This is to certify that the thesis entitled “Empowerment among Muslim Women: A Sociological Study in Lucknow, UP” by Nageen Ahmad has been completed under my supervision and is a bonafide original piece of work.
(Dr. Sukant K. Chaudhury)
Department of Sociology
University of Lucknow
This is to certify that the thesis entitled “Empowerment among Muslim Women: A Sociological Study in Lucknow, UP”submitted by me in fulfillment of Degree of Doctorate of Philosophy in Department of Sociology is an original work.
The Area and the People
Empowerment of Muslim Women: A Historical and Textual Perspective
Factors of Empowerment
Response of the People
Women in Muslim communities face considerable challenges as citizens of India and as members of India’s largest minority. Their poor socio-economic status reflects a lack of social opportunity which, though not a feature exclusive to Muslim women, is exacerbated by their marginal status within an overall context of social disadvantage for most Indian women. According to government reports, Muslim women are amongst the poorest, educationally backward, economically vulnerable and politically marginalized group in the country.
The lack of information on Muslim women contributes to the reinforcing of the cultural stereotype, while obfuscating the life experiences and obstacles faced by Muslim women in their efforts to create a more equitable and fair socio-economic and cultural environment for themselves. Consequently, the notion that Muslim women’s status in India is attributable to certain intrinsic, immutable Islamic features is widely prevalent and unchallenged. Today, Muslim women interact with the fast changing environment around her and hence social mobility and change are bound to occur. This has stirred me to look into the status of Muslim women in Lucknow. Lucknow has a large urban Muslim population that includes wide spectrum of socio-economic groups and therefore provides a rich sample of women for a study of the kind that has been undertaken.
This thesis has six chapters. The first chapter is the introduction which includes women empowerment, theoretical background, review of literature, the Indian scenario, objectives of the study and field methods and experiences. The second chapter is the area and the people which includes geographical, historical, demographical, cultural, economic and linguistic details of the area. The third chapter is empowerment of Muslim women: a historical and textual perspective. This chapter deals with the empowerment of Muslim women in India in a historical perspective and the status of women in Islam. The fourth chapter deals with the factors of empowerment, the information regarding which, was collected through interview schedules. The interview schedule sought information on the educational background of the respondents, their parents, husband and children’s educational status, employment status, income, decision making, gender bias etc. The fifth chapter is the response of the people where analysis was done through case studies. In all, 24 case studies were undertaken. The final chapter is the conclusion where observations including findings are given.
For accomplishing this task, I have been greatly helped by many. I am greatly indebted to my supervisor, Dr. Sukant Kumar Chaudhury, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology who has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. He took a personal interest in my work and was kind enough to spare his time to help me with his insights and scholarly criticism. I also wish to acknowledge the head of the department, Professor Rajesh Mishra for his help from time to time.
My thanks are also due to the staff of Tagore Library, Uttar Pradesh Secretariat Library, Acharya Narendra Dev Library, Maulana Azad Library for their help in providing me with various books and journals. I am grateful to all my friends, relatives and acquaintances who helped me with my field study in various ways. I wish to record my indebtedness to my parents, Dr. Khwaja Najmuddin Ahmad and Dr. Pervin Ahmad and my appreciation for my husband Javeed and children Faiz and Aamna for ungrudgingly giving me the time and space to complete my work.
October, 2013 (Nageen Ahmad)
The issue of women empowerment became crucial in the latter half of twentieth century and has now become the vital aspect of every society. It begins from gender inequality inculcated in social structure of almost every society. Women are termed as second sex (Simone De Beauvoir fame), are subjugated and suppressed in every aspect in the society. They are physically weak, mentally not organized, and intellectually poor and in some texts there are mentions of controlling the women socially, politically and sexually because women are the root cause of evils. There are positive aspects also mentioned in texts like Gods live where women reside. However, in reality since time immemorial negative aspects have been prioritized by the society with the exception of few women rulers or fighters or some writers like for example Raziya Sultana, Rani Lakshmi Bai etc. (John, 2008).
