Describe the Influence of the Feminist Movement on the Status of Women in Society From 18th Century to Post-War Britain.
Feminist social movements demanded radical change and an end to the oppression of women in society. From the 18th century through to post-war period the role of women in society has changed in the public and private sphere and the journey that the feminist movement encountered, is of great interest to sociological theorists studying the changing status of women in society. There are many approaches to feminism which will be explored such as Radical feminism, Marxist Socialist feminism, Liberal feminism and, Post-modern feminism. Feminist theorists do not agree about the origins of inequalities between men and women, some say the origins date back to particular historical events and others believe that women have always had a subordinate position in all societies. This writing will chronologically explore the historical changes of the status of women in society from the 18th century up to contemporary western civilization. The feminist movement presented itself to political contexts from the 19th century, gaining momentum and size, it went from being a congregation of women discussing notable feminist literature to perpetuating the first wave of feminism which took action during the antislavery campaign. The Edwardian era saw an end to the strict rigid Victorian age. The transformation of Britain into an industrial nation had profound consequences on the ways in which gender roles were perceived in which women were encased by the idealized femininity Queen Victoria conveyed herself. The years leading up to WW1 saw changes and developments in the feminist movement however the world wars were a pivotal point in history for women and their approach to employment and independence. A second wave of feminism grew and the 1960’s and 70’s saw rise to a number of feminists seeking justice and equality directly from the state. Feminists accused the state of upholding oppressive gender roles in their policies and in the 70’s, women began demanding rights to equal pay, equal education, job opportunities, free contraception, and the means to be financially independent. This profound cultural change gradually fragmented feminism and new sociological approaches grew forming a strong force tackling women's rights which is still occurring today. The changing status of women has been of interest to sociological theorists and it justifies reasons for issues and remaining social inequalities in modern society.
The 18th century was seen as the age of enlightenment with philosophers debating and producing writings defending the rights of women. Classic liberal philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1781) spoke for equality between sexes and introduced social revolutionary ideas in his 'Introduction to the principles of morals and legislation' which advocated women's rights were justified and denied they had 'inferior minds'. Often characterized as the first feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft's book, 'A Vindication of the Rights of Women' remains a foundation for feminist thought. The 19th Century unlike the 18th held much more prosperity for the status of women through the means of literature. Women began reading Jane Austen novels and Bronte works which depicted the restricted lives women in the Victorian age led. The status of women in society at the time of these great literary works was very low as they had to obey men, marriage was vital in establishing any form of social status, and social penalties were in place if a woman could not have children or cohabit with a man. Girls received far less education than boys and were barred from high education institutions. The sole purpose of a woman at this point in time was to marry and reproduce. Husbands were given authoritative control over their wives actions by the state, the church, the law, and societies approval which was the general consensus at the time. The struggle...
References: Available at:http://www.mmu.ac.uk/humanresources/equalities/doc/gender-equality-timeline.pdf Access date: 09/05/2012
Available at:http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1036615.Charlotte_Bront_?auto_login_attempted=true Access date: 09/05/2012
Whelehan, Imelda (1995). “Liberal Feminism: The Origins of the Second Wave” in Modern Feminist Thought (25-43). New York: New York University Press.
Alfonso, Rita and Jo Trigilio (1997). “Surfing the Thrid Wave: A Dialogue Between Two Third Wave Feminists.” Hypatia 12, 3: 7-16.
Bannerji, Himani (1999). “Inroducing Racism: Notes Towards an Anti-Racist Feminism” in Thinking Through: Essays on Feminism, Marxism, and Anti-Racism (41-53). Toronto: Women’s Press
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[ 1 ]. Suffrage-The right to vote gained through democratic processes.
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