Feminism: the Road to Rights

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Since the world was created, gender inequality has always been present in society. Starting with the story of creation with Adam and Eve, where Adam was born first, then Eve was created from a piece of his body, and which he then labeled her as “woman.” By making her out of one of his bones and naming Eve as a woman, the first sight of women’s inferiority to men was shown to the world through Adam. After this, women have been fighting for their equality all over the world, and they have been determined to get to where they are today, and to see a day where there is no difference between men and women besides body parts and features. Women’s rights activists across the world have used tactics such as conventions, books and writings, protests and movements, and the creation of groups to act on the poor equality of rights. Throughout history, although both women in the United States and the Middle East have fought assiduously to gain their rights, role, and voice in their societies, women in the United States have had comparatively more success in this than women in the Middle East as a result of the different blend of government and culture of each.

In 1848, the first women’s rights convention organized by women was held in Seneca Falls, New York. Based on the Declaration of Independence, the Seneca Falls Convention became one of the first successful steps to the women’s rights movements in the United States. After two days of debate at the convention, one third of the attendees, sixty-eight women and thirty-eight men signed the Declaration of Sentiments. With help from Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote this declaration to argue that women were constantly oppressed by their patriarchal society, and deserved their equal rights as citizens. Stanton began to prove this point by stating, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” In the declaration, she also includes sixteen statements which show the extent of the oppression through the lack of; suffrage, rights in marriage and divorce, representation in the government, and equality in education and job opportunity. Following these statements, Stanton included a list of twelve resolutions to women’s rights, and each one besides the one for women’s suffrage had been passed. Conventions such as Seneca Falls were highly influential to the women’s rights movement in the U.S. by spreading awareness and gaining more supporters. As the first convention to be led by women for their own rights, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, her Declaration of Sentiments, and the Convention of Seneca Falls began the war for gender equality in America through insisting on women being viewed as full citizens with the same rights and privileges as men.

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Unlike the women’s rights movement that started in the United States after the Seneca Falls Convention, the first sight of women’s rights in the Middle East was in the late eighteen hundreds with a collection of poems written about women’s presence in society in Lebanon and a book on women’s status in Egypt. In 1867, Warda Al-Yaziji published a collection of poems called “The Rose Garden” to discuss women’s status and role in society. More commonly known as “Hadiqat Al- Ward,” the collection was republished in 1887 as an expanded form and again in 1914 with a greater reasoning and discussion. She also wrote articles about women’s rights issues across the Middle East for the magazine “Al-Diya” which was founded in 1898. Along with writing about changing the role of women, Al- Yaziji was considered a “pioneer” for opening the field of literature to women across the Middle East. Similarly, in 1899, then Egyptian book The Liberation of Women, written by Qasim Amin stimulates a public debate on women’s status in Egypt. Although his book made many claims about equality for all genders in society, Amin’s opinion on the seclusion of women with wearing the hijab was the main reason for the public controversy. After the publication of The Liberation of Women, the hijab became a crisis of identification of women, and after the works of both Amin and Al- Yaziji, opinions on women’s rights and its movement in the Middle East were starting to be expressed through writing. Between the works of Warda Al- Yaziji and Qasim Amin, the Middle East saw its first cry for gender equality, and heard its first voice on the identity of the hijab.

After the Seneca Falls Convention, men and women began speaking out for their rights by participating in movements to enable their voice and forming new groups such as the American Woman Suffrage Association to act on their cry for rights. In November of 1869, Lucy Stone and her husband Henry Blackwell joined with a well known author, Julia Ward Howe, and a famous preacher, Henry Ward Beecher to form this association in Boston. The group’s main goal was to gain the vote for women through amendments to individual state constitutions. They focused on state constitutions and multiple amendments instead of one amendment to the Constitution because the group believed that they would have more followers and success this way. While being one of the only Associations for women’s rights to have male leaders, they were also one of the few to support the fifteenth amendment, which granted African American men the right to vote. Along with the protests and movements that they created did to gain the vote, Lucy Stone also started a popular newspaper, “The Woman’s Journal” in 1870 to discuss suffrage issues and share the association’s strategies and meeting plans. The paper talked about current movements and both political and legal equality with bold headlines to gain viewer attention: “Nation aroused by open insults to women— Cause wins popular sympathy—Congress orders investigation.” The paper was one of the group’s many ways to draw attention to the AWSA. Due to the work of the American Woman Suffrage Association, the United States were granted voting rights state by state after these works until the nineteenth amendment was later passed to the Constitution in 1920.

Similar to the American Woman Suffrage Association, the Women’s Rising Group was established in the 1920s in Iraq by Aswa Zahawi, after the 1920 revolt against British occupation. Before the group was created, Iraq was under the control of the Ottomans, where women were not considered as full human beings. The Turks brought a secular legal reform to Iraq where only upper class women were benefitted. When the British took over, they ran Iraq under the terms of the mandate to minimise the extent of the social reform and avoid any cultural reforms that would disrupt society by keeping the ancient Ottoman legal system. As mentioned in the book Iraq: From Sumer to Saddam, Geoff Simons exemplifies this administrative decision of the British by saying, “Thus in the case of women murdered for having ‘dishonoured’ their families, one colonial administrator saw the need for a compromise ‘between the demands of civilised and savage tribal justice’.” After the British minimised these reforms, in 1931 their authorities in Iraq declared that education for girls would make them “unfitted for tribal life.” The Women’s Rising Group published the journal Leila in response to this statement, demanding the right to equal education and employment.

Although it was only a journal, the group faced harsh backlash from the British authority such as reverses to the women’s movement. Not only did the group stand for equal education, but they also stood for recognition as full citizens and the dropping of the veil. To promote this, in 1923 Huda Shaarawi, Ceza Nabarawi, and Nabawiya Moussa took of their hijabs in the Cairo train station to symbolize their liberation. The Women’s Rising Group influenced the debate about the hijab by speaking and acting on behalf of its unfair restrictions on women, and creating a new view of it. Because of this act specifically and the other acts of the Women’s Rising Group, more and more men and women began speaking out on behalf of not only equal rights, and dropping the hijab in total, creating a still current ongoing fight.

Equal voting rights have been demanded all over the world for centuries as one of the top desired rights for equal roles in society. Although specifically in the United States, voting for women wasn’t started until after the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1869 and the passing of Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. The AWSA success began in 1893 when Colorado became the first state to grant women the vote. After that, thirty four more states granted women the vote up until 1913. Then, in 1920 the 19th Amendment was passed on August 26, granting all women in the United States the right to vote in elections. Unlike the United States in which women began to gain voting rights in 1893, the Middle East did not begin to gain votes until November 22nd, 1918 in Georgia. After Saudi Arabia received their municipal vote in 2015, all twenty-two countries had won their equal voting rights. The right to vote was a very important step to gaining gender equality in both regions because both movements strived to be seen as equal citizens, including voting in elections. Although both the United States and the Middle East had achieved equal voting rights, each region still faces recent gender inequality and discrimination such as unequal pay, unequal employment, clothing discrimination, and unfair treatment by the law.

Although feminists in the United States have fought long and have had many accomplishments for women’s rights, there is still gender inequality present in the U.S. today. Most of the discrimination is present in everyday life, such as government, work, society, and schools. Specifically in present government in the U.S., the one hundred and twelfth Congress is primarily consisted of men, while only seventeen out of one hundred Senate seats, and ninety-two of four hundred and thirty-five House of Representative seats are women. Along with the inequality in government, women are also discriminated at their jobs and even in public places such as objectification, harassment, and sexual abuse. As of today, the United States still has no law on guaranteed paid maternity leave for women. In accordance with the lack of a rule, some women are demoted to lower ranking and or lower paid jobs and some are even being fired for their pregnancies. Women are also paid thirty percent less than men for the same job in society, and some women are not employed or even considered for employment because of their gender. Studies from Pew Research found that less than thirty percent of tech company workers such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google are comprised of women.

