Jul 14, 2020 in Research

Feminism in the 21st Century

Feminist theory reached its highest point in the 1960s and early 1970s. Since the women's movement began to decline and activity has become quite fashionable, it is possible to discuss the emergence of post-feminism. Undoubtedly, feminism has caused a number of difficulties. First women's movement became divided and heterogeneous, and in fact, some people have doubted whether the women's movement at that time was reasonable. While feminists were united only in order to increase women's rights, their views differed on the ways of the development of gender equality and its conceptions as well as technology, which also influenced the separation of feminism movement. For a long time there were divisions between reformist and revolutionary feminists, between the radical and socialist feminists, and between highly confrontational positions and separatist lesbian feminism. The spread of feminism affected such issues as prostitution, pornography, censorship, abortion, maternity, race and nationality, wealth. From the first glance, the presence of such a wide range of common problems and the influence on them shows the power of feminism, not its weakness. However, the feminist movement has moved from the idea to political ideology, which can be extreme and populist. Like many other ideologies, it has a wide range of flows that are often opposite. Moreover, the development of social media contributed to the spread of feministic thoughts using different outlets, however, this has not influenced the meaning of feminism, resulting in the intellectual consumption and radicalism, which is contrary to the tenets of liberal feminism.

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To understand the problem of feminism in the 21st century, it should be noted its latest development. The first problem that led to the extremization of feminism was the fact that especially in the 1980s and 1990s feminism acted alone in a hostile political environment which resulted in a radicalization of women`s thoughts. In Islamic countries, fundamentalists took advantage reflected in the violent separation of women from the political and public spheres of life, the prohibition of political rights and returning to the conservative practice. The progress against feminism also traced to the industrial west. Thatcher and Reagan Administrations in the 1980s, for example, launched antifeminist propaganda, which appeals to return to the traditional family values. Such a policy was intended to affect the return of women to their traditional responsibilities of mothers and housewives. The new law tried to restore pro-family traditions and values not only because they were seen as natural, but also because they were seen as the foundation of social stability and order. Thus, the government accused working mothers in the increase in the number of crimes and vandalism among teenagers. In addition, single mothers were accused in the US and the UK that they compromised the values of the traditional family and created financial limits of the society. These are examples of a syndrome accusation of feminism. At the same time, these signs were the hidden compliment for the women's movement. Attempts to restore the traditional social and religious values reflected the success of feminism in prompting women to question existing concepts and traditional gender roles.

Feminism in the XXI century faced the fact that the most goals assigned to the feminist movement have been achieved or are in the process, which was the basis postfeminism criticism. Once the right to vote was won by the early twentieth century, the second wave of feminism has risen in many countries on the legalization of abortion, equal legal rights, anti-discrimination laws and greater access to education and political and professional life. Some even suggests that feminism will disappear only when a new generation of men, not chauvinistic men of the past, but the new men who would put up with feminine elements of their essence, would adopt some household chores in the so-called symmetric families. Men argue that the process has gone too far and that they were victims of gender policy, which also affected the radicalization of feminism and its development into a political ideology. The decrease in the importance of the traditional male role in society, facing increasing competition from women at work, deprived of their breadwinner status resulted in a new portion of feminism criticism. Men, especially the younger generation, are afraid they will become indifferent to the cultural developments and progress, which will be led by women. The old role of feminism disappear since it is not the movement for the equality, but the tendency to take the leading place in the cultural and social revolution, which will develop into a new form of social relations. Woman as a leader has become growing political ideology, struggling towards political influence and the leading roles in other fields.

The central ideas of postfeminism are obvious that all forms of oppression against women have been overcome, and therefore society is not seen as patriarchal. Without a doubt, greatly increased the number of working women and in most Western countries these are married women. Despite concerns about reducing male positions, women hold the majority of low-paid jobs, low-status jobs and work overtime. Women also have less control over their own bodies through the established stereotypes of femininity and beauty stereotypes that exist in society and occupy a secondary position in marriage and less represented in high positions in society. In the book "The Whole Woman" Greer denied the position that women all have reached the highest point, arguing that they have betrayed the position of liberalization and has become satisfied with a kind of equality, more similar to assimilation, in order to be similar to men. It reveals the ability of Patriarchate to renew generation after generation. Obviously, feminism will exist as long as Patriarchate. Although the primary goal of feminism in the twentieth century was to establish the integrity and permanence of the third wave of feminism that can determine the variable nature of gender relations and expose post-feminism’s goal.

The crisis of liberal feminism has appeared in the 21st century too, which is seen as the cornerstone for the struggle towards equality. In fact, women are judged not only for their talents and abilities but also for social status and economic factors. If emancipation simply means achieving equal rights and opportunities for women and men, and other forms of social inequality, those related to race and social status are ignored. This even caused the huge disintegration of feminism movement, when the hashtag  #solidarityisforwhitewomen were created. Hence, liberal feminists can represent the interests of blonde women, representatives of the middle class in developed societies, but do not solve the problems of the working-class women, and black women in developing countries, which is another problem for contemporary feminism. Thus, the individual characteristics of the person are defining for liberal feminists, because it appears that differences between people of the same sex are much stronger than between the sexes. However, liberal feminists argue that women equal to men in their expressed will and desire to live their lives the way they want. They emphasize that sex differences are limited by the play and secondary sexual characteristics not related to the mental abilities and aptitudes to the different classes. Liberal feminists also support choice of the woman giving birth to baby or to have an abortion. Regarding the employment system, representatives of liberal feminism believe that a woman can engage in any activity for which she lacks qualifications. Moreover, the liberal feminism can become the leading concept in the 21st century, because its essence is not to fight with men, but to protect the rights of all people, including the men and fight against social stereotypes.

