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Feminism

Feminism

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

What's Covered

This tutorial will cover the topic of feminism, through the definition and discussion of:

  1. Feminism
  2. Forms of Feminist Theory

1. FEMINISM

The most basic principle that unites feminist theory is the idea that societies are organized around patriarchy--a system that favors male privilege--which feminists argue 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. Though there are different variations of feminist theory, feminists are united around five principles, generally:

1. Gender Equality

Promoting gender equality is a feminist hallmark. Feminist thinking is critical of existing patriarchy and seeks to change it, therefore feminism is not just theory, but theory aimed at practical application in the world--the action of generating changes that will undermine the dominant patriarchy.

2. Expanding Choices

If both sexes had the full range of options and lifestyle choices, rather than having their choices circumscribed socially by categories of gender, then society could be said to be more equal between the sexes.

Example This is illustrated by females being expected to go into certain lines of work and males into others, as opposed to women having equal access to all lines of work.

3. Eliminate Gender Stratification

Feminists have sought to put an end to laws and cultural norms that limit the behavior of women throughout history.

4. End 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, and sexual harassment.

5. 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, which is a choice that feminists believe women should have.


2. FORMS OF FEMINIST THEORY

There are three types of feminist theorization: liberal feminism, socialist feminism, and radical feminism. These three forms of feminist theory can be situated on a continuum, from more conservative forms of feminism to more progressive.

Feminism is an inherently liberal theoretical platform, so the term ‘conservative’ doesn’t have the typical connotation that you might think. It refers to the theorization being conservative in the sense of demanding the least amount of change, whereas progressive theory demands the most change.

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 meritocracy. The basic task of liberal feminists is to work within existing structures of society and expand opportunities for women.

IN CONTEXT

Society has the domestic sphere, e.g. the private sphere, and the public sphere. Liberal feminism accepts this divide--women have typically been in the home, and men have typically been in the public space pursuing careers. However, they want to advance opportunities and rights for women working within this existing structure.

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

Term 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.

The second type of feminist theory is socialist feminism, also called Marxist feminism. 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. Working with the existing public/private structure isn't going to give women the equality that feminists seek--in fact, it only exacerbates inequality. Capitalism structures inequality for women by virtue of patriarchy and the concentration of wealth in a small group of men. Liberal feminism, socialist feminists argue, doesn’t go far enough, because it adheres to public/private divided system.

Term to Know

    • 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).

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. Even eliminating capitalism--having a capitalist revolution and instituting state-owned property--is not enough to achieve gender equality. In order to obtain gender equality, society must eliminate the social construction of gender as a category. Gender could be eliminated, they argue, in a Brave New World fashion.

Did You Know

In the book, Brave New World, all of the mothers are gone, and 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 the body. In this way, men and women could be seen as more equal. Women have to be liberated from the act of childbirth in this view. This is a more extreme and less popular version of feminism than liberal feminism or socialist feminism, but nonetheless it exists as a theory and therefore warrants recognition.

Term to Know

    • 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.

Summary

Today you learned about the tenets of feminism, the idea that societies are organized unjustly around patriarchy, a system that favors male privilege, as well as three forms of feminist theory.

Good luck!

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Zach Lamb.

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.