However, the twentieth century saw enlightenment of women throughout the world starting from the Western societies in general and American and European in particular. The feminist ideologies came in, the first being Liberal Feminism which did not change the structure. Patriarchy continued but women were given some opportunity in education and employment but not much in decision making. Subsequently, Marxist and Socialist Feminism, Radical Feminism or Feminist Essentialism and finally last but not the least Post Modern Feminism came into being. These types of feminism paved way for structural changes in the society. The Western societies claim to have changed their structures but not the traditional and conservative societies like that of India and other Muslim countries. It is significant to mention that achieving women’s empowerment indicates a change of structure and qualifies to be an advanced modern society.
The well being of people is unquestionably the ultimate object of all development efforts of a country and the basic quest of human endeavour is always to seek a better quality of life. Social empowerment in general and women empowerment in particular are very fundamental in achieving this goal. The institution of democracy provides a strong foundation for harmonizing social and economic objectives. Thus, within the broad democratic framework there are great opportunities for synergizing women and economic growth programmes to deliver better quality of life in the shortest possible span of time.
In India, the plight of Muslim women is not better than that of women belonging to other social groups. Though Islam accords equal status to both men and women, the reality is far from it. In a patriarchal society like India, there exists the unfounded belief that only man is the bread earner of the family. Consequently, the male child gets the best of the limited facilities and resources within the family. The girl child on the other hand is highly discriminated against starting before her birth. More than six decades of independence the efforts of striving for a better status for women have not yielded satisfactory results in India. There is a great upsurge in consciousness about their rights among all sections and class of society in all regions of the country.
Muslim women in India have been playing a subordinate role though Constitution of India establishes a secular state and eliminates discrimination on grounds of race, religion, sex etc. Muslim women have continued to be victims of traditional social structure of the community. Educational development among Muslim women is very poor and due to this their economic participation is quite low. However, in the recent past empowerment of Muslim women has begun if not at a high speed but definitely in moderation. The attitude of Muslim women is changing and their participation in development process is gradually increasing. It is because of the increased level of education, awareness and government and non-government organization’s intervention programmes that have resulted in some type of positive social change. Under this backdrop, I decided to work on issue of empowerment of Muslim women keeping in mind the changes occurring due to the impact of modernization, westernization, democratization and subsequently globalization. The study has been presented in this dissertation in six chapters (Introduction, Area and People, Empowerment of Muslim Women; A Historical and Textual Perspective, Factors of Empowerment, Response of People and Conclusion).
In this chapter I have dealt with the issue of Women Empowerment, Theoretical Perspectives, The Indian Scenario, A Comprehensive Review of Literature, and Objectives of my study and Field Methods.
The term ‘empowerment’ today is one of those appealing but slippery terms that lend themselves to multiple, sometimes contradictory meanings. The term gained international currency when the World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen on March 6-12, 1995 made its generous use as an objective of social and economic development. The Declaration and the Programme of action linked up empowerment with the entire gamut of social and economic development policies and programmes. Empowering people particularly the weaker section of society is the main objective of development and its principal resource. Empowerment requires the full participation of people in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of decisions determining the functioning and the well being of society (Srivastava, S. P. , 2005).
The development discourse witnessed a paradigm shift in 1990’s and post 1990’s when the focus on welfare turned to development and development turned into empowerment.
Empowerment refers to a process of consolidating, maintaining or changing the nature and distribution of power in a particular cultural context. As a collective process, it challenges the basic power, pelf and progress in terms of sexes (gender inequality) classes (class disparity) and castes (social differention). Thus viewed the term ‘empowerment’ means giving power to certain unprivileged and oppressed sections of society.
