Essay on Feminism as Conflict Theory

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Feminism is, by definition, the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. At its most basic form, it’s the equality of all things between men and women equal job and education opportunities, equal pay, and equal rights. And in a perfect world society would have achieved this stage of equilibrium between sexes ages ago. But what it ultimately comes down to is women having the right to make their own choices freely and without prosecution. Feminism ties heavily with conflict theorists’ views on social structures.

That society is inherently unequal, based on power differentials related to issues like class, gender, race, and age. How many women strive for equality in a male-dominated world is a perfect example of conflict and why feminism is a result of the imbalance today (Rice University, 2014, pp. 71-72). Unfortunately, as with most causes, over time certain elements have become misconstrued and corrupted. For nearly every movement in history you have a few who take notice of a problem, research it thoroughly, and become an activist to bring change for the betterment of those who suffer. The Feminist movement was no different, in the late author and filmmaker, Jean Kilbourne, began studying the images of women in American media and her research showed that companies only advertised very thin and slender women but would mostly focus primarily on their feminine assets(Higgins NA,2016). This said to millions of young girls and adult women what was considered to be the golden standard of beauty and if females didn’t look like this then they weren’t considered to be beautiful. That concept still holds true for young girls today if slightly worse with the enhancement of the American media.

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Feminists fought against this projection of the perfect woman for decades and some success has been had. But there are those who have taken the purpose of feminism to the extreme in a few regards. For the past few years, feminism has become less about equality and more about women attempting to become the dominant sex. It has become synonymous with being anti-men or “man-hating” and verbally bullying women who don’t live up to other women’s standards of being a feminist. Yes, there have been men in the past and currently who are opposed to equality between the sexes but that is not all men. Instead of promoting acceptance of the original purpose of the movement, many women promote hostility and hatred toward the perceived enemy. In-fighting has also become an altogether too common occurrence, with women passing judgment on other women who live a certain lifestyle they are happy with but don’t fit into what some women perceive as the feminist agenda. Women who choose to have a certain career or choose not to have this type of career or women who have chosen and want to be housewives, who cook and clean and take care of their children while the man is out working. Even though many have labeled this as an old-fashioned practice in 1963, Betty Friedan, author and women’s rights activist, wrote her novel, The Feminine Mystique, that obliterated the stereotype of the happy housewife and kickstarting a new wave of feminism (Higgins NA,2016). Compared to how career-driven women of today can be and the work that was put into so that wouldn’t be women’s only option, it's understandable that many would be upset at this choice. But feminism is about being able to make that choice because it is a choice now not just the expected role. Choice is the very core of feminism a woman being able to choose what she wants and what she does not want to do.

A small percentage of feminists believe if a woman chooses to wear makeup that she’s not a true feminist. It is important to impart to young girls and young adults that they don’t need beauty products to be beautiful but that is their choice to wear it if they want. Feminism has essentially become an unpopular word among men and women (Higgins NA,2016). Men learn a woman is a feminist and feel a form of apprehension in her presence expecting her to suddenly lash without provocation. The mental image that comes to mind when thinking of a passionate feminist is not very flattering either, some picture a very aggressive, manly individual. Many feminists are like this sadly, who assume every male they come across is against the equality that many women are striving for and don’t bother to attempt and make the distinction between a man pro feminism or against it. Some women are nervous about admitting they are feminists but do not feel that way when saying they advocate for women’s rights. Another way the word Feminist has been corrupted for others.

The fundamental elements that represent feminism are being shadowed and re-written to suit the needs of a select few people but when social media is involved these misinformed ideals spread like a virus. It’s very difficult to separate fact from biased opinion, especially if no one makes the appropriate effort to learn about a subject on their own instead of following the crowd and mistaking what a few believe against what is true. Actress and Feminist activist, Emma Watson, stated in an interview that “Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women” (Watson,2017). Feminism is not supposed to be a platform to shame other women or shout vulgarities to the opposite sex and enforce dominance, it is supposed to bring awareness to a problem and make an active effort to educate others who are oblivious there is a problem and give the confidence for others to become activists themselves or support the movement to make a change. Not all women who are feminists have this attitude toward the patriarchy or towards other women, but a few bad apples do spoil the bunch in this case and it slightly taints the progress that has been made over the last few decades. An attempt to purge this corruption should be made before it spreads even more, and the entire bunch grows black and rotten.

References

    1. Higgins NA. Feminism : Reinventing the F-Word. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books ™; 2016
    2. Watson: “Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women.” (2017). Associated Press.
    3. Stroud, P. (2014). Feminism : Perspectives, Stereotypes/misperceptions and Social Implications. Hauppauge New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
    4. Walters, M. (2005). Feminism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: OUP Oxford
    5. OpenStax College, Rice University. (2014). Introduction to sociology. Houston, TX.
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