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N 5, Volumen I, 2 quincena de febrero, ao 2010.

FEMINISM AS A CONTINENTAL MOVEMENT STILL FAR FROM INTERCULTURALISM.

***** Autora: Ana Daz Lpez, Licenciada en Filologa Inglesa, Diploma de Estudios Avanzados rea: Gender Studies
When it first came to my mind the idea of concentrating on feminism as an intercultural issue, I was thinking about connecting this movement with theories of racial segregation and oppression, mainly with the black civil rights movement. However, as I got into the point of my assignment, I realized that feminism, at least in my opinion, is an intercultural issue by itself, and therefore should be treated as it deserves, giving it the whole leading role. In some parts of Africa, feminism means a fight against female genital mutilation; in the Middle Ages it would have meant a fight for witches' right to live; in the Western world a hundred years ago it meant a fight for women's right to hold property, to divorce, to vote, to be recognized as adult legal subjects. And in the Western world today it means a fight against tacit and institutionalised collectivist and misogynist beliefs derived from gender roles and other sexbased prejudices. Feminism is not only a social movement, but also a set of intellectual positions; it describes activism and a commitment to action as much as a range of ideas. Feminist ideas are those that lead to social progress concerning gender relations at a given time and place. The feminist movement defends the belief (and truth) that women and men are, and have been, treated differently by our society, and that women have frequently and systematically been unable to participate fully in all social arenas and institutions. In the American Heritage Dictionary, we can find these definitions of feminism, which involve a theory about and a commitment to men and women being equals, in all spheres of life (social, political and economic equality), equals in standing, possibility, freedom and range of choice. You don't have to be antiman to be pro-woman, but
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this is something which still has to be learnt by certain parts of society that are not able to distinguish between feminism as a movement fighting for equality of rights, both for men and women, and the feminist equivalent of male chauvinism, which is as repudiable as the latter. Feminism is about creating richer, more complex models of womanhood with more choices. We can examine continental feminism and the consequences that it would (and does) have on the lives of individuals. There are, I believe, major criticisms to be made of continental feminism as it is put into practice: That the arguments used to support women are fundamentally identical to those used by opponents of women's equality through history, and that often the answer to who women are excludes many who ought to be validly considered women. The subject of the first criticism is central to continental feminism, as well as the most devastating

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in practical life. If feminism is simply about equality of the sexes, then why isnt it called equalism? It cannot be called equalism because it deals more with the desire for womens equality than about actual equality of sexes. All over the globe, women have been denied opportunities and choices everyday based on their gender, and so social activism has become a needed venue to right a variety of wrongs that have proliferated on the global stage. Despite the fact that the struggle for women's liberation has been going on for hundreds of years, we are still not equal. Why are some women more equal than others? Equality must mean equality under the law, but it must also mean philosophical and social equality of men and women in daily life. The latter cannot be achieved by legislation. True liberation and individualism means that all virtues and characteristics are individual human virtues and characteristics, open to anyone who is inclined to pursue and develop them. There are no virtues or psychological characteristics belonging exclusively to males or to females. Women's struggles for survival and autonomy are seldom examined in isolation. Rather, they are set against broader cultural trends such

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as the ideas of the Enlightenment, the impact of war, urban growth, and new developments in science and medicine, or linked to the many and various political and social groupings and organisations with which women allied themselves. ORIGINS AND EVOLUTION OF FEMINISM According to most dictionary definitions, feminism is a social doctrine or movement favourable to women, to whom it concedes capacities and rights previously reserved for men. This movement, connected in its born with the suffragist movement started in England in the early 20th century, is aimed to achieve the same rights or equality for women and men as the male condition already had. The feminine condition has undergone a great shift in the last decades. Generally, women have occupied a subordinate position in previous societies, as can be seen in such important civilizations as the Ancient Greek and Rome, in the Arab World (still existent today), during the feudal regimes and in the Old Regime. In each of these there were certain family structures that propitiated the differentiation between the roles of male and female gender respectively and distinctively. In Spain, during the Old
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Regime, legal inequality was up to date. While noblemen and clergymen took advantage of numerous privileges, the common people remained oppressed by an elite constituted by a minority. We can also add to this the total absence of political rights (such as the right to vote) and of freedom, as well as of expression, reunion or worship. In the case of women, it is important to highlight their social function: women were merely contributors to the domesticity of the house labours, procreation and bringing up of children; they were totally subordinated to men, either fathers or husbands (patriarchal societies). The situation did not become any better with the French Revolution, but this marks the starting point of the first feminist movement (or at least the first glances of it). The rights of men and citizens that the revolution proclaimed achieved the freedom, the rights and legal equality exclusively for men. It is at this point that the feminist movement emerges in Western Europe as well as in North America, fighting for the equality of women and their freedom, being their first aims the attainment of the right to vote (the suffragist movement is born). However, we have to take into account that before the revolution there were women who, indi-