When used in the context of women’s welfare and development, empowerment is a process that leads to the achievement of gender equality in social, educational, economic and political walks of life. Empowerment in its simplest form is the manifestation of redistribution of power that challenges patriarchal ideology and the male dominance. It is a transformation of the structures or institutions that reinforces and perpetuates gender discrimination. It is a process through which women increase their ability to shape their own lives and environment and that which results in an increase in women’s self awareness, status and efficiency in social interactions. In the context of women, being empowered, in essence means able to help themselves and breaking down of social, economic, educational, cultural and psychological barriers to upgrade their status from being passive recipients of government programmes to active participants and managers of their own affairs.
The agenda of women’s empowerment calls for action to protection and promotion of equal rights and inherent dignity of women, eradication of persistent discrimination and injustice to women, removal of obstacles to women’s full participation in public life and decision making at all levels, including family, elimination of all forms of violence against women, ensuring equal access to women in their struggle for self actualization and promotion of autonomy to ensure their access to productive resources. In short, empowerment of women means full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedom of all women, their full and equal participation in political, civil, economic social and cultural life and eradication of all forms of discrimination on grounds of gender (Mohanty, 2008).
The road to progress on women’s empowerment has not been easy notwithstanding a wide variety of national and global commitment on the subject. The problematic issue of women’s empowerment is rooted in the very idea of empowerment. The concept of empowerment puts excessive emphasis on formal institutional arrangements and their means and modalities implying that external agencies will bring about their empowerment and deliver benefits at the women’s door front. The problematic issue of women’s empowerment lies in and arises out of the patriarchal value system, the prevailing power structure and the mighty mind set of men rooted in the traditionalist notions of inherent inequality between men and women. Women’s inequality is an entangled issue, intertwined with number of social, economic, cultural and attitudinal barriers that powerfully block the road to women’s empowerment. The problems regarding women’s empowerment revolves round the societal conditions which permit gender discrimination, perpetuate practices derogatory to dignity of women, deny them free and equal access to available opportunity structures for self growth and development and finally creating obstacles for women to effectively avail of the benefits and welfarist measures of equality, dignity and development contained in the constitution, built into body of laws or included in the planned and programmed packages of the governmental policy on women’s empowerment (Menon, 2008).
There have emerged new perspectives that differ drastically from the old perspectives demanding demonstrable action rooted in realism. Amongst the changed perspective on women’s empowerment the most popular is the ‘radical gender perspective’ which asserts that it is the gender which defines and determines the disadvantageous position of women vis-a-vis men. This perspective looks at women’s empowerment from the ideological standpoint of radical feminism which asserts that women suffer because they are women (Srivastava, S. P. , 2005). The feminity is a factor that adversely impacts.
The other perspective is the “enablement perspective” often called the capability perspective (Srivastava. S. P. , 2005). This perspective has three critical components namely the educational, economic and political empowerment of women. The pivotal presupposition is that once women are educationally, economically and politically empowered many of their problems would automatically disappear. The national policies for women empowerment throughout the developing countries aver that this is the most powerful propeller of women equality and thereby for their empowerment. The educational empowerment of women holds the key to their economic and political empowerment. Educational attainment is without doubt the most fundamental prerequisite for empowering women in all spheres of society, for without education of comparable quality and content to that given to boys and men and relevant to existing knowledge and real needs, women are unable to access well paid, formal sector jobs, participate in and be represented in government. Moreover, the risk increases for society as a whole that the next generation of children will be similarly ill-prepared. It is thus the first step towards equality and justice to women. The societies that firmly believe and approvingly practice women’s equality have endeavoured hard to ensure that women and girls get adequate and equal opportunities of education and are willing and capable of making effective women in their diverse roles whether in the family or in the larger society. Gender ridden beliefs and practices put women at a distinct disadvantage and nullify the constitutional notion of equality. Nominal progress of women in educational, political and economic fields does not place women on an equal footing with men. The recent advances on the varied fronts of women’s empowerment have helped in creating an illusion of progress, the truth, however, is that male mind set has not yet changed much. The radical thinking on women’s empowerment calls for adoption of a gender based perspective where women have to be viewed not as women in the stereotyped sense but as human beings worthy of self respect and dignity consistent to and in conformity with the constitutional and legal provisions of equality, nondiscrimination and self fulfilling development in respect of education, employment and other indicators of human development. Use of the instrumentalities of education is central to their empowerment. Educational empowerment of women is itself sufficient to make them fully cognizant of their constitutional and legal rights of opportunities of self expression and growth, of welfare/ development programmes for their economically productive and autonomous existence and above all a self fulfilling life in the family as well as in the community. Educational attainment is without doubt the most fundamental prerequisite for empowering women considering that women still constitute two third of the world’s illiterate population (Hill, 1995).
