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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Feminist political theory- Liberal,Socialist,Marxist,Radical,Post-modernist

“Feminism is an awareness of patriarchal control, exploitation and oppression at the material and ideological levels of women’s labour, fertility and sexuality, in the family, at the place of work and in society in general, and conscious action by women and men to transform the present situation” (Bhasin and Khan, 1999: 3). It is a struggle to achieve equality, dignity, rights, freedom for women to control their lives and bodies both within home and outside. As a cross cutting ideology feminists have different political positions and therefore address a range of issues such as female suffrage, equal legal rights, right to education, access to productive resources, right to participate in decision-making, legalization of abortion, recognition of property rights and abolition of domestic violence. Thus feminism passed through several paradigms which are referred to as first wave and second wave of feminism.
Since the origin of patriarchy and establishment of male supremacy can be traced to different factors and forces feminists differ in their approach to understand patriarchy and adopt different strategies to abolish it. One way to understand the various dimensions of feminist theories and their theoretical approaches to understand patriarchy is to locate them within the broader philosophical and political perspectives that have been broadly classified as Liberal, Marxist, Socialist and Radical. However, despite the ideological differences between the feminist groups, they are united in their struggle against unequal and hierarchical relationships between men and women, which is no longer accepted as biological destiny.

Approaches to Understand Patriarchy
Liberal Feminism: Liberal feminists have championed equal legal and political rights for women to enable them to compete with men in the public realm on equal terms. The philosophical basis of liberal feminism lies in the principle of individualism and they campaigned for all individuals to participate in public and political life. Several women’s movement demanded female suffrage during the 1840s and 1850s in United States and United Kingdom. The famous Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 marked the birth of women’s rights movement which among other things called for female suffrage. Women were granted the right to vote in the US Constitution in 1920. In UK though franchise was extended to women in 1918 for a decade they did not exercise equal voting rights with men. Mary Wollstonecraft’s “Vindication of the Rights of Women” (1972) was the first text of modern feminism which campaigned for women’s right to vote/ female suffrage. Wollstonecraft claimed that if women gained access to education as rational creatures in their own right the distinction of sex would become unimportant in political and social life. John Stuart Mill in collaboration with Harriet Taylor in “The Subjection of Women” (1970) proposed that women should be entitled to the citizenship and political rights and liberties enjoyed by men. It indicts traditional arrangements of work and family as tyrannizing women and denying them freedom of choice (Mandell, 1995: 6). Thus, liberal feminists believed that female suffrage would do away with all forms of sexual discrimination and prejudice. Walby contends that “first wave feminism was a large, multifaceted, long-lived and highly effective political phenomenon” (Walby, 1997:149).
Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” marked the resurgence of liberal feminist thought in the 1960s and is often credited as stimulating the emergence of ‘second wave’ feminism. She referred to the cultural myth that women seek security and fulfillment in domestic life and that their feminine behaviour serves to discourage women from entering employment, politics and public life in general. In “The Second Stage” (1983) Friedan “discussed the problem of reconciling the achievement of personhood by making it possible to open up broader opportunities for women in work and public life while continuing to give central importance to family in women’s life which has been criticized by radical feminists as contributing to ‘mystique of motherhood”(Heywood, 2003: 254). Therefore, liberal feminism is essentially reformist and does not challenge the patriarchal structure of society itself. Critics suggest that the liberal reforms to increase opportunities for women, prohibit discriminations and to increase public consciousness of women’s rights have not been shared equally by all women because these changes have not addressed issues of socially structured inequalities (Mandell, 1995: 8). Thus, while the first wave feminism ended with winning suffrage rights the emergence of second wave feminism in 1960s acknowledged that political and legal rights were insufficient to change women’s subordination. Feminist ideas and arguments became radical and revolutionary thereafter.
Marxist Feminism: Marxist feminist believed that both subordination of women and division of classes developed historically with the development of private property. Frederick Engels in “The Origin of Family, Private Property and the State” (1884) stated that with the emergence of private property, women’s housework sank into insignificance in comparison to man’s productive labour. ‘The world historical defeat of the female sex with the establishment of capitalism based on private property ownership by men did away with inheritance of property and social position through female line’ (also see Bhasin, 1993: 24-25). Thus maternal authority gave place to paternal authority and property was to be inherited from father to son and not from woman to her clan. The bourgeois families which owned private property emerged as patriarchal families where women were subjugated. Such patriarchal families became oppressive as men ensured that their property passed on only to their sons. Therefore bourgeois family and private property as a byproduct of capitalism subordinated and oppressed women.
Marxist feminists unlike the radical feminists argue that class exploitation is deeper than sexual oppression and women’s emancipation essentially requires social revolution which will overthrow capitalism and establish socialism. Engels believed that “in a socialist society marriage will be dissolvable and that once private property is abolished its patriarchal features and perhaps also monogamy will disappear”. Therefore Marxist feminists like many socialist feminists connect structural changes in kinship relations and changes in the division of labour to understand women’s position in society. They argue that it is not women’s biology alone but, private property and monogamous marriage, economic and political dominance by men and their control over female sexuality which led to patriarchy. However, the Marxist feminists have been criticized for differentiating working class women and bourgeois women and also for the focus on economic factors to explain subordination of women. Recent socialist feminists critique traditional Marxist feminists as the later emphasize only on economic origins of gender inequality and state that female subordination occurs also in pre-capitalist and socialist systems (Mandell, 1995: 10). In fact socialist feminists accuse Marxists feminists of being ‘sex blind’ and only adding women to their existing critique of capitalism (Hartmann, 1979).
Socialist Feminism: Unlike the liberal feminists, socialist feminist argue that women do not simply face political and legal disadvantages which can be solved by equal legal rights and opportunities but the relationship between sexes is rooted in the social and economic structure itself. Therefore women can only be emancipated after social revolution brings about structural change. Socialist feminists deny the necessary and logical link between sex and gender differences. They argue that the link between child bearing and child rearing is cultural rather than biological and have challenged that biology is destiny by drawing a sharp distinction between ‘sex and gender’. Therefore, while liberal feminist takes women’s equality with men as their major political goal, socialist feminism aim at transforming basic structural arrangements of society so that categories of class, gender, sexuality and race no longer act as barriers to share equal resources (Mandell, 1995: 9). Gerda Lerner’s (1986) explains how control over female sexuality is central to women’s subordination. She argues that it is important to understand how production as well as reproduction was organized. The appropriation and commodification of women’s sexual and reproductive capacity by men lies at the foundation of private property, institutionalization of slavery, women’s sexual subordination and economic dependency on male.

