During the progress of the last century, the concept of feminism has, like almost everything else, significant evolution. Apart from the fact that it has branched into many subtheories, including literature and socialism, feminism as a movement has also become a very diverse concept in society itself. The variety of perceptions associated with the movement is an example of the diversity of views that inevitably comes from growth. For this reason, analyzing anything from a "feminist" viewpoint becomes more complicated than may initially be suspected. For the purpose of this essay then, the basic premise on which the beginnings of the movement are grounded will be used as a starting point: the fact that women wish to be seen as equal - as opposed to either superior or inferior - to men. These equal status relates only to functions and actions within society, rather than to obvious physical differences. The given list of gender issues will then be analyzed according to this premise.
The Social Paradigm of Male Courtesy and Female Safety
Many phenomena in society currently accepted as common male courtesy towards a female spouse, girlfriend, date or acquaintance might be seen from a feminist point-of-view to be indicative of a paradigm assuming females to be inferior.
Such actions include a male in any situation, such as at school or at a store, holding the door for a female to pass through. When seen from an extreme feminist point-of-view, this might be constituted as indicating that a female is either too weak, inferior, or even superior to open the door for herself. The same is true of a male standing back to allow a female to walk through a door to for example the post office first. It can be constituted as weakness on the part of either the male or the female.
The important point is however not necessarily that either gender is displaying weakness as compared to the other. Instead, the feminist objection here is to the fact that such actions predispose society towards inequality between the genders. While it is obvious that, when a situation arises where both persons arrive at the door at the same point, one of them should stand back and allow the other to enter first, this person should not necessarily be the male. In a truly equal society, the woman should be allowed the choice to let the male enter first, and vice versa. Courtesy should thus be the equal requirement for both male and female, without dictating the specific actions of either.
Related to the above are issues of female safety. Certain interactional paradigms within society imply that women are more vulnerable and physically weaker than men. Examples of this include a man always walking to the left of a woman for protection, women who never walk in the streets at night time, and always carrying a cell phone whenever they are out, while men do not necessarily take such precautions.
From a feminist viewpoint, especially the first-mentioned paradigm above is simply absurd. Women are equally vulnerable and indeed equally strong as men when simply going out for a walk. Furthermore women are neither trophies nor animals or children that need protection from outside elements. The second paradigm is a little more difficult to simply discard as absurd. Still, when approached from a different angle, it is easy to once again make the assertion that any man who is physically unfit is as weak as a woman in the same physical state when faced for example with a gang of robbers. A physically fit woman on the other hand would also be in as good a position to defend herself as a man who takes regular exercise. Another issue that needs to be taken into account is the location of the street that is never walked at night. In some areas it is simply advisable for both men and women to not venture out after a certain hour. Once again, the ideal is equality - women are as capable (or indeed as incapable) as men to defend themselves. It depends on the degree of fitness and self-defense training rather than gender.
Male and Female Chores and Duties
Many of the male/female inequality cases still prevalent today can be seen in the home and social life of men and women sharing a home. Some women for example may be expected to cook dinner and serve it to men sitting back and relaxing. After dinner, women are expected to clean the dishes and kitchen while men once again are passive by either watching television or surfing the Internet.
From a feminist point-of-view, such a situation may have worked in households of the past, where men came home tired from work, and women viewed it as their "job" to help them relax. Today however, many women have their own jobs and lives outside of the home. From this point-of-view then, the paradigm of equality dictates that a man should either help the woman in the kitchen, or take turns making dinner and washing up.
In cases where women choose to stay home, equality should still prevail, and the man cannot expect his wife to be a slave in the house. She will also have her hobbies, such as Internet surfing. Hence again the man should place himself on an equal level with the woman and help where he can, as both his and the woman's schedule allows.
When eating out, and the woman orders the food while the male handles the check afterwards, inequalities might or might not be perceived by the feminist viewpoint. The fact that the man deals with the check might be seen to imply that the woman cannot appropriately handle the financial side of affairs. However, the fact that she orders everybody's food provides a balance for this. If the male had ordered all the food, inequality would certainly have been perceived. The above situation however appears to be an equal sharing of duties, although an extremist viewpoint as described is indeed possible.
In terms of other household duties, the feminist viewpoint can be applied to expose inequality in the types of duties allocated to men and women in the household. The woman for example could be expected to clean her side of the bedroom and bathroom, to wash all the clothes, but to fold and put away only her own. The man in this household is expected to fold and put away his own clothes, clean his side of the room, in addition to removing the trash and taking care of the lawn. From a feminist point-of-view, this is unacceptable in terms of inequality. The above implies that jobs like trash removal and lawn care are too "hard" for women, or indeed that women are too "good" for these kinds of chores. It also implies that chores such as laundry are better suited for women who are traditionally seen as weaker and less rugged than men. Instead, the feminist ideal would be to allow equal shares of all duties to both men and women.
Gender Roles in terms of Family Planning
As mentioned above, the feminist view for the purposes of this essay is the equality of female status and duties to those of males. This is especially important in terms of family planning; an area where females have particularly been oppressed for so long. While it is thus advisable for both parties to agree on the number of children and the means of birth control, clinics should not perpetuate past inequalities by requiring proof of a husband's permission when a wife requires sterilization after having two children. Being the bearer of children, the woman should be in control of her own body and her own choices rather than being dictated to by a man. Here feminism recognizes that there are certain obvious physical differences between men and women. Not all things can be shared between the genders, and feminism requires that this be recognized and honored, rather than being used as a means of oppression.
Birth control however is an issue that can be a shared responsibility between the genders. To expect the female to take sole responsibility for birth control, raising and caring for children, including preparing children for the school year, is unacceptable according to the feminist paradigm of equality. These are things that could and should be shared by the male partner in the household.
The Feminine Physique
It was mentioned above that feminism acknowledges certain physical attributes that are not shared between the genders. The movement also advocates that these should not be used as a means of oppression. Similarly, women should also not use phenomena reserved for the female gender alone to evoke either sympathy or a claim to superiority. Feminine phenomena such as menopause and menstruation, while often inconvenient and painful, should be celebrated for being unique to femininity. These are issues that cannot be controlled at will, but how they are dealt with and used is up to the…