexual performance than the disclosure that female lesbians practiced sex, in which the locations of the dominant and the weak were deemed suitable. I think that this realization may have demoralized those feminist philosophers to a large extent.

In conclusion, the study of women and gender studies is very important as it helps us to trace where we are from and where we are headed to. Since time immemorial, most communities discriminated persons on the grounds of gender and held the view of male supremacy. Women were discriminated and treated as if they were lesser human beings. This is what actually led to the development of feminist movements, and later the development of women studies as a discipline.

Involvement in freedom fight during 19th and 20th century movements revived the spirit of resistance and rebellion among women which ended in present-day women’s freedom. As the suffrage movement progressed, women discovered that they could also be sexists. This shifted the movement from the anti-male outlooks. Conversely, utopian ideas of sisterhood, grounded solely on consciousness of the authenticity that all females were in some manner offended by male dominance, were obstructed by thoughts of race and class. During this time, white men were more eager to grant women freedom considering that this could serve the benefits of preserving their preeminence. However, reformist feminist ideas focusing mainly on parity with men in the labor force surpassed the original essential foundations of existing feminism In early 1880’s the aura of a politicized sisterhood which was very important at the beginning of the feminist movement, became insignificant as the environment of inherent feminist politics was eclipsed by a lifestyle-based feminism which held the view that any female could become a member of the movement in spite of her political values. This marked the beginning of second wave feminist movement.

The media considers femininity to be solidly related to physical size with specific stress on slimness. In this light, the media is a gender organization that greatly impacts gender relations as it composes and mirrors what should be deemed as feminine or masculine. As an effect, femaleness is directly related to physicality. In my opinion, this fascination with thinness is a reaction in opposition to the economical, political and social influence that women have achieved over the years. Although women have achieved increased social authority, their romanticized bodies have greatly reduced in size, while the romanticized men bodies continue to increase. The media also influences feminist and masculine activities.

In my opinion, our gendered characteristics are both deliberate, implying that we opt to develop into who we are, and pressurized, implying that we are usually forced, authorized, and at times physically whipped into compliance. I also think that gender is a land of foundations since foundations create gender disparities, making women to experience discrimination and inequity. I get afraid when I try to picture the world when women were coerced to have sex, bearing in mind that there were no methods of birth control.

References

Hooks, Bell. Feminism Is for Everybody. Sydney: Pluto Press, 2000.

Kimmel, Michael and Amy Aronson. The Gendered Society Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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