Most socialist feminists agree that the confinement of women to thedomestic sphere of housework and motherhood serves the economic interests of capitalism. Women relieve men of the burden of housework and child rearing, and allow them to concentrate on productive employment. Thus unpaid domestic labour contributes to the health and efficiency of capitalist economy and also accounts for the low social status and economic dependence of women on men. But, unlike the Marxist feminists, socialist feminists look at both relations of production as well as relations of reproduction to understand patriarchy. Unlike orthodox Marxists who have prioritized class politics over sexual politics, modern socialist feminists give importance to the later. They believe that socialism in itself will not end patriarchy as it has cultural and ideological roots.

In ‘Women’s Estate’ (1971) Juliet Mitchell believes that gender relations are a part of the super structure and patriarchy is located in the ideological level while capitalism in the economical level (Mitchell, 1975: 412). Like traditional Marxist analysis she fails to consider the significance of sexual division of labour as an economical phenomenon (Walby, 1986: 34). She argues that patriarchal law is that of the rule of the father, which operates through the kinship system rather than domination of men. Mitchell stated that women fulfill four social functions (i) They aremembers of workforce and are active in production, (ii) they bear children and thus reproduce human species (iii) they are responsible for socializing children and (iv) they are sex objects. Therefore “women can achieve emancipation only when they liberate from each of these areas and not only when socialism replaces capitalism” (also see Heywood, 2003: 257-258). Walby critiques Mitchell as she fails to consider the material benefits that men derive from women’s unpaid domestic labour and the significance of men’s organized attempts to limit women’s access to paid work. On the other hand, Delphy argues that the basis of gender relations is the domestic mode of production in which the husband expropriates the wife’s labour (Delphy, 1977: 37). Women share a common class position and are exploited by men as a class. Thus it is not women’s position within the domestic mode of production which is the basis of their class oppression alone but it is their main form of subordination. The forms of oppression outside the family therefore derive from oppressions within the family (Walby, 1986: 38). She further argues that women’s relation to production is not determined by content of the task but by the nature of the social relations under which they labour. Therefore it is the relations of production which explain why their work is excluded from the realm of value (ibid, 4). Delphy has been critiqued by Molyneux for placing all women in one class without making a distinction between the bourgeoisie and proletariat (Molyneux. 1979: 14).

Similarly Zillah Eisenstein in “Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism” (1979) argues that ‘male supremacy and capitalism are the core relations which determine oppression of women’ She defines patriarchy as a “sexual system of power in which the male possesses superior power and economic privilege’ (Eisenstein 1979:17). Patriarchy is not the direct result of biological differentiation but ideological and political interpretations of these differentiations. “On the one hand the capitalist live a process in which exploitation occurs and on the other the patriarchal sexual hierarchy in which the women is mother, domestic labourer and consumer and in which the oppression of women occurs” (also see Bhasin, 1993: 28). Social relations of reproduction are therefore important and they are not the result of capitalist relations but cultural relations. Thus, while in her early work in 1979 there was greater stress on the synthesis between capitalism and patriarchy, in her later work in 1984, there is more recognition of conflict and tensions between the two (Walby, 1986: 31). Heidi Hartmann (1979) argues that both patriarchy and capitalism are independent yet are interacting social structures. She believes that “We can usefully define patriarchy as a set of social relations between men who have a material base who through hierarchical, establish/create interdependence and solidarity among men and enable them to dominate women (Hartmann, 1979: 11). She argues that historically both had important effects on each other as the material base upon which patriarchy rests lies most fundamentally in men’s control over women’s labour power. “In capitalist societies a healthy and strong partnership exists between patriarchy and capitalism” (ibid, 13). She has been critiqued for paying insufficient attention to tension and conflict between capitalism and patriarchy (Walby, 1986: 44).
Maria Mies, in her paper “The Social Origins of the Sexual Division of Labour” refers to women’s labour as ‘shadow work’. She suggests that we should no longer look at the sexual division of labour as a problem related to the family, but rather as a structural problem of a whole society. The hierarchical division of labour between men and women and its dynamics form an integral part of dominant production relations i.e. class relations of a particular epoch and society and of the broader national and international divisions of labour (also see Bhasin, 30). She argues that the asymmetric division of labour by sex, once established by means of violence was upheld by such institutions as the family and the state and also by the powerful ideological systems. The patriarchal religions have defined women as part of nature which has to be controlled and dominated by man (ibid, 33).
Thus, socialist feminists have advanced theoretical boundaries by analyzing the ways class and gender relations intersect. Economic class relations are important in determining women’s status but gender relations are equally significant and therefore eradicating social class inequality alone will not necessarily eliminate sexism. Patriarchy existed before capitalism and continued to exist in both capitalism and other political-economic systems (Mandell, 1995: 11). However, patriarchy and capitalism are concretely intertwined and mutually supportive system of oppressions. Women’s subordination within capitalism results from their economic exploitation as wage labourers and their patriarchal oppression as mothers, consumers and domestic labourers (ibid, 13).