If early feminism turned to the analysis of technologies of the industrial age, the new media technology fully become the center of attention of feminism. Given the dramatic changes in the distribution and use of digital technologies, advocates of feminism enthusiastically talked about network technologies. It was emphasized that the virtual space of the Internet indicates the end of the physical reasons for gender differences. According to Kasana, such as digital technologies facilitate the removal of boundaries between people and mechanisms between men and women, allowing users to choose different masks and take an alternative identity. Industrial technology can be patriarchal, but digital technology, exploiting the brain, rather than muscles based on the principle of a network, creates a new relationship between women and technology. The Internet and virtual space in cyberfeminism understood as women's media, providing the technological basis for a new form of society that potentially frees women. Stephanie, in her article underlines the importance of social media in promotion of feminist messages, using hashtag in Twitter, or tagging the people in Facebook, Instagram and other popular online media. According to this view, women are more suited to life in the digital age than men because of their willingness to interact more, thus, using the online platforms as a source for discussions and spreading of their ideas. 

However, Hill argue that the usage of social media has led to the emergence of many harsh statements from both the women and men. Governments use media outlets as a source to oppose activists. Moreover, women activists also spoil the image of feminism movement, for example, FEMEN with all its harsh statements and provocations. All this convulsive activity and screams have little to do with the essence of the feminist movement itself, the fruits of which women enjoy now. Women are free to receive an education, no one disputes their right to vote or the right to property. Feminism haters exist too as well as on the other side. They are those who find fault with every detail, even if everything is done well. Such personalities do not define the movement at all: they only want to cling to anything, just to show out the emotions, create a scandal, and attract attention. However, the discussion over harsh statements may divert the activists from the offline activity, which is essential for any movement, moreover, for the ideology. The perfect example of the correlation between modern feminism critiques and feminism may serve the comics made by the user Sociological Cinema. It illustrates the common phenomenon, when the activist sees everything as a feminism critique. Moreover, Malcolm Gladwell in his article states that the usage of online media may cause a pressure on politicians and companies one at a time, but it is not the way to use social media with its weak ties as a main source for the political activism. Moreover, despite the popularity of social media platforms for their usage to promote feminism campaigns, they can be the source for the separation between radical feminists and liberal feminists. The latter launched the campaign called #BlameOneNotAll, showing appreciation for the good things done by men. However, it caused the wave of criticism from the radical female activists, producing messages like “feels like giving men a pat on back for not being rapists... why would men want to be patronised like that?” This creates the negative image of feminism as well, causing the disintegration of the movement. 

Uncritical enthusiasm for digital technology has caused accusations of researchers in technological determinism, although they appear more optimistic rather than pessimistic. Women are actively involved in the production of new identities, but still not active in the process of creating technologies. Feminism, moving into social networks increasingly become far from its starting point. Women will pay less attention towards influence on political power, while discussing an issue of gender in the network, because social media are very involving into the virtual world, which exists sometimes far from reality. They are becoming involved in a process of intellectual consumption of new media, and the possibility of gender discourse in the virtual world limits their ordinary world. For example, blogging is a popular activity among young women, but it does not affect the feminist movement at all, only creating the gender roles stereotypes or serving as a close community. 

According to Stephanie, to move forward, feminism must continue to clean the understanding of the relationship between ICT and gender to not apply the technology as something necessarily patriarchal, which increasing the opposition between feminists and their opponents. The relationship between gender and ICT is not always pre-defined. While the design process solves many problems, a technology still depends on the unintended social consequences of their spread and domestication. The ability of women users to generate new, profitable technical artifacts depends on the wider economic and social circumstances. Thus, the women should not focus only on online activities, but should continue struggle towards economic and political equality. For example, the girl-teenager feels her cell phone as an extension or free extension of her body. For her mother, the phone can be, above all, a tool to help to control his daughter. For other women, mobile phone serves as a business management tool. There is a large difference in ICT women's experience, defined by geographical location, ethnicity, class, ethnicity, age so it is not the point to make the Internet the center of the rights movement. 

Feminism in the 21st century reveals how specific methods of design, marketing, research and educational policy leads to a lack of certain users, especially women. Although it is impossible to determine in advance the influence of technology and information systems that would guarantee equality, it is imperative that women should be involved in engineering activities for the development, not just a blogs for women but online platforms that will struggle towards equality in the offline world. New feminism approach should emphasize the construction of gender and ICT with the reference to men and other possible genders. New media, viewed not as content but as the clearing technology, changing due to their design features and the connections between people, received theoretical interpretation in the direction of FTS (feminist technology studies). Feminist gender theory and technology has made a great leap forward in its development over the past two decades, however the influence of the feminists on the offline world is not so strong as it was in 60s and 70s. This can be explained because of the few things. Today it can be said, that early feminism, which is characterized by a mood of fatalism, emphasizing the role of technology in reproducing patriarchy, while new activists do not think so. Secondly, it can be noted about the postmodernist current feminism, whose supporters welcomed digital technology as a tool for the liberation of women. However, the usage of online technology often does not have the needed affect and does not go viral. The women should better understand the essence of technology and use it as a stepping-stone for a constructive critique in online media. Thirdly, tech-feminism approach creates a set of ideas about the social construction of gender and technology. 


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