Before you start reading, I will let you know that this was written as a final paper for one of my classes.
When it comes to classifying myself into one feminists thought, I find it is hard to pick just one. Some schools of thought do not explain their ideas or go into enough detail on issues that I find very important. That is why I combine so many different schools of thought to create a whole new entrée of feminism. My school of feminism consists of the ideas that men and women are equally capable of care giving, pornography is harmful to society, and it is important to deconstruct what makes masculine and feminine in order for men and women to be equal. All of these strong ideas do not fit snuggly under one school of thought. I share ideas and classify myself as part care-focused feminist, radical feminist, and social/Marxists feminist.
One of the feminist thoughts that I associate with is care-focused feminism. Having compassion is one of the things that makes the human race amazing. It is our ability to sympathize with others and help take care of others when they need it that makes the world a place worth living in. With care-focused feminism they “regard women’s capacities for care as a human strength rather than a human weakness” (Tong, 163). Having the ability to care about and for people should not be seen as what women are made to do. According to society women are “suppose” to be the caregivers. I agree Sara Ruddick that “mothering is both cultural and biological; that is, mothering is an activity that men as well as women can do…” (Tong, 181). It is biologically women’s ‘job’ to bear children; it does not make them biologically capable of rearing children.
After a child is born both parents are capable of caring for the child equally. Like Ruddick, I believe that maternal thinking is taught the same way all other forms of social interactions. Our society has brought it upon women to be the caregivers. “Our culture confuses maternal practice as described by Ruddick with a set of social norms according to which mothers need to be female, heterosexual, totally self-sacrificial, and disinterested in any role outside the home” (Tong, 183). Since our culture pressures women to act, look, and feel certain ways it is not surprising that those ways parallel with the ideal parenting style. These pressures to be a specific way coincide and reinforce many ways in which women remain oppressed.
There are many pressures that society puts on women to keep them acting and looking a certain way. I agree with radical-cultural feminists on many aspects, one being “feminists should repudiate any sexual practice that supports or normalizes male sexual violence” (Tong, 66). Pornography leads men to treat women in harmful ways, such as harassing them and sexually violating them. Not only does it teach men to treat women terribly, it also helps normalize violence against women. Pornography generally shows women enjoying the dehumanizing things men do to them. This leads men to think it is normal and acceptable to treat women in such ways. Many people claim it is the woman’s choice, but when a women’s best option for money is to sell her body there is something wrong with society.
Some people claim that pornography helps women over come sexual fears, but I think it has created a sexual fear for many other women. Pornography shows men beating and torturing women, it is because of these videos sexual violence becomes normalized. There is also the argument that watching pornography releases frustration and the desire to do these actions. However this is not the case. People cannot create separate files for what is acceptable and what is not. Pornography will seep into everyday life and there is no way to stop it. What is being done to these women are not the only things that become desired. The way the women look also becomes another issue. The sizes of the women will be the next desirable thing. This is another way pornography is pressuring women to appear or be. I do not feel that what is “liberating” for one woman, but harmful to many women can be a feminist act. If it is harmful to the majority then it should not be considered an act of liberation because it is oppressing other women.
Our society has women being inferior to men because of this radical-cultural feminists believe that in order for a woman to be in an equal relationship they must be with another woman (Tong, 72). Part of me agrees with this statement because it is hard to break out of what society has created. Since men and women are never equal in society, how can men and women be equal in a relationship? I understand this and partially agree, though, I do not agree with saying women must be in a same sex relationship in order to be a feminist. Considering that intimate relationships are, generally, between two people it is important for women to hold the right to decide whom they will be intimate with. Taking that choice away from them will potentially lead to different ways to oppress women. It is important that everyone reserves the right to choose who his or her significant other is. Therefore I agree with radical-libertarian feminists when they say “the ideal sexual relationship is between fully consenting, equal partners who are negotiate to maximize one another’s sexual pleasures and satisfaction by any means they choose” (Tong, 66). However, people also have to know their partners boundaries and not pressure them to participate in anything they do not feel comfortable with.
I also agree with radical-libertarian feminists in the respect that it is important to break down socially contrasted norms for what is considered male traits and what is considered female traits (Tong, 52). Having an androgenic society will be beneficial because people will be able to act in whatever ways they feel comfortable. I believe that when there are specific ways people are suppose to act it creates unneeded stress and pressure that will ultimately lead to an unhappy person. This goes for both men and women, however, men have rewards tacked on to their socially constructed normal actions.
For instance, a man is able to be rude, bossy, and demanding; in this case the man is seen as driven and goal oriented. These characteristics help many men work their way in to high paying jobs. Having these characteristics all the time can lead to being unhappy, but he has a high paying job to help compensate for his unhappiness. If a woman were to be rude, bossy, and demanding she would be seen as a bitch, or heartless. She is more likely to be criticized because she is not fitting into the “desired” characteristics of a female. A woman is supposed to be submissive, polite, and caring for her family. These characteristics and expectations can lead to women being alienated in ways that men are not.
The fact that many people are unhappy with their job is terrible, but it is even worse when someone’s job is their entire life. When people who work outside the home have a hard day at work they are able to leave it at work. When domestic workers have a hard day at work they have nowhere to leave it. I agree with Marxist feminists domestic work needs to be considered a job. It is difficult for people to work in the home and unfortunately it has become the social norm for women to do the domestic work. Not only are women who work in the home seen as not having a job, they are also expected to do it 24/7. Along with that, there is no gratification because people rarely say thank you because they have grown to expect things to automatically be done. When people are not acknowledged for the work they do and when work is so tedious, repetitive and never seems to be finished, it is not surprising that many people become unhappy and alienated. This is the alienation of the self which I also agree will happen to people who work inside and outside the home.
I believe it is a bigger problem for those who work inside the home because their job is also what they deal with “after hours”. Like the saying goes “woman’s work is never done.” This also brings up the implication that domestic work is women’s work, along with the idea that she will never see the ‘finished product’ or feel accomplished and be able to rest (Tong, 101). Although I do not think that people should be paid to stay at home, because that would be difficult to regulate, partners need to realize together that once that workday is done things needs to be divided equally between the two.
Women often feel like they have to be happy, after all, it is a feminine trait. So if women are not happy they tend to pretend to be happy in order to put others at ease. This also leads to alienation from the self and will lead to alienation from others. In order to make men and women equals, we not only have to normalize domestic work for men and women, but we also have to see domestic work as work (Tong, 101). Society has often shown domestic work to be done with love so many people do not think of it as work. I feel like society creates the way things are and people believe that society is telling them the way things should be; that is how/why everything turns out the way it does.
This past semester has allowed me to help solidify and understand why I have specific views it has also helped me realize how they relate to one another. Since my views do not fit under one school of thought, it has helped me clarify for myself why I agree with certain things and disagree with others. I was constantly trying to fit into one school of thought but kept disagreeing with some aspect. That is why I came to the conclusion that it is better to form feminist thought around me rather than to try and fit myself into one school.