Economic empowerment is a necessary condition for enabling women to seek justice and equality, for without economic strength women cannot be made able to exercise their guaranteed rights. It is therefore necessary to ensure the participation of women as equal partners with men in all fields of work. Economic empowerment necessitates supporting their existing livelihoods, widening their choices and building their capacity to take advantage of the new economic opportunities available to women. The economic participation of women is important not only for lowering the disproportionate levels of poverty among women but also as an important step towards raising household income and encouraging economic development in countries as a whole. Amartya Sen 1999 makes a compelling case for the notion that that societies need to see women less as passive recipients of help, and more as dynamic promoters of social transformation. There are evidences suggesting that the education employment and ownership rights of women have a powerful influence on their ability to control their environment and contribute to economic development. Economic participation concerns not only the actual numbers of women participating in the labour force but also their remuneration on an equal basis. Worldwide outside the agricultural sector in both developed and developing countries women are still averaging slightly less than 78% of the wages given to men for the same work, a gap which refuses to close in even the most developed countries (UNIFEM, 2000).
Economic opportunity concerns the quality of women’s involvement beyond their mere presence as workers. This is a serious problem in developed countries where women may gain employment easily but where their employment is either concentrated in poorly paid or unskilled jobs “ghettos” characterized by the absence of upward mobility & opportunity (World Economic Forum 2005).
Political empowerment refers to the equitable representation of women in decision making structures, both formal and informal and their voice in the formulation of policies affecting their societies. Political empowerment of women is necessary in a democratic polity that claims economic, social and political equality for all its citizens – men and women. Women’s equal participation in the political life of the country plays a pivotal role in the general process of their advancement. Their equal participation in the political arena is a necessary condition for increasing the ability of women to effectively voice their use in the corridors of political decision making (Banerjee, 2008). The absence of women from structures of governance inevitably means that national, regional and local priorities i. e. how resources are allocated - are typically defined without meaningful input from women whose life experiences give them a different awareness of the community’s needs, concerns and interests from that of men. Without political space, gender discrimination and other allied practices derogatory to women’s dignity cannot be recast. Women’s placement in political decision making processes in government and in the legislative bodies is necessary for redefining the political agenda of gender justice.
The “legal entitlement perspective” on women’s empowerment relies heavily on the constitutional measures and other specific provisions that prohibit inequality and forms of discrimination against them. The existing statutory provisions concerning women’s empowerment have no doubt bridged the inequality gap between men and women, they have, however, not yet resulted in improving the overall quality of women’s life in general. The de-jure equality firmly ingrained in the law is yet to translate itself into de-facto equality. The legal entitlements of women’s empowerment are only the minor means to achieve the desired results unless there is a spirited action on implementation front, legal reforms only camouflage the reality.
The fourth and the final armour in the women’s empowerment strategy is the “social change perspective” calling for attitudinal and institutional changes that are gender neutral and pro women. Norms, values, attitudes and beliefs regarding women are at the root of their disimprovement. Various problems confronting women which inevitably impact upon their status and position in society are embedded in the wide variety of existing institutional arrangements. Attitudinal and institutional change is the need of the hour.
Patriarchy and Indian Social Structure.
