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Feminism An Overview What is Feminism? “ Feminism is about the oppression of women by men ” – Barbara Goodwin Feminism aims to advance the social role.

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Presentation on theme: "Feminism An Overview What is Feminism? “ Feminism is about the oppression of women by men ” – Barbara Goodwin Feminism aims to advance the social role."— Presentation transcript:


2 Feminism An Overview

3 What is Feminism? “ Feminism is about the oppression of women by men ” – Barbara Goodwin Feminism aims to advance the social role of women. Feminists highlight a political relationship between men and women in which, they claim, women have been consistently subjected to the supremacy of men.

4 What is Feminism? Feminist ideology is characterised by two basic beliefs. 1. Women and men are treated differently because of their sex; 2. This unequal treatment can and should be overturned.

5 What is Feminism? Sexual equality, however, does not necessarily mean that women should be like men! Many feminists argue in terms of ‘ liberation ’ ! The central concept in feminist analysis is patriarchy.

6 Patriarchy Patriarchy draws attention to the totality of oppression and exploitation to which women are subject. The theory of patriarchy projects gender differences into the political domain. It thus denotes political rule by men over women or, more broadly, male-dominated society. Such domination is generally seen as oppressive.

7 Patriarchy In feminist theory, patriarchy ‘ recognises the potential power of women and the actual power of men ’ (Eisenstein). This ‘ potential ’ power includes that of reproduction, and of granting sexual satisfaction to men. Patriarchy is an attempt to control this women ’ s power and subject it to the interests of the male.

8 In sum …. … feminists view gender as a political construct; ‘ feminine ’ and ‘ masculine ’ roles have been stereotyped in patriarchal societies; the differences between men and women – resulting in women ’ s subjugation – are the result not of biological differences, but of socially imposed differences designed to preserve the domination of men.

9 The Diversity of Feminist Theory There are several different types of feminist theory. The earliest form of feminism is ‘ liberal feminism ’ ; then there is ‘ socialist feminism ’, and ‘ radical feminism ’, which itself has several competing variants; finally we may talk of ‘ post-modern feminists ’.

10 Liberal Feminism Liberal feminism is characterised by a quest for equal rights, extending the ideas of individualism to women, who should enjoy the same opportunities and rights as men. This was most obviously seen in the suffragette movement – the demand for women ’ s right to vote – and subsequent civil rights for women.

11 Liberal Feminism Mary Wollstonecraft – “ Vindication of the Rights of Women ” (1792) – argued for the fundamental equality of men and women. Common rational qualities. J.S.Mill – equality, shared rationality, and utilitarian approach. Betty Friedan – women should not be excluded from liberal dream of autonomy and self- determination. None of the above seek to overturn conventional notions of gender in society.

12 Socialist Feminism Derived from Marxism, this highlights links between female subordination and the capitalist mode of production. Attention is drawn to the economic significance of women being confined to family or domestic life, and women ’ s liberation is thus part of the class struggle, to be realised once socialism is achieved.

13 Radical Feminism Proclaiming that ‘ the personal is the political ’, radical feminists claim that sexual oppression has to be righted through a major re-structuring of society to abolish all forms of patriarchal existence. Such re-structuring may include separatism (women only colonies) or lesbianism (with men only useful for reproductive purposes).

14 Radical Feminism – Key Texts Simone de Beauvoir, “ The Second Sex ” (1949) – women are dependent on men and need to draw away from such a status. Germaine Greer, “ The Female Eunuch ” (1971) – women should become sexually assertive, rejecting conventional passivity. Kate Millet, “ Sexual Politics ” (1970) – argues for destruction of nuclear family which maintains male power. Pro-woman position includes Ti-Grace Atkinson ’ s political lesbianism arguments.

15 Post-modern Feminism Feminism has become increasingly diverse from the 1970s onwards, and post- modernists represent a range of questioning of gender-based norms. “..the [post-modern] feminist agenda is characteristically seen as deconstructing male universalistic linguistic paradigms ” !! (Gary K. Browning)

16 A Brief History of Feminism The suffragette movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries constituted the ‘ first wave ’ of feminism. Once the vote had been achieved in the West, the campaign for legal and civil rights assumed a lower profile. Political equality was seen by many feminists to have achieved the principal goal of the feminist movement.

17 A Brief History ….. However, many activists did not feel that ‘ the vote ’ had righted women ’ s wrongs, and in the 1960s a ‘ second wave ’ of feminism arose. This argued that the vote was merely a first step, and that inequalities and oppression still formed part of the social fabric and had to be eradicated.

18 A Brief History ….. The Women ’ s Liberation Movement was part of the second wave, making more radical demands about women ’ s rights. More recently there has been a growing backlash against feminism; some of its concerns, for instance on language use, have seemed petty. Feminism has also been criticised on the grounds that its internal divisions are so sharp that it has lost internal coherence and unity.








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