A2 Political Ideologies - Feminism

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  • Created on: 15-06-14 17:59
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As a political term, `feminism' was a 20th century invention and has only been a familiar part
of everyday language since the 1960s. In its modern usage, feminism is invariably linked to
the women's movement and the attempt to advance the social role of women.
Feminist ideology is defined by two basic beliefs: that women are disadvantaged because of
their sex, and that this disadvantage can and should be overthrown. In this way, feminists
have highlighted what they see as a political relationship between the sexes, the supremacy
of men and the subjection of women in most, if not all, societies. In viewing gender divisions
as `political', feminists challenged a `mobilization of bias' that has traditionally operated
within political thought, by which generations of male thinkers, unwilling to examine the
privileges and power their sex had enjoyed, had succeeded in keeping the role of women
off the political agenda. Nevertheless, feminism has also been characterized by a diversity of
views and political positions. The women's movement, for example, has pursued goals that
range from the achievement of female suffrage and an increase in the number of women in
elite positions in public life, to the legalization of abortion and ending of female circumcision.
Feminists have embraced both revolutionary and reformist political strategies, drawing on
established political traditions and values, notably liberalism and socialism, and in the form of
radical feminism, rejected conventional political ideas and concepts. The tendency towards
diversity has further deepened in modern feminist thought. The core themes of feminist
ideology are: redefining `the political', patriarchy, sex and gender and equality and
Redefining `the political'
Public/private divide. Public: government institutions, parties, pressure groups and
public debates. Private: family life, personal relationships and domestic
responsibilities. `Private sphere' is seen as non-political.
Modern feminists, on the other hand, insist politics is an activity that takes place
within all social groups and is not merely confined to the affairs of government.
Kate Millet described politics as `power structured relationships, arrangements
whereby one group of persons is controlled by another'.
Feminists argue sexual divisions of labour that run through society have been thought
of as `natural' rather than `political', which is why it has been preserved.
Public sphere of life (literature, art, politics, work) the preserve of men, women
confined to private existence centred on the family and domestic responsibilities.
If politics takes place only within the public sphere, the role of women and the
question of sexual equality are issues of little/no political importance. Women are
effectively excluded from politics.
Radical feminists: `the personal is the political'. Female oppression operates in all
walks of life and in many respects stems from the family itself. Concerned with `the
politics of everyday life', process of conditioning in the family, the distribution of
domestic responsibilities and the politics of personal and sexual conduct. Transfer
the responsibility of private life to the state e.g. burden of child rearing.
Socialist feminists: View the private sphere as political, linked women's role within
the conventional family to the maintenance of the capitalist system.
Liberal feminists: Object to restrictions on women accessing public sphere, warn
against politicizing private sphere which is a realm of personal choice and freedom.

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Gender, like social class, race or religion, is a politically significant social cleavage.
Radical feminists argue gender is the deepest and most politically important of social
Feminists have therefore advanced a theory of `sexual politics', in much the same
way that socialists have preached the idea of `class politics'.
Feminists use the concept of `patriarchy' to describe the power relationship
between men and women. The phrase literally means `rule by the father'.
`Male supremacy/dominance' describes gender relations in society.…read more

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Patriarchal ideas blur the distinction between sex/gender, and assume all social
distinctions made between men and women are rooted in biology.
Feminists, in contrast, usually deny that there is a logical link between the two, and
emphasize gender differences are socially/politically constructed.
Human nature is thought of to be androgynous. All human beings, regardless of sex,
possess the genetic inheritance of a mother and a father, and therefore embody a
blend of both female and male attributes or traits.…read more

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Feminism is a crosscutting ideology. The rival traditions of feminism have largely emerged
out of established ideologies and theories, most obviously liberalism and socialism, but also
more recently, ideas such as postmodernism and psychoanalysis. Such ideologies and
theories have served as vehicles for advancing the social role of women because they are
generally sympathetic towards equality, whereas hierarchical or elitist ideologies or theories
are more commonly associated with anti-feminism.…read more

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In contrast to their liberal counterparts, socialist feminists have not believed women
simply face political/legal disadvantages that can be remedied by equal rights or
Rather, they argue that the relationship between the sexes is rooted in the social
and economic structure itself, and that nothing short of profound social change,
some would say a social revolution, can offer women genuine emancipation.
The central theme of socialist feminism is that patriarchy can only be understood in
the light of social and economic factors.…read more

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Gender is seen as the most important of all social divisions. Liberal and socialist ideas
had not seen gender as the most fundamental of all social divisions.
Second-wave feminists moved beyond the perspectives of existing political
ideologies, and the feminist movement sought to uncover the influence of patriarchy
not only in public life but also in all aspects of life.
Attention was drawn to the fact that patriarchal values and beliefs pervade the
culture, philosophy, morality and religion of society.…read more

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Since 1970s, increasingly difficult to analyse feminism simply in terms of threefold
division into liberal, socialist and radicalist traditions.
New forms have emerged ­ `third-wave', `new feminism', `post feminism'.
`Third-wave' adopted since 1990s by young generation of feminists for whom
campaigns of 1960s/70s are of limited relevance to their own lives. New issues in
feminist politics have emerged and second-wave feminism brought about political
and social transformations.…read more

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Highlights the capacity of patriarchy to reproduce itself generation after generation,
in part by subordinating women through creating bogus forms of emancipation.…read more


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