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Culture and Women’s Rights Along The 20th and 21st Century

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Words: 2778 |

Pages: 6|

14 min read

Published: Mar 17, 2023

Words: 2778|Pages: 6|14 min read

Published: Mar 17, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Evolution of women’s position from 1900 to present    
  3. A Room of One’s Own​ and feminism   
  4. The ​MeToo movement ​and feminism  
  5. The power of culture  
  6. Bibliography

Introduction

This essay tries to give a clear view of the women’s position, its rights and conditions, along the 20th century and the 21st century. How it changed and why. It focuses its analysis in two cultural manifestations: the first one is the book ​A Room of One’s Own from Virginia Woolf, which is recognized for being one of the best feminist polemics of the 20th century. Then, the second one is about the recent feminist movement known as the ​Metoo movement​. It compares both views and implications regarding women. It analyses judgements women have suffered all along these decades and its reasons. The essay also tries to highlight the women’s power that has been hidden or ignored. Its desire is to understand how culture helps to interpret the situation of women and, especially, to improve it. In short, this essay tries to make a contribution towards achieving a fair and equal world.    

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Evolution of women’s position from 1900 to present    

Regarding the evolution of women’s position from the 20th century to the present, we have to say that women’s rights have changed a lot in the last century all around the world.    

However, it is important to explain that this evolution has a different type of development depending on which country we take into consideration. This essay focuses on occidental countries history.    

During the early 20th century, many women spoke out to try to gain a more relevant role in society, to achieve a place in the public life, so they focused on women’s suffrage, property rights, access to education and a recognition as ‘’persons’’ in the eyes of the law.    

Women had very few rights in 1900 and no political rights. In that time, as we can see at ‘’A Room of one's own’’ from Virginia Woolf, most women were not able to be a figure in the public life. If they were married, then they stayed at home, raising their children and doing domestic work. If they were single, they did work in something related with cooking, waitress, etc. Most occupations were closed to women (medicine, civic services or law) and they were paid only a fraction of what men earned. Also, women had a low formation and education because they were not accepted in university.  

Moreover, women were seen less than men, they cannot have a self-confidence or respect, because they were not even accepted as ‘’autonomous people’’, every female depended on a male. Women were not allowed to vote, husbands had legal power over their wives. It is nerve-racking how they could imprison or beat them with impunity and women were not even allowed to denounce a sexual assault. Furthermore, divorce and child custody laws always favored men.  

Over time, women began to rebel against all that injustices and significant changes took place in their lives, especially in politics, home, workplace and education. So, as it is said, in 1930 being a woman was synonym of being a homemaker and a mother. But, when the Great Depression took place, women rebelled from their typical role, life for them started to gain extension as men need to go to war and someone need to supply their position.    

In 1960s women started a movement that changed many ways of thinking; women rights in home and workplace were expanded. In the 70s abortion became legal in many countries and in the 80s women were allowed to study and have almost the same opportunities as men in terms of job, even though certain fields such as engineering or law were crowd of men and very few women were in. The 90s have been revolutionary for women. Women today are much different thanks to all these women who rebelled. Women now have mostly all the choices a woman in the 20th century wished to have. Now, many women are stepping out of their historical role of mother and housewife and ​the improvement of women’s status is increasingly widespread in occidental societies.   Fortunately, women now are able to vote, they can be president, study whatever they want, be independent and become a recognized artist. The access to education has led woman's opinions to be considered, a woman can be now heard, and a woman has now lots of examples of other women achieving important goals. However, there is still much to do, male chauvinism and sexism is on our society. We still need to fight for a real equality.    

“We are coming together to pledge that we are going to make change in big and small ways. We will stand side by side, once again, in solidarity with our sisters, brothers and siblings around the world. Together we are strong and if we all work for a better world then time is really up for oppressors of women.”  

In order to deeply understand the change in the women position along both centuries, two cultural manifestations from each century has been selected. The first one is ​A Room of One’s Own from V. Woolf and the other is the ​MeToo movement from Burke.  

A Room of One’s Own​ and feminism   

To start this point, it must be said that V. Woolf didn’t define herself as a feminist. But considering her point of view towards this topic, her work can be classified as a feminist manifestation. That is justified in the way that in ​A Room of one’s own​, Virginia express the oppression women suffered in Victorian England and it is clear she disagrees with it. She claims for the financial independence of women, which is claiming for equality.  

