There are many versions of feminism and that makes it difficult to say precisely what it is all about. However, it seems that most feminists agree that it promotes gender equality and, therefore, seeks to strengthen the status of women. That, unfortunately, doesn’t mean feminists believe all people are equal. A feminist can believe in gender equality in a very unequal social system, as long as male and female have equal opportunities, and experience equal consequences for their efforts.
Feminism is about changing the present patriarchal system , with its emphasis on power being ‘power-over’. However, that type of feminism seems to be too narrow in its focus. Many feminists reject the patriarchal aspect of society but readily accept the structural and systemic inequality of a status system. This leaves the way open for a matriarchal system to develop, which would just change the roles of the players in the game called ‘Domination’, without solving the problem of gender inequality. Nor would it solve problems such as domestic violence, or any of the other social diseases so many studies have linked to inequality.
To be effective in achieving gender equality, feminism should seek to change the underlying assumption that power is about having power over others and the environment. Gender equality is a noble and worthwhile aim but many great feminists, male and female, have advocated that all people are equal and this obviously includes gender equality. This brand of feminism is committed to convincing people to think of power in terms of having power with other people and the environment rather than having power over other people and the environment. It seeks to apply this in the family, workplace, business, and community.
‘Power’ refers to the ability to produce an outcome.
‘Power over people’ refers to the use of power to control the actions of other people, by allowing or withholding what they need.
‘Power with people’ refers to people sharing their powers to meet the needs of all those involved.
‘Power from within’ refers to the sense of having the knowledge and skills to meet one’s own needs. This is why education is so important for achieving gender equality. Not just academic education but the whole range of life skills necessary for people, especially women, to feel confident in their ability to solve life’s problems and achieve their ambitions. In countries where men resist gender equality, the education of women is quite often banned.
‘Power from within’ also includes the power flowing from the sense of belonging; being part of - or connected to - other people, nature, the universe or God. People fortunate enough to feel the power flowing into them from strong connections to nature and the cosmos have strong self-esteem and self-confidence. They can share this inner strength with others endlessly because it is limitless and is often expressed in the ‘people power’ movements that counteract the ‘power over’ tactics others use in attempting to dominate.
By Bob Myers.