WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE FEMINIST IN THE 21st CENTURY?

2014-08-06 04:47

The euphoria about women empowerment and issues around women in general has dawned upon us yet again. Print, television and social media are streaming with all kinds of messages praising, celebrating and seeking to motivate our female counterparts to claim their rightful place in their households, and in society at large. That is, to affirm to the world that what they can offer goes far beyond the confines of the kitchen and the shadows of domineering male figures.

This act of self-affirmation and determination is of immense importance, and as such should be recognised as exactly that: A campaign to advocate for the emancipation of women in all spheres of society, and a responsibility that each and every single one of us must be entrusted with, irrespective of one's gender. It should not in any way be used as a tool to promote a gender-based ideology that is biased toward the interests of a particular group, in the process demonising and eroding an extreme social thought by another.

In a book published in 1998, titled Contemporary Feminist Theories, Stevi Jackson and Jackie Jones argue that feminism was born out of the "need to understand women's subordination and exclusion from, or marginalisation within, a variety of cultural and social arenas". This assertion speaks to the question of women empowerment in response to the injustices they are generally subjected to in a patriarchal setting, and undoubtedly, one that is often hostile towards the emancipation of women. Today, the tone and posture of the theory is still pretty much the same, REACTIVE.

With the political transition from Apartheid to a democratic dispensation having been realised in 1994, one would expect the feminist of today to be proactive. That is, to see their struggle for equality and inclusion as a remedy to society's problems and not a panacea only to women's problems. Undeniably, crude elements of patriarchy are still deeply entrenched in both the lower and higher echelons of our society, but there needs to be a collectivist-approach through which the feminist of today will view the fundamental elements of the feminist theory as guiding principles towards achieving certain objectives by all members of society and not as absolutely exclusive to the mind the woman.

Basically, if not moulded in such a way that it will respond to a range of societal issues by means of a collectivist and an all-inclusive approach, feminism will assume a posture that is as discriminatory and undermining as patriarchy. Furthermore, the two contradicting theories will stretch further apart leading to a manifestation of the irreconcilability of gender antagonisms. The reality this presents before us is that orthodox feminism can be as extremely unjust as patriarchy, unless the feminist of today is prepared not only to advocate for the empowerment of women, but to assume the responsibility of educating the patriarch about the value of co-existence.

The role of the modern feminist should, therefore, be informed by the conditions ( Political, social and economic) of her environment, even so, hers should always be to add value by means of a constructive contribution to the national discourse on gender equality and a range of other issues that may be attributed to as feminine. In addition, she should refrain from projecting feminism as a potential replacement for patriarchy, but rather use it as a tool to create an atmosphere that encourages growth, harmony and co-existence; thus avoiding the dominance of one theory over another.

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