Virginia Woolf was born in 1882 in London and she was an English writer. She was born in a wealthy family, daughter of Julia Prinsep Jackson, an artist’s model, and Leslie Stephen, a recognized novelist. ​Woolf is one of the female authors most important of modernism 20th-century and is considered a pioneer in the feminist movement.  

Her essay A Room of One’s Own was published in 1929 and it is based on two lectures she delivered in colleges. Woolf writes about ​history of women in literature and her work consists in an investigation of the social and material conditions required for the writing of literature.   In A Room of one’s own, she has to write about women and fiction. From the very first chapter, Woolf starts talking about poverty and richness and the difficulties that women have, especially when it comes to enter into the literature world: ​Ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction (Woolf, 1929). She also explains what it means to be a woman, that is: having no power, no money, and even if the woman had, the money must be taken from her, disposing everything to her husband. To sum up, she emphasizes on the importance to have money and criticizes the society of that time. She tells she have money because of the legacy her aunt left her. So she doesn’t need to worry anymore about that, and which is more important, she doesn’t need a man in her life to provide her this.   It is important to mention, that she thinks men who criticize women, do it just to gain self-confidence, they get more confidence in themselves by inferiorizing the other sex.  

In her essay, she says the problem is women are the protected sex and wonders when women will be liberated from this. Marriage was not an affair of personal affection, but of family avarice. ​(Woolf, 1929) Women cannot be successful in literature, not even in the nineteenth century. And before the eighteenth century, women never wrote, they probably had no education.   A woman was always under a man decisions. They were forcibly married to men. She also talks about an imaginative Shakespeare’s’ sister, with the same gifted mind. Due to the fact that she is a woman, she cannot be educated. Moreover, she cannot be accepted in the public space. Also, she has to suppress herself and pair with men, not to disappoint her family. She is destined to live a repressive life. Totally different from her brother, she could not achieve the successful life she was able to, only due to her sex. They have not the same opportunities.  

It is pretty clear that there a lot of material difficulties when it comes to write a successful novel for anybody that tries to, but if it is a woman who is going to write, then it is much more difficult. There are not only material issues, but social repression.  

The power that women have to be creative has been seen even in bygone ages. Virginia highlights the essence that women have, which is not as the creativity of men. She also says educations have to bring out this difference, enhancing the richness and variety of human culture.  

'​Intellectual freedom depends upon material things. Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time. . . . Women, then, have not had a dog's chance of writing poetry. That is why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one's own.​' 

To conclude the analysis of V. Woolf work, the writer highlights the importance of incomes and space to be alone to write literature, reflecting on the numerous lacks of women of that age. Also she encourages her audience to white and urges them to be aware of their advantages for writing they currently have and also to give importance to what they write in the sense that it is a precedent for many other female writers. Woolf finishes her essay pointing out 'Women and Fiction' is still unwritten.  

By analyzing the relation between women and fiction, Virginia is able to give us a clear view of what was to be women in Victorian England, which is in the 20th century.  

The ​MeToo movement ​and feminism  

In relation to women in this century, we will analyze a viral movement: The ​MeToo movement.   The ​MeToo ​movement is referred to a viral campaign through the social media that consists in publishing a personal story about any sexual assault or harassment suffered. It took place in 2017. Many female celebrities publicized it with the hashtag #MeToo, that is why it is called the ‘’Me Too Movement’’. Not only celebrities followed it, as every viral campaign, many people joined it, more than 500.000 people.  

This movement has started since the celebrity Alyssa Milano posted her experience related to a sexual assault and asked people on her social media to talk about their own experiences.  

Milano has started it on the Internet, but the truth is that movement has already started in 2006, when Tarana Burke, a black activist woman, created a foundation to create awareness and importance to the sexual assault, focusing the attention on the black communities. This foundation is called MeToo movement and is working in schools, providing a teaching training, giving the resources needed for teachers to prevent and apply solutions connected with the problem of sexual assault. “[Me too] was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible'​ (Burke, 2017).  

Due to the fact that it has been started by actresses and singers sexually assaulted by directors and other men of the industry, this movement have as a main goal to stop sexual violence, especially on the film industry.  

