Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at seeking, creating, and defending rights for women (Madsen, 2000). Mainly, feminism movements campaigns for equality. Because of the many issues that women face, feminism movements’ seeks equality between men and women in the society (Allen, 2009).
Over the years, women have been oppressed while men have been favored. Feminist movements have always advocated for women’s rights (Madsen, 2000). These movements have opposed domestic violence, cases of sexual harassment, and sexual molestation against women (Kenneth, 2010). This research paper will focus on the work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Throughout, the paper will discuss Gilman’s feminism theory and relate it to the issues of women in the contemporary society.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was one of the well-known American sociologists in the 18th century (Kenneth, 2010). During this period, Gilman was very sensitive and she became concerned about what was happening in her surroundings. She was an exception feminist who represented the women through her creative work of literature, especially poetry (Madsen, 2000). Gilman did a lot of work both fiction and non-fiction (Kenneth, 2010). Her fiction work was dedicated to improving the living standards for women.
Generally, Gilman’s work was aimed at forming a big revolution that would put women’s need at the center of focus (Allen, 2009). During her time, Gilman recognized that there existed a lot of inequalities in the society and more particular at the workplace (Allen, 2009). She also noticed that women were not allowed to work in some places.
Notably, women would access certain jobs and they were only given duties to work as home markers. For this reason, women had no income; they did not control any sector. Because of this inequality, Gilman focused on restructuring the relation between men and women. She dedicated her work in campaigning for women’s rights and improving social relationships (Madsen, 2000).
Gilman’s evolutionary theory and the sexuo-economic relation theory
Charlotte Gilman looked at the society in terms of relationships that existed between men and women (Kenneth, 2010). She explored the theory of social evolution in a wider perspective. In this theory, Gilman observed that the society gave men an upper hand in the selection process.
Gilman also argued that, social evolution theory had put men at the centre of the society (Kenneth, 2010). Because of this, the male gender takes the responsibility of determining the type of relationship between men and women. Since men are “superior,” women have to be submissive towards men in all ways. According to theory of social evolution, it is a requirement for women to have sexual contact with men (Kenneth, 2010).
In responding to this issue, Gilman observed that sexual contact was not always out of free will (Kenneth, 2010). Because of such principles argued by social evolution, women have always been oppressed; they are forced to have sexual contact with men. This forms the basis of gender-based violence.
Notably, women are perceived as homemakers. Gilman observes that women are left at home and they are expected to support men in their work (Allen, 2009). The society expects them to give up their dreams to support the family. On the other hand, men occupy the public sphere. They enjoy the best things in the society and control economy and political arenas.
Gilman argued that gender roles are constructed by the society and therefore the society needs to change for survival of humanity (Kenneth, 2010). Gilman opposed some aspects of social evolution theory. She argued that, separation of men and women using gender roles was only functional in the past and this concept was no longer applicable in today’s society (Allen, 2009). What was functional in the past is now dysfunctional to the society.
The identities and gender roles are created through socialization when children are growing up (Madsen, 2000). When children are born, they are dressed in specific clothes associated to men or women. The children are also given different toys to play with as they grow up (Madsen, 2000).
Gilman observed that sexual relations and home economics are linked (Kenneth, 2010). Women have to please their husbands through sex while men are to provide for the family. Relationships between men and women are based on sex and money instead of genuine love. Gilman argued that men and women should be free to work and gain economic independence (Kenneth, 2010). One’s economic ability should be separated from intimate relationships.
Changes should be made because this social arrangement was unfriendly to both men and women. Men have the burden of providing for the family while women are confined at home. Because of these issues, Gilman campaigned for social reengineering to favor both men and women (Kenneth, 2010). Women have the right to work outside the home and contribute to the society using their intellectual ability and creativity.
Current news/ example
According to Gilman’s theory, women are treated as “inferior” beings (Allen, 2009). The social relation between men and women is only meant to uphold men high. Women face sexual harassment, sexual assaults, and domestic violence. The sad news is that, these issues are still present in today’s society (Madsen, 2000). In today’s society, women are still experiencing cases of sexual harassment and assaults. The following current story will elaborate how men treat women as sex objects at the work place.
According to CBC news (2011), Cpl. Catherine Galliford a former RCMP officer experienced sexual assault during the time she was working at RCMP. During an interview with Catherine, the CBC news reported that another RCMP officer reported a similar case of sexually harassment (CBC News, 2011).
The officer by the name Krista Carle made a phone call to CBC during the interview. As she told about the horrific situation, Carle said that she also knew six other women who had been silent about issues of sexual harassment at the work place (CBC News, 2011). According to Krista, these other women had left the force because of constant sexual harassment at RCMP.
Krista Carle had graduated together with Catherine in RCMP academy in the early 1990s (CBC News, 2011). Carle claimed that she was sexual harassed and assaulted during the time she was working at RCMP (CBC News, 2011).
Carle and four other women have already sued the RCMP with the claims that a senior named Sgt. Blundell sexually harassed them (CBC News, 2011). CBC reported that, the four women were “individually and separately sexually assaulted and harassed by Sgt. Blundel” (CBC News, 2011). To demonstrate how men are favored, the organization upon receiving the news, it only slashed Bludell a day of vacation as a punishment. According to CBC news, Sgt. Bludell was later promoted to become a senior staff at RCMP (CBC News, 2011).
From this current story, we learn that women are still oppressed in the society today. In this example, women are treated as sexual objects and they are sexually harassed and assaulted at the work place (Madsen, 2000). Even after news about sexual harassment gets to the management, Sgt. Blundell is not punished severely. According to Gilman’s feminism theory, this is a high level of inequality. This example portrays how men are favored in the society while women are oppressed.
