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Equality or difference? Summary of Jane Freedman concepts of Feminism

Equality or difference? Summary of Jane Freedman concepts of Feminism

Is there equality or differences between men and women? Some of you may say they are equal based on equal opportunities in society while some of you may point out the biological differences and say they are not equal. The debate is never-ending.

The most often arising questions when we talk on feminisms are-

“Whether a woman should struggle to be equal to a man or whether they should feel proud of their differences?”

“On what terms the questions of equality should be raised among men or women-the opportunities or outcomes?”

Special Rights to Maternity

Jane Freedman has raised an important point on the issues of declaring special rights to maternity. She was concerned that the maternity rights to female may give rise to inequality among man & woman. So, these maternity rights must be specified & well defined. Now, what would be the correct manner of categorizing the benefits of maternity- ‘should we consider this special right on ‘biological basis’ or on the basis of ‘long term illness’?’ The first category won’t be able to include male beings and therefore, challenges the concepts of equality. The second category of long-term illness is not effective to define the concepts of maternity as it is related to ‘the arrival of new life’.

Jane Freedman has tried to define sexual differences in a broader sense. The major problem is to understand sexual differences as either biological or natural.

Understanding the differences

‘Biological differences’ is the difference in genital parts. The natural difference is the difference in physique, behaviour and the way of living. On the basis of the second classification, a woman is considered as inferior beings or the counterparts of male.

The woman is considered as a ‘closer to nature’ on the basis of their physiology. And man is considered as ‘closer to culture’ on the basis of their roles to society. Man plays a major role in social developments and therefore they find it as a good reason to dominate the female group.

It should be understood that a woman has a different role to play in this world. Considering this, ‘should woman neglect “sexual differences” and claim equal opportunities as a man?’

Ann Snitow has highlighted the tension arising between the two groups because of their different needs. Women need to act like a woman on the basis of their physiological requirements but in the same case, they don’t want to get judged or neglected on the basis of this identity.

Categories of Feminists

There are two categories of feminists in society- the Minimizer and the Maximizer. The minimizer wants to minimize the differences between man and woman. Whereas the maximizer wants to empower woman as an equal being.

There are many such categories which want to bring equality to woman groups and in the same place doesn’t want to neglect the special status.

Radical feminists & Cultural feminists

In radical feminism, the male supremacy should be eliminated in all social and economic status. Radical feminism wants to eradicate the concepts of patriarchy and spread liberalism among all. The cultural feminists see the positive aspects of the female personality.

Essentialists & Socio-Constructionists

Essentialists believe that every entity has a set of attributes which is important for its identity & proper function. The socio-constructionists views everyone as a part of the same environments.

Cultural feminists & Post Structuralists

Post structure feminists believe gender as performative or something which is performed under social contexts rather than inherent characteristics of a person. It reflects women and their stories in histories.
Cultural feminists believe there is female nature or personality or innateness.

Motherists & Feminists

Motherists defines a way of parenting and; feminists is a group which demands equal opportunities for female.

Therefore, it won’t be wrong to say that if equality is stressed then it would surely take away the ‘special benefits’ given to women section of society.

Jane Freedman also mentions the different roles of terms we use to study feminism. The ‘female’ word is used to study the biological category while the ‘Feminine’ term is used to various social roles attributed to a woman. Like a feminine dress, the feminine talks and feminine behaviours.

Simone de Beauvoir -Feminisms

Simone de Beauvoir has most successfully mentioned the differences between ‘biological sex’ and ‘social gender’. In her most popular work ‘Le Deuxieme Sexe (The second sex)’ (1949) she has stated that ‘one is not born a woman but rather becomes one’.

Therefore, there is no need for categorization and grouping of ‘woman’ into inferior and superior thing rather it should be understood and appreciated for its distinctiveness. It should also be noted that the women’s inferior position is not natural but created by this society only. Therefore, whatever restrictions society impose on female groups need to be redefined for the better developments of this class.

The concept of woman is purely biological and not a ‘socio-historical’ category. Therefore, considering a woman as an inferior quality to man is totally wrong and baseless. Acceptance of all such views could be termed as a major development in imposing equality to woman groups.

Understanding concepts of Gender

According to Jane Freedman, the concept of gender is highly misunderstood. Gender is purely psychological and donates psychological attributes without linking it to male or female categories.

Gender used by ‘stoller’ to refer to behaviour, feelings, thoughts, and fantasies that didn’t have biological connotations. (cited in Ooakley 1997:31).

Gender is also called as a matter of culture (Oakley 1972:61)

Gender is a very revolutionary term. Therefore, gender-biased of male and female on a few categories is the wrong culture. We should be broad-minded in accepting the various extra attributes of male and female which doesn’t show any commonness between both groups. This extra attributes should only be used for the purpose of identifications. The creating of differences based on the different attributes is totally wrong.

The ‘dominant’ and ‘dominated’ concepts spread negativity in society. The disappearances of these two classifications would bring major changes in the attitude of society towards the concepts of equality.

Returning to difference: morality, mothering and an ethic of care

Freud’s claims that there is biologically determined sexual differences in morality. In this, feminists psychologists Carol Gilligan in her work ‘In a different voice’ (1982) put her additional views that the men’s moral thinking depends on a natural alignment to Justice. And the women’s instinctive behaviour bends towards care and compassion.

According to Jane Freedman, the desire to be a mother is considered as feminine. For this, the attributes of care, compassion, love is related to mother only. If men and women, both mothered equally, then men would be more loving and well connected to others. In the same fashion, the woman would be more autonomous & competitive.

[Reference: Concepts in the social sciences Feminism Jane Freedman]

4 comments

Good article Madhvi! I think the definition of equality in itself is controversial. The gender biased society is rooted in this so-called traditions!

Yes. That’s true. The only thing we can do is to change our own thoughts and the thinking of the people around us.
Thanks for reading this article and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

Good article Madhvi! I think the definition of equality in itself is controversial. The gender biased society is rooted in this so-called traditions!

Yes. That’s true. The only thing we can do is to change our own thoughts and the thinking of the people around us.
Thanks for reading this article and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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