March is women’s month, and it is befitting to gloss over the philosophical and theoritical foundations of women’s movement.
Feminists explain that at the baseline, the assertions of feminism are grounded in the views that women are assumed to be inferior in social position and they are discriminated because of their sex. Feminism calls for social, economic, political and cultural change to reduce and overcome discrimination of women.
Feminism is not just an academic discipline, a political field, an ideology or a personal value. Feminism is a social movement that seeks to improve the quality of life not only of women but of all people of genders. In this discourse, I reflect on my thoughts and experience of studying Feminism and Movement.
There is not just one standpoint of feminism as it has many strands. Hence, there is no feminism but feminisms. This considers the multiple perspectives of feminism drawn from various era of the movement and its differing philosophical and political views. But there is something unitary and convergent in these perspectives, that is the struggle against the exploitation of women.
What is human nature? What is a good life? What is the state? What is the role of political theory in the state, over the human nature and in promoting the quality of human life? These are some of the interesting philosophical questions that we were asked repeatedly as we glossed on the various strands of feminism.
The course was a discursive and reflexive experience for me to go over the theoretical and philosophical foundations of Liberal Feminism, Marxist Feminism, Radical Feminism, Socialist Feminism and Postmodern Feminism. The women’s standpoints in these movements are essential knowledge in my pedagogical practice and in my perspectives as communication scholar.
Understanding these strands of feminism is a fruitful learning experience for me to examine, conclude and recommend on gender-related communication issues. How I understood each of them supports my revitalized disposition on current and contemporary gender issues.
Of these strands are strengths and weaknesses to help a scholar understand the issues of women. All of them serve some purpose and function, but it is not called for a feminist to solely adhere on one theory to explain everything of the women’s oppression.
Liberalism, coming from the period of enlightenment, is beautiful in its basic concept of being for and pro everyone. It allows for reason and anyone can argue her way democratically. But there was a stage in the period of liberalism that women were held in secondary status, because men by the laws they created to ensure liberty for all kept the women from enjoying their freedom.
However, as feminism pushed to advance the cause of women, they have in many ways some guarantee to assert for equality and liberty from oppression – through liberalism. The law which is supposed to be for everyone as a state mechanism can and should be challenged by women to give democracy, freedom and justice meaning for all people of gender.
Marxism holds that our social position is determined by our actions or praxis. That everyone is a laborer who is at the exploit of a superstructure called capitalism. Marxism is a critique to capitalism and offers an alternative to the exploits of this dominant mode of production. Marxism brings some issues with liberalism; that the latter results to perpetuation of capitalistic exploitation.
Hence, Marxism calls for social change that defies or reconstructs some liberal concepts. As it does, some people dread it to be another form of exploitation under new management. It criticizes capitalism but offers a concrete solution for social change – communism. Marxism sees and acknowledges the rational and biological nature of man. It provides explanation to oppression as well as solutions.
Regarding feminism, it offers historical and material basis on women’s oppression. The issue with it is that it does not see patriarchy as contributor to women’s oppression.
Radical feminists look at women’s oppression as a result of sex difference, the biological nature of the woman and the exploitative nature of men, who instills the persistence of patriarchy. Women and men are different and these differences are the source of gender conflict. A woman’s biological nature, like that of giving birth, having menstrual periods and fragility are sources of her oppression.
Patriarchy, the masculine hegemony, has the power to oppress, suppress and repress the “weaker sex”. It proliferates and results to the harassment, abuse and subordination of women in the society. For the radical feminists an ideal society is a society of women without men. To them, the empowerment and emancipation of women will only happen through their efforts and initiatives against the rule of men.
There are relevant views in radical feminism as well as there are irreconcilable and unorthodox perspectives in radical feminism. In these, radical feminism many not appeal popular to some conservative women and to contemporary women in general. To me, there is no weaker sex, only weak thoughts borne of sexist idiosyncrasies.
Socialist feminism does not totally depart from Marxist perspectives, but a consequence of dissatisfaction to Marxian dismissal of women’s oppression as not so important as worker’s oppression. Hence, it relies on the spirit of Marx’s works and not by their letters, to come up with dualist theories and unitary concepts to construct women’s oppression relative to patriarchy in the context of capitalism.
The dualist perspectives of Socialist feminism present an account of women’s oppression as consequence of the nonmaterial patriarchy in cohort with the materialist account of capitalism. Another version of this dualist theory presents a materialist account of patriarchy in cohort with a materialist account of capitalism. In both perspectives, patriarchy and capitalism are intertwined to cause women’s oppression.
From the dualist perspectives, socialist feminist shifted to understand women’s oppression in a unitary concept, by considering gender-division of labor and the alienation of women in capitalistic states. Socialist feminism is criticized to be not so different from the Marxian analysis of women’s oppression, but it remains standing as it understood the role of patriarchy and capitalism and the encompassing concepts in Marxist and radical feminism and the insights from psychoanalysis.
More contemporary is the position of postmodern feminism. Queer theory, standpoint theory, genderlect theory are among the important contributions of postmodern insights into the feminist movement. Postmodernism takes from the works of Saussure, Derrida, Foucault and Baudrillard.
Postmodernity is considered a time-space that took effect after the industrial revolution and is seen to be more evident in the advent of the knowledge and information age. Postmodernism is characterized by individuality, loose connections, fragmentations, unrestrained expressions, less of structures, nonsensicality, deconstructions, multiplicity and non-certainty.
In this period women’s oppression is regarded to be caused of many varied convoluting factors. Thus, the resolution for women’s struggle has to look into their own vantage point, to consider their dispositions, their states, their choices and personal commitment to action. Postmodernism is the here and now.
To me, postmodernity does not call for a total departure from the structure, the traditions, the old knowledge; it is a critical point in human history to determine where is humanity heading upon a crucial understanding of where it has been and where it is now. As to feminism and movement, postmodernism pushes women to assert their identities and claim their position in the new society so that they can make contribute to its humanization rather than its dissolution due to fragmentation.
ON THE GENDER QUESTION
A scholarly man is never a man without knowledge of the woman as to her concerns, her nature and her role in the society more than that of being a company of the man.
His knowledge of politics, culture, society, economics, science, technology and psychology are useless without understanding what makes a woman the way she is. His efforts and labor are worthless when he is not able to dignify the woman with her worth. His knowledge is but foolishness to consider him gender opportune or even more significant against other genders or sexuality. His wealth is impoverishment if he remains to see the woman as commodity. He is not man who does not know who a woman is. It does not require a man to be feminist or to be a scholar to engender the woman. He is not a man without the woman.
The society which the man dominates is not the ideal society that we would all like to live. The world is not a dichotomy of men and women, but a diversity of people. The balance in human ecology cannot be maintained by unequal distribution of power; that which the culture men inflict against the nature of women.
As with the history of men, the brutality, violence, poverty, injustice, inequality, oppression and indifference are all attributes of the masculine culture – inhumane and un-woman. He is not a man who oppresses the woman for he is from her from since the beginning of time.