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vidually, demanded the rights of women, but it was not until the French Revolution that women appear as a collective group fighting for their rights. The French enlightened Condorcet claimed the social recognition of women in his book Esquisse d'unTableau Historiaue des Progres de L'esprit Humain (1795). It was a paradox that the universal claimings of the Revolution (Libert, galit, Fraternit) did not appeal to women, because the denial of their political rights was at the same time the denial of their freedom and equality. The answer came from the revolutionary activist and theatre writer Olympia de Gouges quite soon; in 1791 she published Declaration des Droits de la Femme et de la Citoyenne, an imitation of the one approved by the National Assembly in 1789. Her paraphrase denounces the deliberate forgetfulness of women and states that women are born free and must remain equal to men in rights, and that the law has to be the expression of the general will of both male and female citizens, too. Basically, her demands were freedom, equality and political rights for everybody, but her ideas were not shared by those men who led the revolution and so, during the Jacobin dictatorship, she was put into prison and executed: Thus

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failed the feminist claims during the Revolution. Furthermore, the Napoleonic Civil Code (1804), apart from denying women the civil rights recognised for men, imposed discriminatory laws in which women were confined exclusively to the domestic sphere. Mary Wollstonecraft was the pioneer of Anglo-Saxon feminism with her book Vindication of Human Rights, in which she pointed out the connections existent between absolutism (to which she opposed) and the power relation of men above women (what she referred to as another kind of absolutist tyranny). According to her, the clue to eradicate this situation laid in the access of women to education, because it would lead to the consecutive access to a remunerated job and equality would thus be reached through economic independence. However, her claims do not refer to politics or the right to vote, something that the liberal thinker John-Stuart Mill considered essential for women to be freed from their submission and reach their emancipation. He presented, in the English Parliament, a claim in favour of the women's right to vote (1866) but it was refused, thus giving birth to the first British suffragist group, the National Society for Women's Suffrage, leaded by Lydia Beckett.
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In North America, due to socio-politic and economic circumstances, feminism is linked to protestant movements on religious reform (free interpretation of the scriptures favours the eradication of feminine illiteracy in early 19th century, though not in Europe), and also to abolitionism (slaves did not have any rights, so women identified themselves with them). The Declaration of Seneca Falls introduced the first collective document of feminist philosophy after the War of Secession:
The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice. He has withheld from her rights, which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men, both natives and foreigners. Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise. Thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides. He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead. He has taken from her all right in property. Even to the wages she earns. He has made her, morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband.

The National Women Suffrage Association, founded by E.C Stanton and Susan Anthony, was the first

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independent radical feminist association created. Their first action was the campaign for the feminine suffrage with the aim of attaining the right to vote and a change in the constitution (end of 19th and early 20th centuries). In Spain, feminism had little social presence due to the fact that archaic society was very much influenced by the church and also because of the small industrial development. Politic life was centred in minorities who possessed the greatest part of wealth and power, and it was full of irregularities. Thus, feminism was not centred on political but on social claims. In the education field there was a quite interesting advancement, though the former ideas were still present. The official recognition of the right to superior education was achieved in 1910, but illiteracy was still present. In the 20th century feminism appears as a collective movement, but in 1890 the Galician writer Emilia Pardo Bazn already criticised that freedom, either of politics or worship, had only served to increase the distances between genders without promoting feminine emancipation. On the other hand, lawyer Concepcion Arenal insisted that the role of mother and wife were fundamental but not exclusive. With the II Industrial

