Is Feminism still Important

The purpose of feminism differs between the feminist perspectives but most feminists strive to outline the inequality between men and women as well as increase the rights of women. The question is, have we reached a point where gender equailty has finally been acheived and feminism is no longer relevant?

Second wave feminism began is Britain in the 1960s. The main objective was to improve the position of women within society. The purpose of feminism differs between the three main feminist perspectives present at the time; Liberal, Marxist and Radical.

Liberal Feminist focused on the belief that women had fewer rights than men and that they should be treated in accordance with their merit as opposed to their sex. Liberal feminist identify the source of the problem as socialisation. Children are socialised into stereotypical gender roles that limit society’s perception of what women are capable of (Oakley). Liberal Feminists attempt to improve the position of women within society by campaigning for equal rights for women. The work of Liberal Feminists has been successful; they have achieved legislation such as the Equal Pay Act and the Sex Discrimination Act. It can be argued that the work of Liberal Feminists is still necessary for society and that there is still inequality for women even within the workplace, women are still paid only 70-80% or what women earn.

Marxist Feminists state that the Capitalist system results in patriarchy that oppresses women. The Capitalist System causes men to attempt to control women in many ways. Women are treated as a reserve army of labour whose help is only requested when employers require it. This is supported by Freedman (2001) who states that women are to be economically dependant on their husbands and should focus on their responsibilities at home. As a result of this they are more likely to leave employment when it is necessary. This gives contemporary evidence that Marxist feminist theory can be applied to society today and that this theory is still important.

Radical Feminists believe that there is a basic conflict between all men and all women; it is because of this that all women have shared interests. The main problem, according to Radical feminists, is patriarchy, which is present in all aspects of social life. Men naturally have more physical strength than women and because of this they can use physical strength to exercise strength power over women. Men also have control over the cultural attitudes present in society and because of this they can justify their dominance making it appear natural.

Second wave feminists are guilty of seeing all men as the same and all women as the same when this is not the case. Men and women have multiple axes of identity such as class and ethnicity, which second wave feminists fail to acknowledge. Second wave feminists also focus on the middle class women who do not work. They ignore the working class women who have been working throughout their lives; this suggests that many second wave feminist theories are not presenting a valid picture of the lives of females. Second wave feminists are accused of ignoring the experiences of ethnic minority women as much of their work is based on the experiences of Europeans.

Since the 1960s, the Feminist framework had been expanded to include more forms of Feminism. The Feminist movement of the 1990s is referred to as third wave Feminism. Third wave Feminist approaches include Rational Choice Theory, Post feminism, Black Feminism and Triple Systems Feminism.

The Rational Choice Theory of Feminism disputes the feminist “myths” that many other theories of Feminism argue. Rational Choice Theory (Hakim) states that women have the option to either work, be committed to home life or both. There is more choice that other Feminists have suggested. Over the years a large amount of legislation has been introduced to make it easier for women to both work and raise a family, this includes maternity leave. This is evidence that working and raising a family is an option for women.

Another third wave feminist approach is Post Feminism which has many facets including The End Of Feminism. The End of Feminism suggests that as a result of the legislation that has increased the right s of women, gender equality has finally been achieved. This is evident in the study by Sianne and Wilkinson (1995) who found that the gender war, according to younger generations, is outdated. This suggests that equality may have been achieved suggesting that feminism is no longer necessary.

Black feminism is another form of third wave feminism, which implies that black women are disadvantaged because of their race, class and gender. Brewer (1993) implies that most black women are working class, as a result of this they suffer economically. Collins suggested that the majority of feminist theory focuses on the experiences of white middles class women (this is true of most second wave feminist theories) and the experiences of black women are ignored. It is because of this that a form of feminism focusing on black women is necessary.