Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
It is difficult to talk about feminism as a single entity as it is continually under debate. There are different factions among feminists based on the roots of gender inequality. The branches of feminism are liberal, radical, Marxism, socialist, black, and postmodern feminism. Liberal feminism’s central theme is equality of opportunity unhindered by gender, race, class and sexuality and. In Marxist feminism, gender inequality is linked to capitalism, and objective where social, political and economic relations shape and determine women’s oppression (Hartmann, 1981). Radical feminism’s viewpoint is that sexual inequality is more fundamental than economic inequality, and that change in family life is essential before both genders become equal. Socialist feminism which draws it parallels with Marxism claims that capitalism and patriarchy are both equal oppressors of women and must be analyzed together. ‘Women of Colour’/ Black feminists have taken race as the starting point of their analyses to understand oppression of women (Jayawardna,1986; Basu, 1997) and class due to the intrinsic nature of these categories. Postmodern feminists say that the significance of power relations are conveyed through language (Flax, 1990) because it constructs meaning and, also organises cultural practices exposing their significance (Scott, 1990).
In the first wave of feminism, early 19th century, women began raising voices on suffrage, pregnancy rights, education and economic independence (Pierson et al., 1993). During 1960’s, the second wave of the North American feminist movement consisting of mostly middle-class white women was organised around gender oppression focusing to gain access to exclusive male domains. In the last decade, the third wave of the feminist movement is characterised as the ‘feminism of diversity’ where the women of colour, working-class women and lesbians has started to claim an account for their experience and their histories (Anzaldua, 1990; Baca Zinn, 1991; Baca Zinn, Cannon, Higginbotham and Dill, 1986; Banneji, 1995, 1987; Brah, 1994; Carby, 1982; Carty, 1991; Davis, 1981; Stasiulis and Bakan, 1995; Woo, 1985). The demand to account the difference in race, class and gender modified and pluralized feminism which is now marked by nation, race, class, and sexuality: black feminism, Latina feminism, middle-class mainstream feminism, lesbian feminism, and so on (Crosby, 1992). Thus the present day feminism in its diverse and various forms continues to focus on a better status for women. Feminist theories are evolving continuously especially addressing the concept of diversity, economic instability, shift in class, status, family structure, health and the actuality of differences has become the project of women studies, particularly among academic feminists (Crosby, 1992). Canadian scholars like Alberro and Montero (1976), Amopoulos (1979), Bodnar and Reimer (1979), Boyd (1977), Montero (1977), Nagata (1969), Netting (1985), have presented a huge body information on the lives of immigrant women in Canada.
Many of these researches have acknowledged that the conditions and experiences of theses immigrant mothers are different and it is necessary to study from their perspective. Immigration and acculturation to the host country have negative health effects both physical and psychological (Aroian & Patsdaughter, 1989; Ng & Ramirez, 1981). A vulnerable sect, 1 in 3 Canadian immigrants is reported having emotional problems (Browne, Kumar, Puente-Duran, Georgiades, Leckie, and Jenkins, ) 2 years post landing. In particular, South Asian women are reluctant to verbalise their problems arising due to social isolation, economic instability, language, child care and household responsibilities (Choudhry, 1998) are at higher risk for physical illness and emotional distress. A cyclical effect, where emotionally stressed individual is vulnerable, having an enormous effect on both mental and physical health. Both mental health and physical health rely upon emotional well-being which acts as a navigational system in the society defining the individual (Jenny Florence, 2007). In early 1901, Freud in his book ‘the Psychopathology of Everyday’ clearly outlines the relationship between repressed emotion and physical symptoms and also how emotion influences cognition and emotional state directly impacts physical health (Coughlin Della Selva, 2006). The risk of depressive symptoms are high and increases after giving birth because of social and biological changes (Grant et al., 2004; Vega, Scribney, Aguilar- Gaxiola,& Kolody,2004) and this maternal depression can have serious health issues for immigrant mothers( Parke et al.,2004) and affect family functioning, conflict with family and friends and separation or divorce ( Horwitz, Briggs-Gown, Strofer- Isser, & Carter, 2007). About 95% of South Asian women are living with at least one family member and 70.5% of visible minority women are a couple with children and 12% of the dual earner workforce are South Asian parents (Statistics Canada 2015). For immigrant mothers entry into labour force is complex which is mediated by education, language, childcare, Canadian work experience and credentials. In the study ‘Racialized and Immigrant Women in Cities’ (Ng-See-Quan,2005) many Indian women has stated that in India, their health was prioritised more than their jobs but the rising financial insecurity after immigration has made them to put their health on hold.
The labour force demand and trends often push these women into unemployment, underemployment, and survival jobs leading to mental stress due to their job insecurities. According to the study Emotional problems among recent immigrants and parenting status: Findings from a national longitudinal study of immigrants in Canada (2017) visible minority, women and low income are at elevated risk of facing emotional problem and the rate of increase in emotional problems is high among women in lower socioeconomic status. There is an increase in the economic exclusion of immigrants in particular women. The Canadian press, April 2018 has stated that more women immigrate to Canada have lower employment rates and earn less than average income, where the rate of unemployment is 12.8% for immigrant women and 7.2% recent immigrant women as compared to 5.1% for Canadian born women (statistics Canada 2017). And they earn (Statistics Canada 2015) about 2000$ less than Canadian born women and 11,000$ less than immigrant men in general, visible minority women are more likely to earn less even after a decade of living in Canada.