Females across the country have also reported being sexually harassed online or in public as well as the workplace. Few women even reported sexual misconduct allegations about the current U.S. president, Donald Trump. The gender discrimination has begun to impact young women in society as well, specifically through school dress codes. Many school districts do not allow female students to wear clothes that show too much skin such as the shoulders, thighs, or stomachs, because certain outfits could distract other students. Women in the United States are still trying to overcome these final obstacles starting with creating change in their government, workplaces, societies, and schools. Even though America has come a long way with equal rights, they still face discrimination in everyday lives, and they still have a long way to go to gain full gender equality in the states.

In contrast with the current situation of gender inequality in the United States, the Middle East has far less rights for women today, and is still working towards more gender equality in small steps. Specifically, women in Afghanistan are not allowed to leave their house without being accompanied by a male member of their family because of the Taliban rule, and are forced to wear a hijab that covers their face, hair, and in some countries, entire body. When Islamic extremists take over a country they require this dress code, although the Quran does not directly state the requirement of a veil.

The government aims to take views away from women’s defining features such as their body and face while also subconsciously stripping them of their individuality through this custom. In accordance with the goal to keep women’s features hidden, women are also taught that the enjoyment of their beauty is only for their husbands pleasure, so they must stay covered in public. Debate about the hijab has been publicly present since the publication of book The Liberation of Women in 1899, and the works of the Women’s Rising Group in the early 1900s. Although the Islamic government has yet to make drastic change to the policy of the hijab, they have begun making changes in other areas, such as in Saudi Arabia in 2018 when the government lifted the driving ban on women, which finally gave women the right to get behind the wheel. By lifting this ban, the government aimed to promote more participation of women in the workforce. In a similar manner, in 2019, women specifically in Saudi Arabia were given the right to check the status of their marriage online so that they could not be surprised by a sudden divorce, or other change in their marriage.

However, the United States have tried to set up meetings with Taliban officials to create a plan for more freedom and equality for all citizens, including women and children. With centuries worth of writings, protests, and organizations, the Middle East is still the least gender equal region in the world. Although as a region they have come significantly far in their efforts to change the lifestyles of their countries, the Middle East still has a long road ahead to obtaining complete gender equality, with possible upcoming help from the United States.

Since the beginning of time, people across the world have faced discrimination based on their race, body, and gender. People become what they see, and by growing up in sexist regions, the people of the United States and Middle East adapt to the unjust societies, influencing their own equality. Although the feminists and activists began speaking out and publicly fighting for their rights in the early eighteen hundreds, both regions have yet to acquire complete equality. Through the works of activists in the United States, women have ultimately accomplished semi- equal rights such as equal voting and election rights, and some equal roles in society. Seemingly, women in the United States have gained almost equivalent rights to men, with only few inequalities left to acquire, such as equal pay and job opportunity. Similarly, women in the Middle East have fought prosperously for the rights that they have been granted such as the ability to obtain a drivers license, equal education, and equal voting.

Alongside the rights yet to be gained by women in the U.S., women in the Middle East need to continue their work to accomplish the final rights to their complete gender equality such as equal dress codes, equal job opportunities, and equal roles in society. Women in the Middle East and United States have worked equally as hard to gain the rights which they have today, but the women of the Middle East still face many of the same obstacles today as they have all throughout history except on a larger scale. In conclusion, women in the United States and the Middle East have fought for centuries to gain their equal rights, role, and voice in their societies, and they continue to fight for their complete equality to men, while working to change the sexist government and cultural rules in which keep them from obtaining complete equality.

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Feminism: The Road to Rights. (2021, Apr 26). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/feminism-the-road-to-rights/