Sylvia Walby in ‘Patriarchy at Work’ (1986) attempts to conceptualise patriarchy not only in terms of the complexity of relationships of gender but also subtleties of interconnections of patriarchy with capitalism, which is a relationship of tension and conflict and not of harmony and mutual accommodation. Domestic labour is a distinct form of labour and core to patriarchal mode of production which is essential to exploitation of women by men and is independent of exploitation of proletariats by the capitalists (Walby, 1986: 52). Within the household women provide all kinds of services to their children, husband and other members of the family, in other words in the patriarchal mode of production, women’s labour is expropriated by their husbands and others who live there. The control over and exploitation of women’s labour benefit men materially and economically. “Patriarchy is a system of interrelated social structures through which men exploit” (ibid, 51). She states that gender relations need to be explained at the level of social relations and not as individuals. Within the patriarchal mode of production, the producing class comprises of women and domestic labourer and husbands are the non-producing and exploiting class. And domestic labourer works to replenish/ produce his/ their labour power, she is separated from the product of her labour and has no control over it, while the husband always has control over the labour power which the wife has produced. She is separated from if at every level, physically, in the ability to use it, legally, ideologically etc. (ibid, 53). Thus the domestic labourer is exploited as the husband has the control over the wage he receives from the capitalist in exchange of his labour. The relations of production in such a mode of production are personalized relations between individuals (ibid, 54). When the patriarchal mode of production articulates with the capitalist mode, women are prevented from entering paid work as freely as men and are reinforced by patriarchal state policies.

The state is a site of patriarchal relations which is necessary to patriarchy as a whole as it upholds the oppression of women by supporting a form of household in which women provide unpaid domestic services to male (ibid). Thus capitalism benefits from a particular form of family which ensures cheap reproduction of labour power and the availability of women as a reserve army. Patriarchy is also located in the social relations of reproduction and masculinity and femininity are not biological givens but products of long historical process. Thus, socialist feminists combine both marxist and radical approach and neither is sufficient by itself. Patriarchy is connected to both relations of production and relations of reproduction.

Therefore reactionary feminism differed from conventional feminism challenging the traditional public/private divide and the influence of patriarchy not only in politics, public life and economy but also in all aspects of social, personal, psychological and sexual existence. This was evident in the pioneering work of radical feminists. Kate Millet’s “Sexual Politics” (1970)) and Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch” (1970), Simon de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex” (1970), Eva Figes’s “Patriarchal Attitudes” (1970) drew attention to the personal, psychological and sexual aspects of female oppression. It is the because of the ‘patriarchal values and beliefs which pervade the culture, philosophy, morality and religion of society that women are conditioned to a passive sexual role, which has repressed their true sexuality as well as more active and adventurous side of their personalities’ (Greer in Heywood, 2003: 258). Therefore the emphasis shifted from political emancipation to women’s liberation and the second wave feminists campaigned for the legislation of abortions, equal pay legislation, anti-discrimination laws and wider access to education and political and professional life. Women’s Liberation Movement during the 1960s and 70s called for radical social changes rather than legal and political reforms and criticized the repressive nature of the conventional society.

Radical Feminism: Unlike the liberal and socialist traditions, radical feminists developed a systematic theory of sexual oppression as the root of patriarchy which preceded private property. They challenge the very notion of femininity and masculinity as mutually exclusive and biologically determined categories. The ideology of motherhood subjugates women and perpetuates patriarchy, which not only forces women to be mothers but also determines the conditions of their motherhood (Bhasin, 199: 8). It creates feminine and masculine characteristics, strengthens the divide between public and private, restricts women’s mobility and reinforces male dominance. “While sex differences are linked to biological differences between male and female, gender differences are imposed socially or even politically by constructed contrasting stereotypes of masculinity and femininity” (de Beauvoir, 1970: 258). Simone de Beauvoir in “The Second Sex” (1970) pointed out that women are made and not born. She believed that greater availability of abortion rights, effective birth control and end of monogamy would increase the control over their bodies. Judith Butler turned the sex-gender distinction on its head: by making sex the effect of gender, a legitimization subsequently imposed in order to fix the socially contingent through recourse to an unquestioned biology, “the distinction between sex and gender turns out to be no distinction at all” (Butler, 1990: 7 also see Mary John 2004).

Kate Millet in “Sexual Politics” (1970) defined politics as power structured relationships, which is not only confined to government and its citizens but also to family between children and parents and husband and wife. Through family, church and academy men secure consent of the very women they oppress and each institution justifies and reinforces women’s subordination to men with the result that women internalize a sense of inferiority to men (Mandell, 1995: 16). Men use coercion to achieve what conditioning fails to achieve (Millet 1970:8). She proposed that patriarchy must be challenged through a process of conscious-raising and women’s liberation required a revolutionary change. The psychological and sexual oppression of women have to be overthrown. Shulamith Firestone in “The Dialectic of Sex” (1972) believes that the basis of women’s oppression lies in her reproductive capacity in so far as this has been controlled by men. She stated that patriarchy is not natural or inevitable but its roots are located in biology which has led to a natural division of labour within the biological family and liberation of women required that gender difference between men and women be abolished (also see Heywood, 260). Firestone’s attempt to build a theory of patriarchy in which different sets of patriarchal relations have their place and specify their articulation with class and race relations is one of the most sophisticated and highly developed radical feminist theories (Walby, 1986: 25). However, her analysis of relations of patriarchy with class and ethnicity are rather reductionist as she ignores various structures and institutions which have shaped these relationships through out history (ibid, 26). Walby critiques her for her insufficient analysis of capitalist relations and their interrelationships with patriarchal relations, which Walby sees as a serious omission (ibid). Her believe that the connection between childbirth and child care is a biological rather than a social fact has also been critiqued.

Mackinnon argues that sexuality is the basis of differentiation of sexes and oppression of women and this she considers as parallel to the centrality of work for Marxist analysis of capitalism. “Sexuality is to Feminism what work is to Marxism: that which is most one’s own, yet most taken away” (Mackinnon, 1982: 1). She considers that sexuality constructs gender and these are social processes and not biological givens. Walby critiques her for not assessing the relative importance of class/labour for gender equality as compared to sexuality (Walby, 1986: 27). For radical feminists sexual relations are political acts, emblematic of male/female power relationships. The traditional political theory which divide personal and political spheres and believe that family is nonpolitical and personal has been questioned by radical feminists who argue that family is that space where maximum exploitation of women takes place. It is this ‘public-private divide’ which legitimizes exploitation of women. In fact, it is essential that the private sphere must be mapped in terms of the same values of justice, equality and freedom which are necessary in the public sphere.

