Sunday, March 22, 2015

'Feminism Unfinished': Freedom, Justice for All

Review by Bill Doughty –  
This book presents a history of the modern women's rights movement and argues that equality gains for women were not easy and the work is not complete. Ingrained cultural biases against rights for women make progress slow, the authors say:
"Women's subordination is an ancient human practice, ingrained into nearly every major religion and nearly every economic system."
"Feminism Unfinished" focuses on the past 95 years, the status of women's right today, and the ongoing struggle in the future.
"Feminism Unfinished: A Short, Surprising History of American Women's Movements" by Dorothy Sue Cobble, Linda Gordon and Astrid Henry, 2014, W. W. Norton and Company.

The authors acknowledge the achievements toward equality, thanks to women and men activists:
"Since the women's suffrage amendment was adopted in 1920, most legal restrictions on women have been abolished: Women now serve on juries, fight in the armed forces, and can apply for any job or to attend any education institution, for example. Women can wear what they want and love whom they desire."
While that may be true in the United States, what about the rest of the world?
In her essay, "From Mindset to a Movement," author Astrid Henry shows how women's rights movements are being championed in other countries by women drivers in Saudi Arabia, punk rockers in Russia, bloggers in Eqypt, protesters in Spain, sex education activists in Africa and feminists in Mexico.

"Perhaps no one better symbolizes the future of feminism than Malala Yousafzai, the young feminist activist from Pakistan," Henry writes. 
Shot in the head by a member of the violent extremist Taliban because she dared speak out for the rights of girls to get an education, Yousafzai suffered through months of rehabilitation and bravely took up the mantle again for women's rights and the right for all children to be educated. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
In their afterward, the authors conclude:
"Feminism of the future ... may well be led by women from the poorer countries of the world. They in turn will also invent feminisms that meet their needs and aspirations. It is impossible to understand the world's problems and hopes without taking into account the growing global movements for women's health, education, bodily integrity, sexual freedom, political participation, and economic equality. Just as American feminism transformed American society, so global feminism is likely to transform the world."
Girls from the vocational training program in Khawja Omari, Afghanistan, Nov. 11, 2009.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Sarah Webb, Combat Camera Afghanistan)
This book is not and cannot be all inclusive in showcasing women's rights movements over the past century. Nevertheless, it introduces the reader to some of the key people, currents within the movement and ongoing challenges toward achieving full equal rights.
Continuing progress in the United States is not inevitable, the authors conclude – especially in areas of healthcare access, growing income inequality, parental leave, rape prevention and equal pay. Progress in full equality, they write, relies on cooperation, education and participation by everyone, male and female.
"Looking forward," Henry writes, "the unfinished work of feminism will require a diversity of voices, willing to come together to secure freedom and justice for all."
(It's Women's History Month. Happy Birthday to the late Amalie Emmy Noether, influential mathematician born March 23, 1882.)

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