Women’s struggle for equal rights with men has had a long history; it began with the onset of women suffrage movements, which aimed at ensuring that women attained equal rights with men. Over the years, numerous lobby groups have emerged with the ultimate aim of advocating for equal rights of women. Feminist movements have also advocated for the equal treatment of women without any regard to a person’s gender. Feminists have always argued that women should not be discriminated or isolated based on their gender. Rather, women should be accorded equal rights with men. As a result of women’s struggle for equal rights, they have managed to make several achievements and take the equal levels with men. This paper will analyze the four main subtopics of the course in an attempt to assess gains in the realm of personal autonomy which women have made since the 1950s.
With regard to family life, women have made notable achievements in terms of divorce, marriage as well as child care. Before the 1950s, the rates of divorce used to be low with few divorce cases being experienced. Unlike the past, divorce cases increased tremendously from the 1950s. The increase in the rates of divorce can be attributed to the affordability as well as the ease with which one can seek divorce. With the narrowing of equality between the male and the female sex, the world witnessed an increase in the number of divorces taking place in marriages. Since the 1950s, women have gained the rights to seek divorce as opposed to the past when they rarely did so (Mountjoy and Tim 55).
The removal of financial and legal barriers that prohibited women from divorcing their husbands has led to an increase in the divorce rates. Women can nowadays go to court and ask the court to grant them divorce orders. Marriage expectations have changed since the 1950s; as a result, women cannot accept being treated unequally with men. This has seen women gain equal partnerships with their husbands. Unlike before the 1950s, women have had the ability to support themselves in the case of divorce. They can pay the legal fees and other expenses, which can be incurred during divorce. In addition, women have entered the workforce and can support themselves financially after divorcing their husbands (Mountjoy and Tim 57).
With the numerous changes on the issue of divorce, women can enter into second marriages after they divorce their husbands. This was not the case before the 1950s when women who got remarried after divorce could be viewed as outcasts and immoral persons. Since the 1950s, family life has also changed with regard to marriage. For instance, unlike the past when women only used to do household chores, men could also assist their women in some of the household chores. Marriage is no longer seen as a necessity as it used to be in the past. As such, women can live as single mothers without necessarily having a man in their lives provided they can cater for their own needs and the needs of their children (Mountjoy and Tim 112).
Since the 1950s, marriage expectations have changed significantly; women are not always expected to stay at home as it used to be in the past. Apart from subjecting women to household chores, the society has recognized the worth and value of women in economic development. Men have also realized that they cannot always dominate decision-making at home. In this regard, decision-making at home has also incorporated the views of women. Women have also recognized that marriage is not imprisonment (Mountjoy and Tim 113).
The other aspect of family life in which women have made tremendous achievements includes child care. The aspect of child care has witnessed tremendous changes since the 1950s. From that time, women have had the ability to make tremendous gains in the issue of child care to the extent that they can take their children to child care homes. This is a gain in personal autonomy since women can have time to attend to other issues while their children are taken care of in the child care centers. This means that women should not be there to take care of their children. In addition, men can also help in caring for children, and this relieves women of the burden of taking care for their children on their own. The function of raising a family is not left to the woman only, but men also take part in housekeeping (Mountjoy and Tim 125).
Since the 1950s, the work life of women has changed in tremendous ways. The changes in the work-life of women relate to changes in wages, harassment at the workplace, education, and work protection. From the 1950s, women have enjoyed numerous benefits in the workplace unlike the past. Work protection has become a major issue of the job industry, especially in cases where women are involved. Unlike the past, when women used to be segregated and men favored, women are protected by labor laws which ensure that they do not face any form of discrimination at the workplace. The passing of acts and laws to prohibit women discrimination at the workplace has ensured that women attain equal rights with men (Cobble 254).