Radical feminists aim at the need to redefine individual identity, free language and culture from the clutches of masculinity, re-establish political power, re-evaluate human nature/ behaviour and challenge the traditional values. Thus along with legal reforms and the right to franchise the protest against capitalist society is important to transform the traditional sexual identity through sexual revolution. Radical feminists therefore believe that unless sexuality is reconceived and reconstructed in the image and likeness of women, the later will remain subordinate to men (Mandell, 1995: 16).

While radical feminists claim that ‘personal is political’ liberal feminist warn against the dangers of politicizing the private sphere, which is the realm of public choice and individual freedom. On the other hand the limitation of individualism as the basis of gender politics has been raised by radical feminists as an individualist perspective draws attention away from the structural character of patriarchy. Women are subordinated not as systematic individuals who happen to be denied rights or opportunities but as a sex that is subject to pervasive oppression (Heywood, 2003: 254). They critique individualism which makes it difficult for women to think and act collectively on the basis of their common gender identity. Liberal individualism depoliticizes sexual relations and equal treatment might mean treating women like men. Finally the demand for equal rights only equips women to take advantage of the opportunities and may therefore reflect the interest of white, middle class women in developed countries and fail to address problems of women of colour, working class women and women in developing countries (ibid). Thus while ‘egalitarian feminists’ link gender difference to patriarchy as a manifestation of oppression and subordination and want to liberate women from gender difference, ‘difference feminists’ regard the very notion of equality as either misguided or simply undesirable. Alison Jaggar in “Feminist Politics and Human Nature” (1971) critiques the radicals for ignoring the causes that led to the origin of patriarchy and its structures which requires theorizing human behaviour and human society. She states that it is not that gender differences determine some forms of social organizations but the later which give rise to gender difference. Therefore instead of controlling their bodies women should be able to control their lives. Marxist feminists critique radical feminists for ignoring the historical, economic and materialist basis of patriarchy and therefore the later are trapped in ahistorical biological deterministic theory.

The new feminist traditions such as psychoanalytical feminism, ecofeminism, postmodern feminism, black feminism, lesbian feminism have emerged since the 1980s. Psychoanalytical feminists analyse the psychological process through which men and women are engendered. They do not hold biological factors as responsible for the construction of sexual difference. Psychoanalytical feminist explore the hidden dynamics at work in personal, interpersonal and social relations and the unconscious dynamics that shape the way we think, feel and act in the world. Freudian psychoanalysis describes women oppression in patriarchy as a process, which need to be altered. After Juliet Mitchell’s book “Psychoanalysis and Feminism” (1974) the psychological process which determine patriarchy has expanded (see Brennan, 1989). Similarly “Feminism and Psychoanalysis” (1992) edited by Elizabeth Wright demonstrates the continued interest in this field. Psychoanalysis feminists may share the politics of radical, marxist or socialist feminists but the kind of questions and concerns raised by them are not acknowledged by the later. They analyse gender difference beyond conscious levels of experience and focus on the unconscious levels where gender –specific desires and meanings are constituted and formed. Dorothy Dinnerstein and Nancy Chodorow draw on a school for psychoanalysis called ‘objectrelation theory’. Exclusive female mothering is seen to be the cause of gender inequality (Mandell, 1995: 20).
Eco-feminists accept women’s attitudes and values as different from men. They believe that in certain respects women are superior to men and possess the qualities of creativity, sensitivity and caring which men can never develop. Vandana Shiva in her conception of ecofeminism critiques development and establishes the connection between ecological destruction and capitalist growth as a patriarchal project (Shiva, 1999: 41, for details see Vandana Shiva’s “Colonialism and the Evolution of Masculinist Forestry”).

Postmodern feminists claim that there is no fixed female identity. The socially constructed identities can be reconstructed or deconstructed. Thus the distinctions between sex and gender are criticized from two perspectives: (i) ‘difference feminists’ who believe that “there are essential difference between men and women and the social and cultural characteristics are seen to refer the biological differences” and (ii) ‘postmodern feminists’ who “questioned whether sex is a clear-cut biological distinction as is usually assumed”. In other words the features  of biological motherhood do not apply to women who cannot bear children. Thus “there is a biology-culture continuum rather than a fixed biological/cultural divide and the categories male and female become hopelessly entangled” (Heywood, 2003: 248). Linda Nicholson in “Feminism / Postmodernism” (1990) claims that there are many points of overlap between a postmodern stance and position long held by feminists. According to Nancy Fraser and Nicholson if feminism pursues a trend towards a more historical non-universalizing, non-essentialist theory that addresses difference amongst women (lesbians, disabled, working class women, black women) then feminism will become more consistent with postmodernism (Nicholson, 1990: 34) This trend means giving up universal claims of gender and patriarchy. However, feminists hostile to postmodernism theory claim that no feminist politics is possible once one has called into question the nature of gender identity and subjectivity (Mandell, 1995: 26).
Black feminists have prioritized differences based on race and challenge the tendency within feminism to ignore it. They portray sexism and racism as interlinked systems of oppression and highlight the particular range of gender, racial and economic disadvantages that confront “women of colour”. Black feminists argue that women are not subject to common forms of oppression due to their sex but ‘women of colour ‘in particular are more vulnerable to oppression and subjugation. They criticize the liberal, Marxist, socialist and radical feminists for ignoring race as a category of oppression and analysis (also see Brand, Dasgupta). By assuming that gender is primary form of subordination, oppression of class, sexuality and race become extensions of patriarchal domination. Radical feminists’ insistence that the elimination of sexism is key to the elimination racism is inadequate to “women of colour” as they experience racism from white women as well as from men (Grant, 1993 in Mandell, 1995: 18). Thus an analysis of the intersection of class, caste, race, sexuality and gender is important.
Similarly lesbian feminists primarily struggle against homophobia which is as important as the struggle against patriarchy. Lesbian feminism and cultural feminism are two types of feminist separations advocating the creation of women identified world through the attachments women have to each other. They believe that since patriarchy is organized through men’s relations with other men, unity among women is the only effective means for liberating women. They position lesbianism as more than a personal decision and an outward sign of an internal rejection of patriarchal sexuality (Rich in Mandell, 1995: 14). Lesbianism becomes a paradigm for female-controlled female sexuality which meets women’s needs and desires. ‘Another popular strategy for resisting patriarchy has been to redefine social relations by creating women-centered cultures that emphasise positive capacities of women by focusing on creative dimensions of their experiences’ (ibid). Therefore while earlier feminists struggled for a legally equal position for women and demanded democratic rights, which included right to education and employment, right to own property, right to vote, right to birth control, right to divorce, today feminists have gone beyond demanding mere legal reforms to end discrimination between men and women. They have raised issues of violence against women, rape, unequal wages, discriminatory personal laws, the sexual division of labour, distribution of power within the family, use of religion to oppress women and negative portrayal of women in media (also see Bhasin, 1993: 9). Emancipation of women necessarily calls for challenging patriarchy as a system which perpetuates women’s subordination. Several structures of society such as kinship and family, class, caste, religion, ethnicity, educational institutions and state reinforce patriarchy. Some of the experiences of multiple patriarchies can be illustrated by analyzing the dynamics and interface of social forces which institutionalize and legitimize patriarchy in society.

