Feminism is a modern term that has deep historical roots since problems of the contemporary women did not emerge suddenly. Millions of women suffer from discrimination, violence, sexual abuse, and inequality. Men still have dominant positions in the society that struggles to provide every individual with freedom and equality of rights. Unfortunately, many cultural regions continue to live according to terms of patriarchy that poisons the future of women and their potential to live in peace, harmony, and balance with men. A synthesis of the main ideas from three priceless readings reveal the problems of women in different societies and explain denial of women to struggle for better life conditions in fear of losing cultural values.
Problems of Women in Different Societies
Evaluation of the literature related to feminism and roles of women in their cultural environments allowed shaping the view on different problems faced by women. Nowadays, protection of women’s rights and fight for equality of genders is one of the priorities for many social movements claiming that discrimination has a strong influence on social sustainability. Nevertheless, many authors argue that discrimination of women is a controversial topic, which requires consideration of different cultures in order to see the role of women in the diversity of cultural contexts. Kandiyoti (1988) focuses his research on the analysis of social structure and gender roles in sub-Saharan Africa, South and East Asia, and the Muslim Middle East. Agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa allowed understanding gender roles and responsibilities of men and women in taking care of their families. The author provides an example from his previous research and mentions that women traditionally were responsible for rice cultivation. It helped to take organize the division of labor and made men responsible for trade. As a result, both men and women had similar responsibilities that enhanced the welfare of their families. Women did not appreciate the involvement of men in rice cultivation since it was a threat to the balance in the family.
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In contrast, the author mentions another example of women from South and East Asia and Muslim Middle East who had to get married at teenage years according to their parents’ decision. In fact, the cultural heritage of the selected regions is different. However, in both regions, women cannot make their own choice of their husbands. It is an example of classic patriarchy, when women depend on men and should have permission to perform common activities from their fathers or husbands. The same idea unveils in the discussion of women’s problems in the reading belonging to Uma Narayan. She emphasizes the same problem in India, where women get married at the teenage years according to the decision of parents (1997). However, the author also mentions problems of the U.S. women suffering from domestic violence that is the result of patriarchy and stigmatized belief among men that they have a right to use their strength against women instead of protecting them. Nevertheless, the USA is a country with continuously changing cultural values that aim to provide every person with freedom and equality of rights. Women still struggle to avoid discrimination and violence, but at least the society continues to raise the awareness of every citizen on the existing problems. Opinions of Uma Narayan and Kandiyoti are similar since both authors present examples of classic patriarchy, polygyny, and modernized patriarchy that continues to change its nature under the influence of feministic trends.
Amalia Saar (2001) used a different approach to emphasize the problem of discrimination that women face in various cultural segments. For example, in Israeli-Palestinian area, a 40-years-old woman had been suffering from violent behavior of her husband for 20 years. However, she paid for all expenses including working arrangements of her husband, education of children, and family social expenses. Unfortunately, feminism in this region is less likely to change the situation because of cultural heritage that local women respect, regardless of the behavior of men. Moreover, according to Saar (2001), many women cannot find support in their families and may even face abusive behavior from their mothers unwilling to recognize their daughters choice of life path. Injustice, violence, mental and physical abuse are common features uniting women from different cultures who seek for help and cannot find it.
Reasons behind Women’s Oppression to Feminism
Regardless of the growing popularity of feminism, there is an outlining oppression from women belonging to various cultures not willing to accept changes in gender roles. Feminism aims to support a significant social role of a woman by transforming cultural values and reducing the power of men in the diversity of cultural communities. Saar (2001) discusses cases when women faced violence not only from men but also from their parents. In the Israeli-Palestinian region, man is the head of the family responsible for regulating daily activity of a woman. Regardless of the fact that women have more freedom than their peers do in the Muslim Middle East, the society makes it an obligation for women to obey their husbands and behave according to their expectations. The majority of the contemporary Israeli-Palestinian women recognize the significance of the problem, yet there are women supporting traditional cultural beliefs that a woman has no right to live according to her personal freedom. In this case, oppression is associated with disruption of cultural values that regulate social relations and define gender roles. This idea explains the reaction of mothers to the decisions of daughters to leave their husbands who committed physical and mental abuse against them.
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Kandiyoti (1988) presents a similar opinion regarding the oppression of women to feministic trends in the Muslim Middle East, where men have total power over women. In the Middle East, women do not have a broad range of rights but have a myriad of responsibilities that they should fulfill to satisfy family needs. A man, in his turn, has a duty to provide the family with enough resources to take care of all wives and children. Feminism will make women independent from men and will lead to the destruction of the historically shaped social structure. Regardless of inequality, violence, and lack of freedom, women are used to the lifestyle that they, their mothers, and grandmothers have to live. As a result, women are afraid of supporting feminism because of the consequences they might face in the light of the men’s rage. Uma Narayan (1997) shares the same opinion that national traditions are the only reasons of women’s oppression to feminism. The fear of losing cultural values is stronger than the desire to escape continuous violence and gender inequality. Women want to have lives full of freedom but fear to lose cultural identity. In addition, women still feel strong dependence on men thinking that feminism will lead to disastrous consequences.
A detailed evaluation of different cultural conditions that women have to experience because of their origin lead to a disappointing conclusion that the society still has to go through many obstacles to achieve total freedom for both genders. Many women deny accepting feminism in fear of losing social structure and cultural values that have been guiding their ancestors throughout years. As a result, the dominance of men remains natural in many cultural communities.