Growing graph of feminism

ByDr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam

Designation: is an educationist with wide experience


March 15, 2023

Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam talks about an evolutionary phenomenon

It is heartening to view the growing number of female executive heads performing excellently in socio-political and economic fields that were considered exclusive male preserves just half a century ago. The gradual progression points out to the emerging acceptance and practice of the belief in social, economic and political equality of the sexes. Although largely originating in the West, feminism is manifested worldwide and is represented by various institutions committed to activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests. It has taken some time to gain global currency though as the term feminism was first mooted the mid-1800s the term that implied the qualities of females and it was not until after the First International Women’s Conference in Paris in 1892 that the term was used regularly in affirming advocacy of equal rights for women based on the idea of the equality of the sexes. From then onwards the process has been gradual though not always smooth and female segment of the people had to face and surmount a host of impediments before it reached where it is today.

The rise of feminism in its wake brings to fore its contours comprising both the intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms. Motivated by the quest for social justice, feminist inquiry provides a wide range of perspectives on social, cultural, economic, and political phenomena. Yet despite many overall shared commitments, there are numerous differences among feminist philosophers regarding philosophical orientation, ontological commitments such as the category of woman and what kind of political and moral remedies should be sought. This however is a perceptive issue that usually confronts any emerging human evolutionary phenomenon and takes time to be duly accepted in global mainstream. Feminism has therefore reached a stage where it is now perceived as part of human existence as pulsating as its other variations.

Contemporary feminist philosophical scholarship emerged in the 1960s as more women began careers in higher education, including philosophy. As they did so, they also began taking up matters from their own experience for philosophical scrutiny. These scholars were influenced both by feminist movements in their midst as well as by their philosophical training, which was anything but feminist. Until recently one could not go to graduate school to study feminist philosophy. While students and scholars could turn to the writings of significant feminist philosophers and writers yet most of the philosophers writing in the first decades of the emergence of feminist philosophy brought their particular training and expertise to bear on analysing issues raised by the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s, such as abortion, affirmative action, equal opportunity, the institutions of marriage, sexuality and love. Additionally, feminist philosophical scholarship increasingly focused on the very same types of issues philosophers had been and were dealing with. The similarity witnessed in these efforts was indicative of the flowering of human intellect that was indeed the offshoot of expanding philosophical understanding of life.

Feminist philosophical scholarship begins with attention to women, to their roles and locations and asked pertinent questions pertaining to the activity of women, their inclusion in social and political arenas that they were partly or exclusively excluded from in the past. Queries are also raised about the level of performance of male and female personnel and it was generally compared. It was also asked whether the activities or exclusions of some groups of women are different from those of other groups and if that is the case then what were the reasons for it. It was also pointed out that their respective roles are required to be valued along with getting them evaluated. It was also taken into account that the incidence of a female’s race, class, sexuality and ability do have a role to play in their positions and roles in the professional fields. Quite naturally, added to these questions were the considerations, concerns and experiences of women and in this context it was to ensure whether such factors were ignored or undervalued. Moreover, the currents of values in this respect and the underlying effects they have on female behaviour and conduct in the mainstream.

Feminist philosophers brought their philosophical tools to bear on these questions. And since these feminist philosophers employed the philosophical tools they knew best and found most promising, feminist philosophy began to emerge from all the traditions of Western philosophy prevalent at the end of the twentieth century including analytic, Continental, and classical American philosophy. It should come as no surprise then that the thematic focus of their work was often influenced by the topics and questions highlighted by these traditions. Hence, as a result, a given question can be taken up and addressed from an array of views, sometimes, with quite contradictory answers. It was quite obvious that such apprehensions would make their way into this very weighty subject as there was no way to avoid them.

In wake of such contradictory analysis it was not surprising that feminist philosophical scholarship is not homogeneous either in methods or in conclusions. Indeed, there has been significant debate within feminist philosophical circles concerning the effectiveness of particular methods within philosophy for feminist goals. Some, for example, have found the methods of analytic philosophy to provide clarity of both form and argumentation not found in some schools of philosophy, while others have argued that such alleged clarity comes at the expense of rhetorical styles and methodological approaches that provide insights into affective, psychic or embodied components of human experience. Other feminists find approaches containing pragmatism to provide the clarity of form and argumentation sometimes missing in other approaches and the connection to real world concerns sometimes missing in analytic approaches.

Feminist scholarship in each of these traditions is also advanced and supported though scholarly exchange at various professional societies promoting the study of issues in feminism by methods broadly construed as analytic, to examine the use of analytic methods as applied to feminist issues and to provide a means by which those interested in analytical feminist can meet and exchange ideas. These efforts were aimed at studying in depth the contributions of women to the history of philosophy. Similar organisations and journals on many continents continue to advance scholarship in feminist philosophy. This subject now is quite widely looked into and substantial results are now drawn from these studies. It is quite obvious that the cumulative effect of these endeavours is deeply impacting the subject and its interpretation.

After considerable reflection devoted to this aspect it has become apparent that in many ways feminist philosophy is not monolithic and it is quite obvious that it is not, owing to the intricacies of the subject matter. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that although feminist philosophers have intended that their work—unlike the traditional philosophy they criticise—be applicable to all women and reflect the diverse experiences of women, in practice it has not always been the case. One important limitation that feminist philosophers are trying to overcome is their insufficient attention to the many interacting ways that human beings are oppressed particularly along lines of race, sexuality, ability, class, religion and nationality. The feminist perception is for inclusivity designed for achieving their due position in pluralistic system. TW


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