Feminism in Europe in 21st Century
My intention to write the current paper is to evoke a discussion of feminism in the developed world in a wider perspective by highlighting some important questions concerning women and feminisms challenges in the culture and society, in particular as they evident in Europe. My point of reference will be the modern and history situation of feminisms in Europe and in the former Soviet Union.
To start with, I believe it is common acknowledged that women and feminism has been experiencing a crisis in globally. I have considered two predominantly famous media contributions to the current debate were the Times article, titled “Is Feminism Dead?” and the Newsweek story “The Failure of Feminism”, and I may conclude that the 21st century gender debate still revolve around the questions such as, whether Feminism is alive or dead.
I agree with Susan Faludi in her claim that in Britain and the USA there was a prevailing anti-feminist criticism, facilitated by popular media and conservative thinkers. In my opinion media has stood the reality boldly and demonstrated that the very efforts that have promoted women’s positions have in essence led to their fall. I am yet to be persuaded to believe that the apparent “man shortage” threatens women’s opportunities to get into marriage, I also dismiss that the infertility epidemic that strikes the professional ladies who postpone their childbearing as propaganda intervened and organized by male-dominated media.
In 1990s we witnessed the emergence of the third-wave feminism or new feminism in the developed economies; this was an attempt to merge the second –wave feminism and the ambitions of young professional women.
Again, I find that much of the negative promotion against feminism in the European media is still dominant, and I would contend that most young ladies in Europe have been conspiring in their own repression, although some feminists are now fighting back. I understand that some of the issues may be due to the use of terms such as feminism – even in the Europe most women consider it as related to negativity such as “man-hater lesbians”.
In my opinion, it would be possible to reject the depressing feminism images that have been distorted by the media; through political and social will on matters surrounding the feminism agenda. One of the proposals of the first-wave feminism –equal pay for equal work- has not yet been attained in the developed economies.
Education and Feminisms
I couldn’t expect it to be happening, but even in higher education in the USA and the UK, most departments and courses of feminism studies are disappearing and others have been replaced by general gender studies and programmes that, although interesting and broader as constituted, I believe they weaken the attention that was previously given to the study of feminism.
I am surprised that, though positive exposure many feminists in the Europe have actually promoted women academics and agenda in Europe, when I consider terms such as ‘gender studies’ and ‘gender relations’ I find that they have replaced the term “feminism”, in developed societies and are more generally applied in describing the academic programs and courses that are promoting feminism in the developed world.
It is my view that the fall of feminism in the developed world is in particularly disastrous for the Eastern and Central European and the Russian republic, since it became merely fair in the past two decades, that women in the regions have been embracing the ideas of second-wave (equality and freedom) feminism that developed in Britain, France and in the USA in the 1960s and late 1970s. However I would exempt the former USSR where ladies were living under a more undisturbed communist administration, as well as being closer to the Europe and more able to travel.
Due to the distrust of what has been presented as feminism in developed world, I sustain that the significant distinction between the ideas of gender and sex, only began to be experienced in mid-1990s. I am, nevertheless, encouraged that in country such as Poland there are words for such concept, while in Russian there are only the foreign borrowing of gender concept. This has been used as ploy by hostile media commentators to reject the entire concept.
I may disagree with the gender scholars such as Ushakin, who have, somewhat fraudulently, argued that the word such as gender originate from Western world, hence has no historical background in Russian society, they also claim that its reputation among the Russian literature exemplifies the lack of vigour of thought and independence.
I am in support for the argument in Russia on the advisability of reintroducing the Russian term “pol” that stand for sex, into the public debates of gender, since some media commentators argue that such terms have also been applied historically in reference to cultural and social, as well as basically physiological elements of sex.
According to my argument, any application of the concepts from European gender and feminist theories to assist in explaining the aspects of Russian traditions and culture have been critiqued for apparently imposing the Western ideal on Russian culture. However, some Russian gender scholars have persuasively countered such arguments, indicating that the key problem is that most Russians are not appropriately familiar with 21st Western perceptions of feminism, and that such theories automatically ought to be adjusted to national cultural conditions.
I am of the opinion that the enormous influence of the religion fundamentalism in Europe has meant that since the 1990s the unique feature of the people such as Polish feminist movement has been its continued focus on one subject: reproductive liberty, sexuality, and issues of abortion. One of pivotal effort was the “Open Letter” crusade by 100 Polish women to the European Parliament in March 2002. The was endorsed by such prominent figures as Wisława Szymborska, and in 2008 there was a new protest by Polish feminists against the attempt by the Ministry of Health to register all pregnant women in the country .