Social structure of any society constitutes an important factor for analysis of status of women. Indian society has a patriarchal structure. Though India is not a monolithic society but it consists of many societies. There are many societies having all types of patridominance. They are patriarchal, patrilineal, patronymic and patrilocal. Patriarchy in the sense authority lies with the father and is transferred to the son, patriliny indicates the descent system i. e. all six major traits (both movable and immovable properties residence, authority, culture, rituals and name) pass through the main line. Patrilocality means after marriage son with his wife lives with his father in his house. Finally patriliny means father’s name is given to son and daughters after marriage get their husband’s name.
The joint family system is supposed to have extreme patriarchal conditions. The status of women is lowest because women face tedious tasks, many restriction including restriction on mobility. The rituals also are most patriarchal in nature women cannot participate in major rituals. Modernizing elements have only given them some choices. But the structure has not changed. It will be more clear from the discussion on structure and organization.
Every piece of research requires a thorough theoretical understanding as well as interpretation. In light of this, I have tried to use the structural functional theory and theory of social organization. Further I have also taken different feminist theories into consideration.
Structural Functional Theory.
The basic postulates of structural functional theory (Chaudhury, 2004) are:
Society has a social structure consisting of many interrelated and interconnected parts.
Change in one part will lead to change in other parts.
For the members of the society social structure is ideal in nature. They do not want any change in structure.
Radcliffe–Brown (1952) had made a distinction between structure and structural form. Structure is the reality which is found in the society, whereas, structural form is the construction of the reality by the researcher. While structure may change a little bit structural form does not change. Radcliffe –Brown almost gave a equilibrium model of the society. Edmond Leach (1954) and Levi-Strauss (1963) gave a dynamic view of structure. For Levi-Strauss, structure is a model and has nothing to do with reality because the reality consists of social relationships. The researcher uses the reality as raw materials to construct the model. The model has four characteristics:
It should exhibit like a system i. e. it consists of many interrelated and inter dependent parts, change in one part will lead to change in other parts.
The model should be constructed in such a manner that it can be easily transformed.
The model should be constructed in such a manner that it should be intelligible.
The model should be constructed in such a manner that it should be predictable, it means by looking at the nature of one pair of relationships one can predict the nature of other pairs of relationships.
Levi-Strauss spoke of four different kinds of models – Conscious, Unconscious, Mechanical and Statistical Model.
Raymond Firth (1963) spoke about theory of social organization. He was a student of Radcliffe Brown and was much influenced by him. He said that structure is truly ideal in nature and people do not want any change in it. However, ideal elements are not always found in reality. Therefore, people use choices and alternatives. Firth said this in the context of maintenance of critical relationships. For Firth theory of social organization is not a distinct theory. It is a concept found within concept of social structure. This is to say social organization consists of the critical relationship found within social structure. Critical relationships are those relationships which are of utmost importance. Any change in such relationships would change the structure which people do not wish e. g. father-son relationship in a patrilineal society or mother’s brother and sister’s son in a matrilineal society.
Thus, people use choices to maintain the ideal structure. Firth gave the example of importance of mother’s brother in sister’s son’s life in African tribes. In a family where there is no mother’s brother mother’s brother’s son performs the role of mother’s brother. Thus, it is not the ideal element. It is a choice. Social organization has two elements (1) element of responsibility. It means the person using choice should be responsible enough so that by using the choice he is not changing the structure (2) element of representation. The person using the choice should be representing the whole community i. e. the community’s nod is required for use of choice. In this manner the theoretical perspectives of structure function and social organization are very useful to understand empowerment among Muslim women.
Here the theory of social change has also been use. Social change is an essential component of every society. Leach said that every society is a process in time and every society is found in a flux. Change is a succession of difference in time in a persistent identity. Unless one is struck by differences of condition or appearances one cannot speak of change. Therefore, observation of differences is the beginning of all awareness of change. Change is inseparable from dimension of time. There must be a particular place for change. Change should be distinguished from interaction, motion and variety (Dube, 1992). There are many dimensions of social change:-
Unit of change,
Specification of determinate relationships,
Magnitude and intensity of change,
Time span of change,
Sources of change (exterior or indigenous),
Direction of change (positive or negative, and
Nature of change. It is of 2 types:
Change in structure. It means some change is within the structure where structure remains intact. It is also called continuity and change where continuity is emphasized upon.
