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Groups of people have merged over the years and in turn formed societies in which they interact and live together. In said societies, the implementation of principles is ideal to ensure cohesion among the people and the peaceful existence in given areas. While it is possible to generate said principles within a given jurisdiction, outside forces can influence the societal functions and beliefs from the family unit to the highest level that in this case is the state. One such set of ideologies that can affect the functions of a given society is feminism. This paper aims at defining a society and feminism and consequently the effects of the latter on the former while concentrating on the major effects.
Feminism as a term has proven to encompass different ideas as they emerge in the intellectual field. In “What is Feminism?: An Introduction to Feminist Theory” Beasley attests to this when he writes that, “Feminists are incline-frequently deliberately- not to define what they mean by feminism, sensing dangers such as internal policing of both the field and of feminists by those who might like to what is to be included (or not)” (xii) With this in mind, scholars in the field of social sciences with relation to feminism have used the term as regarded to gender roles in the eyes of the community. According to Beasley, feminism “examines the intersection of gender, race, class, and sexuality in the context of power” (2) With these factors in mind, it is evident that feminism as a concept has different effects on the society albeit depending on the setting and ideologies in said setting.
In “Meaning, Discourse and Society” Wolfgang gives a simple definition of society by stating, “society is no more than what takes place between people” (129). With regard to feminism, the ideologies that govern a society revolve around concepts of gender roles and cultural expectations of the same. Therefore, the degree to which feminism affects a given society solely depends on the construction of said society and in turn the degree to which the concepts can be used for modification. In other words, the effects of feminism on society will depend on the areas at which the principles are applied. A good instance is in the case of feminism at the workplace and in a single-sex school. While gender roles in the former will be more defined, the involved parties in the latter will be less conscious of their environment and their given roles.
One of the major effects feminism has on society finds its basis in the increased roles women have in the community. Stover concurs with this when she states that, “Post feminism celebrates woman as the sexually autonomous individual” (4) Stover goes on to point out the fact that, in previous years women have been subjected to liability to their male counterparts and in turn have had a limitation to their roles within the household and at times to the level of the state. With these factors in mind, autonomy to the roles of women within the society will no doubt affect the degree at which they can influence said society. For instance, while women were expected to be homemakers and caregivers in the homes, recent times have seen a change in this as more women join the working industry. This is a direct aftermath of feminism in the sense that, feminism calls for gender equality (Beasley 173). With the aforementioned equality in place, the traditions on sex roles have changed and with it, the application of equality as a concept within different areas of society is eminent.
The increased roles have had another effect on the society based on the roles played by men in the household and at different levels of the society. In her journal entry “Are Women the New Dominant Sex?: Investigating the Impact of Feminism on Masculine Roles and Identity” Boothby seems to identify the changes in gender roles as an effect of feminism. According to her, “The beginning of the end of the Western male-dominated era is perhaps most apparent in job losses in previously male-dominated sectors” (2).With the once homemakers taking over the working industry, the men are now left to take care of the children and the household. Although these reversed roles had been reported years ahead of the feminist movement, it is evident that now more men have been replaced while others answer to female superiors. In addition, the job market has become more competitive as both men and women can apply for different occupations as long as they meet the qualifications. It is expected that the reversed roles have also affected the school demographics especially at college levels where more women are now applying for courses other than those stereotyped for the female gender.
Another effect lies in the attitude women exhibit in their homes and outside. Winkler attests to this when she writes that, feminism has caused people to view, “hanged domestic relations attendant upon the modern rationalization process, replacing status with contract” (3) This is interpreted to mean that the higher the status a woman occupies, the more confident she becomes. It can also be argued that with the feminist movement in place, there are better chances of women benefiting more if not equal to men. Therefore, the changes in the opportunities for women have in turn led to changes in their attitudes towards their male counterparts. It is possible with the acquired resources and knowledge; women are more aware of their rights and can stand up for themselves. Consequently, while women were viewed as the weaker gender and were submissive to the men, society has witnessed as swift change in this perceptive as men are now put under pressure to respect women.
At the same time, while people become more aware of women, their thoughts have become acceptable to most cultures. However, this means that attention is shifted to a more vulnerable group whom will not be easily accepted by the society. According to Podems, a research found that there are “police who chose to ignore the illegal brothels, yet used various legal means to harass, imprison, or otherwise frighten other more marginalized and vulnerable sex workers who appeared to threaten socially acceptable norms” (13) This is logically acceptable as society must have the strong and the weak for there to be a form of cohesion. With women protected by feminism, concentration has shifted to the other minorities who in turn have to come up with their own movements to demand their rights. It is important to note that while it is socially acceptable to belong to the female gender, going against cultural norms and adopting abnormal traits places one in the line of fire. A good example is the gay community that has had to come up with strategies to protect themselves from radical anti-gay campaigns. The idea of homosexuality is abnormal in the eyes of society and so it will be hard to divert the attention of the communities to another direction.
The effects of gender on society can be viewed as a cycle in the sense that one minor change has a ripple effect overall in the social order. For instance, a woman decides to find work in a male dominated industry and succeeds. When she has children, she instills her concepts on them therefore disputing the cultural norms that still govern most people. As a result, her children especially the daughters grow up in an environment that has already flipped the gender roles. As a result, the attitude the children develop will be significantly different in comparison to those that exist among other children. For the sons, they grow up seeing women as a capable gender owing to the fact that the mother has a profession. Seeing women working will not be a shock to them and they are bound to be more accepting to this fact. In the end, these ideas are taken out into the society therefore causing change while strengthening the already existing feminism logics.
In conclusion, like the lack of a proper definition of feminism, the effects the dogma has on the society cannot be covered comprehensively. Instead, said effects are concentrated on while considering the set gender roles and acceptable behavior from the men and women. At the same time, feminism as a movement has had numerous effects in fields outside the society and these will in turn affect cultures and traditions. The narrowing down however gives a basic idea on feminism and the observable outcomes it has on people.
Beasley, Chris. What is Feminism?: An Introduction to Feminist Theory. New Castle: SAGE, 2000. Print.
Boothby, Lauren. "Are Women the New Dominant Sex?: Investigating the Impact of Feminism on Masculine Roles and Identity." Sociological Imagination: Western's undergraduate Sociology Student Journal, vol. 2, Issue 2 (2013): 1-18. Print.
Podems, Donna R. "Feminist Evaluation and Gender Approaches:There’s a Difference?" Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, Volume 6, Number 14 (2010): 1-17. Print.
Stover, Cassandra. "Damsels and Heroines: The Conundrum of the Post-Feminist Disney Princes." LUX: A Journal of Transdisciplinary Writing and Research from Claremont Graduate University, Vol. 2, Issue 1 (2013): 1-10. Print.
Teubert, Wolfgang. Meaning, Discourse and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print.
Winkler, Celia. "FEMINIST SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY." HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENTS AND THEORETICAL APPROACHES IN SOCIOLOGY – Vol. II (2013): 1-10. Print.