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Feminism is a broad concept that focuses on issues of men and women, not women only. It is a movement against discrimination of many forms including sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, patriarchy, and machismo. Feminism has become a huge movement around the world that even cultures from Latin America (which are very excluding on new ideas) have starting to adopt it in hopes they can fight off “machismo”. According to Anzaldua, author from Borderlands/La Frontera, the “modern meaning of the word machismo, as well as the concept, is actually an Anglo invention.
For men like my father, being “macho” meant being strong enough to protect and support my mother and us, yet being able to show love. Today’s macho has doubts about his ability to feed and protect his family” (105). The feminist movement is getting some gains with repeal of laws that only forbid women domination, women empowerment to employment and leadership positions. Many people have the wrong idea that feminism is believing women are better than men, when in reality, it’s looking for women to get gender equality and showing the world that women are capable of doing the same things as men.
The Constitution of the United States, alongside landmark discrimination laws, the criminal justice system and the media make it increasingly possible to protect women rights.
Discrimination of women and men is internalized and taught to children while still young. Constructs about gender encourage particular forms of treatment against women and men. In societies where only males and females are recognized, people have to learn how to act as men or women.
“Gender, like culture, is a human production that depends on everyone constantly doing gender” (Lober, 54). From birth, children are differentiated as men and women. When young, clothing helps distinguish between a boy and a girl. If something is pink, it automatically belongs to a girl, while if it’s blue, likewise for a boy. During adolescence and adulthood, boys and girls are shared by numerous gendered norms and expectations. These norms have gotten too established that children as young as 2 years old, think this way as well.
Women are expected to learn helplessness and gain lesser esteem, while men are usually expected to do the hard work and have higher esteem. Gender divides work, legitimizes people in authority and organizes sexuality and emotional life. Gendered arrangement of roles is partly informed by the human need to create a predictable division of labor. However, gendered roles are gradually changing, and societies are generally accepting and approving the changes. It is increasingly common to see women taking previously male dominated courses and occupations, while men offering to take care of children. Even then, “the social institution of gender insists only that what they do is perceived different” (Lober, 58).
Research and literature on gender discrimination tends to complicate the discrimination problem. While some studies or literature focus on how to empower a particular gender in only specific communities or races, others perpetuate long standing stereotypes and assumptions such as the virgin-whore dichotomy, thereby defining femininity as intrinsically dangerous and extreme. Some researchers, for example, have often assumed that “Latinas are sexually repressed because of their blind adherence to cultural gender expectations” (Garcia and Torres, 8). Hence, women from such communities (mostly migrant) are unfairly compared to women from Western communities. In their efforts, feminists must understand how genders are viewed by various identities.
In many societies, especially in Latin America, masculinity has to be proved. Men have to compete aggressively against each to prove that they are men, and to dominate. The battle may be acquisition of something, but soon after the battle is won, man moves to another battle. Masculinity is proved through marketplace completion. The main idea behind the models for manhood of the late 18th and 19th centuries discussed by Michael Kimmel are characterized by domination, independence and power. Soon after, marketplace manhood emerged, and it was characterized by male dominance, absenteeism in family settings, power, status and aggressive transformation of economic and political spheres.
This understanding of masculinity gradually changed such as that masculinity began to mean power relations or hegemony, and much more. Today, manhood means “relentless repudiation of the feminine”, strength, success, reliability, capability, being in control, and aggression (Kimmel, 85). As a homosocial enactment, masculinity makes men compete for approval from other men, and women often become the currency that men use to prove their ranking. The fear of being seen as gay or feminine makes men violent and also makes them sexual predators with women. It also makes them exaggerate traditional rules of masculinity. Even then, there are people with gender identity disorder and demonstrate both masculine and feminine traits.
Patriarchy has invaded Latin America’s cultures since everyone can remember. Great grandparents pass it to their sons, then our grandparents passed it on to our fathers and so on. That is what our culture has told our families to do. The feminist movement can make huge movements while fighting patriarchy. This applies to all learned attitudes about male dominance, including those taught through religious teachings. Fighting patriarchy is possible only when people “collectively acknowledge the damage patriarchy causes and the suffering it creates” (Watkins, 30). This may mean studying areas in which children and adults learn patriarchy. It may not mean challenging religious teachings, but it may mean learning about their impact, and finding avenues to empower women in various ways such as through expression, employment, and leadership. Traditional methods of conferring manhood need to be addressed, and a more meaningful approach taken, one that links manhood to responsibility, space, freedom and perhaps innovation.
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