A2 Government and Politics - Feminism

Revision summary for EDEXCEL Government and Poltics Feminism

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What are the two basic beliefs of feminism shared




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1. Women are disadvantaged because of their sexual identity - In the nineteenth century if a women was unhappy with her position there was, almost without exception, nothing she could do about it. A women could not obtain a divorce and iff she ran away from an intolerable marriage the police could capture and return her, this was sanctioned by Church, law, custom and history. At its most basic level this was expressed by patriarchy, the idea of otherness, the idea of gender socialisation and equality.

2. This disadvantage can and should be overthrown - Different beliefs in the origin of female oppression and how to overcome it has meant that feminism has become a cross cutting ideology. Andrew Vincent said that 'feminism exists to rectify the systematic injustices that women experience because of their sex'. The womens movement is often descrived as 'womens liveration; and implies that men have somehow kept women in a subservient, even enslaved position.

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Distinguish between 1st Wave, 2nd Wave and 3rd Wav

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1st Wave - The aim was to give women the same legal / political rights, and was most prominent in the US and the UK. It was a campaign of direct action with attacks upon property and public demonstrations. It resulted in the Equal Franchise Bill in 1928.

2nd Wave - The aim of second wave feminism was to address the personal, psychological and sexual aspects of female oppression, and is regarded to have been triggered by the publication of the 'Feminine Mystique' in 1963 by Betty Friedan. It named the problem 'patriarchy'.

3rd Wave - The aim of third wave feminism was to challenge and expand common definitions of gender and sexuality. They argued equality with men had not been achieved and viewed the definition of such concepts as 'gender', 'sexuality' and feminism as part of the problem.

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Provide the definiton of 'sex' and 'gender' + exam

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Sex - The biological differences between men and women. These are of course natural and largely unalterable.

Example - Women give birth and are physically weaker than men.

Gender - Typical male / female roles which are the product of socialisation. Society assigns roles and consciousness to men and women to which they learn from an early age.

Example - Boys are encouraged to play aggressive games while girls are encouraged to play with dolls.

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Provide the traditional definition of 'essentialis


Essentialism : Roles

Criticism : Inevitability?

Thinker: S.D.B

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Traditional view of 'Essentialism': Biology IS destiny! - Traditional society is based on a form of essentialism whereby men and women have their own essential natures which design them different roles. This is regarded as a natural biological fact. Men = hunter gatherer / breadwinner. Woman = Childrearer / homemaker. Commonly made by Conservatives. Men and women fulfil the social roles that nature designed for them.

Feminist criticism: Biology is NOT destiny! - Feminists make a crucial distinction between sex and gender. Gender as opposed to sex differences are not inevitable and vary according to social environment and individual. Patriarchal (male dominated) society is criticised as blurring the distinction between sex and gender assuming all differences between men and women are rooted in biology.

Key thinker: Simone De Beauvoir 'Otherness' - Otherness in general terms refers to the fact that women are considered to be fundamentally different from men, not merely biological sense but in every other sense too and economically, culturally and psychologically in particular. Men can never understand this otherness since it is a product of biological identity. Women, feminists say, have internalised this otherness and have come to accept it.

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Give two other feminists attitudes to sex and gend


Shulasmith Firestone

Kate Millet

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Shulasmith Firestone: Removal of biological role - Just as Marx had predicted that the oppressed class would rise up against its capitalist oppressors, so Firestone assumed that the oppressed sex would rise against its male oppressors. Firestone presumed that the catalyst would be technology and women being able to reproduce without the active involvement of men. Firestone foresaw the emergence of an androgynous society, women would have the choice to form seperate communities.

Kate Millet: Role of socialisation within the family - Millet claimed that the relationship between men and women is a power relationship. It is therefore political in nature, because politics is about power. Men exert power and oppression over women everywhere. This gender socialisation places women in inferior roles, men's psychological control over women means women have accepted inferiority. Millet agrees women must develop their own consciousness and androgynous world.

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Give the attitude of Difference Feminists towards

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Difference feminists: Female essentialism - Difference feminists subscrive to a pro-women position which holds that sex differences do have political and social importance. This is based on the essentialist belief that women and men are fundamentally different at a psycho-biological level, to idealise androgyny is therefore a mistake.

Example: Mary Daley - Mary Daley argues women should align themselves with female nature, arguing there is an intrinsic link between women and nature focussing particularly on the biological connections.

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Explain the Liberal feminist's division between Pr

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Traditionally in Liberal theory there is a division between public and private life. Politics is located in the public arena rather than private life. Public life equates to work, government, pressure groups and political parties. Private life equates to family, personal relationships and domestic.

Key theorist: JS Mill - Traditional Liberal theory as outlined by JS Mill in 'On Liberty' has drawn a distinction between the public and the private sphere.

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Outline the traditional view of Private Man, Publi

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Traditional view of Private Man and Public Woman - Men are traditionally associated with the public sphere whereas women are restricted to the private sphere of housewife and mother, and are in effect excluded from politics. Sexual division of labour has been seen to be more political.

Overall feminist criticisms - Feminists argue that sexual inequality has been preserved precisely because the sexual division of labour has been seen to be natural rather than political. Their solution is to give women the access to the public sphere of politics through legal and political rights (Betty Friedan) and warn not to politicise the private sphere.

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Outline the Liberal and Social view of public/priv


Liberals - Freedom

B.F, leg

Socialist - Patriarchy

M.D.C, domestic

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Liberal Feminist view - Liberal feminists do not want to break down the distinction between public and private realms as they see this as important for maintaining the freedom of the individual. By raising their own consciousness women are able to evade this cultural control or hegemony. Having liberated their consciousness women have been able to demand and achieve equality of opportunity and open up worlds that had previously been closed to them.

Key theorist: Betty Friedan 'The Problem with no name' - referring to the cultural domination of women by men and their difficulty to escape from it. