My imaginative personality is that of a first generation Asian immigrant who is studying business in a US university. I have only recently become exposed to feminism and to feminist ideas. I am becoming aware of the differences in experiences of women because of their separate cultures, race and ethnicity.
Feminism has essentially started in the West and is at the forefront of the struggle for gender equality for women all over the world. The feminist movement has resulted in substantial improvement in the status of women, changes in laws governing treatment of women, greater opportunities for women in the public political and academic arena. Despite these gains, women continue to be regarded as second class citizens, treated inferior to men, denied access to certain resources and positions of power and suffer from destructive gender stereotyping and discrimination.
The feminist movement today faces a lot of obstacles. One of the major obstacles is the break among feminists into radical, social, and liberal feminists and many other fragments, each presenting a different approach towards this struggle for gender equity. Feminism started as a unified, homogenous social movement for equality for women. Like most social movements it grew and broken up into different factions since one view cannot please all members all the time in all situations and applications. The feminist movement thus holds different meaning and emphasis for different people.
Feminism has become an elitist institution, non-transcending of different race and ethnic groups and not connecting to the experiences of women at all levels. The term feminist has become a label too loaded with negative stereotypes that makes other women and groups shy away from feminism. Feminism has not been transported across all societies; women in other parts of the world who are committed to advancement of women and are fighting for changes might not describe themselves as feminists. However in North America feminists are becoming increasingly acceptable.
The women at the forefront of feminist movement were educated White women, and they originally created a form of radical feminism focusing on womens issues. These women have the unique opportunity and chance to bring to light the problems and concerns of women, but they cannot speak for all women nor generalize their experiences as universal. Differences according to nationality, race, culture will constitutes a different experience as women for an individual in these cultures. Feminists might be unaware of the concerns and issues faced by other women in the world and/or have limited experience to relate to these concerns directly. Thus these issues would not be publicized, targeted and resolved. For example: the concerns and issues facing rural women in Third World Africa such as: getting clean drinking water, freedom to chose their husband, right to control their reproduction (access to birth control), freedom to escape genital mutilation and prevent it being performed to their daughters would be very different to concerns of a radical feminist in the US today.
Coming from Asia, I was unaware of the direct impact of feminism work until being exposed to feminist ideas in class readings and discussions. Feminism is emerging in Asia, but only among the rich elite and has met a lot of opposition. To act in a way contrary to traditional customs would be considered as trying to act American, or thats the European way and the person would become outcastes.
Feminists are challenging male supremacy but they should also be challenging other types of supremacy, supremacy that some women get by virtue of their having a certain identity; belonging to a certain race, or organization that gives these women power and dominance over others. For women of color, changes from the feminist movement must go hand in hand with changes in their societal status, that you cannot consider one form of oppression without considering the rest. If the feminist struggle fails to address the concerns of certain groups, these groups feeling left out and alienated would naturally drift away, not seeing its value to their lives.
Concerns that face women of Asia are mainly societal restraints on womens activities. Women are supposed to be submissive, passive and demure; subservient to men and inferior in all valued areas. Gender roles are reinforced especially during and after marriage. A woman is supposed to give up her career and all previous occupations to stay at home and bring up her children. Her first responsibility becomes to her husband and her husbands family. A woman is expected to bring into the marriage household goods, furniture and bring gifts to the husbands family. There is intense pressure to conform to traditional gender roles that value and give power to men over women.
Ways to overcome these obstacles are: Through better knowledge of women in diverse cultures, feminists would be able to fully represent and channel activities that address specific concerns of women in different cultures. Holding open forums and conferences featuring experiences of women across cultures would be a means of enlightenment. Increased knowledge about womens experiences would help minimize prejudices among women and bring about unity. Feminism is too big an umbrella, perhaps the break into sub-groups is more positive because smaller groups would target specific problems, rendering them more effective. Raising the consciousness of women that the fight for gender equality is not yet over is important. Having women collaborate on projects beneficial to feminism as a whole might lessen the gap. Through contributions to a desired goal the women would feel part of feminism social structure, be encouraged to take part in activities advocating for the rights of women.
I am taking the perspective of an Asian woman to write the response to the readings. I see the stereotypes of a race and perceptions that one has of another culture can inhibit the way they connect as women. To have a bind and a common similarity of experiences gives the women's movement fuel, but when many multicultural groups of women come together they don't share the same experiences and don't bring with them the same memories that form their perceptions unconsciously. I see the differences in cultures to be the cause of obstacles in feminism. Even though we are all women, we are not equally treated as women, just as we are not treated equally with men therefore we have had different experiences which form our prejudices and stereotypical ways of seeing. One example of the obstacles is the muted groups, where the common thinking about feminism somewhat relates to upper-middle-class white women, also the racism that goes along with some white feminist. Groups especially related to some of the first feminist groups of the seventies that excluded miniorities. Some ways of overcoming these obstacles would be to form other ways of seeing people and not excluding there cultures and backgrounds which heavily weigh on there experiences and concepts of feminism. To realize the prejudice against women by not letting oneself be prejudice in other ways.