Nowadays there are diverse perspectives trying to explain society. One of it is feminism which examines the world from the point of view of women. They believe that women are disadvantaged and their interest ignored or devalued in society. Another one is postmodernism that beliefs that society is changing so rapidly and constantly that it cannot be explained as a whole anymore. (Browne, 2007) But are both theories equally useful for understanding contemporary society? Feminism is a structural conflict theory and sees society through a macro picture. It explores inequalities that exist between men and women from a female perspective and how men dominate relationships.
It accuses sociology to be malestream which means being a mainstream and male dominated sociology. Many feminists characterize contemporary society still as patriarchal, where men monopolise all the power. The ultimate aim of feminists is to end male domination and to rid society of the exploitation of women.(Haralambos, 2013) However, some feminist writers disagree that all women are equally oppressed and disadvantaged. These are also known as difference-feminists.
They believe that it is important to recognise the different experiences and problems faced by various groups of women and that not every woman feels oppressed.(Haralambos,2013) There are different groups of Feminism, two of them are radical feminism and liberal feminism. The perspective of radical feminism blames the exploitation of women on men. According to this model, men benefit from the subordination of women. Sociologist recognise that “radical feminism is concerned with women’s right rather than gender inequality” ( P.
104, Haralambos, 2013). This means that radical feminists only focus on women and their rights, also known as gynocentric ( Haralambos, 2013) Indeed, female supremacists, argue that women are not just equal but superior than men. One of their solutions is separatism, which means that women should organise themselves independently of men outside of the male dominated society. Contrastingly, to liberal feminists no one benefits from gender inequalities, neither men nor women. Accordingly, they are happy to work with any member of society who supports their ideas, including men. This is why the creation of equal opportunities, especially in work and education, is the main aim of liberal feminists.
In Britain, they supported measures including the sex discrimination act and equal pay act. ( Haralambos, 2013) Whilst feminism believes in progress, postmodernists explain that progress is not possible because society is too chaotic and uncertain. Sociologist Lyotard believes that all attempts to produce such theories cannot truly explain something as complex as the social world. According to this theory, society becomes decentred as it is changing so rapidly and constantly; this is another reason why society cannot be explained. (Haralambos,2013) Postmodern society involves a media saturated consumer culture where individuals are free to “pick and mix” identities and lifestyles. They can now make their own identity and become whoever they want. (Browne, 2007) Identity politics becomes more important to people, which means that their biological make up cannot limit them in becoming whoever they want.
An example for this might be men dressing as women and vice versa.(Haralambos, 2013) Consequently, postmodernism explains that society is innately plural, where people are less likely to follow rigid ideology. Media is also pivotal in the development of a postmodern society because it defines our lifestyles. Advertising, for instance, tells us the commodities we need and we learn that the consumption of products for their own sake is more important than what they represent (Haralambos, 2013) An example for this could be the new trend of eating acai bowls. The marketing can twist the connotation of serving smoothie in a bowl, giving society the impression that it is a necessity to gain energy and nutrients through a “delicious organic food”. On the other hand, many people might consume it because it is fashionable, rather than because of its actual purpose. Therefore, Jean Baudrillard argues that it has become increasingly difficult to separate media images from anything even approximating to reality. People now confuse media characters with real life; they talk about soap opera characters as if they were real people rather than dramatic roles.
(Haralambos, 2013, p.15) Globalisation has narrowed time and space which in turn has led to changes in culture. According to Dominic Strinati; the globalisation of mass media, information technology and electronic communication leads to a growing importance of cultural diversity for our lifestyles. Rapid travel, almost instantaneous communication leads to confusion over time and space. As a result, people’s sense of space is confused. (Haralambos, 2013, p.751)Feminists like Catherine Redfern, Kristin Aure and Germaine explain that feminism still offers a lively and insightful analysis of contemporary society.
( Haralambos, 2013, p.146) Redfern and Aune provide ample evidence that violence against women is still present. They acknowledge that women are not the only sufferers of violence but that men can suffer also.(Haralambos, 2013, p.
