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Module 1: Feminism

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Feminism – Lesson Summary

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The condition of women all over the world is an obscenity, just like any resistance to initiate any significant change to this state of affair.

Female foeticide, female infanticide, mass rape of women, ignoring of women’s role, denying women’s rights are some of the flagrant obscenities females endure today. Feminism is divided into three waves:
• First wave feminism
• Second wave feminism
• Third wave feminism

With first wave feminism, the vote for women has been achieved relatively quickly. Today, almost every country which has adopted democracy has almost unquestioningly started with equal voting rights for women and men. It was becoming clearer and clearer, via second wave feminism, that more fundamental changes were needed.

Through third wave feminism, some common concerns, acknowledged as forms of feminism, are addressed, notably:
• the public-private divide,
• patriarchy
• sex and gender, the third one,
• equality and difference,

Any spaces where human power relations are involved, such as the workplace and the family, are also political spaces. The feminist critics of patriarchy are based on the argument that all social structures and systems and all political systems are patriarchal.

A purportedly traditional view of sex and gender is that these are natural divisions, resulting from our biological nature. The feminist challenge to this is that these expectations and roles are largely social or cultural, and are not biological in origin.

The theme of equality and difference remains one of the most contested areas in feminist thought. Actually, feminists can reach wide agreement with considerable political, social impact on ending the oppression of women and on ending discrimination against them. But, equality as an undifferentiated concept makes no sense unless we consider the following question: equality in respect of what?

Those are three major ways of theorising feminism in response to and in engagement with other major ideologies:
• liberal feminism
• socialist feminism
• radical feminism.

Liberal feminism relies on an individualist conception of society. In general liberal feminism does not demand radical changes in economic or political structures or systems.

Socialist feminism sees the position of women in the context economic and political structures which shape almost all societies. Socialist feminism is founded on the argument that gender equality cannot be achieved without a revolution in the control of the means of production.

Radical feminists regard patriarchy as the central problem in existing human society. The response of radical feminists to patriarchy has been to advocate various forms of independence from men and from male-dominated organizations.

There have been enormous advances in legislation and vast improvements in women's position in many societies in the last century or so. But the overall global position of women has not improved nearly as much as it could have done.

The term intersectionality is used in social sciences and in the humanities to reveal the magnitude of the task that we face anywhere, in changing the conditions and situations women face.

Three cases of the United States Supreme Court enabled Crenshaw Kimberly to address intersectionality in the United State. Actually, if people suffer multiple structural, systemic, or cultural disadvantage or oppression, then their position is going to result in multiple complex and interlinked forms of discrimination and disadvantage.

In the case of India, two papers, one written by Ruchi Tomar and the other from Sikata Banerjee allowed to address intersectionality in that country.