Change of structure. It means the whole structure is changed. In traditional societies like India the former takes place. In this manner the present study will be carried out using the above concepts.
Feminist theory¹ is distinct from other theoretical perspectives in that it is women centered and interdisciplinary and it actively promotes ways to achieve social justice. Three core questions inform feminist theory (1) “What about the women?” (2) “Why is the social world as it is?” and (3) “How can we change and improve the social world so as to make it a more just place for women and highlighting the various ways women have contributed to society.
Historically feminist activity has paralleled liberation events including the American and French Revolutions, the abolitionist movement in the 1930s, the mobilization for suffrage in early 1900s and the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Although, the idea of gender equality originated in the west and the west provided many ideologies in this regard these ideologies are now influencing India as well. Principally there are four such ideologies (see Kachuk 1995).
This is the most prominent feminist strand in the U. S. and also most prevalent in India. This is the most widely diffused approach within the contemporary women’s movement in America. Feminist liberals argue that women evolved equally with men and participate in the Cartesian ontological dualism in at least its normative form. They view human beings as especially valuable for their mental capacity for rationality (Jaggar 1983, cf. Kachuk 1995). They argue that women’s minds are formed in nature like men’s – free to find truth.
Liberal feminism’s explanation of gender inequality begins with an identification of the sexual division of labour, existence of separate public and private spheres of social activity, men’s primary location in the former and women’s in the latter and the systematic socialization of children. Liberal feminists see nothing of particular value about the private sphere except that it permits emotional openness. Instead the private sphere consists of endless round of demanding mindless unpaid and undervalued tasks associated with housework, child care and the emotional, practical and sexual servicing of adult men. The true rewards of social life - money, power status, opportunities for growth and self work are to be found in the public sphere. The system that restricts women’s access to that sphere, burdens them with private sphere responsibilities isolates them in individual households and excuses their mates from any sharing of private sphere drudgeries is the system that produces gender inequality. Liberal feminists point to sexism as key force in this system. Because of sexism, females are from childhood on limited and maimed so that they can move into their adult roles and in those roles “dwindle” from full humanness into the mindless dependent, subconsciously depressed beings created by the constraints and requirements of their gender specified roles.
In India feminists claim women’s rights as individuals to e. g. education (Chanana 1988, cf. Kachuk 1995) pay equity (Gandhi and Shah 1991, cf. Kachuk 1995) and land control (Agarwal 1994, cf. Kachuk 1995). But the legitimacy of personal authority goes against the conception of individuals within family and kinship networks where they have to consider other’s expectations and meet responsibilities to them (Karlekar 1988, cf. Kachuk 1995). Within those networks rights have been understood in association with status positions generally privileging men over women. Some men over other men and some women over other women.
The Liberal feminists solution is to improve women’s access to the public realm. They demand state protection of women’s right as individuals to determine their lives thereby becoming the equals of men. Liberal feminists demand equality for men and women in all phases of society, equal economic opportunities, education, child care centres and sharing of income production and housework in marriage.
Another school of feminist thought rejects the liberal’s claim that women possess the same epistemological resource, the transcendent mind. Instead this school of thought locates an aspect of females which makes them essentially different from males. They project her to show that her rational mind is embodied, has feelings and is engaged with, not in opposition to, other persons and things. These feminists celebrate aspects of the human being which have been deprecated and ascribed to women. The theme of essential womanhood emerges in various forms prominent among those being few that originate in the U. S. , one in France and one in India. Gilligan (1982, cf. Kachuk 1995) in the U. S. valorizes women’s morality. She targets Freud, Praget, Kohlberg for claiming that women do not attain men’s level of moral reasoning. Kohlberg had identified women’s deficiencies after establishing norms based on interviews with males Gilligan reversed the procedure by developing norms by studying women and investigating females and males moral reasoning. According to her women’s moral development is not deficient but different from men’s. Women possess an ethic of care which peaks when they consider their own needs as well as other’s.