It is obvious that the sergeant is not punished severely because he is a man. While punishing the sergeant, the organization looks at this issue from a male perspective. According to feminism’s theory women are there to satisfy men’s need and hence they can be used as sex objects (Allen, 2009).
This is the reason why Gilman is advocating for social restructuring. According to Gilman, there is need to have social restructuring so that men and women can be treated on the same standards (Kenneth, 2010). Without re-organization of the social structure, men will be treated as superior being while women will be oppressed by the society.
Gilman in her feminism theory observes that women are not awarded with certain position in the society (Allen, 2009). This is also evident in this case study. In the RCMP, Blundell is a senior sergeant while women including Carle and Catherine are junior officers. This is also the level of inequality, which Gilman is opposing in her theory (CBC News, 2011).
Gilman’s feminism theory and the contemporary society
Although the status of women has improved in the society, they continue to experience challenges. Today, there are some improvements in some areas but the society needs to work extra hard to incorporate women more. Gilman’s theory of feminism argues that women need to be given reproductive rights and control over their body (Madsen, 2000).
Although feminism movements have achieved a lot in acquiring rights of women in the society today, women do not have complete control on their body and issues of reproduction. Women are not given opportunities to decide when to have sex and when to have children. Decision by women in this field cannot be effected without men’s approval. Men also make the decision on the number of children that a woman should have.
Secondly, women have not been fully integrated in the public domain. Positions of authority and leadership are still occupied by men with a small percentage of women occupying this area. However, in the current world women are able to get employment unlike before when they remained at home.
Despite attaining jobs, women do not have opportunities to rise to higher positions at the work place; it is very difficult. Most companies and organizations do not give promotions to women. Gender discrimination at work place has placed women at a disadvantageous position (Allen, 2009). Moreover, the society does not accept that a woman is strong enough to handle challenges that men deal with as leaders.
Women’s roles as homemakers have not changed greatly. In most societies, women are seen as homemakers and this has denied women opportunities to join the public domain (Madsen, 2000). On the other hand, men are the ones occupying this positions making them to be a step ahead. Gilman in her feminism theory argued that household responsibilities needed to be professionalized to give women enough time to participate in economic and leadership activities (Kenneth, 2010).
Despite of many attempts and endless struggle by women, it has been a challenging journey to get to this level. This is because it is very expensive to get a qualified housekeeper. Women are also forced to make a decision of letting someone else look after their children or concentrate with work and live with the guilt of not taking care of their children. The level of flexibility in domestic roles has not yet been achieved hindering women from creating a balance between their work and household duties (Madsen, 2000).
According to Gilman’s theory, the society has looked at women as sex objects to be used by men (Allen, 2009). As such, women have been subjected to harassment and gender based violence. At times, women experience such cases of harassment but they do not report these cases.
This is because when such cases happen, the blame is directed towards women especially regarding issues of dressing. The society does not treat them as victims. Although, the society has made tremendous improvements in reducing sexual harassment by giving women platforms to speak out and defend themselves, many changes are required in prevention of gender violence and sexual harassment (Allen, 2009).
Because of gender mainstreaming in the education sector, women now have access to education compared to past years when women were denied this fundamental right. Gilman in her feminism theory argues that, women have the right to education and involvement in productive labor outside the house/home (Kenneth, 2010). To demonstrate emerging changes, the number of women going to school and graduating as professionals has been rising gradually over the years.
Indeed, feminism movements have accomplished so much in liberating women from oppression. Charlotte Gilman is a feminist who dedicated her work in advocating for women by encouraging and promoting equality she has contributed a lot towards acquiring social change (Puente, 2006).
Through her theory, she was able to start the process of social engineering, which has changed the social relations between men and women. The society has learned to appreciate women for who they are. This is a major improvement in the social structure, which benefits both men and women.
Recommendation and conclusion
It is no doubt that Charlotte Gilman has done a wonderful job through her feminism theory (Allen, 2009). Indeed, she has represented the views of the women by highlighting their plights in the society. Through her views and opinions, the society has been transformed. Today, social restructuring is already taking place and women are slowly by slowly having similar opportunities just like men (Puente, 2006). Today, we have women who are presidents, CEOs, managers, Doctors and so on.
To create equilibrium in the society, the opinion is that, women should be at liberty to do what they want with their bodies and lives. They should be able to enjoy what they like doing especially practicing housekeeping and child rearing. There is need to integrate women in the society to enable them have adequate chances to participate in the public sphere.
Since women are not less beings, they should be offered equal opportunities just like men to work, take leadership roles, and interact with the outside world (Puente, 2006). Roles of women at home should not be used to discriminate them. Alternatively, there is need to professionalize those roles that are considered for women such as housekeeping and child caring. This will offer women opportunities to explore other careers.
Allen, J. (2009). The feminism of Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Sexualities, histories, progressivism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
CBC News. (2011). More allegations of RCMP officers being sexually harassed. Retrieved from http://liberatemind.com/main/2011/11/09/more-allegations-of-rcmp-officers-being-sexually-harassed/.
Kenneth, A. (2010) Classical Sociological Theory. (2nd Ed.). New Delhi. Sage.
Madsen, D. (2000). Feminist theory and literary practice. London: Pluto Press.
Puente, C. (2006). Feminism and dialogics: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Meridel Le Sueur, Mikhail M. Bakhtin. Valencia: Universitat de Valencia.