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Sociological Understanding of Women’s Movement

Sociological Understanding of Women's Movement

Over the years, a series of women movements have been erupting with each championing for various women’s issues. Some of the problems that women have been advocating for reforms include: include domestic violence, reproductive rights, maternity leave, Sexual harassment and abuse, equal pay, and all these are classified as feminist agenda (Staggenborg 76-80). The essay writer reasons for these demonstrations revolve around a common quest, but there have been slight variations among societies and countries. Recently an article titled “2019 in review: A roller coaster ride for women’s rights and gender equality around the world,” was featured in Washingtonpost on December 27th, 2019. The article highlights instances of the most recent women matches around the world, pointing out grievances affecting them as women. The recent cases of women as highlighted the article is an indication despite the constant efforts from women movement in the past their efforts are not productive as one would expect to be.   Today, there are many incidences of mistreatments and abuses towards women. Equally, the new cases demonstrate that feminist movements are still active. The understanding of women’s movements, their goals and strategies can be adequately discussed through the four sociological concepts; functionalist, conflict, interactionist, and feminist perspectives.

The functionalist theory interprets gender roles as a mechanism set to maximize social efficiency in society. The underlying standpoint in this concept is contrary to what women’s movements are fighting for because it suggests that gender inequalities were designed to find a proper way of dividing labor among women (Daniels 379-382). Many communities around the world seemed to have adopted the ideology of functionality as they view it as a social system that appoints predetermined duties and responsibilities to each segment of the population (Harnois 824-825). The circumscribed roles of men and women are clearly defined to harmonize the coexistence of people in a community. The essence of the theory is to develop a functioning society where basic needs such as food, water, clothing, and money are readily availed when each individual is honoring their responsibilities (Harnois 826-827). The Functionalists focus more on reifying gender roles instead of reflecting on their interest inequality. The aligning of the gender roles is discriminatory to women as it limits them to domestic chores only. The women’s movements disagree entirely with this perspective, arguing that the concept ignores the suppression of women within the family structure because the criteria used in the division of labor is biased. 

The viewpoint of the conflict theory is that men view themselves as dominant gender and use it to their advantage to subordinate women to uphold power and enjoy civil liberties in the community. The proponents of this theory posit that the formation of the society is determined by a struggle for supremacy among social groups that are continually fighting for limited resources (Daniels 345). In the article, women are venting their objections against some actions perpetrated by men in the society that appears to emasculate them. A typical example in the article is when the women in India defied the odds by forcing their way into the men-only temple as a way of advocating for equality and women’s rights and religious freedom in India. Indian women interpreted the decision to bar them from accessing the temple as one-way men have been using to maintain their status and power (Berger 3).

From the perspective of social theory, Indian women associated the problem with the exploitation of men who are continually oppressing and undermining them as a subordinate gender. The storming of women into the men’s temple is an example of a counter approach meant to instill changes in the power structure on the subject of religious freedom(Staggenborg 46). In the Indian anecdote, men attempted to prevent women from entering into the temple as a way of fighting back to maintain resources (Berger 3). Religious power is somewhat connected to both political and economic power that men want to continue enjoying at the expense of women as the subordinates, 

The concept of the interactionist perspective asserts that gender is created and strengthened from daily human interactions. In other words, gender is produced from the way humans behave towards each other concerning what they mean for one another. The acts, roles, and positions of both genders are defined by the objects that buildup their everyday words. In the context of symbolic interactions, masculinity and femininity are the basis used in the construction of social identity (Berger 2). The article features a story about the Argentina teens who took to the streets to demonstrate the lack of inclusion of gender-neutral words into the Spanish language that was initially formulated along with a male code. The awareness of Argentine teenage girls has seen them challenging for gender-inclusive forms of expression, and they have been protesting in the classrooms and daily conversations in the way they speak and write (Berger 2). They have been demonstrating this by replacing the masculine and feminine words with a gender-neutral one. Their approach has sparked debates around the world on the subject of gender within the rising prominence of non-binary language, and the wave of women matches globally(Staggenborg 168).

In the context of performance, the meaning of gender is devoted to the way language is socially produced from day-to-day interaction of people. In other words, the symbols and gender insensitive language are a result of individuals’ instant actions and reactions. Interactionist theory views gender humans’ actions rather than their masculinity and femininity. The approach challenges the wish of the Argentine teens arguing that human’s perception of themselves is primarily determined by how they are viewed in the society rather than how they perceive themselves (Berger 5). Regardless of their gender, individuals are said to be doing gender if they are performing tasks assigned to them; thus, it is the actions that instill unreality and not the choice of gender language. 

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The final theory is the feminist perspective, which dissects the composition of gender through the intersection of class, race, and gender. Feminist theory as an extension of feminism focuses on analyzing the problem of gender inequality by assessing the roles, interests, and experiences of women with the aim of promoting them in society. The story of Middle East women who championed the equality in inheritance and citizenship laws is the typical example of a feminist agenda today (Berger 1). The sharia law and Islamic jurisprudence are the basis used to draw inheritance laws in the Middle East. The women are not happy with the law, which prescribes them to inherit half of what their male counterparts inherit. These women view this decision as a ploy being used by men to continue suppressing their financial freedom while strengthening their position to maintain power.

The women are also questioning the laws which prohibit them from passing down their citizenship to their children and spouses. For example, the children of an Iranian woman married to Yemenis man cease to qualify for Iranian citizenship (Berger 2). For this reason, women’s options to marry around the Middle East are limited, and the aim of to control and restrict the national composition of a country. In the feminist theory, these topics are interpreted as patriarchal laws that have undermined the economic and social transformation of women in this region ((Staggenborg 174). According to the theory, the discriminatory laws amounts to gender stratification that has continued inequality that only benefits men. The women in the Middle East have formulated radical feminism that has started to evaluate the culture of patriarchy that is promoting male supremacy. The goal is instilling equality on the subject of inheritance citizenship laws. 


The four sociological theories provide underpinning concepts that explain the drive for women’s social movements. The functionalist perspective views the community has a woven system that relies on the synergy of both men and women contributions as per their prescribed roles, and the idea that has been vehemently vetoed by feminist movements. The conflict theory holds that men treat women as subordinates and continue to deny them many rights to protect their dominance in terms of power and privileges. The women match to advocate for a balance of power between them and their male counterparts. The Interactionists perspective urges individuals to identify their gender with what they are capable of doing rather than basing it on either masculinity or femininity. Lastly, feminist theory and the concept of patriarchy attempts to explain the creation of gender stratification and how it has overpowered men than women.

Works Cited

Berger, Miriam. “2019 in review: A roller coaster ride for women’s rights and gender equality around the world.” Washingtonpost 27 December 2019: 2-5.

Daniels, Arlene Kaplan. “Feminist perspectives in sociological research.” Sociological Inquiry (2015): 45.2‐3 (1975): 340-382.

Harnois, Catherine E. “Sociological research on feminism and the women’s movement:.” Ideology, identity, and practice.” Sociology Compass (2012): 6.10: 823-832

Staggenborg, Suzanne. Social movements. Oxford University Press, USA, 2015.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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