146) However, the office for national statistics shows that there is a higher percentage of violence against women than men. They illustrate that 7.7% of women and 4.4% of men experienced any type of domestic abuse in the last year. Also they show that women are 5 times as likely to have experienced sexual assault than men , 3.
2 % compared to men 0.7%. (Office for national statistics, 2016) This shows the usefulness of feminism and why it is still needed. Even though there have been some improvements in the regulations of laws, many women are still victims and have difficulty in gaining justice through the courts. (Haralambos, 2013) Its usefulness lies in its ability to explain issues of contemporary society and suggest areas where improvements can be made towards equality.According to Redfern and Aune, another area that needs improvement is the inequality present at work and home. They are not dismissive of the gains women are making in work but still stress the disadvantages. They quote evidence showing that only one out of eleven of the UK’s top companies are owned by women and only 7% of the most senior police officers are women.
On top of that, there are still significant differences in the amount of housework done by men and women.(Haralambos, 2013,p.147) NatCen social research illustrates that women still undertake a disproportionate amount of unpaid labour within the home. Whilst men report to spend eight to ten hours in house work and caring for family members, women spend 13 hours in housework and 23 in caring for family members.(British Social Attitudes 30,2012 ) Again, this proves how vital feminism is in explaining contemporary society because it shows that equality has not been achieved yet. Feminists suggest that the government needs to enable more equality and fundings towards childcare.
Although Feminism has accomplished many rights, society is still patriarchal, this shows that despite being effective in tackling existing contentions in the United Kingdom, feminism is still needed. Postmodernism stresses the importance of free will for people to choose their own identity and lifestyle. Sociologist Hall explains that globalisation in particular had a pluralising impact on identities, producing a variety of possibilities and new positions. Nowadays, people have more choice about their sexuality, where they live and where they travel, what sort of people they mix with and what clothes they wear. (Haralambos, 2013, p.763) The statistic portal shows that Britain is one of the most globalised countries with 87.25%.
(The statistics portal, 2017) Hybrid identities are one example of how globalisation affects identity in contemporary Britain. Accordingly, the article “Am I rootless or am I free?” written by Ndela Faye describes how she chooses to be whoever she wants. The article shows how applicable and useful postmodernism is in explaining present society. This is due to the fact that the writer explains exactly how she chooses to be whoever she wants and that her identity is influenced from different cultures. Ndela states “I love being able to choose to be whoever I want, wherever I go. My many masks are a storyboard of all that I am”. Concludingly, this accords to Hall’s own conclusion that identity has become decentred nowadays and individuals cannot find a core or centre to their identities.
However, hybrid identities are not the only proof of the usefulness of postmodernism in describing contemporary society. The effect of social media on society is another proof that we live in a postmodern society. As mentioned, postmodernism explains that society’s ability to discriminate between what is true and what is false is weakened. Adding on this, many radical agendas know how to manipulate the media, by putting in dramatic events, which the media is invited to report and observe.
(Haralambos, 2013) This can be exemplified by a tweet which was shared on twitter more than 350 million times. After the bomb attack in the Manchester Arena, a user claimed that his brother and sister were missing. In reality the picture shared was taken before the attack and it was a picture of a younger version of the user itself. (Rannard, 2017) Sociologist Jean Baudrillard has drawn attention to this issue in contemporary society and this example reflects that we are in a postmodern society. For the reason that the public could not distinguish reality from the media. Whilst feminism attempts to explain society as a whole, postmodernism claims that society cannot be understood as a whole due to the chaos and uncertainty. (Browne, 2007) Feminist perspectives look and ensure progress towards society by achieving equality between men and women.
Postmodernism on the other hand, says that society cannot strive towards improvement because there is no general theory explaining it. (Haralambos, 2013) Another main difference is that the postmodernist perspective explains that everyone has the possibility, choice and chance to become who they want to be. But feminism claims that women are still not free to become whoever they want due to the existing inequalities. According to Redfern and Aune, women being oppressed and abused by their partners cannot make sexual choices freely. (Haralambos, 2013, p.