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Revolution (1870) and the political, economic and social changes that it involved, the feminist movement had a clear impulse. In the early 20th century in Britain, 70% feminine population had a remunerated job, the number of single women increased and marriage had a clear drawback as it was not an economic option any more. The incorporation of women to work after World War II showed that women could perfectly substitute men in labour issues, thus pointing out their social value and promoting their claims for the right to vote. The main aims of the feminist movement were still the same: Right to vote. Improvement in education. Professional abilities and widening of labour work. Equality of sexes in the family to avoid the subordination of women and to avoid double sexual morality. The suffragist movement wa s l ea d b y Ang l o Saxon countries, though the evolution in different parts of Europe was quite diverse. The attainment of the right to vote of women in certain countries was as follows: New Zealand (1893), Great Britain(1918), U.S.A. (1920), Spain (1931), and Switzerland (1971). The British suffragist movement was divided into two trends: Moderate: Headed by Millicent Garret Fawcet, it was grouped around the national Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. Their main labour centred in political propaganda legally distributed and not disturbing the public order. Radical: Headed by Emmeline Pankhurst, it was created due to the lack of results of the moderate movement. The members of this movement, which was grouped under the name of Women's Social and Political Union, were known as suffragettes. Apart from propaganda media, already used by the moderate branch, this group recurred to violence and sabotage to attain their aims. Repression from part of the government soon appeared, to what they replied with strikes up to starvation in prison. World War I marked the inflection point in the perception of women, who proved to be sufficiently prepared to maintain their families and the economy of their countries. This provoked the political parties turning their attention towards the vote of women, who had already achieved merit as the hand labour who permitted economy to be sustained, thus acquiring public recognition. In Great Britain, suffrage was

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achieved in 1918 for women over 30, and ten years later it was generalised to all with the Equal Franchise Act. In the U.S.A., president Wilson declared his support for feminine suffrage in 1919, and in 1920 the 19th Amendment of the constitution was approved, conceding women the right to vote: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Opposition to suffragism was justified as the result of gender discrimination: traditional ideas confined women to the private spheres of life, whereas men were identified with the public ones. Admitting women in the public spheres supposed a threat to the family and the already established social order. Mary Ward was one of those women who, incredible as it may seem, was opposed to women attaining the right to vote. This anti-suffragist movement gathered in the Womens National Anti Suffrage League. Middleclass women of bourgeois origin leaded the feminist and suffragist movements, but their ideas did not grasp in working class women. This latter movement had respectively different views regarding womens equality of rights. The greatest pioneer of this socialist feminism in

Spain was Flora Tristn, who wrote in her book La Unin Obrera (1843):
A vosotros, obreros que sois las vctimas de la desigualdad de hecho y de la injusticia, a vosotros os toca establecer al fin sobre la tierra el reino de la justicia y de la igualdad absoluta entre la mujer y el hombre. Dad un gran ejemplo al mundo (...) y mientras reclamis la justicia para vosotros, demostrad que sois justos, equitativos; proclamad, vosotros, los hombres fuertes, los hombres de brazos desnudos, que reconocis a la mujer como a vuestra igual, y que, a este ttulo, le reconocis un derecho igual a los beneficios de la unin universal de los obreros y obreras.

However, we also find misogynists like LaSalle or Proudhon within the Labour Movement. They thought that the only functions women are able to perform are the ones concerning the housework, motherhood or prostitution: by the end of the 19th century, the subordination of women was justified as a direct consequence of the supposed genetic inferiority of the feminine sex, making an explicit distinction between the reproductive capacity and intelligence. But we cannot generalise over this fact because other leaders of his movement established the basis of the socialist thought concerning women. Marx and Engels believed that the fight of women should either subordinate to or join the struggle of classes because the aims were the same. They considered political equality

between sexes a necessary condition for society, asserting that the base for the emancipation of women was their economic independence. They were also the firsts to mention, at least in Western societies, that women were, as well as men, intelligent human beings. August Bebel, on the other hand, was a great innovator according to the ideology of the moment. In his book Woman and Socialism he talks about women in a sense that resembles very much todays perception of women:
The woman of the future society is socially and economically independent, she is no longer subjected to even a vestige of domination or exploitation, she is free and on a par with man and mistress of her destiny.