Ruddick (1989, cf. Kachuk 1995) attributes women’s caring to their maternal experience which generates maternal thinking. Anyone who does what mothers do, care for young ones, is involved in their socialization develops maternal thinking and in that sense everyone is a potential maternal thinker. She feels that men can become maternal thinkers by showing child care with women leading to world peace.
Chodorow (1989, cf. Kachuk 1995) recommends shared parenting. This would free women to experience the external world, lessen dependency on relationships, teach men to appreciate intimacy and make everyone in society value caring.
However, whereas the above feminists assume women’s attachment to men, Mary Daly’s (1978, cf. Kachuk 1995) vision of emancipation involves an escape from being domesticated cosmetized caged birds to realizing their inherent creative energy.
In India, Shiva (1988, cf. Kachuk 1995) develops an ecofeminist account of women’s caring, associating their tendency to preserve life with their use of natural products. More commonly Indian feminists deplore assumptions of women’s inherent caring function as an ideology that impedes their full human development. The ideas of female self-denial assumed to create boundaries for women in both traditional and modern sectors in India are shown to be harmful and changeable norms.
This variety of feminism has, however, been criticized for universalizing women assuming that all experience gender alike and confusing natural phenomena and women’s strategies for coping with patriarchal demands.
Feminist socialists accept and use the basic principles of Marxism but have tried to enrich and extend it by working on areas like gender which they believe were neglected by conventional Marxist theory. They are of the opinion that any analysis of society should include sexuality and gender relations. Both socialist and Marxist feminists agree that humans are defined by their production of the means of their existences. Work is considered the essence of humanness changing in form as people perceive new needs, devise ways to satisfy them and develop appropriate social relations.
Feminists socialists bring together two broadest and most valuable feminist traditions. Marxian and radical feminist thought. Out of this synthesis have flowed two sub varieties of socialist feminism. The first focuses exclusively on women’s oppression and on understanding it in a way that brings together knowledge (from Marxism) of class oppression and from radical feminism of gender oppression. The term used for this system is capitalist patriarchy.
The second variant of socialist feminism explains all forms of social oppression centering not only on class and gender but also on race, ethnicity, age, location within the global hierarchy of nations. This system is termed as domination. Women remain central to this theoretical approach in two ways. First the oppression of women remains a primary topic for analysis. Second women’s location and experience of the world serve as the essential vantage point on domination in all its forms. These theorists are concerned with all experiences of oppression either by women or by men. They even explore how some women themselves oppressed may actively participate in the oppression of other women.
Both the focus on capitalist patriarchy and that on domination are linked to a commitment, to historical materialism. The historical materialism that is a hallmark of socialist feminism shows clearly its indebtedness to Marxian thought but socialist feminists move beyond the Marxians in three ways – First they broaden the meaning of material conditions of human life. Whereas Marxians locate the roots of class inequality and class conflict Socialist feminists includes economic dynamics and other conditions that create and sustain human life in their analysis – like the human body, ets sexuality, involvement in procreation and child bearing, home maintenance with its unpaid drudgery of domestic work. In all these life sustaining activities exploitative arrangements profit some and impoverish others. The second point where socialist feminist part ways with Marxian thought is their re-evaluation of significance of ideology Socialist feminists feel that factors like consciousness motivation, ideas, social definitions of the situation, knowledge, will to act in one’s interest deeply affect human personality, action and the structures of domination that realized through the action. These aspects of human subjectivity are produced by social structures as elaborate and powerful as those that produce economic goods. Within all these structures too exploitative arrangements exist. The third difference between Socialist feminists and Marxians is that the object of analysis for Socialist feminists is not primarily class inequality but a wide range of social inequalities. Socialist feminists develop a portrait of social organization in which the public structures of economy, polity and ideology interact with private processes of human reproduction, domesticity, sexuality and subjectivity to sustain a multifaceted system of domination.