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The five major books on women’s rights

Literary critic Galina Yuzefovich maded a list of five books on the rights of women. These books are written in three different waves of feminism, should be read to learn about women towards equality.
In recent years, the holiday March, 8 bought openly anti-feminist orientation. We decided to move away from this vicious practice and remember the main book, fixing the way the women of the family and social slavery in almost complete freedom and equality. Feminism can be divided into three waves: the first (XIX – early XX century) was linked to the struggle for basic rights – election, property, education. The second (1960-80s) to deal with the pitfalls of formal equality, hiden under a set of implicit restrictions and prohibitions. And finally lifted in the 1990s, the third wave – this is, first of all, the fight against stereotypes, women prescribing certain behavior patterns. The first two books of this review are the first wave of feminism, the third and the fourth – the second wave, and finally, the fifth – one of the key texts of the third.

John Stuart Mill. The subordination of women.

The great English philosopher and economist, one of the founders of modern liberalism, a member of the British Parliament and the first in the history of serial pro-feminist (so-called men involved in the movement for women’s rights) was convinced utilitarian, that is a supporter of the theory of public benefit. In very simplified form, his ideas were limited to the fact that happiness and well-being of the team is made up of happiness and well-being of its members. This means that each person must, on the one hand, to curb his ego for the sake of the common good (ie, do not try to grab a bigger piece of the pie at the expense of others), but it still put at the forefront the personal rather than social success. With the same – utilitarian – positions he considered, and the status of women of the Victorian era, which contrary to popular stereotypes was very unflattering.
Women in an enlightened England in the mid XIX century had no right to dispose of the property (even the dowry of women and their personal earnings were in charge of the husband), the mother could not influence the fate of the child (father, who decided to send their children to a shelter, was not obliged to consult on this matter with wife) and even the personal freedom of a married woman remained a controversial issue – no need to say about any rights in the sphere of politics, education, or social life. Victorian thesis “House of man – the whole world, the world of women – her home” leads in practice to the uncontrolled exploitation of women who did not have any legal possibilities to protect themselves. The situation was aggravated by the high infant mortality among boys, with the result that in 1861, 1,300 adult women had only 1,000 men. These “extra” women technically deprived of the possibility to get married and start practicing the “normal” form of female behavior, are the most vulnerable and disenfranchised of the population.
All this from the perspective of John Stuart Mill (two-thirds of his book devoted to dry, but that is no less impressive description of the plight of women) was not only immoral and archaic, but also did not correspond to the ideals of utilitarianism. The emancipation of women, according to Mill, would lead to a doubling of the total intellectual resources of society to increase the beneficial social competition, and would relieve men from oppressive and excessive administrative burden – that, ultimately, significantly would increase the amount of happiness and prosperity in the world.
Today’s third-wave feminists recall John Stuart Mill is rare, and when I remember that without much heat. In fact, his manner extol “ennobling influence of women on the man,” and “practical female mind” Now look about as politically correct as softened chirping Harriet Beecher Stowe of “nice little pious negroes” in its fateful novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin “. Nevertheless, for the Victorian book Mill was an act of extraordinary boldness and generosity, and a wave lifted it eventually led to the most global impact.

August Bebel. Woman under Socialism.

For a man who finds the USSR, the name of the German socialist August Bebel (periodically merge into the mass consciousness with Isaac Babel) exists only in the context of the set of industrial enterprises and the streets, which were, and sometimes bearing his name in different parts of the vast Soviet country. Someone may recall the image of a woman in an orange robe over his jacket, tossing and turning in the Siberian frost froze ties – and hasten to blame for her suffering at the same Bebel, a supporter of equality between the sexes. Meanwhile, August Bebel – one of the founders of the German workers’ movement of the late XIX – early XX century, associate of Marx, Engels and Liebknecht – were women all over the world a great service, first drew attention to the fact that their depression has a dual nature – not only social, but and economic.
In her blockbuster turn of the century the book “Woman and Socialism,” Bebel draws a dramatic picture of women’s economic oppression. The development of public institutions effectively “squeezes” a woman from the traditional model of “home-family-children”, causing lead an independent life and most earn their bread. However, going to work, a woman falls into a new trap: the capitalists are not willing to value women’s work as highly as men, and as a result she gets paid “too high to die, but too low to live.” Overwork and insufficient earnings of working women pushed into prostitution, with the result that they become an object of public scorn and blame their society rejects, doomed to an even greater fall, and ultimately death.
Similar – quite reasonable – August Bebel observations lead to quite a revolutionary conclusion: the need for equal pay for men and women to the inevitability of the sexual revolution (no coincidence that the main fan and advocacy ideas Bebel in Russia was an ardent enthusiast of “freedom of the sexes” Alexandra Kollontai). Although used Bebel rhetoric sounds today archaic and very rough, the value of his work can not be overestimated: if today is for the most part men and women are paid the same salary, and a woman, entered into a sexual relationship outside of marriage is not considered a “fallen”, then give thanks for it we have German socialist with a gray beard and Leninist squint.

