Redefining Gender Equality

Western Feminism and Liberation Ideology
Although feminism has come to be largely associated with the United States and Europe, feminism was not borne during a single time or in a single place. In actuality, feminism and feminist ideology erupted during different time periods in various parts of the world. However, throughout the development of western feminism, feminism has been associated with a “radical” female figure who challenges sexism and the limitations it places on women. For this reason a feminist was viewed as the antithesis of womanhood–a womanhood characterized by feminine stereotypes–and therefore perceived as “masculine.” Furthermore, the aim of such a woman was to disrupt social order and “liberate” all oppressed women. Although this is a skewed image of the western feminist, it foreshadowed emerging critiques of western feminism. Despite western feminists’ declaration that all women should be free from oppression and equal to men, less privileged women questioned which women this ideology referred to.

In America, those who did not fulfill the requirements of the typical American feminist (Hispanics, Native Americans, African Americans, Asians, lower class Caucasian women, etc.) would question feminist liberation ideology by suggesting that some women are affected by multiple social restraints. These women insisted that their problems differed from those of middle-class and upper-class Caucasian women; they felt that class and race issues could not be excluded in the argument for women’s equality because gender, class, and race intersect and create different problems for different women. Sexuality would also become an issue as lesbian women began to assert themselves as having their own unique struggles as well. Later, “third world” feminism would question the stereotype of certain women and the way in which these women are victimized by western feminism. And eventually, women would begin to question the dichotomy created in categorizing women as either oppressed or liberated, and argue that this dichotomy situates women as oppressors of women.

Redefining Gender Equality
Both Joss and Gold and A Raisin in the Sun explore various issues within feminism in an effort to redefine gender equality; both texts examine gender equality between men and women, but also critique gender equality within the female gender itself. The novels raise questions about the concept of female oppression and the notion of female liberation and reveal that the practice of ‘inclusion by virtue of othering’ exists not only amongst races or between the male and female genders, but also within the female gender itself. Joss and Gold and A Raisin in the Sun present modern feminist arguments that reject the construction of a universal sisterhood ignorant of issues such as class and race. Both texts suggest that such a vision invalidates the diverse experiences among women by suggesting that women are all the same. Furthermore, these texts argue that women of different circumstances (i.e. race, class, and location in the case of the third world woman) are included in this universal sisterhood as inferiors rather than equals. Joss and Gold and A Raisin in the Sun argue that women’s issues are complex and cannot be resolved by simply granting women privileges formerly reserved to men; and, furthermore, the complexity varies from woman to woman. Ultimately, both texts denounce the idea that women are in need of liberation and suggest instead that women are capable of defining their womanhood. Joss and Gold and A Raisin in the Sun are modern feminist texts because they demonstrate that female liberation is merely an ideology rather than a feminist gospel, by highlighting the importance of female choice rather than focusing on the choice itself.

Source: Freedman, Estelle B. No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women. Random House Digital, 2003. Print.

Image Sources:
1. Google Images; Direct Source Unknown
2. U via Stephanie Cawley

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