• Kinjalk Sharma

Understanding Feminism and Importance of Sex Education


Dictionaries and internet is flooded with several meanings and definitions of the term feminism but the understanding of it is very subjective. Every individual has their own perspective towards it, some people believe that equality is the ultimate goal, some still disagree with the idea of equality and some believe we’ve already achieved it. It is abundantly clear that our individual views on these issues are profoundly rooted in our own personal and direct experiences, and not in any evidence, analysis or science surrounding the issues. That is to say, if we have faced prejudice personally, we know beyond doubt that it exists. But if we haven't seen it on our own, we deny that it happens. What we fail to understand is that gender inequality is not an individual’s problem but is profoundly embedded in the social system. Gender disparity is integrated into marriage and family system, job and economy, politics, traditions, arts and other cultural creations, and the very language that we use.

The foundational theorist of social construction of gender difference, Judith Lorber grouped the feminist perspectives into three broad categories that reflect different theories and political strategies with regard to the gendered social order. The categories are:-

1. Gender reform feminism, this includes;

· Liberal feminism- liberal feminism is an individualistic type of feminist philosophy that focuses on women's capacity through their own behavior and choices to preserve their equality. Liberal feminists contend that society retains the mistaken belief that women are by definition less mentally and physically capable than men; therefore, they continue to discriminate against women in the classroom, the arena, and the marketplace.

· Marxist and Socialist feminism- in anti-colonial revolutions, Marxist feminism focused on imperialism and its manipulation of gender-oppressing patriarchal relations to conquer people, land and markets. From these precepts socialist feminism evolved in a number of forms around the world.

· Development feminism- it made an important theoretical contribution in equating women's status with control of economic resources.

2. Gender resistant feminism, this includes;

· Radical feminism- radical feminism is a viewpoint within feminism that advocates for a revolutionary rearrangement of society in which male dominance in all social and economic aspects is removed. Radical feminists profoundly perceive society as a system in which men oppress and subjugate women.

· Lesbian feminism- it is a cultural phenomenon and a theoretical viewpoint that encourages women to concentrate their energies, attention, relationships and behaviors on their fellow women rather than on men and also promotes lesbianism as the logical outcome of feminism.

· Psychoanalytic feminism- it is a theory of oppression which claims that men have an innate psychological need for women to be subjugated. The root of the desire of the men to conquer the limited resistance of women and children to subjugation lies deep within the human psyche.

· Standpoint feminism- in this, feminists make three main claims:

Ø Knowledge is placed in a social context.

Ø The oppressed groups are socially positioned in ways that allow them to be more conscious of problems and ask questions than the non-marginalized.

Ø Research should begin with the lives of the oppressed, especially those focusing on power relations.

3. Gender revolution feminism, this includes;

· Multi-ethnic feminism- in teasing out the multiple strands of oppression and exploitation, multi-ethnic feminism has shown that gender, ethnicity, religion, and social class are structurally intertwined relationships.

· Men's feminism- it is an emerging field of study which applies feminist theories to men's and masculinity studies. Men's feminism took on the challenge requested by feminists who research women in relation to men to view both men and women as a class and to analyze masculinity as carefully as femininity.

· Social construction feminism- feminism in social design looks at the framework of the gendered social system as a whole.

· Post-modern feminism and queer theory- they go the furthest in questioning definitions of gender as dual, oppositional, and set, arguing instead that sexuality and gender are shifting, fluid and of multiple categories. They condemn a politics focused on a common category, woman, but rather present a more radical view that undermines the solidity of a two-sex social order. Equality will come, when there will be so many recognized sexes, sexualities, and genders that one can't be played against the other.

Different aforementioned approaches were prevalent at different phases, due to which the concept of waves of feminism comes into role. There have been three waves of feminism, which are as follows:-

v The first wave emerging in the 19th and early 20th centuries concerned primarily on the right of women to vote.

v The second wave which was at its peak in the 1960s and 1970s, referred to women's liberation movement for equal rights in law and in society.

v The third wave, which started in the 1990s, refers to a continuation of second-wave feminism and a response to that.

Acknowledging all the discrimination faced by women, several organizations had been made in the past, such as:-

· The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

· The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women)

· The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

Other than these international organizations, on national level women are given several privileges under the policy of positive discrimination. Despite having so many projects related to welfare of women the progress rate is still slow. Rapes, cyber bullying, domestic violence are still happening. There are several laws for these crimes but that doesn’t reduce the crime rate. The implementation and the process after that is inefficient hence, the results are not satisfying. Here are some facts and figures which showcase the status of women on an international level:

1. It is estimated that 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls. (Source: WFP Gender Policy and Strategy.)

