I bet all the people in my class are sick of seeing posts named ‘Feminism’ but I didn’t want to dwell too much on a more imaginative name! Before I start to talk about feminism ‘properly’ I’m going to share a quote that I enjoyed:
“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”
Feminism is a collection of movements that aims at political/social rights for women which includes seeking to establish equal rights for women.
We’ll start at the beginning (apparently a very good place to start) with Genesis, the Judaic creation story. This is probably the most widely known creation myth in which God creates the world, and then creates man (many mistranslations in the Bible, ‘Adam’ means man, and so Adam was assumed to be his name). He made woman (Eve) second, which is the basis of the sexist idea that women are ‘second-best’. God made man in His image, and so humans were perfect and immortal. Later on, the Snake tempts Eve to eat from the Tree of Life. Eve tempts Adam and God gets angry, strips them of their ‘immortality’ and banishes them from the perfect Garden of Eden. The fact that Eve got tempted by the snake and the attitudes that followed are the Biblical, cultural, social and historic reason for women being treated as inferior.
In Biblical times women were either pre-pubescent, or married and thus pregnant a lot of the time. Women who had been through puberty and didn’t marry were unwanted in these times as they had a period, they were banned from places of worship as there were no toiletries so literally stank due to it.
Traditional jobs for women were wife/mother style jobs for widowers who had to look after children. Thus jobs included cleaning, wet-nursing, and to an extent, prostitution. Until the Industrial Revolution education for girls was mainly for rich girl’s pleasure. Boys were sent to learn skills for their future career, but girls were mainly taught basic skills (sewing, cleaning etc) by their mother. Children of both genders were good in factories – they were small and inexpensive. This meant that girls being educated basic skills by their mother to clean were unnecessary. This meant that during the Industrial Revolution girls started to get a small amount of education, but not as much as the boys as at that time it was believed that girl’s brains were literally smaller.
Mary Wollstonecraft wrote ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women‘ to show that women aren’t inferior, they were only thought of like that due to social and religious attitudes. She gave arguments for equality which triggered off the first wave of feminism.
The first wave of feminism was the fight to allow women to both vote and go to university. Many women wanted to reach their full potential, e.g. become Doctors, not nurses. This was also due to WW1, many men went to war and so women had to take over their jobs.
The second wave of feminism took place in the 1920s where women tried to be more like men, wearing trousers, smoking, drinking etc. They made themselves practical in the workplace, wearing sensible clothes (i.e. not long dresses in factories) and drove.
The third wave took place in the 1960s and 70s and was when women took control of contraception (oral contraceptives – the morning after pill), this meant they could choose to work, not have children. The 1970s also brought movements for equal pay so that women didn’t have to be dependent on a husband.
Thanks for reading,