Different Approaches to Feminism and their Setbacks
Feminism is the belief in the social, economic and cultural equality of the sexes. Feminism entails giving everyone an equal chance and opportunity to do whatever they want. If a woman wants to do labour jobs ‘meant for men’, she should be allowed; and if she fails to do the job, then she can face the consequence. However, it is fallacious to think a woman’s incompetence is a result of her gender. Because the truth is that so a lot of men would fail at the job too. It’s almost sad that not all women are feminists [i]and there are others who agree that these women have embraced their shackles, and they hate to see other women break free.[ii]
According to experts, there have been three waves of feminism, and it is believed that we are in the 3rd wave.[iii]
- The 1st Wave: The first stage was when women wanted fundamental human rights like rights to vote, rights to education, the right to be treated as human beings.
- The 2nd Wave: It was short-lived, and it happened in the 1960s and 1970s when women fought for rights to have a say in what happens to their body, like reproduction, sexual liberty etc. It was an era of dismantling the idea of “she doesn’t have a say in what happens to her body; therefore, she’s mine. I own her”. Even after women got the right to vote, it wasn’t close to being enough. There was still the looming misogyny that preyed on society.
- The 3rd Wave: Critics believe that the 3rd wave of feminism brought about a distortion to the real purpose of feminism. A woman would come out and say, I hate men, and would be applauded by her fellow “feminists”.
Feminism has been about equality, not hatred or abhorrence of men. Understandably, women would be angry. Yes, women can be mad because they have the right to whatever feelings they choose. However, the line starts to be unclear when every man is targeted and made a victim due to anger at the patriarchy.
It used to be that people refused to align with feminism because they were incapable of believing women have the same rights as men. However, these days, some people have removed themselves from the movement because of how it is sometimes wielded as a tool for misandry. When misunderstood, feminism can be turned into a campaign of recrimination and vengeance against men. But, like most concepts e.g., capitalism and democracy, we do not judge them for how they are, but for how they are supposed to be. Feminism is still a fight for the equality of the sexes. And for as long as possible, women have fought to be their own person and have autonomy from men. We’re feminist; therefore, we believe in equal rights.
Over the years, the patriarchy has invented ways to use feminism against women. The actions of women have been policed to suit the patriarchy, and they have done this by reminding women of things they are supposed to do as feminists. “I thought feminists are supposed to pay half the bills. Aren’t feminists supposed to be able to do manual labour?”. The point of feminism is the liberty of women to do whatever they wish to without seeking approval from the patriarchy. Society still continually tells women what and what not to do. Constantly spitting on the movement and mocking it because deep down, the idea of women being entitled to the same rights as men is irreconcilable.
This begs the question of, has feminism indeed progressed? Have any fundamental changes been made? Or are women perhaps at that point where they’ve said they can do whatever they want and are still told by men how, and in what fashion they said they would do what they want? Are women still under the grip of the patriarchy?
Men are so invested in what women should and shouldn’t do that they have turned around to define feminism. Feminism means brash and loud, and opinionated. Yes, a woman could be brash if she wanted to, but she is not because that’s not who she is. She is a feminist because she believes in the rights of women. You cannot police how feminist a woman is by limiting her to specific traits. A woman can be introverted and still be feminist. Because she is a feminist doesn’t mean she is anti-marriage or that she is a lesbian. She can prefer skirts and always be a feminist. She is not a feminist because of how she acts, dresses or speaks. She can do whatever she wants and still be a feminist. She is a feminist because she wants to be a feminist.
A friend of mine said to our mutual non-binary friend that you have been a woman and have witnessed what it means to be a woman, so why do you think that being toxic and having all the alarming traits of men is what makes you a better man. That statement would have been offensive even to me, but it stuck in my head. Imagine experiencing what being a woman in society means, and when you have the chance to mingle and bro with the Bros, you turn around and do the exact thing men do? Why do people continuously choose to adopt all the negative traits of men? I mean, these traits are precisely the problem. It is the reason why society is the way it is.
I’ll be explaining the two most impactful and popular kinds of feminism:[iv]
(1) The Liberal Feminism (2) The Radical Feminism
Liberal feminists work their way through society by influencing change quietly and slowly while imputing the idea of equality.
Liberal feminism is divided into two:
- Traditional feminism: Traditional Feminists believe in shared responsibility but equal culpability. They think women should embrace their femininity because that is where their strengths lie. That a man must provide money for the family while women take care of the household. They believe that a man should open the door for a lady to enter and pull out a chair for a lady to sit down before he does. Despite all these, traditional feminists still believe in the equality of the sexes. A man providing for the family doesn’t make him superior because a woman brings invaluable contributions to the house.