2. Women make up more than two-thirds of the world's 796 million illiterate people.

3. According to global statistics, just 39 percent of rural girls attend secondary school. This is far fewer than rural boys (45 percent), urban girls (59 percent) and urban boys (60 percent).

4. Men's average wages are higher than women's in both rural and urban areas. Rural women typically work longer hours than men, due to additional reproductive, domestic and care responsibilities.

5. More rural women experience domestic violence, and yet few seek services, according to a multi-country study by the World Health Organization (WHO). In Peru, less than 5 percent of the total amount of rural domestic violence survivors (60 percent) sought help, compared to approximately 16 percent of urban women (out of 49 percent).

Well, now when we have studied about different types of feminism, waves of feminism, international organizations and some of the problems faced by women let us also understand that feminism has its dark side. Some people don’t consider it to be feminism, some call it pseudo feminism and some deny that it exists and is toxic. In the current scenario, feminism is very important because it has become a major movement, it has brought a lot of people together and most importantly it is the need of the hour but when some aggressive feminists get hyper and get distracted from the path of gender equality and start demanding “more” in everything may it be respect, opportunities, rights, etc it simply proves the idea of feminism wrong. Fear/rumor mongering is carried out by these pseudo feminists which ends up creating more differences amongst the people may they be binary or non binary. At times the situation gets so much out of hand that aggressive approach becomes the last resort, but what one must understand here is that the societal structure is already oppressing women, the feminist movements do make people understand that equality is a right even to those who don’t want to understand it, sexists. But at this crucial stage where for some very weird reason, rapists have become head of state of developed economies one needs to practically understand that if they will get too aggressive then they might lose what they have gained after years of struggle, revolt and hard slog. Also, when a misogynist says, “Girls are innocent until proven guilty and boys are guilty until proven innocent.” It is as illogical and wrong as when a pseudo feminist tries to defend wrong actions of women by making a vague comparative analysis to what men did. A crime is a crime, gender should neither be used to accuse an innocent and nor to support a criminal.

Sex Education:-

Sex education is the instruction of human sexuality issues, including interpersonal relationships and obligations, human sexual anatomy, sexual intercourse, sexual reproduction, age of consent, reproductive health, reproductive rights, safe sex, birth control and sexual abstinence. The purpose of sex education is to help children understand human body structures and learn about birth. Teach kids to establish and accept their own gender roles and responsibilities by acquiring sex knowledge. Understanding the discrepancies and similarities in body and mind among genders would lay the groundwork for future growth of their awareness of friends and lovers and their interpersonal relationship. Sex education is more of a holistic study. It teaches an individual about self-acceptance, and interpersonal relationship attitude and skills. It also helps a person develop a sense of responsibility towards others as well as towards oneself.

With such variability even within individual schools, it is no wonder that sex education greatly differs from country to country. Sex and relationships are a big part of everyone’s life; none of us would really be here without them. Hence, its absence in the curriculum has several negative consequences. People when not taught since the very beginning do not know safety measures and often lack moral values maybe because they think that what they do is not wrong and does not harm anyone. Once a person is taught how to respect consent and other factors, the world would automatically become a safer place for everyone.

Feminist approach to sex education:-

A feminist approach to sex education shifts the focus from insisting on abstinence to making a safe and informed decision. Heather Corinna, founder and editor of Scarleteen, an online sexual health resource for teens and young adults, characterizes sexuality and sexual health as key issues for the feminist movement. She urges sex education to strive for inclusivity, in order to “inform people about the sexualities, bodies, identities and lives of others different than their own.”

Status in India:-

Gathered under the auspices of the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) experts think that sex education could go a long way in reducing crimes against women and children. “Studies have shown that there is no evidence to demonstrate that the introduction of sexuality education leads to increased sexual activity among young people,” said FPAI officials “Denial of comprehensive sexuality education to young people and the banning of the Adolescent Education Programme is a violation of India’s commitments under international law,” said FPAI president Sujatha Natrajan. It’s time to understand that Indian youngsters learn about sex from pornography, but pornography debases sensibilities. It results in men looking upon women as a commodity.

India has still not made sex education compulsory, but this is the right time for the government to understand its importance and make it compulsory with proper guidelines and for the international community to make it a human right.

To conclude, we must understand that the views of every person on sex will affect their attitude towards life. Sex is an important part of identity and sex education will help to build a complete identity. Hence sex education should be an essential part of family education and should be provided at home from childhood onwards. And as far as feminism is concerned one must keep fighting for equality and if the sex education’s mechanism is strong then it will not only inculcate moral values in the people but also make them practically accept the fact that all human beings are equal, may they be binary or non binary.

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