Feminism theory states that men and women should be equal politically, socially and economically. It results from the recognition and critique of the male dominance and is aimed at changing it. The goals of feminism are to demonstrate the importance of women and how history has often made them to be subordinate to men. This analysis is what is needed according to the feminists to bring about gender equality. Feminist theory offers a perspective for understanding human behavior in the social environment by centering women and issues that women face in contemporary society. Feminism reflects “a world view that values women and that confronts systematic injustices based on gender” (Chinn & Wheeler, 1985, 74-77). A feminist lens asks us to see individuals, groups, family, and organizations in their social, political, economic, ethnic, and cultural contexts.
Feminists all hold it that the inequalities that exist between the different sexes should not be accepted in the society. Understanding of the inequalities should be enhanced so that they can be reduced in the short run and ultimately done away with. Women have sometimes used the legal system to help them assert the fact that they are equal to men (Okin and Mansbridge, 1994). Okin and Mansbridge further state that the view that women are subordinate to men was first brought into the political discourse by Aristotle who maintained that god created both plants and animals for man’s subsistence. According to them, Aristotle went further to argue that man in the head of the family hierarchy just as in the Greek family and this is the most natural of associations. A further argument by Aristotle that man is the only animal that holds reason among all the animals and that man’s main concern is his happiness thus the happiness of all the others are in the periphery of his thinking. The paper seeks to expound on the theory of feminism in family life education. Later in the paper, the application of the theory in practice will be dealt with and examples of articles of feminism in practice facilities in family life education, the complications of applying the feminist theory in practice in life education. At the tail end of the essay, an opinion will be given on the different ways to prevent the feminist issue in practice facilities.
The feminism theory was started as a platform to demand for the complete equal treatment of the sexes. Its main aim was for the emancipation of the women folk from the perceived injustices and inequalities that were being perpetrated against them. The early women feminists initially intended to accomplish the goal of equality by the use of “sex antagonism”. However, opponents of the theory stated that the equal treatment of men and women could not be the solution to the sex problem; they viewed the acts of the feminists as those aimed at fueling the evil that they purported to fight against (Moyan, 1912). The first group of women to speak out about the discrimination against them did so in their religious gatherings. This arose as a result of the practice where parents would send daughters whom they thought had dishonored the family to the convent. To the women, this was a form of imprisonment. According to Walters (2005), by the 16th century, more women had joined into the fray but were still using religion as a platform to voice their concerns
There are different types of feminism. The first is cultural feminism which states that women have special differences fro m men and as such the women should be celebrated. This has been the reasoning behind such arguments that women should be given leadership positions because they are gentle and would solve most of the world problems without any attempts at war. Secondly, ecofeminism which believes that the man’s rule that stresses the need to control women and the environment is bad for both as it can lead to environmental degradation. Finally, there is gender feminism that argues that for the equality between the sexes to be achieved, the women must be given some special privileges (Colker, 1991).
Feminists have been at the heart of the call for the expansion of the definition of the family so that teachings about the family become more tolerant and inclusive of the different changes that the sexes have undergone. The major changes in the family such as the new marriage arrangements, the changing face of intimate relationships, increased gender equality, economic emancipation and the freedom of reproduction by women have all been at the center of the feminists concerns due to the ongoing economic and social changes in the family, mostly the changing status of women (Walters, 2005). Feminists have argued that the traditional roles of women coupled with the economic exploitation that the women were exposed to have a very dangerous effect on the health and the well being of the women.
A feminists approach to family life education provides a framework through which the structure and the processes of the contemporary life can be investigated. There is increased exposure of the tensions that exist in the family for instance those resulting from oppressions as a result of the gender, class, age and sexual orientation of a person. Feminism views the women in the course of family education as activists in the change process. Increased understanding of women and their experiences thus invalidating the notion that the women’s life is inextricably connected with the family’s. Feminism analyses the existing gender imbalances and how change can be brought about
The feminists view the teaching of family life as a political process, thus they challenge the educators to be as objective as practically possible in the course of doing their work. The environment where the teaching takes place should be neutral since the learners are like blank books that are there to be filled with information. Feminism theory has attempted to tackle this seemingly harmless issue in its quest to achieve the goals of equality between men and women.
Allen (1992) states that feminism theory calls for a paradigm shift in the thought about families. They stress that the view about the family should reflect the contemporary issues in the family for instance families that are headed by single mothers. The notion of the traditional nuclear family, they argue seems to ignore the differences in power between men and women and that its aim is to reinforce the long held position of male dominance. A shift in people’s thinking is the only way of laying foundation for healthy, nurturing and stable family interactions in the current century.
The death of the traditional family has also featured greatly in the feminism education of the life in the family. During the postindustrial years, changes such as rapidly increasing inflation rates, shrinking idle class, increasing cost of home ownership and the rising unemployment rates have all dealt a blow to the traditional family. The family structure that has emerged has drawn largely on the array of cultural, economic and political ideologies to keep up with the new generational challenges, burdens and opportunities. There has been an increase in adult sexual relationships without necessarily marriage (Allen, 1992). This new framework, does not give any family framework priority over another form. There should be equal recognition of lesbian couple who get a child through insemination just as couples who cohabitate should be given the same rights and recognition.
