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The Complex Relationship Between Multiculturalism and Feminism Essay

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The Complex Relationship Between Multiculturalism and Feminism


These days, it seems that multiculturalism is generally an assumed good. Increased acknowledgement of diversity and cultural sensitivity seem to be steps toward leveling the playing field for all human beings. And that is the goal of much scholarship and activism, right--to secure and ensure human rights across the board? That is one of global feminism’s aims, so it would seem that multiculturalism would help, not hinder, feminist work to better the situation of women. That is not necessarily the case.
It may be helpful to first clarify what is meant by both feminism and multiculturalism. Though it is difficult to definitively state what is meant by these complex terms, Susan Moller Okin is able to sum up the essence of feminism and single out a facet of multiculturalism that is particularly relevant. In her essay, “Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?,” Okin explores the relationship between feminism and multiculturalism, especially pertaining to the granting of “group rights.” Okin writes: “By feminism, I mean the belief that women should not be disadvantaged by their sex, that they should be recognized as having human dignity equal to that of men, and that they should have the opportunity to live as fulfilling and as freely chosen lives as men can.” She goes on, writing that “Multiculturalism is harder to pin down, but the particular aspect that concerns me here is the claim, made in the context of basically liberal democracies, that minority cultures or ways of life are not sufficiently protected by the practice of ensuring the individual rights of their members, and as a consequence these should also be protected through special group rights of priv...


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...a hard time representing our entire country’s population in a few sentences, or even a few pages. The American cultural system of today is far different than the culture of the 1940’s, and my experience as a Southerner is quite different than that of someone from New England. Multiculturalism seeks to protect cultures from extinction, it is very dangerous to over-simplify a complex cultural system and identify it by its most extreme practices. Feminism and multiculturalism do have some of the same goals; chiefly, equality of rights for all human beings. It is true that some efforts of multiculturalism counter feminism’s goals to empower women, but I do not think that this must always be the case. Cultural sensitivity is not enough; we must consider cultural practices, the workings of the cultural system that supports them, and how that system itself came about.


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