Feminist movements gained momentum in the 20th century when women began demanding equal opportunities for males and females. During that time, there were four waves of feminism, which resulted in more inclusion of females in the society. In the 21st century, women continue struggling for more rights and privileges as they still face exclusion from patriarchal societies, which dominate in most countries (Butler, 2015). However, during gender activism, women face several difficulties, which in most cases halt their actions. The present research will address these problems, which include societal isolation and loneliness, withdrawal of protection and respect, low and uncertain wages, and physical violence. It will also outline reasons why some women oppose efforts of feminists to obtain more rights and empowerment.
Isolation and Loneliness
According to Sa’ar (2001), isolation and loneliness are one of the problems that women encounter when they challenge the patriarchal society status quo. In her research on women from Israeli‐Palestinian families, the scholar found that the society required them to remain a part of a family group by being humble and submissive to their husbands. Although women are well-educated, highly skilled, and employed in Israel, they are not allowed to have more authority than men. Sa’ar (2001) observed that when women became more powerful than men, most members of the society were likely to express envy and resentment to them due to their abnormal success. If those women were unmarried, they could be branded immoral and even be disowned by their children, thus segregating them from the society.
In her research on feminism in the traditional patriarchal societies of Asia and North Africa, Kandiyoti (1988) also observed that women who defy the established norms in the community are likely to be isolated and lonely. In most classic patriarchal families, young women have limited power as they are subordinate to all members of the paternal family, including mothers-in-law. As most women have no authority, they increase their influence in the society through their sons. Hence, young women getting married find it hard to have command of their husbands as mothers-in-law control them. In retaliation, women force their husbands to move away from their mothers so that they can gain freedom (Butler, 2015; Kandiyoti, 1988). However, at their old age, females also lack the power of influencing the society, which results in isolation. Such trend of segregation explains an increase in the incidents of suicide among women aged 45 years and above in the classic patriarchal societies.
Lack of Protection and Respect
Women who engage in feminist actions that violate the norms of the society also face the risk of lack of respect and protection from other members of the community. According to Kandiyoti (1988), women in a male-dominated society of Asian and Arabic nations get their protection and respect from the family. If women are good wives, they are valued by all members of the community, and in case of any problem, they get assistance promptly. These women are thus always protected and feel honored. However, Kandiyoti (1988) observes that when women protest against the values of the community by seeking more autonomy, they are seen as defiant and rogue. They are discriminated, divorced, or termed immoral. For these reasons, most women prefer to remain subordinate than to resist social norms.
Sa’ar (2001) also agrees with Kandiyoti’s research on Israeli Muslim community. In this study, she discovered that incidences of divorce and accusation of immorality were most common among women who had attained more influence in the society. Those females who had independent decision-making, income, and opinions were either single or lived with troublesome men, who even demanded them to stop working. They also lacked societal protection due to their abnormal behavior of exercising influence similar to men. When women in this society deviated from traditional norms of clothing, they were likely to be referred as immoral, hence, lost respect in the community. Butler (2015) also adds that independent women are seen as arrogant, and they tend to receive less appreciation from their children as compared to submissive women.
Very Low and Uncertain Wages
Women from the developing countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa also encountered the problem of inadequate and unstable wages when they try securing an alternative source of income. Kandiyoti (1988) in her analysis observed that in the agricultural farms in Africa, the owners of land are always men. Women, on the other hand, are expected to offer their free labor to plantations. However, in defiance of such norms, they withhold their labor and provide it to other sectors of economy for payment. However, Kandiyoti observes that as women move from agriculture-based activities to market-based ones, they also encounter males’ domination. Thus, organizations exploit female employees by giving them lower payments as a form of punishment for not working in agricultural farms. Butler (2015) adds that such inclinations have lowered the morale of women in Africa to fight for more power as male domination is spread in the entire marketplace.
Sa’ar (2001) did not focus on the issue of violence against women; however, the scholar addressed this issue as a significant challenge that women face in Israeli‐Palestinian families. When women become too dominant in their families, they lose support that they received from the society, thus become exposed to the violence of their husbands. Based on the two scenarios presented in the study of influential women, it is manifested that independent women face violence from their husband, which in most cases results in divorce. Such women are abandoned by their blood relatives and children for their unwanted influence and thus face all sort of exploitation even though there are laws to safeguard them. Sa’ar (2001) states that such brutality can even result in death as evidenced in some developing countries. Butler (2015) thus argues that women must be ready to encounter the challenge of physical violence to end male dominance in families which lowers their power and influence.
Reason Why Other Women Oppose Feminist Actions
Women are among the prominent critics of feminist work, especially in the 21st century. Some resistance occurs when women see the need of preserving their culture as opposed to adopting foreign lifestyles. Such example of defiance is presented by Narayan (2013), who uses her book to criticize western feminists and especially those from the US for their disregard of third world countries culture. She argues that Indian culture has had sati and dowry deaths, which are currently rare and only occur due to the greed for money rather than women oppression. She states that western studies focus on such norms as women oppression and ignore deaths caused by family violence in the US, thus lowering the value of feminism. Narayan (2013) concludes that women from the western world should learn to appreciate other society’s cultures and disregard women abuse.
The risk of women losing their current position in the society for other uncertain power is also a reason for resistance. In patriarchal families, where women gain more protection, respect, and control for being submissive and humble wives, some females perceive a change to such system as a threat to the little benefits that they are guaranteed (Kandiyoti, 1988; Sa’ar, 2001). In some of these societies, women oppose feminization because they feel that such changes could increase their responsibilities in the short run, thus lowering support from men, which they are not ready to accept.
Other studies have also shown that in the western world, women resist feminist actions because they feel that their intimacy and security can be lost as a result of feminism. Women rights such as abortion, which have been applauded in the contemporary society as beneficial to women, have been rejected by western females because they reduce intimacy by making men less responsible for their actions (Alexander & Mohanty, 2013; Kandiyoti, 1988). Women in the postfeminist era are thus mostly concerned with the lost value of their culture rather than unattained power.
The above analysis has presented the problems that women encounter when they challenge gender expectations of their societies. The discussion has shown that feminist attitude and activism result in isolation and loneliness, lack of respect and protection, low and uncertain wages, and physical violence and can even lead to death. The analysis of past studies has shown that some women oppose feminists’ actions. Some of them value their cultural values more than feminism; others prefer to maintain their respect and established roles, intimacy and security guaranteed in the traditional society.