Feminism in western history

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Feminism plays an important role in Western History. Feminism is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes and also an organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests (Webster's). The feminist movement began in the United States with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, which was organized by Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott. Over 300 men and women showed up in Seneca Falls, New York to advocate the social, economic, political, and religious life of women. The Convention drew up a document which was called the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, which was modeled after the Declaration of Independence and outlined all of the harm that men had placed upon women, and demanded that women be given the same rights as men ((http://www.npg.si.edu). Now, because of the efforts of the people at the Seneca Falls Convention, women can be androgynous; they can now do the things that are primary to women as well as those that are primary to men (Pipher "Saplings in the Storm", 426) The right to vote, for example, was a man's right not a woman's right, but with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, women were given the right to vote. Feminism waned between the two world wars, but the 1960s-1970s saw the reemergence of feminism. However, as the feminism of 1848-1920 was concerned with women having equal rights to men, this new feminism went a bit a further and fought for even greater equality. This new feminism fought for women's equality in the workplace, in schools, and in the home (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). After this second-wave of feminism came a third-wave of feminism. This third-wave began in 1990 and is continuing to this day (associated content). This feminism is concerned came about as a result of the failure of the second-wave of feminism. Over time activities which were once considered men's' activities became the activities of women. Today, women smoke, drink, and participate in other activities, which may I point out-were once men's activities. However, unlike the women of the past feminism movements in America, women today have just assimilated into male-dominated institutions instead of fight for equality in these male-dominated institutions (Feminism, Sexuality, and Politics). A lot of women today have even concluded that men have their institutions and activities and women have theirs, and it is best if women do not cross over into male-dominated institutions and activities. However, more and more women are taking on the institutions and activities of men, such as changing car oil, owning a business, and holding a political office. For example, the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives was Jeannette Rankin in 1917 (Lopach, James J., and Jean A. Luckowski. Jeannette Rankin: A Political Woman. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2005) and the first woman to run for President was Victoria Woodhull in 1872 (Underhill, Lois Beachy. The Woman Who Ran for President: The Many Lives of Victoria Woodhull. Bridgehampton, N.Y.: Bridge Works Pub.; Lanham, MD: Distributed by National Book Network, 1995.). As a result of the feminists' movements, women's culture now takes things from men's culture and incorporates them into women's culture. Today females play sports, drive trucks, and do other male things, and are considered tomboys for doing so.

However, not everyone agrees with the Feminism. For example, a few conservative groups believe that the feminist movement is tearing down traditional gender roles (fact-index). However, this is not true. The feminist movement is not destroying traditional gender roles, but rather ensuring that women have the same rights as men. Another opponent of feminism is Mary G. Dietz. However, rather than opposing all of feminism, Dietz focuses on opposing materialistic feminism which, as the name suggests, is focused on material things. Focusing on the work of Jean Elshtain, Mary G. Dietz objects to the materialist vision of democratic political action or feminist political discourse. She says that democratic citizenship is constituted by the distinct political bond between citizens, not by the exclusive and unequal relationship between mothers and children. She charges materialist feminists with dividing the world 'naturally and abstractly into dual realms' (Feminism, the Public, ….). In Antebellum America, opponents of women's suffrage, a term closely associated with feminism, argued that political equality for women represented a danger in the home, where equality threatened the chain of command that existed between husband and wife (Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America, 34-35). In the past, a husband was the master of his wife. The wife could not be master of her husband. However, as feminism took off, this changed and women began to take the job of their husbands. Republican legislators were another group of people who did not support feminism. This is seen in the ratification of the Fourteenth and the Fifteenth Amendment. For instance, the Fourteenth Amendment established a woman's entitlement to federal protection, but continued to distinguish suffrage as a male privilege. The Fifteenth Amendment stated that the right of American citizens to vote would not be denied to anyone based on race, color, or previous conditions of servitude (Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America, 192). While this sounds good, the Fifteenth Amendment did not include the right to vote based on sex and so denied women the right to vote. The feminist issue of coequality remains an important issue even today.

Now, since we have talked about the opponents of feminism it would only be right to talk about the supporters of feminism. In 1855, Anna E. McDowell published a short-lived weekly paper called The Woman's Advocate which was dedicated to advancing the interests of working-class women. While she focused more on improving job oppurtunities for working women, McDowell was willing to support the general goals of the feminist movement known as the women's rights movement. Also, in 1855, a lady by the name of Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck published her paper, The Sibyl in Middletown, New York. Lydia waged a campaign against women's enslavement to fashion and supported suffrage as part of her demand that women be given equal rights the same as men (When Hens Crow, 87). Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott, the two women who organized the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, were also supporters of feminism, along with Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and others (http://www.npg.si.edu). Another supporter, although an unlikely one, of feminism is the Christian. According to history, Christians were the first to allow women to join a religion and treat women as equal to men. Many women were attracted to Christianity because of the equality and freedom it allowed them. Never in history had any religion allowed the membership of women and even those who did greatly restricted the roles, freedom, and equality of the women members. Politics also supports feminism to some degree. This is evidenced in the appointing of Sandra Day O'Conner, the first female to be elect to the Supreme Court, as well as the third female, Sonia Sotomayor. Other women in politics include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and current Secretary of State and former Presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton. As one can see and as feminism and its supporters point out women have the same rights as men and both men and women should be treated as equals.