Feminism : Core Themes

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  • Feminism : Core Themes
    • Patriarchy
      • Patriarchy - Literally the rule by the father; often used more generally to describe the dominance of men and subordination of women in society at large
      • Make rule not just in a family environment but they dominate all aspects of life e.g workplace, religion, government, institutions.
      • ‘Male shall dominate female, elder male shall dominate younger’ a patriarchy is therefore a hierarchical society, characterized by both sexual and generational oppression.
      • The concept of patriarchy is, never the less broad, many feminists believe men have dominated women in all societies to different degrees.
      • Patriarchy in western scene focuses on furthering female formal rights e.g suffrage
      • Patriarchy in developing nations focus on, FGM, forced marriage, dress codes
      • Liberal Feminists see the patriarchy as unequal distribution to rights and entitlements in society at large. The face of senior positions in politics, business, the professions and public life generally.
      • Socialist Feminists see the patriarchy as the economic aspects of oppression caused by capitalism as the main oppressor, which is merely a consequence of the class system, however class is still the main issue
      • Radical feminists see the patriarchy as a systematic, institutionalized and pervasive form of male power, that is rooted in the family.
      • Patriarchy thus expressed the belief that the pattern of male domination and female subordination that characterizes society at large is, essentially, a reflection of power structures that operate within domestic life.
    • Redefing 'the political'
      • Modern feminists insist that politics is an activity that takes place within all social groups and is not merely confined to the affairs of government.
      • Kate Millett defined politics as ‘power-structure relationships, arrangements where by one group of persons is controlled by another. The relationship between government and its citizens is therefore clearly political.
      • Feminists argue that sexual inequality has been preserved precisely because the sexual division of labour that runs through society that has been through society has been thought of as a ‘natural’ rather than ‘political’.
      • Women have been confined to private existence centered on family and domestic responsibilities, if politics only takes place in public sphere, the role of women and the question of sexual equality are of little or no political importance.
      • Radical feminists have been the keenest opponents of the idea politics stops at the front door. ‘The personal is the political’. Female oppression is thus thought to operate in all walks of life and in many respects originates in the family itself.
      • Sexual Labour = (Public man - Politics education, careers, art, literature.)  (Private women = Family, caring, child-rearing, domestic work.)
      • Socialist feminists have seen the role of women in the private sphere within the conventional family as maintenance of the capitalist system.
      • Although liberal feminist object to restrictions on women's access to the public sphere of education, work and political life, they also warn against the dangers of politicizing the private sphere, which according to liberal theory, is a realm of personal choice and individual freedom.
      • Radical feminists have therefore been concerned to analyse what can be called the ‘politics of everyday life’. This includes the conditioning in the family with women's domestic roles, for other feminists it includes transferring the responsibilities of private life onto the state or other public bodies (e.g child rearing could be relieved with welfare or nursery schools.Socialist feminists have seen the role of women in the private sphere within the conventional family as maintenance of the capitalist system.
    • Sex and Gender
      • Androgyny - The possession of both male characteristics; used to imply that human beings are ‘sexless persons’ in the sense that sex is irrelevant to their social role or political status.
      • Difference feminism - A form of feminism that hold there are deep and possibly ineradicable differences between women and men, whether these are rooted in biology, culture or material experience.
      • Essentialism - The belief that biological factors are crucial in deterring psychological and behavioral traits.
      • The most common anti feminist argument is often associated with the conservative view that women are naturally suited to perform the duty nature designed for them. A woman’s physical anatomy therefore makes her suited to be a subordinate and play a domestic role in society. ‘Biology is Destiny’.
      • Feminists believe gender is a social construct. There are biological differences, but these should have a limited impact e.g childbirth.
      • Feminists have traditionally challenged the idea that biology is destined by drawing a sharp distinction between sex and gender; sex referring to biological difference.
      • Gender on the other hand is a cultural term; it’s differences are roles that society ascribes to men and women. Gender differences are typically imposed through contrasting stereotypes of ‘masculinity and femininity’.
      • Most feminists believe that sex and differences between men and women are relatively minor and neither explain nor justify gender distinctions.
      • Women and men should not be judged by their sex but as individuals and ‘persons’ the goal of feminism is therefore the achievement of gender less personhood.
      • Difference feminists suggests that there are profound and perhaps ineradicable differences between men and women. From this essentialist perspective social and cultural characteristics reflect deeper biological differences.
      • Postmodern feminists have questioned whether sex is a clear cut as a biological distinction; some women cannot bear children, are not attracted to men and so on. This makes the categories for ‘Male and female’ less arbitrary
    • Equality and difference
      • Equality feminism - A form of feminism that aspires to the goal of sexual equality, whether this is defined in terms of formal rights, the control of resources, or personal power.
      • Pro women feminism - A form of feminism that advances as positive image of women attributes and propensities, usually stressing creativity, caring and human sympathy and cooperation.
      • Cultural feminism - A form of feminism that emphasizes an engagement with a woman centered culture and lifestyle and is typically repelled by the corrupting and aggressive male world of political activism.
      • Feminists have embraced contrasting notions of equality and some have entirely rejected equality in favour of the idea of difference.
      • Liberal feminists champion legal and political equality with men. They have supported an equal terms with men. They have supported an equal rights agenda, which would enable women to compete in public life on equal terms with men, regardless of sex. Equality thus means equal access to the public realm.
      • Socialist feminists, in contrast, argue that equal rights may be meaningless unless women also enjoy social equality. Equality, in this sense, has to apply in terms of economic power, and so must address issues such as the ownership of wealth, pay differentials and the distinction between waged and unwaged labour.
      • Radical feminists, for their part, are primarily concerned about the equality in family and personal life. Equality must therefore operate, for example, in terms of childcare and other domestic responsibilities, the control of one's own body, and sexual expression and fulfilment.
      • Equality feminism links ‘difference’ to patriarchy, seeing it as a manifestation of oppression or subordination. From this viewpoint, the feminist project is defined by the desire to liberate women from ‘difference’.
      • However, other feminists champion difference rather than equality. Difference feminists regard the very notion of equality as either misguided or simply undesirable. To want to be equal to a man implies that women that women are ‘male identified’, in that they have goals in terms of what men are or what men have. The demand for equality therefore embodies a desire to ‘be like men’.
      • Difference feminists want to be ‘female’ identified as there is a danger of modeling themselves on men, who adopt the competitive and aggressive behaviour that characterises male society.
      • Difference feminists have subscribed to a ‘pro woman’ position, which accepts that sex differences have political and social importance. Follows essentialist belief men and women are fundamentally different at a psycho-biological level.
      • To idolise androgyny and ignore sex differences is therefore a mistake. Women should celebrate and recognise distinctive characters of the female sex, they seek liberation through difference, not through being sexless persons.
      • Cultural feminism has lead to an emphasis on women's crafts, art and literature based on experiences unique to women and promote a sense of ‘sisterhood’ such as childhood, motherhood and menstruation.

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