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 “Never doubt that a small
group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the
only thing that ever has.” once said Margaret Mead.?What’s included in “women’s
rights”? That has changed in focus over
time. In ancient cultures, women had some rights that women in later cultures
did not have. The early feminists (early 19th century and before) often focused
on women’s education and property rights. During the 19th century until 1920,
women’s rights activists often focused on suffrage. In the so-called second
wave of feminism (1960s) which was the main
progress in this field, women’s rights embraced economic rights, reproductive rights, political rights and equality
at home, the workplace…

To
start with, we are going to introduce the social evolution of women in terms of
gender parity. We can then ask ourselves: in what sense can women’s
right be considered as a form of progress ?

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First of all, let’s have a closer look on suffragettes, as it is, indeed considered as the biggest wave of revolts in the history of
women. It is in 1903, in Britain, that everything began, Women’s Social and Political Union for
the right to vote was created and women showed multiple militant political
actions. This organization was led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her two daughters. Women of all ages, going from young age to
older ages, and classes demonstrated through numerous political actions. However, things did not go
as planned and these demonstrators were jailed on a massive scale, locked out of their own houses, and being misused every time they acted for their
own favor ‘like being thrown down the steps of
Parliament’.

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, this divisiveness
between genders was officially over due to the Women’s Social and Political Union
decision which was to support the men by helping them taking care of their everyday
jobs and help the war effort. This mobilization by the organization led to the
volunteering participation of countless of its members in the field of
industries during the war and support services. This event soothed the situation,
and overpowered the aims of the Women’s Social and political union towards the
government. Indeed, the right to vote was conceded in 1918, it was first given to
all women aged 30 and above and was then reduced to 21 years old in 1928. This episode
can be seen as a very important time in our world and society and should be an
example for our days, indeed these women got what they wanted without quitting
what they had already started. Yet let’s look at
a different point of view, and show the evolution of equality between genders.

To illustrate this , let’s use as an example the 2010 movie
Made in Dagenham by Nigel Cole, which is
based on a true story. It delves into
the movement that caused a symbolic law
reform. An extract from the film Made in Dagenham (2010) draws our attention to
the fact that women were still officially discriminated against in Great
Britain in the second half of the 20th century. This extract takes place in a
Ford car factory in London and expose underpaid women working in
industries and here, particularly in the Ford sewing Machines who
demand
equal pay to men. Rita O’Grady, which is the main character in this movie,
leads this in the 1968 Ford Sewing
category in Dagenham. These women workers walk out of their job in order to
protest against sexual discrimination. This event causes a
lot of public attention around the world and was seen something
which was seen as an exceptional but also notable as
it was not a woman’s job to do anything else apart
from the traditional family roles. It was known that when a
job was done by a woman, it was much less valuable than when it was done by a
man, therefore women were less paid than men for the equivalent job. Once more,
the world needed to advance and obtain mentalities that are worth having for
the whole society, we wanted at the time legal recognition but we still do now.

However, women from this strike succeeded and the
strike was
at the end very successful and led to the Equal
Pay Act 1970.

We
can see
that the places of women in the world has evolved over the years however
nowadays women are still fighting for some small inequalities that
are present. We can, however, ask ourselves, are
women going to be more powerful than men one day?

Like said, Jennifer Worth “Bah! Suffragettes. I’ve no
time for suffragettes. They made the biggest mistake in history. They went for
equality. They should have gone for power!”.

 

Norms and beliefs about gender and work seem to
be longstanding, fortified and difficult to change: indeed, they have changed very
frequently and significantly throughout history in line with broader economic,
social and political transformations.

If we
have a closer look on what concerns gender and work, the equality have not
always been a line going up progressively towards full modernization and
equality. There have been advancements but also setbacks and backlashes, according to what
is economically and politically necessary at a particular time.    The
categorisation of jobs as more or less skilled and their evaluation as more or
less valuable is gendered. ‘The concrete value judgments that constitute
conventional job evaluation (…) replicate (…) structures of gender typing and
gender segregation of jobs and the clustering of women workers in the lowest
and the worst-paid jobs.’ (Acker, 1990)

 

‘Women’s skills’ are less valued, and women devalue
skill, wages in a male-dominated sector very often decrease when women enter it
in large numbers (Irving, 2008) consequently, trade unions have not always
supported women. Furthermore, sexual harassment and
discrimination only became visible and denaturali-sed when it was named by
workers, activists and scholars. It should be understood not as the
individualised trait of ‘a few rotten apples’, but as part of the
organisational culture: ‘in many or-ganisations, the willingness to tolerate
sexual harrassment is often a com-dition of the job’. (Acker, 1990). Addressing render segregation and gender pay gaps
in work has required legislative intervention, and this has generally come
about as a result of protest, industrial action, and political mobilisation. Many
occupations presume and prescribe a particular kind of gendered worker, and
therefore doing that work requires doing gender.

The
transition in Western societies from a Fordist to a Post-Fordist system of
economic production and the concomitant growth of the service sector placed an
increasing emphasis on emotional labour. This concept was created by the
sociologist Arlie Hochschild: ‘the management of feeling to create a publicly
observable facial and bodily display; emotional labor is sold for a wage’ (1983).

 

The financial sector is characterised by profoundly masculinised workplace
cultures (Ho, 2009; McDowell,1997;2010) that value ‘macho’ behaviors, based on
risk-taking, aggressiveness and over-confidence.

These
norms become seen as a ‘normal’ and ‘necessary’ part of trading, such that male
(and female) workers must adopt such behaviors in order to fit in and get
ahead. 

‘Exaggerated forms of masculinized language and
behavior are still commonplace. Horseplay, sexualized banter, loud and
aggressive talk, as well as forms of sexual harassment are tolerated (…).

Social exchanges are still commonly set in masculinized arenas, including in
golf clubs or hospitality suites at major football clubs as well as (…) lap
dancing clubs’.(McDowell, 2010)

 

Dominant
understandings of masculinity and femininity are classed and contribute to
reproducing class privilege and inequalities. Historically and in the present,
ideals of femininity tend to be aligned with the practices and possibilities of
those in the upper and middle classes.

For example, the social construction in 19th and 20th
century UK society of ‘ideal femininity’ as defined in terms of full-time
caring for home and family was an impossible goal for working
class women to reach.

Consequently,
working-class women seen as ‘less feminine’ and less ‘respectable’, as Beverley
Skeggs (1997) shows in her longitudinal ethnography of the lives and
subjectivities of working-class women in the UK. They are seen to have the ‘wrong’
tastes, clothes and behaviors; they are ‘too much’, ‘too loud’, ‘too sexual’. Consider,
for example, current reality shows and how they portray working-class
femininities.

 

     Based on the
argumentation made above
we can conclude, ‘In Western
countries, many of the feminist movements’ ideas and demands have become
incorporated into mainstream beliefs, norms and policies relating to gender,
but feminism continues to be regularly stigmatized’
can be explained by the fact, that the world will never agree on the fact that
women should be as equal as men, and only a small portion of the population of
the world will agree to this. Different countries hold different speeches about
this problem as there are countries where this equality should have already
been accorded. It has been at least one century that this problem has occurred for
the different reasons that we have quoted. That is why this question is still
being discussed and why render equality is so hard to achieve. Feminism is
still seen as a ‘non-important’ political movement by some people and it is
starting to be a very serious problem.

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