Simone de Beauvoir. Second sex.

Book existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir – reading complex, multilayered, abundant internal contradictions and semantic loops, in an attempt to unravel the reader may spend many tedious hours or even years. Nevertheless, it is the “second floor” became the program text of the second wave of feminism that rose in the early 1960s. By this time all the basic civil rights of women have been successfully won, but at that moment it became clear that basically masculine society has in stock a wide range of tools hidden discrimination and oppression.
Explore the many myths about the “women’s share” and “feminine soul”, Simone de Beauvoir concludes that the term “woman” in our present understanding – it is not so much a biological characteristic, as a result of the directed and prolonged exposure to society, an artificial construct created by men in their own interests. In the European consciousness since ancient times the woman is always the object – not an independent entity, not the manufacturer of goods, but a kind of derivative of the male, its function, the silent recipient of his actions and utterances. However, that its role – such a familiar and deceptively organic – is predetermined not by nature, but the centuries-old traditions. Or, in the words of the author, “not born a woman, a woman become”.
Separation of biological sex and social gender – is one of the greatest discoveries of the twentieth century, and the role of de Beauvoir in this important mental turn – one of the most decisive. And while reading “The Second Sex” is about as pleasant as a roll with his bare hands concrete blocks, is unquestionably one of the books that changed the world for the better.

Betty Friedan. The femine mystique.

Of all the books that review the classic “The mystery of femininity” Betty Friedan, first published in 1963, perhaps the most relevant today. In the 1950s swept over America a new cry, appeal to women: “Back to the family,” Return to traditional values, to the conservative family model became the dominant social trend. Women who have just gone to war which replaced men in manufacturing, once again try on the role of a housewife – no coincidence that in 1953 Life magazine declared that an American ideal – is unemployed women 32 years old, mother of four children. The main female virtue again became mysterious and elusive “femininity”, and replaced the ideas of women’s education, emancipation and career came the idea of “women’s wisdom” and the “pleasures of the hearth.”
Disclaimer “are not peculiar to women of values” looked natural and voluntary, as accompanied by the steady growth of the welfare and comfort of home. Washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators and frozen foods, food processors and bread maker, a steady increase in the area of housing and other celluloid joy – all this, according to the American sociologist Betty Friedan, masked the despair and confusion of a vast number of American women. With remarkable hardness (not to say brutal) fixes it disturbing trends in today’s society: the growing number of suicides among women, a sharp drop in academic performance among girls older than 15 years, the increase in the number of nervous breakdowns, neuroses and psychoses, as well as its attendant increase in demand for antidepressants .
Under the deceptive cover radiant “happiness in the family,” Friedan finds banal and rough calculation. America has not enough workplaces, kindergartens, nurseries and nursing homes. Turn a woman into national cook, cleaner, nurse, power solves all these problems at once. And this result is achieved due to strong social pressure, striving to present every independent woman sexually frustrated loser-nevrotichkoy.
Read “riddle of femininity” sometimes scary – especially in today’s Russia, where “a return to the foundations” has become almost a state ideology. But, of course, it is very, very useful reading.

Naomi Wolf. The beauty myth: the stereotypes against women.

Soviet cartoon “New Year’s Buttermilk” ends with the mother at the same is on the TV in an elegant low-cut dress, and skiing in the snowy forest – after, presumably, quite grueling jog. Approximately describes the problem of modern women is one of the main stars of the third wave feminist Naomi Wolf: women have undoubted right to sit on the boards of directors, fly airplanes and even get paid for their work the same money as men. However, all this did not free them from their heavy responsibilities at the same time to shine in dresses with elegant neckline, walk around the office in high heels and generally seen as “sexual things”. In other words, the emancipation paradoxically not ease the pressure on women, but, on the contrary, strengthened it: Now, along with career and personal achievements of the category of “success” for women includes strict compliance with standards of attractiveness excessively battened down. Naomi Wolf declares only a woman’s right to do what she seems burdensome, unnecessary or simply not her personal perception of yourself and your body.
Stereotypes, prescribing every woman to be tall, slender blonde with regular features, maim lives of millions of girls around the world. Moreover, even in the unlikely event that they manage to succeed in the race for the elusive ideal, they will still be a loser. For their perfection they have to pay health, time, and other expensive things, so the sooner this pressure is removed from the woman, the happier and more harmonious will be the modern society in general.

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