146) Consequently, they cannot decide who they want to be, as they have to be obedient to their partner. Despite the differences according to Susan Hekman there are also similarities between these two theories. Neither Feminism or Postmodernism claim that male rationality is adequate to understand the social world.
(Haralambos, 2013, p.122) Also, both criticise society for not being able to differentiate between media and reality. Liberal feminists are especially concerned about the media, because it emphasise females as domestic goddesses and sex objects.( Haralambos, 2013) Many girls, for instance, might aim to look like famous actresses, who in reality are characters that have been extensively airbrushed and photoshopped. This shows that they cannot distinguish media from real life, and how they follow the stereotypes that girls are exposed to.(Tran, 2014) Even though Feminism is still a relevant force to describe contemporary society, it also has some weaknesses.
Radical feminism only focuses on the negative aspects and doesn’t acknowledge improvements. Hence, they don’t strive towards equality, but promote that women are better than men. This aspect of Feminism is not useful to describe contemporary society, because it does not represent what women nowadays fight for. De facto, they give a wrong impression of what Feminism is about. The article “Radical feminism: what it is and why we are afraid of it” states that “they reduce feminism to a horrifying caricature that never really existed and second they make frankly bizarre suggestion that radical feminism is the dominant ideology of our times.” (Dean, 2011) This shows that radical feminism does not impersonate feminism appropriately. Due to that, 54% of women do not consider themselves to be feminist and 19% see it as an insult to be called a feminist.
(Dahlgreen, 2015) Nowadays, women fight for equality and do not agree on being superior than men, this is why radical feminism is not useful to describe contemporary society, as it is not represented by all feminists. Nonetheless, radical feminism is only one aspect of feminism. Other aspects, such as liberal feminism, are still very useful to describe contemporary society and still essential to challenge current issues, for example, women’s representation in media. Even though liberal feminists recognize the slow change in the media’s perception, women are still ignored or trivialised by the media( Haralambos, 2013) In consequence, 46% of global news content reinforces gender stereotypes. (Statistics on Media and Gender, 2017) The University of Southern California researched that in 2012, 31.6% of women in the top 500 movies are in sexualised attire and 31% in exposed skin.(University of Southern California, 2012) This demonstrates the usefulness of liberal feminism, because it recognises the points that society still needs to improve on and is a useful tool to challenge contemporary problems. Postmodernists tend to portray contemporary society as one in which people are free to consume as much as they want and create their own identities.
Sociologists Philo and Miller disagree, claiming that people are still constrained by growing inequalities of wealth and income.( Haralambos, 2013, p.992) Poverty, for example, restrains people on becoming whoever they want, because it affects how they see themselves and what they can achieve. The article “Poverty sets children up for a life of disadvantage” states that “they are less able to achieve academically and socially in school and are more likely to suffer from poor health”. (Alison Michalska, 2018) Consequently, they cannot choose who they want to be and just become it; this is due to the missing out on opportunities and lack of facilities. This indicates that postmodernism is not useful to explain contemporary society, because it does not take the circumstances of each individual into account. Concludingly, not everyone has the chance to become whoever they want because they might not have the option. However, postmodernism can be really useful to describe many aspects of contemporary society.
A main feature of society is an emphasis on style at the expense of the substance. (Haralambos, 2013) Thus, particular products become more popular because they have, for example, designer labels. This is also known as “designer ideology”. The surface has more importance than anything deeper. (Haralambos, 2013) The article “Apple and Google; does their success stem from product or brand?” explains how successful they became due to their name. The author of the article explains “The reason both brands have triumphed every time they bring a new product to market is because they have so successfully created masterbrands”.
(Wegrzyn ,2013) Consuming products because they are fashionable rather than practical is one of the main features of postmodernism and clearly one of modern society. Due to that, postmodernism remains relevant to the present day. Despite the weaknesses of postmodernism and feminism, they are both equally useful to gain better understanding of society. Both have an updated aspect and acknowledge negative and positive aspects of society. Even though there have been improvements within society regarding women’s rights, Feminism shows that there are still current issues that needs to be tackled.
Postmodernism explains the effect media and globalisation has on our identities. One and the other manifest useful aspects to characterise current society.