In the last seven generations, numerous legal and social changes have been accomplished by our fathers, mothers and their children that are now accepted in the society to the extent of not going unnoticed by people whose lives have been affected by these accomplishments. Those of us who have lived through this process have come to acknowledge and accept blithely what has occurred through the decades. In fact, people have taken these changes in stride, as life has always and will always be. As Margaret Mead once said, “we should never doubt that a small group of committed and thoughtful individuals can transform the world.” In this regard, gender issues from both female and male movements in the recent past have significantly affected people’s understanding of what it is to be a man or woman, our re-interpretation of the Christian faith and our human relationship. Using the female movements as an example, this paper shall highlight the impact of feminism on people’s understanding of their gender roles, human relationship and re-interpretation of Christianity.
Beasly defines feminism as a collection of movements, especially made up of women, whose main aim is to define and defend equal economical and social rights. It is imperative to understand that the concepts of feminism differ with those of women’s rights, in that feminism is majorly focused on women issue. Feminists are individuals whose behaviors and beliefs are founded on feminism. Feminism champions for women’s rights such as the right to vote, own property, contract and get education. Moreover, feminism seeks to promote and uphold women’s right to autonomy, bodily integrity, as well as reproductive rights. Feminism opposes sexual harassment, domestic violence, and sexual assault. In economics, feminism advocates for workplace rights such as equal pay and opportunities to start businesses and pursue careers. On the other hand, a movement can be defined as a sequence of events or actions that occur over a specific period of time and work foster a universal policy or principle. Note that a movement entails an organized effort by a group of people who have a common goal.
Feminism and Christian spirituality
In religious circle, feminism is seen as a movement whose goal is matriarchy, rather than equality. Although many people believe that feminism is just a social movement that fights for basic human rights, theologians argue that feminism is neither social nor modern in its origin but a highly religious entity that is rarely mentioned. They also believe that feminism is a rebellious spirit because it tries to reject God’s lawful authority and order by usurping that authority to itself, as the woman did in the Garden of Eden. Citing Apostle Paul, many religious leaders assert that feminists are false teachers who can be identified by their indifference and opposition to the basic truths of the gospel. Staunch religious leaders claim that feminists are false teachers who have resorted to teaching fake lifestyle of unrighteousness to weak-willed women.
Feminism has impacted different aspects and sectors of Christian spirituality. First off, feminism has affected the marriage institution. Biblically, women are expected to be submissive to their husband. Ephesians 5:22 states “Wives, be submissive unto your husbands, as unto the Lord.” Although the bible requires men to rule over their wives, feminism has gone against this command by calling on women to fight for equality with men. Proverbs 12:4 states that “a virtuous woman is a precious crown to her husband.” On the contrary, Feminist women are a disgrace to the marriage institution because of the undue stress and grief they cause to their husbands.
In Christianity, a woman’s place is still at home where she is expected to guide their houses and bear children. On its part, feminism disputes this, calling on women to demand for equality in the leadership and decision making at home. The bible is very clear on the role of women in church by specifically and accurately stating that there is no basis for women to serve as church leaders over men. However, feminism encourages women to seek leadership positions in the church. The above discussion shows how feminism has impacted Christian spirituality in various aspects such as Christian marriages, ordination of women, reproductive rights, recognition of equal moral and spiritual abilities, and the search for a gender or feminine transcendent divine. Note that these ideas are usually drawn from biblical evidence and religious ideologies.
History of Feminism
Feminism is a movement because believers and followers of feminism share the same goals and objectives. Therefore, a feminist movement refers to a series of campaigns that are aimed at fighting for or against domestic violence, reproductive rights, women suffrage, equal pay, sexual harassment, maternity leave, and sexual violence. However, the movement’s priorities may vary among communities and countries.
The history of feminist movement dates back in the late 18th century, particularly in the western world. This history involves the story of feminist thinkers as well as the story of feminist movements. Feminists worldwide have from time to time had different goals and causes depending on country, time and culture. However, many western feminist historians believed that any movement that work towards obtaining women’s rights are feminist movements, even when they did not apply these terms themselves. On the other hand, some historians hold that this term should be limited to the present feminist movement as well as its descendants.
The First Wave
The rich history of the present feminist movements is divided into three main categories or “waves.” It is imperative to understand that each category is described as highlighting the different aspect of similar feminist ideas. The first wave, which spanned between the nineteenth-century through early twentieth-century mainly sought to address issues like working conditions, suffrage, double sexual standards and education rights for girls and women. During this period, feminist movements in the United States were campaigning for temperance and the eradication of slave trade. The first wave feminism is believed to have halted with the enactment of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that granted American women the right to vote. Key figures in the first wave feminism include Matilda Joslyn Gage, Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Influenced and guided by Quaker thoughts, these women were also on the forefront, campaigning for the eradication of slavery.
The Second Wave
Second wave feminism, which began in the early sixties through the late eighties sought to address concerning the role of women in the society, cultural inequalities, and inequalities of law. Second wave feminist movements encouraged women to take their rightful places in the society by understanding various aspects of their personal lives. In contrast to first wave feminist movements that put much emphasis on absolute rights such as voting rights, second wave feminist movements were mainly concerned with issues of equality such as discrimination. Second wave feminist movements voiced their discontent with discrimination issues, such as women being given homemaking positions, even after graduating with college degrees. In China, for example, second wave feminist movements were characterized by discussions about the achievements of women equality and the re-examination of the gender roles in the society during communist revolution. In the Arab world, people with feminist ideas were not left behind in the quest of fighting for women’s rights. For instance, Islamic feminism, which championed for equality within an Islamic society, continued with their quest until their leaders initiated state feminism, which criminalized gender based discrimination. A key figure in the second wave was Betty Friedan, whose compelling book “The Feminine Mystique” gave voice the thousands of women who had been disoriented by being left to do home chores even after graduating from college.