Patriarchy-public/private debate

It is an issue of subordination of women to men
It refers to experiences where women are not only treated as subordinate to men but are also subject to discriminations, humiliations, exploitations, oppressions, control and violence.
Women experience discrimination and unequal treatment in terms of basic right to food, health care, education, employment, control over productive resources, decision-making and livelihood not because of their biological differences or sex, which is natural but because of their gender differences which is a social construct.

Let us examine a Liquor shop-sellers,users,staff but the consequence of alcoholism suffered by women
Or Public Transport-staff,drivers,all are men but its greatest beneficiary is women as equal as men
Or Film Industry-
Or Restaurant-
Or Technology
Or politics-

What is Patriarchy?
Patriarchy literally means rule of the father in a male-dominated family.
Patriarchy is best defined as control by men.
It is a social and ideological construct which considers men (who are the patriarchs) as superior to women. Sylvia Walby in “Theorising Patriarchy” calls it “a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women”
Patriarchy is based on a system of power relations which are hierarchical and unequal where men control women’s production, reproduction and sexuality.
It imposes masculinity and femininity character stereotypes in society which strengthen the iniquitous power relations between men and women

The nature of control and subjugation of women varies from one society to the other as it differs due to the differences in class, caste, religion, region, ethnicity and the socio-cultural practices. Thus in the context of India, brahminical patriarchy, tribal patriarchy and dalit patriarchy are different from each other. Patriarchy within a particular caste or class also differs in terms of their religious and regional variations.

Patriarchal societies propagate the ideology of motherhood which restrict women’s mobility and burdens them with the responsibilities to nurture and rear children. The biological factor to bear children is linked to the social position of women’s responsibilities of motherhood: nurturing, educating and raising children by devoting themselves to family. “Patriarchal ideas blur the distinction between sex and gender and assume that all socio-economic and political distinctions between men and women are rooted in biology or anatomy” (Heywood, 2003: 248). Gender like social class, caste, race or religion is a significant social cleavage and it is important to analyse it to understand social inequalities, oppressions and unequal relationship between men and women. It has been explained by feminist scholars / thinkers/ writers who believe that the theory of ‘sexual politics’ and ‘sexism’ are conscious parallels with theory of ‘class politics’ and ‘racism’ to understand oppression of women.
Patriarchy has been conceptualized and analyzed by several feminist scholars in different ways. Feminists have challenged patriarchal knowledge, ideology, values and its practice. Despite a range of common themes within feminism, disagreements exist amongst the feminists in understanding patriarchy. All feminists do not like the term “patriarchy” for various reasons and prefer the term “gender” and “gender oppression”. Patriarchy has remained a relatively undefined concept and some feminist scholars are at unease with the use of the concept of ‘patriarchy’ when it involves the notion of a general system of inequality.
According to Walby, Patriarchy is indispensable for an understanding of gender inequality and there are 6 "key patriarchal structures which restrict women and help to maintain male domination."
1.     Thus Patriarchy operates via paid work where females face horizontal and vertical segregation leading to lower rates of pay than for men;
2.    Patriarchy operates via the gender division of labour in the household which forces women to take primary responsibility for housework and childcare even if they are also in full-time employment. Women may be trapped in unsatisfactory marriages because they are unable to find well paid jobs to support themselves and their children.
3.    Women are also at a cultural disadvantage because modern western culture especially emphasises the importance of feminine attractiveness which degrades and sometimes threatens women.
4.     Heterosexual relationships are seen by Walby as essentially patriarchal although Sylvia Walby argues that women have made some gains in this respect, for example as a result of modern contraception and liberalisation of abortion and divorce law.
5.     Patriarchy is often sustained by male violence against women
6.    Patriarchy is sustained  by the activities of the State which is "still patriarchal as well as capitalist and racist" although there may have been some limited reforms such as more equal educational opportunities and easier divorce laws which have protected women against patriarchy to some extent.