This movement has had a very wide back-up. However, it has some criticisms: some by men, who say men victims of sexual violence are excluded and some by women, who believe that making this kind of publications, women only show themselves as a survivor, underplaying the blame of men.  

The MeToo movement is related to the feminism in the sense that it is a way of empowerment for women to speak out the unfair situations they have had to deal with, due to the discrimination they still suffer in the 21st century. This movement has an objective, which is the non-acceptance to the sexual assaults and harassment done by men to women.  

As every other movement, the Me Too movement has had effects on the society, really important society implications, but also in law. For instance, in the in the Hollywood industry and in general in performing arts, the equality between the rights of women and men have been more defended after the movement took place, also some laws that do not allow the subvention for media to create advertisement that can be sexist have been established. Moreover, the jobs of hostesses of some events have disappeared.  

In sum, this movement has the objective to equal women and men rights. ​MeToo movement is one of the social movements that can be included on feminism. Understanding feminism as a serie of ideologies, political and social movements that have a goal in common, which is to achieve the same social, economic and political rights, power and opportunities as men for women, but also that women need to be treated in the same way and stop them of being in an inferior position in all aspects. We can see the difference about one manifestation and the other. On the one hand, in 20th century women need to fight against a system that did not take them in consideration at all. On the other hand, in 21st century, women still need to claim for that respect and equality, but at least, with the aid of the law in some countries and only in some aspects.  

The power of culture  

As we can see, culture has a really impact in all social issues, such as the feminism. Culture can start social changes and develop a deeply reflection about social problems or statements. Feminism is one of the most important movements that have indeed been introduced by cultural manifestations and art. Feminism is needed all around the world. That is, cultural manifestations, such us a novel by Virginia Woolf or an art exposition by Frida Kahlo, can cause an impact on the public, turning the stand still into reflection and action and actually change which is established. There is no doubt that A Room’s of one’s own has broken rules of the patriarchy or at least, it has questioned them.  

The MeToo movement is a social movement that goes with culture in the sense that is started by female artists. Artists with a necessity to break with the silence, with what is unfairly happening, that is abusing woman and sexualizing her figure. Media is culture and those artists are an icon of media, it is not only what happens on the hidden part of the film industry, but also what happens on the content itself. Many movies and advertising are sexist, that means women are shown as less than men, with a kind of submission, which educate society with ideas that discriminate a gender. For that reason, is so important that actresses, singers and people with an outstanding power to influence society, must rebel against patriarchy and sexism, educating in feminism that means equality.  

There are just two elements that keep male chauvinism or roots out it as the time goes by and that is culture and education. ​Culture and its change can make possible that a society which is immersed in a male chauvinism systematized by patriarchy and accepts it turns to become critical and neglect it.  

In occidental societies, this has happened, law tries to reject all types of women discrimination, but this is not enough, reality is not in the law.  

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In consummation, one of the points that have in common the book of ​A Room’s of their own and the ​MeToo movement is that Virginia Woolf and Tarana Burke and artists who started the movement, claim for a better women’s position, criticizing the unfair situation and inspiring society to reflect and take action to change it. As we can see nothing is enough and everyone needed to act in other to achieve an equal and fair world. 

Bibliography

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  • Eisenberg, B and Ruthsdotter, M. (1998). M. National Women’s History Alliance. History of Women Rights Movement​. Retrieved form: https://nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org/resources/womens-rights-movement/history-of-the-womens-rights-movement/
  • Woolf, V. (1929), A Room of one’s own.
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Culture and Women’s Rights Along the 20th and 21st Century. (2023, March 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/culture-and-womens-rights-along-the-20th-and-21st-century/
“Culture and Women’s Rights Along the 20th and 21st Century.” GradesFixer, 17 Mar. 2023, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/culture-and-womens-rights-along-the-20th-and-21st-century/
Culture and Women’s Rights Along the 20th and 21st Century. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/culture-and-womens-rights-along-the-20th-and-21st-century/> [Accessed 21 May 2024].
Culture and Women’s Rights Along the 20th and 21st Century [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Mar 17 [cited 2024 May 21]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/culture-and-womens-rights-along-the-20th-and-21st-century/
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