Is feminism still relevant

by marzele

A contemporary look at feminism:  You can drive, so now what?

The problem with understanding feminism often lies in misunderstanding the definition. There are various branches of feminism, for instance cultural feminism, liberal feminism and radical feminism. Radical feminism is generally the stereotyped feminism and the reason for the stigma attached to the term.  As times have changed, however, so has the nature of feminism.

During an interview with Nicki Spies, author of Seks – wat is die eintlike storie , she defines feminism as a   ”philosophical stance and way of living which views both men and women as equal and supports equality for all.” This definition is accepted for the purpose of this article. Therefore, I am not referring to the stereotyped idea of feminism which includes bra-burning rituals and the refusal to shave, but rather to people, women AND men,  advocating equal economic, social and political rights for both men and women.

Radical feminism is often criticised as people tend to forget that at that time in history it was necessary to bring about change. Since the feminist movement in the late 19th century a lot has changed.  Women in most countries have attained the right to drive, work and vote amongst numerous other rights. So the question arises; why is feminism still relevant in modern times? Well, in the Middle East and North Africa women are systematically denied their human rights and experience the effects of extreme inequalities.

However, let’s take a look at the situation in South Africa, a country which constitutionally guarantees equal rights for all its citizens yet is seen as the rape capital of the world. The truth is that gender inequality is still a common occurrence in everyday life. Society is still largely male dominated and lacks representation for females. This can be seen as an explanation for the widespread rape and domestic violence against women. Why then does gender inequality exist in a country that claims that all people are equal?

Through socialization a number of gender roles and norms have been institutionalized. This is problematic because this establishes underlying power inequalities. Masculinity is defined as sexual dominance while femininity is seen as sexual submissiveness. These gender conventions support the patriarchal system which benefits men. Contemporary feminism has often been criticized for wanting to promote strictly women’s rights and has been accused of being demeaning towards men. Feminism is not opposed to men, but rather to the patriarchal system.  According to Nicki Spies patriarchy is based on ‘privilege, hierarchy and oppression’. Patriarchy also ridicules feminists’ effort to gain equality.’ It diminishes it as the ‘desperate action of bitter and/or homosexual women’. The patriarchal system is thus the reason for the negative stigma attached to feminism. It creates a divide between those who believe in the system and those trying to fight it. Men who do not support patriarchy are often seen as lesser men and it reduces their status.

Despite this negative connotation associated with feminism it has played major roles in the past. The first wave of feminism was in the 19th Century and focused primarily on gaining political rights. The second wave not only fought political inequalities, but also social and cultural inequalities. The third wave of feminism was concerned with being more inclusive and not just focusing on upper-class white women. These three waves of feminism is the reason why women are deemed as legally equal to men.

In modern times, feminism is seen as out-dated and too aggressive towards men. People are reluctant to attach themselves to this term. Cases like the rape and murder of Anene Booysen however places gender inequality on the foreground again. South Africa has called on its men to change their attitudes towards women. An increasing number of people, especially in the youth of South Africa, have become involved in the campaigns against sexual abuse without even realizing the link to feminism. Women are demanding that they should be able to make decisions about their bodies, lives and their sexual and reproductive health.

Through the attainment of seemingly social, economic and political equality it is thought that feminism is irrelevant in modern times. It is, in actual fact, still very important as gender conventions that emphasis the subordinately of women still continue to exist. In South Africa inequality and double standards are prevalent. Feminism plays a major role in exposing issues that would otherwise be ignored. Feminism will be relevant until society reaches a point where women are not treated as inferior and sexual objects, but as equal human beings.






Contact list of people involved in this article

Name: Nicki Spies                                            Name: Nicola Hartell

Email:                                 Email:

Number: 082 341 0308                                     Number:082 441 3819