The traditional marriage according to the feminists exposes women to some unrealistic expectations. The women are viewed as care givers and they should always strive to appease the men and that the work of the man takes precedence over everything else. This view about women can sometimes lead women to abandon their careers to be good wives, but against their will. They women can not make substantial decisions about critical issues that affect their lives (Allen, 1992)
Feminism also commits to new professional accountability standard for the family life educators. The information that the educators give should not be outdated but instead be as valid and comprehensive as possible. The gap in understanding the world should be bridged by the use of both qualitative and quantitative research and also the use of learner’s experiences to decipher the new knowledge that is being presented to them. The theory and practice is often integrated by feminists to enable them understand and makes important decisions about the data that they have been presented with. The feminists are always practical in their teaching about family life. By not only focusing on the talking and reading, the learners get to understand more since they see the process. This can be achieved by increasing the learner’s sense of consciousness to the issues that makes part of the society to be disadvantaged. This is an important step towards the empowerment of that group of people (Okin, 1989)
According to Colker (1991), Feminism stresses personal authenticity since it promotes personal and institutional change through lobbies for change in both the existing social and political order. There is increased exposure of people to the politics of gender by bringing to the fore those inequalities that are brought about by marriage. Okin (1989) further argues that the purpose of this is to address the limitations imposed against women and to bring about meaningful change.
Control of the number of children that a woman can have is also one of the areas where feminists have a great concern. The argument that for a woman, the number of children they have can either allow them to pursue other carriers or completely immobilize them and make them permanently stay at home to take care of the children. Women have often resorted to delaying their first child births and also having fewer numbers of children. Some women even end their reproductive years as they pursue their careers and other commitments. Complete sexual education therefore helps in laying the foundation for gender equality.
Finally, the feminists advocate for educational involvement of learners. Here, the students are given chances to participate in programs which are related to family. The students can also engage in internships so that they can experience feminism first hand. The students can also work with teachers in solving problems that affect the society and attempt to solve the problems.
However, there are complications in the application of the feminist theory in practice in family life education. First, there is the almost universal acceptance of the family as it currently exists. The attempts by the theorists to make people accept other family structures such as lesbian unions, mother only as normal will take a great deal of time to be fully conceptualized. Another issue is that some of the women have come to accept their subordination to men. The contention with the women place in the society has negated the fight for equality of the sexes. There is also the acceptance by women of lower pay as compared to their male counterparts. Women workers are paid about 70% of the salary of men in America on average. There is also the general acceptance by members of the family that the father is the head and such he is the supreme in the family.
Women’s economic dependency has always led to them to be victims of abuse by their husbands or other male partners (Global Fund for Women Report, 1992). The man can sexually assault the wife, but the wife can not do anything about it because of complete or high dependence on the man for their daily subsistence. There are also biases in the gender hierarchy. According to Okin, the family is the core of gender injustice.
Finally, religion has played a great role in complicating the use of feminist theory in family life education. According to the Bible, Eve was created as a subordinate to Adam. The historical happenings in the bible also are in the support of male dominance. As in the case with the Paul’s epistle to Corinthians, where he urged the men not to allow the women to come to the places of worship. Since then the women have been put on the sidelines of major happenings in the life of Christians.
To prevent the feminist issue in practice facilities, a number of issues can be taken into consideration. The use of sex as a bargaining tool should be scrapped from use as it amounts to intimidation and can lead to such happenings as divorce which can shake the very tenets of family life. The notion that all men take advantage of women is misplaced. Some men have always come out to support the women in their quest to be equal with the women. The feminist’s treatment of sex and family has not gelled well with the people who trust the traditional setting of the family where there is the mother, father and the children. Instead the advocates for the theory should concentrate their energies in tackling the societal conditions which created the problem of inequality.
In conclusion, feminism is essential in enacting change in family life education. The diversity that has been seen in the contemporary family is a sharp contrast to the traditional family composition and structure. Family life education using the theories of feminism can help strengthen the contemporary family life. The theory helps in inculcating the virtues such as equality and the full participation of both women and men in the activities of the society. People who are involved in family life education should renew their commitments to the ideals and beliefs that they set out for. There is also the need for both the educators and their students to embrace political activities that brings real change in terms of the equality of the sexes in the family.
Allen, K.R. (1992). Starting a revolution in family life education: a feminist’s vision. Family Relations, vol. 41,378-384
Chinn, P.L., & Wheeler, C.E. (1985). Feminism and nursing: Can nursing afford to remain aloof from the women’s movement? Nursing Outlook, 33(2), 74-77.
Colker, R (1991). Feminism, sexuality and authenticity. New York: Routledge.
Global Fund for Women Report (1992) .Ending Violence Against Women: A Resource Guide, Menlo Park, CA: Shaler Adams Foundation.
Moyan, W. C. (1912). Feminism. Classic Reprint Series. Sturgis and Walton co. Retrieved on 4th august 2011 from www.forgottenbooks.org.
Okin, S.M. (1989). Justice, Gender and the Family. New York basic
Okin, S. M. & Mansbridge, J. J. (1994) .Feminism. Aldershot, England; Brookfield, Vt., USA: E. Elgar.
Walters, M. (2005). Feminism: a very short introduction. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.