Public /Private Debate
Public and private is serious debate in gender and patriarchy theories
In liberal thinking private sphere is seen an area where  individual freedom is unrestrained by state power
In republican tradition it is the public sphere that is seen as the domain of true freedom
In both of this tradition women have been relegated to sphere of private-family.
A central feminist critique is driven by Pateman and argued social contract ignored sexual contract
Sexual contract is the basis of women subordination
Sexual difference implies political difference because women who are assumed to lack naturally attributes of individual are denied civil freedom
In exposing the exclusion of women from political world , feminist pointed out the public private division is the crux of women problem
This arguments led to rise of second wave in 1960 and 70s

Therefore the argument personal is political

It proposes that the personal and family is not outside the remit of public
It exposes that private realm is too a realm of power relations
The term "The personal is political" wasn't actually popularized until the late 60s and early 70s (by a group called the Redstockings and by Robin Morgan in her book Sisterhood is Powerful). The term was created to underscore what was happening in women's personal lives--i.e. access to health care, being responsible for all of the housework, possibly being sexually assaulted in our own homes--was a political issue. This was meant to 1.) inspire women to be politically active in the issues that affected their lives and 2.) make sure that politicians paid attention to women's lives--and look at how the laws ignored women.
First, it’s important to note that the phrase ‘the personal is political’ manifestly does not mean that everything a woman does is political or that all her personal choices are political choices. In feminist terms, the ‘personal is political’ refers to the theory that personal problems are political problems, which basically means that many of the personal problems women experience in their lives are not their fault, but are the result of systematic oppression.
The theory that women are not to blame for their bad situations is crucial here because women have always been told that they are unhappy or faring badly in life because they are stupid, weak, mad, hysterical, having a period, pregnant, frigid, over-sexed, asking for it etc. The personal is political proposes that women are in bad situations because they experience gendered oppression and massive structural inequalities.
-Husband and wife at bed room
-parents care more about their son than daughter
-Father and mother on family budget
-personal circumstances are structured by public factors
-women lives are regulated and conditioned by legal status of wives by govt policies on child care, welafer benefits,by labour laws,by laws on rape,abortion,harassment
So personal problems can be solved only through political means and political action

Monday, July 16, 2012

Conceptual Understanding- The biology debate-gender/sex

It is referred otherwise as equality – difference debate .
Equality in the sense both men and women are biologically equal as they are socially equal
Difference in the sense both men and women are different biologically as they are different socially
It has been discussed by philosophers ,theologies ,literature,art etc in different ways
What exactly is sexual difference
What is male female difference
Was Plato a sexist?  The answer yes, Plato was a sexist, it is appropriate to begin with a definition of what a sexist is.  The dictionary definition of what a sexist is: "one who has a bias or discriminates against women".
A female watchdog is as good as male watch dog ,
Aristotle- Biology
Aristotle is said to have declared that females contribute nothing substantial to generation; that they have fewer teeth than males; that they are less spirited than males; and that woman are analogous to eunuchs
While Aristotle reduced women's roles in society, and promoted the idea that women should receive less food and nourishment than males, he also criticised the results: a woman, he thought, was then more  compassionate more opinionated, more apt to scold and to strike. He accused women of being more prone to despondency, more void of shame or self-respect, more false of speech, more deceptive, and of having a better memory
Discourse on Inequality
Shakespeare Hamlet and Othello
Frialty thy name is women
On the other hand
Vindication of the Rights of women-Mary Wollstonecraft
Sexual Contract -Carole Pateman
Second Sex-Simon de Bouveoir
Feminine Mystique-Betty Freedan
A Room of One’s own-Virgenia Wolfe
Gender Trouble-Judith Butler
The Debate
Are men and women different? Sexually and socially
Are they're different anatomically?
Are they different in any other ways?
Do their hormonal differences influence their behaviors and attitudes?
Do they process information differently?
Feminists and gay theorists often say "no" to these questions. They maintain that the differences between men and women are mostly the result of socialization in male-dominated societies, and that it is patriarchal oppression that has relegated women to feminine gender roles. Biology is said to have little to do with abilities or sex roles in our society.
Some feminist writers actually believe that the idea of "two sexes" (male and female) is a myth. Dr. Anne Fausto- Sterling, writing in "The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough," says that western culture is defying nature by maintaining a "two-party sexual system," for "biologically speaking, there are many gradations running from female to male; and depending on how one calls the shots, one can argue that along the spectrum lie at least five sexes--and perhaps even more."
Not content with denying the reality of two sexes, a subgroup within the gay rights movement--the "transgendered" --is attempting to normalize crossdressing and transsexualism (where the person has a sex change from male to female, or female to male). Some of these transsexuals actually prefer to live as "she-males" - having the physical characteristics of both men and women.
The biology debate-Sex and the difference
For centuries justification for different social roles of sexes has been biological difference
Biological capacity for childbirth and breastfeeding and lesser physical strength of women decided social role in home,occuoying with domestic chores,bringing up children,housewifisation,domesticisation,and even unfit to participate in public sphere
Women less reasonable than men more ruled by emotions and incapable of decion making.
Misogyny is the hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women or girls. According to feminist theory, misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women. Misogyny has been characterised as a prominent feature of various religions. In addition, many influential Western philosophers have been described as misogynistic.
According to sociologist Allan G. Johnson, "misogyny is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female." Johnson argues that:
"Misogyny .... is a central part of sexist prejudice and ideology and, as such, is an important basis for the oppression of females in male-dominated societies. Misogyny is manifested in many different ways, from jokes to pornography to violence to the self-contempt women may be taught to feel toward their own bodies.
Aristotle has also been accused of being a misogynist; He has written that women were inferior to men. For example, to cite Cynthia Freeland's catalogue: "Aristotle says that the courage of a man lies in commanding, a woman's lies in obeying; that "matter yearns for form, as the female for the male and the ugly for the beautiful;" that women have fewer teeth than men; that a female is an incomplete male or "as it were, a deformity": which contributes only matter and not form to the generation of offspring; that in general "a woman is perhaps an inferior being"; that female characters in a tragedy will be inappropriate if they are too brave or too clever"
Marcus Tullius Cicero reports that Greek philosophers considered misogyny to be caused by gynophobia, a fear of women.
Ancient Greek
In Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice, Jack Holland sees evidence of misogyny in the mythology of the ancient world. In Greek mythology according to Hesiod, the human race had already existed before the creation of women — a peaceful, autonomous existence as a companion to the gods. When Prometheus decides to steal the secret of fire from the gods, Zeus becomes infuriated and decides to punish humankind with an "evil thing for their delight" — Pandora, the first woman, who carried a jar (usually described — incorrectly — as a box) she was told to never open. Epimetheus (the brother of Prometheus) is overwhelmed by her beauty, disregards Prometheus' warnings about her, and marries her. Pandora cannot resist peeking into the jar, and by opening it all evil is unleashed into the world — labour, sickness, old age, and death