- Pantsuit feminists: Pantsuit Feminists believe that a man belongs in the kitchen as much as a woman does. And a woman belongs in the board room as much as a man does. An example of a pantsuit feminist is Abigail Adams and Hillary Clinton. This feminism works to integrate women into mainstream society.[vi]
RADICAL FEMINISTS:[vii]They believe in attacking the problem of equality head-on and using whatever means is necessary. They do not tiptoe; they come with gloves on to tackle patriarchy.
Radical Feminists are divided into three primary kinds:
- Feminists who believe in hating men for years of oppression AKA Misandrists with an agenda: Many feminist-rhetoric crosses the line from attacks on sexism and patriarchy to attacks on men.[viii] They have been termed Man hating, and, in few cases, this stems from a place of trauma, from their experience with men who hurt them. No one has the right to invalidate their hurt or their anger or to call it unnecessary.
- Feminists that believe in complete and absolute autonomy of women:[ix] These particular feminists believe that sex work is legitimate work; they believe in the sexual liberation of women. A woman should not be slut-shamed; a woman should wear what she wants to because she wants to. A woman should be entirely and absolutely free. They believe that true sexual freedom is women’s emancipation to express their sexuality without fear of unwanted pregnancies, fear of emotional/physical abuse and overall liberty from being forced to conform to male sexual standards. They believe that all work is an exchange of ourselves, our bodies, and so sex work is an authentic and legitimate work. Because at the end of the day, capitalism is capitalism, and women should be allowed to use their bodies for economic gain. Overworked/underpaid bankers or teachers, or sex workers, they all exchange parts of themselves for monetary gain. If you have a boss at work, guess what? You’re selling yourself, and we are all in on the abuse, and like every other job, sex work has risks.
- Feminists who believe marriage is the most diminutive and yet most effective form of women oppression:[x] It is believed that marriage is an institution that has curtailed women’s freedom for centuries. Mary Wollstonecraft, who is said to be the pioneer of the first wave of feminism,[xi] said that “bride marriage is a little more than a state of legal prostitution”. Marriage to this day is not feministic; it is still about perpetuating male privilege and a sense of entitlement. The giving away of a bride may be cute and harmless, but what does it really connote? For a very long time, women were seen as property. They would say, protect your lands, your wives and your livestock. The culture of a father giving away his daughter, even though harmless, just enforces women’s commercialisation. A girl had to be a virgin and unbesmirched to marry into a good family in the old days. Because a female who has had any sexual interaction before marriage is spoilt goods, second-hand product. Then there is the practice of women taking up their husband’s name after marriage. It has been criticized as a less barbaric form of branding and as a sign of ownership.
In some parts of Nigeria, child marriage is legal and customarily acceptable. This practice of child marriage has yielded negative effects such as Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF). There is also the problem that in Nigeria, it is perfectly legal for a man to rape his wife.[xii]
Setbacks in Liberal Feminism include:
- Women are accused of trying to be, and look like men.
- Even though so much has been achieved, this type of feminism is slow.
- Traditional feminists are termed selfish for wanting men to provide for the family and still expecting equality.
- Women have had to do things like wear a ring on their wedding finger to be respected.
Setbacks in Radical Feminism include:
- Here, women are termed angry and misandrist.
- This kind of feminism is accused of obliterating societal morals and values.
No matter the approach to feminism, there will always be setbacks, and all we can do is take the good and effect change. Feminism does not have to be defined and confined; it should merely believe in the equality of genders.
[i] Twitter User @nodudu_
[ii] Twitter User @DoreenGLM
[iii] FEMINISTS HATE WOMEN BY FIONA ASOKACITTA- TED X TALKS
[iv] FEMINISM TYPES- UAH. EDU
[v] FEMINISM KINDS- UAH.EDU
[vi] FEMINISM KINDS- UAH.EDU
[vii] FEMINISM KINDS- UAH.EDU
[viii] Feminists treat men badly, it’s bad for feminism- By Cathy Young, The Washington Post
[ix] FEMINIST VIEW ON SEX WORK: WIKIPEDIA
[x] Julie Binde on The Guardian
[xii] A Right Without a Remedy: Marital Rape in Nigeria – Lawyard.
About the writer
Theresa Okereke (Tessie) is a final year student of Faculty of Law of Ebonyi State University and an Intern at Crater Library & Publisher. Tessie is Nigerian-British, Igbo-Nigerian to be precise, from Ebonyi State and resides in Abakaliki.