It has been observed that before even feminism emerged, women who lived under patriarchy were able to exercise their own authority, one way or the other. Women’s involvement in politics did not begin with the passage of suffrage measures in Western democracies. Similarly, this cannot be measured by the percentage of women winning elective office. To begin with, electoral success is only one route to political authority, albeit a highly significant one.
All of the other means by which women resisted or reshaped patriarchy—whether familial, maternal, religious, economic or educational—also involved them in politics, when that term is defined as the “acquisition or exercise of authority” and not “merely the art or science of government. ” (Politics). Until recently, however, the Western definition of political has been quite gender-specific. It referred to the formal, public arena in which men vied for power over others. Like its Greek antecedent, modern Western democracy initially applied only to the public sphere.
Even after citizens acquired rights, the private family could remain an undemocratic hierarchy ruled by men. The issue on feminism Feminism is a relatively recent word. It was first coined in France in the 1880s as feminisme, and then it spread through European countries in the 1890s and to North and South America by 1910. The term combined the French word for woman, femme, and –isme, which referred to a social movement or political ideology. At a time when many other “isms” originated, including socialism and communism, feminisme connoted that women’s issues belonged to the vanguard of change.
The term was always controversial, impart because of its association with radicalism and in part because proponents themselves disagreed about the label. Although self-defined socialist feminists appeared in Europe as early as 1900, many socialists who supported women’s emancipation rejected the label “feminist. ” They believed that middle-class demands for suffrage and property rights did not necessarily speak to working women’s needs for a living wage and job security.
Middle-class women also hesitated to call themselves feminists, especially when the term implied a claim to universal rights as citizens rather than particular rights as mothers. (Feminism from Wikipedia). Author Offen (1988, p. 119) even goes to the extent of labeling the words feminist and feminism as emotionally-charged words that continue to inspire controversy and arouse a visceral response. She opines that the words feminist and feminism when defined evokes a lot of political and emotional nuances. (Offen, 1988, p. 119). Feminists have not been able to agree on what constitutes feminism as theory and practice.
Author Maguire in Brayton’s essay thinks that the term feminism is about challenging gender inequalities in the social world. (Maguire, 1987, p. 79 in Brayton). As an attempt to bring more meaning to the term, Patricia Maguire sums up more concretely: "Feminism is: (a) a belief that women universally face some form of oppression or exploitation; (b) a commitment to uncover and understand what causes and sustains oppression, in all its forms and (c) a commitment to work individually and collectively in everyday life to end all forms of oppression.
” (Maguire, 1987, p. 79 in Brayton). Feminist theory “offers a critique of theories constructed by men who put themselves in the position of policy makers … Feminists critically examine international relations from the standpoint of people who have been systematically excluded from power” (Keohane, cited in Lecture 9 Seminar Notes, n. d. , p. 1). International relations, in this context,
has long been taught and theorized as if women were invisible: as if either there were no women in world politics, which was only men's business; or as if women and men were active in and affected by world politics in the same ways, in which case there would be no need to 'gender' the analysis (Pettman, cited in Lecture 9 Seminar Notes, n. d. , p. 1).