In his book The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender, professor Bernard Faure of Columbia University argued generally that "Buddhism is paradoxically neither as sexist nor as egalitarian as is usually thought." He remarked, "Many feminist scholars have emphasized the misogynistic (or at least androcentric) nature of Buddhism." He emphasised that Buddhism morally exalts its male monks while the mothers and wives of the monks also have important roles.
Jack Holland also sees evidence of misogyny in the Old Testament story of the Fall of Man from the Book of Genesis. In Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice, he characterizes the Fall of Man as "a myth that blames woman for the ills and sufferings of mankind." (See also Original Sin.)
The Torah is a syncretism of various Judaic traditions. This accounts for various inconsistencies in the Old Testament. One such is the two accounts of the creation of humankind in Genesis. Man and woman are created at the same time according to the first account but the second account has man created first and then woman created from his rib. Rabbis trying to rectify this literary oversight provided an explanation in an extrabiblical account of the creation which stated that before Yahweh created Eve, he created Lilith as Adam’s first wife
Katharine M. Rogers in The Troublesome Helpmate alleges Christianity to be misogynistic, listing what she says are specific examples from the New Testament letters of the Christian apostle Paul of Tarsus. She argues that the legacy of Christian misogyny was consolidated by the so-called "Fathers" of the Church, like Tertullian, who thought a woman was not only "the gateway of the devil" but also "a temple built over a sewer
The fourth chapter (or sura) of the Qur'an is called Women (An-Nisa). The 34th verse is a key verse in feminist criticism of Islam. The verse reads: "Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great."
Taj Hashmi discusses misogyny in relation to Muslim culture, and Bangladesh specifically, in the book Popular Islam and Misogyny: A Case Study of Bangladesh.
[T]hanks to the subjective interpretations of the Quran (almost exclusively by men), the preponderance of the misogynic mullahs and the regressive Shariah law in most “Muslim” countries, Islam is synonymously known as a promoter of misogyny in its worst form. Although there is no way of defending the so-called “great” traditions of Islam as libertarian and egalitarian with regard to women, we may draw a line between the Quranic texts and the corpus of avowedly misogynic writing and spoken words by the mullah having very little or no relevance to the Quran.
In a Washington Post article, Asra Q. Nomani discussed An-Nisa, 34 and stated that "Domestic violence is prevalent today in non-Muslim communities as well, but the apparent religious sanction in Islam makes the challenge especially difficult." She further wrote that although "Islamic historians agree that the prophet Muhammad never hit a woman, it is also clear that Muslim communities face a domestic violence problem." Nomani notes that in his book No god but God, University of Southern California professor Reza Aslan wrote that "misogynistic interpretation" has dogged An-Nisa, 34 because Koranic commentary "has been the exclusive domain of Muslim men.
Scholars William M. Reynolds and Julie A. Webber have written that Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikh faith tradition, was a "fighter for women's rights" that was "in no way misogynistic" in contrast to some of his contemporaries

18th and 19th century philosophers

Otto Weininger freely admits his misogyny in his book Sex and Character, in which he characterizes the "woman" part of each individual as being essentially "nothing," and having no real existence, having no effective consciousness or rationality.
Arthur Schopenhauer has been accused of misogyny for his essay "On Women" (Über die Weiber), in which he expressed his opposition to what he called "Teutonico-Christian stupidity" on female affairs. He claimed that "woman is by nature meant to obey." He also noted that "Men are by nature merely indifferent to one another; but women are by nature enemies."
Friedrich Nietzsche stated that every higher form of civilization implied stricter controls on women (Beyond Good and Evil, 7:238). He is known to have said "Women are less than shallow," and "Are you going to women? Do not forget the whip!" Whether or not this amounts to misogyny, whether his polemic against women is meant to be taken literally, and the exact nature of his opinions of women, are controversial.
Charlotte Witt wrote that Kant's and Aristotle's writings contained overt statements of sexism and racism. She found derogatory remarks about women in Kant's Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime
Hegel's view of women has been said to be misogynist. Passages from Hegel's Elements of the Philosophy of Right are frequently used to illustrate Hegel's supposed misogyny: "Women are capable of education, but they are not made for activities which demand a universal faculty such as the more advanced sciences, philosophy and certain forms of artistic production... Women regulate their actions not by the demands of universality, but by arbitrary inclinations and opinions." G.W.F Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, quoted in Alanen, Lilli and Witt, Charlotte, Feminist reflections on the history of philosophy'
In the modrn life this sort of crude differentiation is almost worthless,there are attempts to provide empirical evidence to support innate biological difference between men and women
Biological difference is a fact
To say that men and women are the "same" is to deny physical reality. Child psychologist Dr. James Dobson relates a humorous story about men and women in his best-seller, Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives.
Science makes plain that males and females are different from the moment of conception. As Amram Scheinfeld notes in Your Heredity and Environment, these differences between men and women are evident in the chromosomes which carry inherited traits from the father and mother. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes within each cell; twenty-two of these are alike in both males and females. But, says Scheinfeld, "...when we come to the twenty-third pair, the sexes are not the same. . . every woman has in her cells two of what we call the X chromosome. But a man has just one X---its mate being the much smaller Y."
It is the presence of this influential Y chromosome, says Scheinfeld, "that sets the machinery of sex development in motion and results in all the genetic differences that there are between a man and a woman." (6) Right down to the cellular level, males and females are different.
Sex differentiation takes place immediately as the male or female begins to develop within the womb. The sex hormones --primarily estrogen and testosterone--have a significant impact on the behavior of males and females. Why do boys typically like to play with trucks and girls like to play with dolls? Feminists usually claim this is the result of socialization, but there is growing scientific evidence that boys and girls are greatly influenced by their respective hormones.
In an ABC special, "Boys and Girls are Different," television host John Stossel described several studies conducted by universities on what appear to be innate differences between males and females
Males and females are not only markedly different in the hormones that drive them, but they are also different in the way they think. The brains of men and women are actually wired differently.
George Mason University professor Robert Nadeau, the author of S/he Brain: Science, Sexual Politics, and the Feminist Movement, describes significant differences between male and female brains. In an essay on this subject in The World & I, (November 1, 1997), Nadeau observes:
"The human brain, like the human body, is sexed, and differences in the sex-specific human brain condition a wide range of behaviors that we typically associate with maleness or femaleness."
The difference between the male and female brain is not evidence of superiority or inferiority, but of specialization. Michael Levin, writing in Feminism and Freedom, notes that, in general, males have better spatial and math skills than females. While feminists often claim that these differences are due to social expectations--and if girls were encouraged to be mathematicians, they would have the same ability as boys--there is evidence that these differences are inherited and appear in childhood, actually increasing during puberty. On the other hand, girls tend to be more vocal than boys, are better at hearing higher frequencies, and do better than boys in reading and vocabulary tests.
Males have a vastly superior ability to visualize a threedimensional object than do women. This gives the male his often-observed superior abilities in math and geometrical reasoning. In addition, males are better skilled in gross motor movements than are girls.
The Gender debate-Gender and Equality
Faced with this high emphasis on scientific evidence for exclusion of women from larger areas of social participation
Feminist  began to question link b/w different physiological characteristics and natural differentiation in social roles for men and women
Feminists began to formulate ways of overcoming arguments favouring natural differentiation
In response to all of this biological and anti-feminist theorizing on the part of some of the most respected scientists of the nineteenth century, by the early twentieth century, many feminists were beginning to focus on the question of biological difference as well.
The focus on biological sex and social gender has been emphasized by many feminists
This has been upheld by Beauvoir The Second sex 1949, she asserts that one is not born a  woman ,but one becomes a woman which means womnen’s inferior position is not natural or biological fact but created by society.
Sandra Lipsitz Bem, Ph.D.,Cornell University,
Consider but three examples.
1.    As a biological species, human beings require food and water on a daily basis, which once meant that it was part of universal human nature to live as survivalists. But now human beings have invented agricultural techniques for producing food, and storage and refrigeration techniques for preserving food, which means that it is no longer part of universal human nature to live as survivalists.
2.    As a biological species, human beings are susceptible to infection from many bacteria, which once meant that it was part of universal human nature to die routinely from infection. But now human beings have invented antibiotics to fight infection, which means that it is no longer part of universal human nature to die routinely from infection.
3.    As a biological species, human beings do not have wings, which once meant that it was part of universal human nature to be unable to fly. But now human beings have invented airplanes, which means that it is no longer part of universal human nature to be unable to fly.

