(By Sophia Sun, Queen’s University)
It began as a movement in the mid-twentieth century, when a shift in social order meant a growth in people’s options. As a result, this broadening of perspectives has only continued to develop into the phenomenon that we recognize today, as feminism.
A question, that encourages and requires meaningful discourse is an inquiry that resembles the following: “Where, exactly, is a woman’s place?” During the Second World War, women left their domestic duties at home to work jobs in the absence of the soldiers and husbands who went away. Prior to this time, a woman’s place was her home, inside the house with the pretty wallpaper, the kitchen knives, and the patterned bedspreads. A woman’s job was seen as ‘easy’, her contributions to the family diminished in significance when compared to the struggles her husband faced at work in order to provide for the family. In my humble opinion, being a successful housewife (or house-husband, for that matter) is the farthest thing from docility. The efficiency of the household does not rely solely on the monetary income it receives; it takes a magnificent effort to make a house a home, and it had always been seen as the responsibility of the woman to do so.
“A woman’s place is at home.” I see this as a somewhat disappointingly popular turn of phrase. Some will argue that women are natural nurturers who belong in the household to raise children because that is what nature intended for them to do. I have never engaged in dialogue with nature, and can only assume it to be a transcendent experience. However, I am quite sure that the only thing nature intended for women to have is the ability to choose to be mothers. It is imperative to note that a woman is no more capable of raising a family than a man, and this is why a marriage usually consists of two players. A man is equally capable of performing the domestic role that a woman has traditionally done.
I would like to reiterate the meaning behind the feminist movement, because I believe many people have taken to view feminism in a skewed light. This is thanks to a small handful of ‘extreme feminists’, who have taken things a little too far in what they constitute as fighting for women’s rights. Yet, it is not difficult to understand that extremists exist in any and all political, social, and religious groups. The actual intention of feminism is this: feminists (myself included) are not attempting to bring men down. Rather, feminists are working to build women up from the social disadvantages they endure in both professional and personal relationships, to break apart the stigma that surrounds what it means to be a woman and to break up the misconceptions that accompany womanhood. Feminists want to empower other men and women, because we do not wish to see a world divided by gender. We wish to see a world where classifications of people are based on the vibrancy of their personalities, the impact of their contributions, and the quality of their character, where roles of sexual identity do not determine a person’s worth.
“A woman’s place is in the kitchen.” There are several discussions that can be ignited from that one sentence alone, but for brevity’s sake I will focus on the most prominent issue brought forth. The thought of inflicting the same ideology upon men has probably never occurred to you, as it is ridiculous to say, “A man’s place is in the garage,” or something of the sort, based on the misinformed notion that all men like tools and cars. Perhaps a woman is a good cook or baker, but this just means that she has developed a set of skills that serve to heighten her uniqueness, and definitely not that she now ‘belongs’ in the room in which she honed these skills. This is why feminism is needed; sometimes, it is for the simple reason of combatting idiocy.
“A woman’s place is in the boardroom.” I do not have as much of a problem with this phrase as I do with the others, but its concerning that the phrase was penned out of a double standard. Verbalizing that a woman belongs in a professional leadership role puts unnecessary pressure on women who choose to work. A woman is not required to have great ambitions, or a desire to dominate those around her. A woman can be a secretary to a great man, or she can be the woman who hires a great secretary, and in both situations she is equally as empowered and empowering as she chooses to be. If she harbours big dreams for her career, this is admirable in the same way I would admire a woman who wishes to be a wonderful mother. The ways in which people work towards their goals reveals plenty about their character, the goals themselves only tell a part of the story.
Feminism has had its ups and downs and it has come in waves, with first-wave feminism focusing on getting women the right to property and to vote. Since then, it has established itself as a permanent topic of discussion in mainstream media, involving issues such as gender identity, workplace sexism, and sexual consent, and rightly so. If we do not participate in the conversations that matter to us, the situation will never improve. I believe that a woman’s place is everywhere and anywhere, it has no boundaries because a woman is not chained. She is free to choose her life: she has a choice of her journey as well her ultimate destination. A woman is powerful enough to decide for herself exactly what she wants and how she’ll get there. Thus, a woman’s place is exactly where she wants it to be.
Photo by Southbank Centre via Wikipedia, Creative Commons License