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Complicating Categories: Their Effect on Twentieth Century Women - Essay Example

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Complicating Categories: Their Effect on Twentieth Century Women

During these difficult times, women have necessitated change to their personal lives as well as to the world around them. Analyzing these changes, and their impact, needs to be done in a multi-dimensional context of the whole person and not, as Greene warns us, as, "... women simply marginal to the political and social affairs of society" (31). Race, class and ethnicity have been the catalyst for women to bring about change in the twentieth century and has resulted in a reevaluation of the value that difference brings and how it affects women's lives.
The mobility of the world's population in the twentieth century has caused segments of the population to be displaced either by external upheavals or individual choice in search of better opportunities. Immigrants, often a cheap source of labor, bond together out of a need to maintain cultural identity and may be viewed with the same nationalistic attitude as the women taken to Australia during the age of criminal transportation from England. Forced by poverty or social demands, they are isolated in a foreign land to begin a new life. Stripped away from their cultural surroundings, the women must create and maintain family life and structure. Class has played a significant role as the predominantly lower classes are more likely to find their way into a refugee situation, and women may have assimilated through marriage when the change offered the best hope of economic advantage (Frances, 102). Yet, Frances states that class structures can fade when they are "... unable to withstand the pressures of a distant and demographically-skewed society " (103). Women have traditionally shed some remnants of their cultural identity to make assimilation easier. Dress, language, and personal goals adapt as women have fought to maintain their individualism in a world demanding conformity. This has helped preserve ethnic based cultures and as their differences migrate to other classes, they have given new values to society and opened up new avenues and economic opportunities for women.
Ethnicity, race and class are often overlapping areas where women have been pressured and active in correcting past prejudice and obstacles. Racial attitudes toward white women in a relationship with a black man in Germany in 1913 highlights the importance of class when El-Tayeb reports, "The press reacted with great shock, especially because the women involved were from respectable middle class backgrounds" (163). The press' reaction was measured by the class of the woman and complicated the underlying issue of race. Though new attitudes toward gender have sometimes resulted in women being a benefactor, they run the risk of squandering their political capital if, as Jenkins points out, "The politics of competing inequalities divides oppressed groups, which, if consolidated, have the potential to be numerically and politically dominant" (54). Affirmative action programs have placed greater personal demands on women as they strive to become economically independent without abandoning their racial or class-consciousness.
Economic prosperity has long been held as the measure of success and progression of a person's status in society. Working women have dramatically altered the landscape of employment and career opportunities in the last ...Show more

Summary

The Twentieth Century has been marked by struggles around the globe as women have aspired to gain equality and simultaneously protect their individual cultural identity. Groups that may be defined by race or ethnicity may not fully appreciate the contribution that gender has brought to the equation and class distinctions are too often labeled as racially based…
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Complicating Categories: Their Effect on Twentieth Century Women essay example
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