Feminism in Mediterranean Europe had different evolutions and therefore different consequences: GERMANY: Within the socio-democratic movement we find the figure of Clara Zetkin, the founder of the International Day of Women (8th March), promoter of feminism in the II International or International Socialist and also organiser, in 1907, of the I International Conference of Socialist Women. FRANCE: It had an intense development as an organised movement from the

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1860s onwards, but being connected to anticlerical republicanism made the majority of women, highly influenced by the Catholic Church, keep away from it. Outstanding figures are Nelly Rousell and Madeleine Petellier, pioneers in raising themes such as sexual freedom and birth control, and also Coco Chanel, who freed women from the oppressive garments of the fashion world. ITALY: The Catholic Church had greater weight in this country and so there were fewer mobilizations. The greatest figure is Anna M. Mozzoni. The right to vote was attained after World War II. SPAIN: The movement had less repercussion than in the rest of Europe during the end of 19th and beginning of 20th centuries. It was centred in social (education and work) rather than political demands, and it was not linked to violence. The established model guaranteed the subordination of women and the dominance of men thanks to a legislation based on discrimination as well as social control that established the prototypes of domesticity. In 1918, the Asociacin Nacional de Mujeres Espaolas was created (Clara Campoamor and Victoria Kent). It openly defended the right to suffrage; also the Cruzada de

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Mujeres Espaolas, leaded by Carmen Burgos, who took the chief role in the first demonstration in the streets of Madrid. The right to vote was attained during the II Republic for coherence with the political ideas of socialists, few republican groups and right wing parties and not for feminist pressure as it occurred in other countries. WOMEN TODAY
I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat. (Rebecca West, 1913)

Certainly, in the 19th century in Britain and the United States, gender was a matter for much public discussion and debate. "The Woman Question," as it was called, focused on whether gender should be a factor in granting or limiting rights, like voting rights; it also focused attention on men and male social roles, asking questions about the nature and function of gender. Is gender innate and biological? Is it the product of socialization and environment? Is the family structure (father, mother, children) eternal, universal, divinelyordained, natural or socially constructed and thus variable? These were, and are, central questions, not only for politics and economics, but
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for anthropology, psychology, and all of what we now call social sciences. Why is gender important? The simplest answer is because it's there. Gender, meaning the differentiation, usually on the basis of sex, between social roles and functions labelled as masculine and feminine, is universal: All societies known to us in all time periods make some sort of gender distinctions. As a central feature of all cultures, gender seems worth some attention. There is a continuing public debate about the role of women in our society and the related subjects of sexism and feminism. The rapid growth of feminism in the continental tradition can indicate some of the practical implications of some continental philosophies, because feminism deals with issues of immediate and practical significance and most often does not hesitate to make value judgments about current conditions. Are women liberated? In the year 2010, what is the status of women? There is no denying things have got better, but freedom is still a long way from its path. Feminism has evolved far from its radical '60s roots. The world is so different now. The people who started this wave of feminism came of age in a world that was before Roe v. Wade (which le-

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galized abortion) and when married women couldn't get credit in their own names, when medical and law schools routinely had quotas for women of about 5 per cent, when want ads openly discriminated against women. Those barriers have come down; parts of feminism have merged into the mainstream, such as the expectations that most women will work and have families, men will take a greater role in raising children, society is more careful about using language that explicitly excludes women. The main focus of much of the material is on the public face of women's activities in politics, in paid work, in medicine, in cities, and in war. Yet, their analyses show the difficulty of hard and fast divisions between public and private, work and domesticity, or politics and family, and reinforce the feminist connection between the personal and the political. Although activities of white middleclass women are often in the foreground, particularly in the development of feminist politics, close attention is also paid to showing the interaction of gender relations with class and race. The history of women is the history of a subject that has always being subordinated to passiveness, marked by the distinction being made between the

