For thousands of years, most societies valued masculine values: bravery, virility, conquest, and physical power. For this reason, men ended up being elevated to the highest status in society while women remained the underdogs pigeonholed in roles or services as wives, harems, chambermaids, and sex objects for male gratification. This, however, progressively led to the subjugation of women reaching its zenith when patriarchy rose to become the standard accepted norm over most societies.However, since no exploitative system can naturally live forever, women’s voice of protest began to be expressed through feminism.
Feminism is the belief that men and women should be treated equally in all spheres. The term also refers to a series of movements aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal political, economic and social rights for women. It began in the late 19th and early 20th century in America and Europe but, later spread to all parts of the world as it could resonate well with the liberation aspirations of all the oppressed women across the world.
When it began in earnest in those times, many enlightened people saw it as a timely intervention borne out of the determination by womenfolk long seared by withering injustice of patriarchy to correct the gross unfairness between sexes that had persisted for centuries particularly weighing heavily against women, thanks to the existence of conservative religious and cultural beliefs in most societies and which supported patriarchy as a way of life.
For this reason, it attracted even some sympathizers among men who equally felt that time was ripe for female liberation. After all, after years of enlightenment and civilization over most societies, it was only logical that any collective effort at liberating womenfolk would also get readiest audience even among men.
Feminism, like other social movements, comes in various forms. The distinct forms are socialist/Marxist/materialistic feminism, reformist feminism, and radical/separatist feminism. An elucidation of how feminism is threatening male control and dominance in society may not be complete without a brief expose of each of these forms of feminism.
Socialist feminism, also called Marxist or materialist feminism, focuses on women oppression that resulted from inequalities brought by class system of private property. Capitalism is the bane of women oppression as it thrives off unpaid women labor at home and at the work place. Sexism is used by capitalism to promote inequality and thus socialist feminists seek for substitution of capitalism with socialism; and consider that its only women who can do this if they come at the forefront.
Radical feminism on its part focuses on male biology and psychology as the source of women’s oppression. It advocates for an all- inclusive sisterhood as the solution to patriarchy. A complete break from the men is the extreme point of this form of feminism and which has from time to time resonated with oppressed women across the world. The third form of feminism, reformist feminism, believes that gender inequality can be eliminated by progressive legislative reforms without necessarily upsetting the capitalist system.
Over the years, the feminism juggernaut has gathered pace and there are no signs of stopping yet. In its grand march, feminism is upsetting the societal status quo by threatening male control and dominance in a number of ways.
One area where feminism has triumphed over male control is on the domestic front. Traditionally; the man was the putative ‘head’ of the family, and for this, he had to remain out there in public in search of money and livelihood for his family while the woman was supposed to remain at home looking after children. Her defined place was the kitchen and specifically giving birth and raising her brood. She was not supposed to own any property and thus she was under the Bereft of any economic powers, she was supposed to insubordinate man in all aspects including on the decisions on how the very household is to be run. However, with the rise in feminism, this lopsided state of things is fast giving way to one that is fairer with women now taking up most of the decisions about their households and children.
Under pre-feminism eras, women were not supposed to venture out to work or earn a livelihood. In stead, men were the putative actors on the careers front. Most jobs were thus traditionally preserved for men, and the prime careers were the turf of menfolk. Where the women persisted to venture into the career field, they were to do with less glamorous occupations such as typists, front office, cleaners, teaching etc while their male counterparts hogged all the choicest career jobs such as in engineering, medicine, architecture and the like. After years of stereotypes that women are not wired to study sciences and math-related disciplines, through feminism efforts of encouraging women to pursue their dreams, more and more women are taking up these disciplines and even excelling beyond men.
However, today feminism has literary trumped egalitarianism and millions of women who would be housewives are now taking their places with pride in universities and careers that could have otherwise been considered as exclusive male turf.
Feminism is also redefining the whole concept of courtship and marriage. While in the past women were supposed to be married off to suitors whom they might not necessarily love, feminism has enabled women to have liberation that makes them now the main actors in matters love. They are not only making choices on when and with whom to be in love and thus relegating men to the periphery. Sexuality is also now an exclusively female dominated area unlike previously when men had to make critical decisions about women sexuality especially in such aspects as the number of children to give birth to and the contraceptives to be used.
In governance and politics where men have held sway for centuries, the feminism movement has seen a reversal of fortunes especially in the 21st century where women are the majority voters in most democracies worldwide. This was not the case before feminism. In elective posts and upper echelons of governments, most powerful positions are being hogged by women. Some democracies have even produced women presidents, and in some others, the number of women in elective posts dwarfs that of men. In all these epic firsts, credit should go to feminism and its press for equality.