Posted by: f15eagle | November 1, 2007

What does Feminism see as the Ideal for Women?

For every political, social or ideological theory there is usually some ideal about what the “ideal” family should be.

Along these lines I wonder looking at things from a Feminist perspective what should women strive for, what role should women have?  Unfortunately to my knowledge it seems any definition of what role women should ideally be is going to be flawed because of espousing one set of values over another, or otherwise not taking into account cultural, economic conditions.

Should feminists encourage all women to work so they are not reliant/as financially reliant on their husband/spouse/partner?  Should one possible goal of feminism be in this regard be to make society acknowledge and value the work women as caregivers and as mothers by paying them?  Or should feminists/feminism ideally strive to give women options: be able to go to school, have a career, be independent or the option of being a wife and mother or some combination there of. Or simultaneously should feminists/feminism also strive to liberate men from the ascribed responsiblity of always having to be the provider and never the caregiver who takes care of older relatives and children?

I can only image many people will be mad over the fact I am raising more questions than giving anwsers, but I would be interested to know what people think.

On this matter I think I have to take the middle road that there is no absolute anwser that can be applied to every corner of the globe of what women should be, should strive for.  There is nothing inherently wrong either way with women working, being a wife and mother or doing both simultaneously of course depending on what a women decides she will be sanctioned positively or negatively to comply with a particular set of norms that is imposed on us all by family and culture. (Of course the mere ability of women being able to make such a decision is predominantly a white-American/European thing.) 

Hope this post doesn’t come out sounding to confusing and incoherent.

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Responses

  1. I don’t think there’s any problem with raising more questions than answers, as that is what sparks a dialogue in order begin to attempt to find answers. All the questions you asked are questions I have myself, in fact.

    When I think about feminism, and the goals that are being strived for, it is definitely hard to list off a few primary objectives above all the others. I think you raise a really good point in the inclusion of motherhood and women that are homemakers. Should Feminism/ists include the goal of equality of perspective on women that actually consciously make the decision to stay at home and raise children? Does that make a woman any less of a Feminist or activist because she is doing what many see as the exact action/image Feminists are trying to overcome? These are all good questions to ask, I think. As someone that was raised by a mother (who is a self-described Feminist) that stayed home with me for the first few years of my life, I see that the ability to make that choice is an achievement of Feminism. With equality, in my opinion, comes the opportunity to choose.

  2. I think it is impossible to say what Feminism would see as the ideal for all women. The idea that feminism could do such a thing suggests that feminism is a monolith, when in fact feminism is made up of vastly different theories.

    In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir says, “I am interested in the fortunes of the individual as defined not in terms of happiness but in terms of liberty.” One achieves liberty only by continually reaching toward other liberties. She says that individuals must engage in freely chosen projects. In response to whether women should be homemakers vs. women should work, this suggests that telling women they MUST do one or the other would be wrong. Instead, the most important thing would be to provide women with as many options as possible so her liberty will not be limited.

    According to Charlotte Bunch in “Lesbians in Revolt”, on the other hand, in order to be feminist, women must be lesbians. “[O]nly women who cut their ties to male privilege can be trusted to remain serious in the struggle against male dominance.” She says women have to refuse to be defined through their relationships with men, and give up privileges that they gain through heterosexuality such as being honored as a mother. For Bunch, staying home versus working isn’t even the question. Either way, she sees women as maintaining a stake in male domination if they are heterosexual.

    I just wanted to illustrate how vastly different feminist viewpoints can be! Personally, I think the goal of feminism should be for all people to have the freedom and opportunity to do what they are best at and what is best for them.

  3. I enjoyed watching the film today in class because all the speakers spoke about what directions or areas feminist should aim at. “Feminism is the ability to have power…power over our bodies, minds and actions”.
    Most of the readings we have done in class have disscussed the exclusiveness western feminisim has had. Nevertheless, including all types of oppression and gaining solidarity within all peoples will be vital in advancing in our fight for human rights. I belive there are many paths in how to go about this it just all depends from what distinct backgrounds we all come from. There is no “one right way” because we all don’t have exact same lives or living situations thus we can’t fall into this mindset. I believe as long as we have a common objective and stop dividing ourselves within this movement we will really start making social change.

  4. I think a resonsidering and redefining of words too often taken for granted as universally applicable, like ‘choice,’ is a key goal of feminist theory, as is the questioning and deconstronting of traditional understandings of such words/ideas.
    This one of the project s Tillmon is involved with in “Welfare is a Women’s Issue.” Here she notes the many ways choices are defined for the women on welfare, who must give up making choices about their bodies and their families, are told by “[The man] what to buy, what not to buy, where to buy it, and how much things cost” (176). The women dependent on the system are not given the chance to make their own choices.
    Expanding upon this limited choice is Mani’s “Multiple Mediations” where her discussion of historic and contemprary sati determines that choices are limited not only by class, race, sex, etc… but also by the consequences of making those choices. “For instance” Mati notes “one could hardly speak of consent [to Sati] when widowhood imposed its own regimes of misery” (375). A choice is rarely free of consequences, thus a choice is rarely free.
    These complications are necessary–choice is not eqaully distributed across populations, and cannot be assumed. Discussions of agency too often assume choice eually–feminist theory in my mind seeks to problematize this limited understanding.

  5. I would argue that not only is there no “ideal” position for women within feminism, but that feminism’s goal is to actually erase the concept of an “ideal” position based on gender altogether (for men, women, non-conforming gender identified people, etc). Feminism is about opening up as many options as possible for women, not shutting any of them down. I don’t know a feminist that wouldn’t honor another feminists choice to stay home and raise a family just because she wasn’t taking advantage of the possibilty to go to school or have a career as long as all of those were available options.


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