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GEND3031 Study Guide

Topic 1: Femininity (Essay 1: How does feminism challenge conventional ideas about “women’s place” within the family and Caribbean societies?)

Key Terminology:
Hooks, Bell. Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics. London: Pluto, 2000 * Feminism is ‘a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression’, hence it is not a movement that is anti-male or attempting to turn the tables to oppress or marginalise males. Ergo the problem is with sexism and not with males. The key aim of feminism is to bring about gender equality as well as equity for both males and females

Reddock, R. and Barrow, C. (ed) (2000) Caribbean Sociology. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers. * Feminism is the awareness of the oppression, exploitation and or subordination of women within society and the conscious action to change and transform that society. Feminist consciousness will be around as long as there is female oppression

Arguments: Patriarchal Definition of Femininity
Wieringa, Saskia in Patricia Mohammed, Gendered Realities: Essays in Caribbean Feminist Thought. Kingston, Jamaica: (University of the West Indies, 2002.) Essentialism
* Essentialist theorists on the other hand, have highlighted that ‘women’s sexual difference from men is the cause of women’s oppression.’ Therefore women have been deemed biologically unfit or unequal to their male counterparts by this theory. The foundation of the argument is based on biology and genes, which essentialists have claimed makes each gender distinct, causing women to be ‘“naturally” suited to fulfil certain roles regardless of intellect, desires, expertise, or experience.’

Arguments: Against Traditional Views of Femininity
Constructivism
* Whilst essentialists believe that it is the woman’s innate sexual difference that causes her oppression, constructivist feminist theorist Wittig, has noted that oppression is what causes sexual difference and not the sexual difference that causes oppression. * Whilst essentialists have considered sexual behaviour to be fixed constructivist believe such behaviours are ‘fluid and changeable human action in its historically determined forms.’

Morris Zelditch in Parsons, Talcott, and Robert Freed Bales. Family, Socialization and Interaction Process,Glencoe, IL: Free, 1955. Nuclear Family
* Within the nuclear family there is a tendency to differentiate roles. In this Western middle class family structure, the male is given the role of “task leader”, giving him the right to dictate directions, opinions and suggestions. The female receives a more subservient and submissive role, where she is expected to give emotional and moral support. Gemma Tang Nain and Barbara Bailey. Gender Equality in the Caribbean: Reality or Illusion. Kingston [Jamaica: (I. Randle, 2003.)  * By subscribing to societies norms, many women have thought there placements in society to be ‘natural’ rather than choice * However, the inconsistency can be measured by research and historical documentation which has proven otherwise; demonstrating that socialisation as well as culture is a greater contributor to gender inequality than anything other one factor

Janet Momsen in Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd. Caribbean Freedom: Economy and Society from Emancipation to the Present : A Student Reader. Princeton: (M. Wiener, 1996). * Janet Momsen- ‘women were physiologically better able to withstand the stress of the middle passage and slave life, although they were less well-nourished than men.’ This was the main reason for a female dominant labour force in the plantation society * Despite women being the dominant labour force, men held elite positions, a key feature in plantation society.

Patricia Mohammed and Althea Perkins. Caribbean Women at the Crossroads: The Paradox of Motherhood among Women of Barbados, St. Lucia and Dominica. Mona, Jamaica: (Canoe, University of the West Indies, 1999.) *...
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