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boundaries of private and public life, their role in the family and at work respectively. Women have different experiences regarding their consciousness, their interests, but mainly, their lives. For it is not the same to be born on either side of this planet. A major focus of women's history has been on women's rights struggles, especially the winning of suffrage, on organizational and institutional history of the women's movement, and on its leaders. Did women only react to male pressures or to the restraints of patriarchal society? Of course not. The history of women, though largely ignored, is becoming nowadays the focus of attention of multiple studies on gender and women. However, when we talk about feminism today, we are also largely ignoring the amount of women today who, not belonging to continental or Western society, seem to be forgotten from history or at least seem to be anchored in the past. The following are only a few examples of global women's oppression: In the U.S, women with similar qualifications are still paid less than their male counterparts for the same job. Women are restricted in making choices about their health, like choosing to have an abortion. A woman is bat183

tered every 15 seconds in the U.S. Many women of colour, like their Anglo counterparts, eschew the term feminism while agreeing with its goals (the right to an abortion, equality in job hiring, girls soccer teams). But women of colour also dismiss the label because the feminist movement has largely focused on the concerns of middle-class white women. This has been a loss for people of colour. While during the first wave of feminism, black women were ignored by the suffragettes, during the second wave of feminism, black women were faced with the choice of going forward in a womens movement that, once again, didnt really include them, or supporting the rights of African Americans as a race. Likewise, it is a loss for the movement if it expects to grow: U.S. Census projects that the Latino and Asian-American population is expected to triple by 2050. Women, mainly in the USA and Western Europe, have achieved a great importance, though their salaries are still below the rate of men's. These women have reached high positions, and we can name some female doctors, writers and lawyers with a high reputation. However, their way to attain these inalienable rights was hard and suffering, but the reward is worth it. On the other hand,

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though we, Western women, complain about lower salaries and discrimination, we have to think, in my opinion, that we are lucky to be in this World and achieve things step by step, slowly as they are: In Africa, more than 90 million women and girls are victims of female circumcision or other forms of genital mutilation as a standard practice. The belief is that, if a girl does not undergo circumcision of the clitoris, she will become promiscuous, or the labia will grow uncontrollably between the legs. The labia are usually stitched together only to be separated by a woman's husband for intercourse and for giving birth. Not only is it painful, but the procedure is also done in unsanitary conditions and could cause serious infections and even death. Women in Afghanistan were allowed similar freedoms to American women until they were barred from going to school and forced to wear burkas under the Taliban regime. While a head veil is no longer required, and girls are allowed to get an education again, bombs are being set off at some girls' schools and some get acid thrown in their faces. Women all over the world are raped as a systematic tactic of war. Women in some countries are not allowed to

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speak out or make decisions. Women are said to be irrational and emotional. In this country, women are judged by the size of their breasts and not their minds. The feminist movement is, in my opinion, though hard to admit it, a continental, Western stream of thought. What can feminist women say about these examples of Afghanistan and Africa? Hester Einstein relates how the dichotomy of the public and private spheres of life is present today. Women in some countries of Africa, Eastern Europe and Middle East are oppressed by a patriarchal society in which the role of female sex is still a subordinate one. Their main function is the reproductive one, motherhood playing the main role. There is no consciousness-raising for these women. There is no hope within the next decades. These women have grown up in a culture which does not value women as human beings but as objects. They are like one more gadget in the house that can be substituted whenever the male ruling system decides. We know examples of dilapidation that happened not so long ago, maybe last year. Is there no hope for these women? Ablation is forbidden in most parts of the world, and it seems that access to education is becoming more and more
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extended as years go by. However, up to now, we cannot say that feminism has done a great deal for these women. We cannot expose feminism in terms of our Western culture because it is obvious that our needs are hugely different from those of women in other cultures. There are loads of examples of women who have arrived in Europe to discover their real identities. Most of them are women who have been imposed a marriage, who have been beaten, raped, mutilated. Unfortunately, theres no hope for the thousands who are dead. This is far more than what women in Western countries can bear. Here women take for granted freedoms that are out of reach for their counterparts in other countries. We openly speak about abortion, divorce and the right to higher salaries whereas our sisters can only expect a good house and a husband that does not beat them. We talk about lesbianism and the identity of women as a fact, not acknowledging that these conceptions and assumptions have borders and no passport. Thus, can we say that feminism is an intercultural issue? As far it concerns women as human beings, indeed it is. No matter your nationality, your culture, your ideology; you belong to the

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movement because you are one of us. However, the movement should turn its head back to see what it has left behind, and fight to attain the same achievements for each woman in each place

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and culture of the world. It should be less continentalcentred to be able to see that there is still a lot to do, because we should not speak about either a men's or a women's history and culture, we should speak about human beings histories and cultures, in so far as that is what interculturalism is about.

Biblyography. Humm, Maggie (ed). 1992. Feminisms: a reader. New York; London: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

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