What is Feminism and who are feminists?
Feminism is an ideology and a movement, which aims and fights to provide women with equal rights in all aspects of life may it be political, social or any other aspect of their lives making the world a place where they can prosper equally as men.
Feminists are those who support this belief and are there to help women get their rights and equal opportunities that they deserve and to help them build a world where all genders are equal and there is no discrimination among them
What were the reasons behind it? ( who are feminists? )
There were many reasons, which led to feminism and most important among them perhaps was how they were treated back in the days. Before getting into it lets the first talk about their condition in society before feminism
- Their purpose.
In 18th century, women’s sole purpose in life was to serve their families.
They were supposed to find themselves a husband and get married, reproduce and spend rest of her life serving them. This was the only option that women had to ensure for themselves a secure, respectable and fulfilling life, not only that the right age for them to get married was between 16 to 19 years. If a female entered her twenties unmarried then it would get really hard for her to find a husband and chances of her getting married would get really slim.
It was perceived that women barely require any education as they did not have any career nor had any say in the matters of politics and for these reasons most of the girls were given no education. Even the girls who were allowed to go to school would only get education related to their domestic roles such as classes in home management, cookery, laundry, needlework, and etc. girls were not allowed to attend university.
- Legal status ( who are feminists? )
In English common law gave women very little freedom as it stated that all the property owned by a woman would come into their husband’s ownership after the marriage. Because of this law, daughters of fathers with a limited fortune would have much difficulty in finding husbands whereas rich fathers would often fall prey to greedy men who married their daughters just for their fortune.
Even after the marriage, things weren’t any different as married women were not allowed to leave their home without their husband’s consent and had no right to claim custody over her children and they were not allowed to enter into any contracts.
In short, they were considered incompetent of managing their affairs
Women were expected to be responsible for their housework and childcare because of which most women did not work outside and men were considered the primary wage earners.
They were not allowed to pursue any profession like a doctor or lawyer.
- Social rank
Women single, married or widowed had no rights whatsoever. They were looked down upon by men as weak and were regarded as property and would usually find themselves at their husband’s mercy
The pioneers of feminism
There have been many people, who have worked for the betterment of women throughout history. Among them exist very few those who have their names written in this history for this sole purpose.
- Helen of Anjou
Helen of Anjou, she was born in 1230 and she died on February 8, 1314 in Shkoder, Albania. She is from Serbia and she was the Queen Consort of the Serbian kingdom also know as the prominent women of Serbia, feminists, establisher of women`s schools. She found the first girl’s school in Medieval Serbia, the girls were taught craftsmanship and after finishing their education the queen provided them with a dowry as an incentive. It was the first ever-specialized school not in Serbia, but in the whole of Europe.
2) Christine de Pizan
Christine de Pisan (Christine de Pizan) was a medieval writer and historiographer who advocated for women’s equality. Her works, considered to be some of the earliest writings of a feminist, include novels, poetry, biography, and autobiography, as well as literary, political, and religious commentary. De Pisan was the first woman in France, and probably whole Europe, to earn a living solely by writing.
- Laura Cereta (September 1469 – 1499)
Laura cereta was one of the greatest humanist and feminist writer of her time. She was the first to use women’s issues in the center of her work. Her letters discussed important things such as women’s education, marriage and war. Her letters were considered to be for the general audience. She had aggressive approach towards her critics. In response to one of her critics, Bibulus Sepromius, Laura said:
“MY EARS ARE WEARIED BY YOUR CARPING. YOU brashly and publicly not merely wonder but indeed lament that I am said to possess as fine a mind as nature ever bestowed upon the most learned man. You seem to think that so learned a woman has scarcely before been seen in the world. You are wrong on both counts, Sempronius, and have dearly strayed from the path of truth and disseminate falsehood…You pretend to admire me as a female prodigy, but there lurks sugared deceit in your adulation. You wait perpetually in ambush to entrap my lovely sex, and overcome by your hatred seek to trample me underfoot and dash me to the earth”
- Lucrezia Marinella (1571-1653) (” who are feminists? “)
Of Italian nationality, author and a poet by profession, Lucrezia Marinella is well known to be an advocate of women right and is famous for her writing “The Nobility and Excellence of Women and the Defects and Vices of Men.”
Equality of women and women’s right has a major portion in her writings
As women during that era were mostly wives and mothers and had no part in politics and in professional fields. She was one of the best female writer of her time. Most of her work were around women’s right and at some places she claimed women to be better than men which later became a famous argument.
- Aphra Behn
She was an English playwright, poet, translator and fiction writer. As one of the first English women to earn her living by her writing, she broke cultural barriers and served as a literary role model for later generations of women to come.
She is remembered in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.”
There were many more feminists, that came during this period and worked for it but without the name Feminism, only problem being that they all worked alone by themselves and there was no sense of unity for this cause and this continued till 18th century. Although they all worked for feminism and showed their support for the betterment of women in the society and even their hard work paid off in some way, but still they were all ideas with no physical structure in mind. As there were indeed few woman who were able to break the rules and do things outside the norm of the society but most of the women were still seen as property of their husbands or only existed just to take care of their family and homes, with no right of ownership, no right to study, no right to be able to go out without husbands consent and no right to pursue a profession or to work.