The Evolution of Feminism

August 13, 2013 by BrennaKelly  
Published in Women

A brief history of the controversial topic of feminism.

Cheris Kramarae once said, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.” In the past, women have always been treated differently–and almost always worse–than men. Despite their oppression, many women throughout the ages have taken it upon themselves to change this social order. From birth, they were told they could not receive an education or be independent. They were forced to submit and encouraged to sew, cook, and bear children. In the past century in particular, new ideas have sprung from these ladies and have flourished at the hands of many others. Feminism has inspired and empowered women throughout history to progress.

One of the most common grievances of feminist activists is that the English language indirectly suggests misogynist themes.

Male supremacy is an idea that is instilled into nearly every aspect of our lives, whether acknowledged or not, and this case it is extremely evident.

Sexist language is prevalent in nearly every language, and often to the detriment of females. Take the example of “master” vs. “mistress”: while “Master” has strong and powerful connotations, “Mistress” does not. In many cases these connotations trivialize women and their roles.

As society and language have evolved and developed, male chauvinism has remained an integral aspect of protocol, and–in the past–was observed at all times. e.g.?

Despite the major changes in society regarding the roles of the sexes, the language of society has remained the same. Many feminist activists view the lack of change in social language as offensive.

Gendered metaphors in everyday life have been used for centuries, but the emerging idea of feminism throws a new light on them. Such metaphors exist in science, nature, and society, but—when investigated in depth—seem to suggest feminist rather than sexist ideas.

“Anthropologist Emily Martin notes in ‘The Egg and the Sperm’ that ‘the picture of the egg and the sperm drawn in popular as well as scientific accounts relies on stereotypes central to our cultural definitions of male and female’ (Martin, 485). Martin’s analysis of numerous biology texts and articles shows that the language applied to the egg is ‘feminine’ while the sperm is given ‘masculine’ characteristics. For example, the ovum is always described as being ‘large and passive’ while the sperm are characterized as ‘active,’ ’streamlined,’ and ’strong’ (Martin, 489). Further scientific investigations have made it clear that these descriptions are influenced by cultural dualisms rather than observable data. These underlying beliefs are highly influential in determining the direction of scientific inquiry. In fact, one researcher named Erik H. Erikson in 1964 attempted to establish a direct link between the stereotypical behavior of men and women and the activities of the egg and the sperm. (Sheets)”

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