2 What is feminist theory? “An analysis of women’s subordination for the purpose of figuring out how to change it” (Gordon 1979)Includes theories about:the origins and nature of inequalitythe social construction of sex and genderEvaluative AND empiricalOften used in combination with other theories of families (e.g., exchange, life course).
3 Where does it come from?Emerged from three waves of feminist (political) movements.First Wave – (1840s)-1880s-1920sSecond Wave – 1960s-1990sThird Wave – 1990s-presentDeveloped by scholars in a variety of academic disciplines (especially anthropology, philosophy, history, sociology, psychology).
4 What is it good for? Helping to explain: Power relations in families. Division of labor in families and societies.Meaning-making in (and about) families.How understandings and assumptions about gender influence family dynamics and public policies.
5 Three Waves of (Western) Feminism Second Wave1960s-1990sFirst Wave(1840s)-1880s-1920sThird Wave1990s-present
6 Elizabeth Cady Stanton (c. 1848) The First WaveHeavily influenced by Enlightenment thinkingChief goals: Women’s suffrage (right to vote), access to education, family planningCritique of women’s (restricted) role in the homeElizabeth Cady Stanton (c. 1848)&Anna Julia Cooper (1893)
7 The Second Wave Liberal and cultural variants Sought to expand access to education, types of paid work, equal pay for equal workFocus on sexual liberation and freedom from sexual violenceAimed to free women from excessive concern with beauty and appearanceGloria Steinem &Dorothy Pitman Hughes
8 The Third WaveRecognizes diversity among women across race/ethnicity, class, sexual orientationPromotes breaking down/ playing with gender categories
10 Focus and Premises Women’s experience is central Can provide a basis for knowledge claimsFeminist theory has many voicesBecause different women come from different social locations (e.g., by race, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, age, nationality)Feminist theory is emancipatoryIn addition to trying to predict social processes, seeks to describe, evaluate, and prescribe social action
11 Main Concepts Sex and gender Three dimensions of gender: Sexism Sex = biologyGender = social and culturalThree dimensions of gender:Gender identityStructural gender (social status)Cultural gender (symbols and meanings)SexismHarmful attributions made about everyone with a certain trait believed to be inherent or genetic (e.g., sex)
12 Main Concepts Family and household Public and private HH = coresidential unitsF = prevailing ideologies about how/where/with whom people should live and divide laborPublic and privateGendered spheres (c. 1830s onward)Seen as artificial distinction that supports and maintain an inequitable gender system
13 Propositions Gender structures our experiences. Gender structures all societies.Women as a class [sic] are devalued and oppressed.As a result of sex, gender beliefs, and historical and continuing sexism and oppression, there exists a “female culture.”
14 Propositions The family is not monolithic. In terms of organization and in terms of patterns by race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.The family is a central institution for the reproduction of oppression.Via socialization and social expectationsIn terms of support for work, etc. [not in book]
15 Varieties of Feminist Theory Liberal FeminismMarxist/Socialist FeminismCultural FeminismMulticultural and Critical Race [and Third World] FeminismOther variants: Lesbian, psychoanalytic, anarchist, etc.
16 Liberal FeminismRooted in Enlightenment philosophy: “All men [sic] are created equal.”Emphasis on equality of opportunity and removal of barriers (e.g., to education, work, leisure activities)Mostly closely associated with first (and less-radical second) wave
17 Marxist/Socialist Feminism Rooted in Marx and Engels’ writingsWho controls the means of reproduction (as well as the means of production)?“Sex class” underlies other social divisions (e.g., race, SES)Employers exploit women’s free reproductive labor, “cooperate” with male employees to limit women’s paid work (even though women might work for less)
18 Cultural FeminismPosits men and women as (inherently) different, seeks to revalue traditionally devalued feminine traits (e.g., nurturing, expressiveness)Mostly closely associated with radical second-wave feminism
19 Multicultural, Critical Race, and “Third World” Feminism Questions basic constructs like “women” & “female” (and “family”)Focus on intersecting identitiesConcern with exploitation of immigrant and poor womenDraws on poststructuralist and postmodernist theoryAssociated with third-wave feminism
20 Empirical Applications Understanding the gendered division of laborSecond shifts and the stalled revolution (Hochschild)Equal vs. fair?The role of ideology“Capitalization” of housework (Ehrenreich)Measuring Diversity in FeminismAre different strands of feminism associated with age, social class, occupation, race, etc.?
21 Practical Applications Family policy reformTo reflect facts that families are diverse and that different family members may have different interestsExamples: Sexual violence & domestic violence, wage discrimination, day care, accounting for unpaid workFamily therapyRevising traditional family therapy to acknowledge that conflict may be useful and good.Family scholarship and the research processCritiquing research that presumes families are private, neglects diversity of family forms, avoids gender analysisIncorporating reflexive methods