Although I strongly believe that Western women’s own real insolences to abortion have been covered by successive opinion polls without reference to gender. To me, the modern feminists’ states have not been keen in understanding women’s opinions, and in meeting their gender-based needs, unless they coincide with the general strategies of the regime. While European nations have been indulged to conform to legal demands on gender and welfare equality so as to be admitted to the European Union, I suggest that there should be marginal evidence that such provisions have been completely adhered to in practice.
For instance, in Poland, as I have confirmed from literary texts, most women together with their men counterparts continues to be believers first, while citizenship comes second. Therefore, I am not surprised that since the collapse of communism most Polish ladies have become half-hearted in challenging the dominant religious and nationalist discussion and other less open traditions on femininity discrimination. However, I agree with the argument by modern historians such as Pawel Leskowicz, who argued that, modern feminists were more prepared to confront the issue of gender discrimination, this effort could have a revolutionary and even subversive potential in developed world.
One significant question I always consider is: what form of feminism has applied an influence on Eastern and Central Europe? It is significantly important to reference feminisms, since there is no single explanation of women’s issues that is collectively accepted by feminists, even though I believe that the European media have in most cases attempted to present it as a monolithic ideology. Western feminism advocates have often offended women in Eastern and Central Europe by indicating that they understand the truth about feminism and by concentrating on given issues that have not been significant to women in the developed world. For instance, media has concentrated on issues such as pornography, ethnicities, and the cultural diversities of feminists from different generations and backgrounds.
To the contrary to such concentration, I suggest that Western media should allocate more resources in promoting the survival policies, gender equality and reproductive rights, which are closer to the experience of feminism developed economies.
In my consideration, until very lately, the history on feminisms’ movements in the Eastern and Central Europe has not been extensively published in local languages for female readers, which has made them unavailable to most international researchers such as me. Significant exceptions to such challenge are Greece and Russia. Since most Western scholars and historians have researched feminism and women’s movementsin their regions since the late 1970s.
This notwithstanding, I understand that since the 19th century, in Central Europe region, a small, though unprecedented number of prominent women have resisted the gender-based discrimination, and campaigned for feminism promotion. This group of women had the audacity to become active in the fields that were previously reserved entirely to men. According to lately issued Biographical documentation has made an important contribution to our understanding of feminism and women movements in Developed economies.
Through biographical researches of more than 100 prominent men and women who played role in feminism and women movements in European states, it has challenged my perception that there has been no feminism in the Central Europe. This has been a widespread opinion adopted not only by the public in the Western economies, but also by noticeable scholars such as Eric Hobsbawm.
I fear that with the absence of dependable literature in the past may result to another misunderstanding such as feminism in some regions such as Russia was an import from Central Europe.
However, such falsehood may as well be as a result of failure by some Western feminists, who have conveyed this perception with the sense of the personal superiority and an unwavering belief that they possessed the rights to impose their ideas on others in an imperialist manner.
Therefore, contrary to the media image, women’s movement and feminists in Developed world long existed before the communist era, even though, as in Greece and Russia, women campaigners in developed world have often been influenced to subordinate their fight for feminisms and women movements to issues of nationalism and independence (feasibly mistakenly, as it consequently turned out, as it is the case of female perception of feminists’ solidarity).
Further scrutiny of the historical background of feminism in developed economies may help in promoting tolerance of the modern-day feminisms in Western world, fighting the misconception that women movements and feminist concepts are nothing but unfamiliar intrusion from developed economies in 21st century bearing no connection to the modern or historical social political reality of the modern developed world.
When I commenced to work on this discussion my argument was that the feminism ideas prevalent in the media in developed world leads to bumpy resemblance to the current feminism perspectives in the Western media. Nevertheless, it now emerges more significantly to stress that feminism in 21st century could be very relevant and topical to the other parts of the world.
I evidently suggest that, despite feminism’s present lack of support in the developed world and the continuing criticism in Europe, it is important for us to continue with the struggle for feminism and women rights, not only in Europe but also in other parts of the world.
I have never been able to understand exactly what feminism is: I have only attempted to understand that people refer to others as feminists whenever they express sentiments that differentiate them from the passive doormat.