Ann Oakley in her book Sex,Gender,and society 1972, “sex is a word that refers to the biological difference b/w male and female,the visible difference in genitalia,the related difference in procreative function.Gender however is a matter of culture it refers to the social classification into masculine and feminine,

At least as important in the development of sexual difference and sexual inequality, however, has been the androcentrism (or male-centeredness) of society's social structures.
The concept of androcentrism was first articulated in the early twentieth century by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who wrote in The Man-Made World or Our Androcentric Culture (1911/1971) that:
all our human scheme of things rests on the same tacit assumption; man being held the human type; woman a sort of accompaniment and subordinate assistant, merely essential to the making of people. She has held always the place of a preposition in relation to man. She has always been considered above him or below him, before him, behind him, beside him, a wholly relative existence--"Sydney's sister," "Pembroke's mother"--but never by any chance Sydney or Pembroke herself....It is no easy matter to deny or reverse a universal assumption....What we see immediately around us, what we are born into and grow up with,...we assume to be the order of nature....Nevertheless,...what we have all this time called "human nature"...was in great part only male nature....Our androcentric culture is so shown to have been, and still to be, a masculine culture in excess, and therefore undesirable. (pp. 20-22).
Without actually using the term itself, Simone de Beauvoir brilliantly elaborated on the concept of androcentrism, and integrated it more completely into a theory of sexual inequality in The Second Sex (1952), which was originally published in France in 1949. According to de Beauvoir, the historical relationship of men and women is not best represented as a relationship between dominant and subordinate, or between high and low status, or even between positive and negative. No, in all male-dominated cultures, man represents both the positive and the neutral, as is indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general; whereas woman represents only the negative, defined by limiting criteria, without reciprocity....It amounts to this: just as for the ancients there was an absolute vertical with reference to which the oblique was defined, so there is an absolute human type, the masculine. Woman has ovaries, a uterus; these peculiarities imprison her in her subjectivity, circumscribe her within the limits of her own nature. It is often said that she thinks with her glands. Man superbly ignores the fact that his anatomy also includes glands, such as the testicles, and that they secrete hormones. He thinks of his body as a direct and normal connection with the world, which he believes he apprehends objectively, whereas he regards the body of woman as a hindrance, a prison, weighed down by everything peculiar to it...Thus humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being....She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute--she is the Other. (pp. xv-xvi)
To clarify the concept of androcentrism still a bit more, androcentrism is the privileging of males, male experience, and the male perspective. What exactly do  mean by privileging? On the one hand, one could say it's the treating of males as the main characters in the drama of human life around whom all action revolves and through whose eyes all reality is to be interpreted, and the treating of females as the peripheral or marginal characters in the drama of human life whose purpose for being is defined only in relation to the main--or male--character. This would go along with Gilman's idea that women are always defined in relation to men. Alternatively, one could also say that androcentrism is the treating of the male as if he were some kind of universal, objective, or neutral representative of the human species, in contrast to the female who is some kind of a special case--something different, deviant, extra, or other. This would go along with de Beauvoir's idea that man is the human and woman is the other.

Even some feminist have argued biological sex itself is a social construct,that biology is not a natural and universal but like gender a socially mediated phenomenon.
For instance Monique Witting 1996 argued that there is no sex ,there is a sex that is oppressed and sex that oppress.it is oppression that creates sex and not the contrary.