In the contemporary world, work protection has undergone numerous improvements to ensure that there is no discrimination at the workplace based on gender. Unlike the past, women are not discriminated in the workplace, and they are insured against some injuries which they may get in the course of their duties. Work protection has also ensured that women are not prone to actions such as retrenchments or being sacked by their employers without any genuine reason. In the United States, sexual harassment is seen as a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Employers have an obligation to protect female employees from any form of sexual harassment which may be perpetrated by their male colleagues. Women have the voice to report cases of sexual harassment which they may experience in the work place (Cobble 256).
Over the years, the issue of wages that women receive has also changed considerably. Women have an opportunity to earn the same wages as men unlike the past when they used to earn less than men regardless of the work they did. Women used to be segregated in the labor force; they could earn little wages for the same amount of work as men. Women had lower salaries than men since their wages were only meant to supplement the income of their husbands. With the women suffrage movement, women can now enjoy numerous benefits in the workplace. They are entitled to equal wages with men, and they can also access some allowances in the workplace (Cobble 257).
Women education has also changed tremendously since the 1950s. Women have had the opportunity to advance their education and get crowned with prestigious academic degrees. Since the women suffrage movements in the 1950s, the education of the girl child has taken a completely new turn. The society has encouraged women to become educated and be at the same level with men. Education has allowed women to get promotion at the workplace since they have the credentials and necessary skills to take up some jobs which were preserved for men (Cobble 260).
Since the 1950s, women have made numerous achievements with regard to activism and voting rights. Women activism has encompassed women’s involvement in organizations at the grassroots, the environment, as well as peace movements. As a result, women have attained social justice rights and also taken part in social activism to address issues of social reforms. Women’s involvement in activism has also encompassed advocating for the rights of rural women to an equal share in the proceeds of the farm produce (Haan et al. 95).
The voting patterns of women have also changed since the 1950s courtesy of women’s struggle for equal rights with men. Women suffrage movement has also led to the improvement in the voting rights of women. The ratification of 19th Amendment to the United States’ Constitution can be regarded as a crucial step towards the voting rights of women. The number of women in political leadership has also increased tremendously. Women have led political positions since the 1950s (Mountjoy and Tim 80).
Since the 1950s, women have gained personal autonomy on the issue of reproduction. Women suffrage movement advocated for the rights of women with regard to family planning as well as planned parenthood. The use of the morning after pills has increased tremendously, and women have been sensitized to have control over the number of children they can get. As a result of the use of contraceptives, the reproductive health of women has improved since they can get fewer children than in the past. Women’s abortion rights have also been addressed since the feminist movements gained popularity. Women can abort if they feel that the child will compromise their health (Haan et al. 99).
The reproduction rights of women have also changed in relation to the age of having sex. Unlike the past when having sex at a young age was considered a taboo in most societies, women rights have allowed girls to have sex and enter into marriages while still young. Women’s sexual orientation has also changed in numerous ways since the 1950s. For example, lesbianism has taken a center stage as a result of women’s rights to form relationships with female partners. Sexual health and well-being of women has also improved significantly since the 1950s. This has resulted from the explosion of information, which has helped women gain knowledge on their reproductive rights as well as access information on sexual health (Haan et al. 100).
During the period spanning from 1950s, women have made more progress in some areas than in others with regard to the attainment of individual autonomy. One of the areas in which women have achieved significant results includes addressing gender issues which contributed to their discrimination, especially at the workplace and homes. Women can go to work just like men do and also provide for their families. As a result, they are not seen as second-class citizens. Women have gained freedom from the gender constraints that segregated them at the expense of men. However, women have not made significant progress with regard to their involvement in politics. Women have not attained much in politics. Although most women have been involved in politics of respective countries, not most of them have managed to be in top political positions such as presidency.
In conclusion, women have made attempts since the 1950s to attain equal rights with men. Women have made achievements in aspects such as work life, sexual reproduction, family life, as well as activism. Women have made tremendous achievements with regard to addressing gender issues both in the workplace and households. The area in which women have not made significant achievements is politics.