The Third Wave
Seen by many as a response to the failures and a continuation of the second wave, the third wave of feminist movement began in the early nineties. The feminists in this wave were mainly young women who arose to improve on the perceived shortcomings of the second wave. The second wave was also seen as a probable reaction to the backlash against movements and other initiatives that had been created in the second wave. Unlike the other waves, third wave feminist movements sought to avoid or challenge what they perceived as the second wave’s essentialist take on femininity. According to them, essentialist feminism highlighted the experiences of upper and middle class white women, rather than highlighting the experience of women as a whole. Third wave feminist movements often challenged most of the paradigms of the second wave as to what is good or bad for women. Moreover, this wave was mainly focused on micro-politics. Some of the key figures in this wave include Gloria Anzaldua, Cherrie Moraga, Luisa Accati and Audre Lorde.
The nature of feminist movements was the same throughout the three faces. The leadership of feminist movements was characterized by middle-class white women from North America and Western Europe. Nevertheless, since Sojourner Truth’s speech in 1851, women of different societal class and race have not only proposed new feminisms but have also ascended to positions of power. Liberal feminist movements fight for equality between men and women through political and legal reforms without changing the structure of the society. Radical feminist movements hold that a male controlled capitalist society should be uprooted and reconstructed. Marxist feminist movements contend that overcoming class oppression is the key to overcoming gender oppression. Cultural feminist movements often try to revalidate female essence thus leading feminists from politics to lifestyle.
Feminists’ ideologies are diverse thus; feminist movements do not pledge to a single doctrine. Nonetheless, all feminists hold that women have historically been secluded in education, politics and the economic system. The main feminist ideology states that sexuality; gender identity and gender roles are important social constructs. Those who are driven by this ideology believe that feminist is the only means to liberation. Feminists argue that educators, sociologists, psychologists and the mass media have led women to believe that their place in the society is being mothers and housewives. Some feminist ideologies question fundamental assumptions about sexuality and gender differences. Other theories take for granted the idea of being a woman and give specific critiques and analyses of gender inequalities. Radical feminist hold that the existence of oppressive patriarchy is the main source of many social problems.
Equality in Australia
Just like women in other parts of the world, Australian women were treated as subordinates to men. They were sitting at home rearing children while their men were bread winners. However, Australian women started to fight for equality as years went by. Looking at Australia today, one will not fail to notice that women have contributed immensely to various aspects of the country’s development, including economy, society and culture. Australians, both male and female were among the first people to experience equality in the world. For instance, Austrian women were among the first to be awarded voting rights and the right to sit in parliament in 1895. Moreover, the 1970s and 1980 was a period of immense social changes because there was an emergence of politically focused and articulate women who campaigned in an organized manner for equal workplace and education opportunities, equal pay, Planned Parenthood, and safe contraception. Since then, women have made huge strides in their quest for equality. For example, federal legislation that banned discrimination on the basis of ones’ sex came into place in 1984, there has been an improvement in childcare health facilities and the government introduced a pension’s scheme for single mothers. Today, more Australian women are educated in secondary and university level. By January, 2008, over 4.8 Australian women were in form of paid job. Similarly, over 30 percent of small businesses in Australia are being operated by women. In fact, almost half of Australia public service is comprised of women. It is apparent that Australia has experienced immense progress in terms of promoting equality among its citizens.
Role of Women and what they want
Feminism has had a huge impact on the gender roles in the present societies. It goes without saying that traditional gender roles have in recent years lost favor among men and women alike. Gender roles are the attitudes and behaviors expected of a man and woman by a society. The modern society has experienced a shift in gender roles both from men and women. Today, both men and women share household and family responsibilities. Traditionally, family and household responsibilities such as child care and housekeeping were the functions of women. Unlike in previous years when girls were denied education at the expense of the boys, today both girls and boys attend same schools where they learn same things and receive the same qualification. Apart from getting access to equal professional opportunities, both men and women get promoted on merit and receive the same salaries. In the past, professional and career advancement was only meant for men. Traditionally, men had the last say in important decision in a family. All this has changed because men and women of today share these functions equally. From the above discussion, it can be seen that feminists, especially women want several things. All women want social, education, economic, legal, and political equality. It apparent that after getting these four things, women would be able to vote, get employed, own property, and make independent decisions.
From the above discussion, it is obvious that Catholicism and feminism beliefs do not relate or reconcile. This can be attributed to the fact that many demands that feminism and Catholicism impose upon their adherents are incompatible. These demands are mainly related to sexuality, marriage and fertility. As a result, feminism has impacted people’s spirituality negatively. While feminism calls on women to fight for their rightful places in the society, the church on the other hand is encouraging its adherents to follow and live according to the word of God. The question of whether feminism is a good thing for the church or society is complicates because there is no definite answer. Some people may argue that it is good while others may refute. However, feminism is good when practiced in other aspects of life apart from the church. The conflict between feminists, the church and the male populace is not going to end soon. Women will continue to fight for their right and try to oust their male counterparts while men will continue to fight for their rightful position in different specters of life. Feminism is not a good thing for male/female relationship because men find it difficult to contain and live with women who have feminism ideations.