US Polls: A Woman Still Faces Resistance As A Woman
ALIGARH: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’
Martin Luther King Junior
In today’s world women’s rights have come to play a central role in the international geopolitics. Feminist arguments were invoked as a justification of war to free women in Afghanistan. Banning the veil and the burkini became hot political issues in the politics of Europe at a time when it was embroiled in an economic crisis .
At this point in time it is paradoxical to watch US presidential candidate Donald Trump gain acceptability amongst a sizeable section of society despite his sickeningly boastful and crass claims of alleged sexual conquests .Trump has displayed brazen disregard for global standards of human dignity and it is incumbent on the feminist leadership to condemn him in the strongest terms .
After years of struggle a glass ceiling still exists in the US .The US Government that champions the cause of human rights the world over is surprisingly one of the few countries in the world ( including the likes of Saudi Arabia) that is yet to ratify the CEDAW- the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.If ,howeverAmerican chooses to elect Hilary Clinton, history will be made as she will become the first woman president of the United States, breaking the centuries old invisible barrier .
This feat can fully be appreciated if we shed light on the history of the women’s movement in the West.
Till the nineteenth century even educational institutions like Oxford and Cambridge denied access to women ,nad in the US women were not allowed to speak in the public sphere . Till the nineteenth century in America abortion activists-the Grimke sisters had to face stiff resistance for public speaking as the women's sphere was just supposed to be the home.
Even in this age in her previous bid for the presidential election Hillary Clinton faced patriarchal slurs .
In France Women were not granted equal citizenship rights as the French Revolution The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen 1789, created two categories of citizens one ‘active citizens’ and the other ‘passive citizens’ with women not being granted the status of active citizens who could participate in the political process.
Women in the US had to struggle for almost a century for equal rights . In 1848 the First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls passed The Declaration of Sentiments’ - this declaration made a case for equal rights of women including the right to vote . However women had to struggle for almost 70 years and it was not until the nineteenth Amendment to the US constitution that gave women the right to vote in 1919 .
After the second world war a new world order emerged . New movements like the New left , civil rights movement, students movements , the black rights movement and also the second phase of the women’s movement emerged due to the new social , economic and political ferment . In the 1960s the women’s movement raised the slogan "personal is political". It was everyday patriarchy ingrained in the socio- political structures that was questioned. Reproductive rights for women were at the centre of the debate.
However in the 80s the critique of the first two waves questioned the non- inclusion of all non- white and non- middle class women in its analysis of feminism . This led to the emergence of the third wave of feminism . It stressed upon intersectionality whereby women’s suppression could only fully be understood in the context of the marginalization of other groups . Accordingly this wave discrimination and oppression of race , class, sexual orientation , nationality and region, all are interconnected.
Despite the three waves of feminism - the barriers persist. Today though women have the equal legal rights they are still struggling new forms of oppression as the market forces sexually objectify women. Naomi Wolf's work the Beauty Myth highlights the connect between the market forces and artificial standards of women's beauty constructed through the media.
Disregard and disrespect for any marginalised group or section of society is disregard for humanity.
(The writer is Assistant Professor at the Advanced Centre for Womens Studies, Aligarh Muslim University)