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Feminism

Feminism

Author: Zach Lamb
Description:

This lesson will discuss the basic feminist ideas, five general principles and distinguish between socialist, radical and liberal feminism.

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Tutorial

Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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Hello. Welcome to Sociological Studies. Thank you for joining me. In this lesson, we will give a descriptive overview and discuss several variations of feminism and feminist theory. The most basic principle that unites feminist theory is the idea of societies are organized around patriarchy. Patriarchy is a system that favors male privilege, and feminists argue that this is unjust. Patriarchy has advantaged men in the home, in the public sphere, and in the workplace. And women have long suffered from patriarchy in society.

So as I said, although we'll discuss different variations of feminist theory, feminists can be united around holding these five principles generally. Gender inequality. Promoting gender equality is a feminist hallmark. Feminist thinking is critical of existing patriarchy and seeks to change it. So feminism is not just theory, but theory aimed at practical application in the world-- at action of generating changes that will undermine the dominant patriarchy.

Secondly, expanding human choices. If both sexes had the full range of options and lifestyle choices, rather than having their choices circumscribed socially by categories of gender, like females can only go into this line of work and males should go into this line of work. Well, if we didn't have those circumscribed choices-- if choices were more equal-- then society could be said to be more equal between the sexes.

Thirdly, eliminating gender stratification. Feminists have sought to put an end to laws and cultural norms that limit the behavior of women through history. Fourth, ending sexual violence. One way for men to assert their power over women is in the sexual realm, and feminists work to eradicate things like domestic abuse, rape and marital rape, sexual harassment.

Fifth, sexual freedom. Feminists seek the free availability of birth control support in women's lives and support the choice of women to either have a baby or not to have a baby. This is a choice that feminists think women should have.

Now, let's move on to discuss three types of feminist theorization-- liberal feminism, socialist feminism, and radical feminism. And these three forms of feminist theory can be situated on a continuum, from more conservative forms of feminism to more progressive. Now, feminism is an inherently liberal theoretical platform, so I'm not saying this is conservative in the sense that you think I might mean it. I just mean conservative as in demanding the least amount of change, whereas progressive over here is demanding the most change.

So firstly, liberal feminism is the most common type of feminist thought and argues that women are able to show their equality with men through individual pursuits-- through merit, through meritocracy. The basic task of liberal feminists is to work within existing structures of society and expand opportunities for women.

So society has the domestic sphere, the private sphere, and the public sphere. They're fine with this divide. Liberal feminism is fine with this divide. Women have typically been in the home, and men have typically been in the public space pursuing careers. But liberal feminism is fine with it, but they want to advance opportunities and rights for women working within this existing structure. So they're fine with capitalism.

They're fine with marriage. They're fine with the family, and they're fine with women raising children, but they want to expand awareness of women's oppression under this system and expand opportunities for women's flourishing. Liberal feminism seeks to end segregation of women in the private sphere, move them more equally in the public sphere with men, and at the same time, have men contribute more equally in the family.

The second type of feminist theory we'll discuss is socialist feminism, or also called Marxist feminism. And this theory argues that exploitation and patriarchy go hand in hand, and that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small group of men. So working with this existing public private structure, then, isn't going to give women the equality that feminists seek. It in fact only exacerbates inequality. Capitalism structures inequality for women by virtue of patriarchy and concentrating wealth in a small group of men. So then liberal feminism, socialist feminists argue, don't go far enough, because they still stick to this system.

Finally, the third form of feminist theory, radical feminism, argues that even a reconfiguration of capitalism is not enough to eliminate gender as a socially constructed category and advance equality for women. So getting rid of this-- having a capitalist revolution, state-owned property-- is not enough, they argue, to get gender equality. In order to get gender equality, we need to eliminate the social construction of gender as a category altogether and achieve the equality of men and women.

So gender could be eliminated, they argue, in a Brave New World fashion. If you've ever read that book, you know that mothers are gone. Everyone is raised in a test tube. This is what it would take, radical feminists argue, to achieve gender inequality. To separate reproduction from females' bodies and have reproduction take place outside of bodies.

And in this way, men and women could be seen as more equal. This is a more extreme and less popular version of feminism than liberal feminism or even socialist feminism, but nonetheless, it is out there, so we raise attention. I hope you enjoyed this introduction to feminist theory and the tenets of feminism. Have a great rest of your day.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Liberal Feminism

    Argues that women are able to show their equality with men through individual pursuits. The basic inequalities between men and women, according to liberal feminists, are thought to be found in the divide between public and private.

  • Socialist Feminism

    The branch of feminist theory that argues that the inequality and exploitation of women is inextricably linked with the system of capitalist production (i.e. capitalism structures inequality).

  • Radical Feminism

    A fringe form of feminist theory that argues that patriarchy is so entrenched that the socially constructed category of "gender" needs to be eliminated entirely by separating reproduction from women's bodies.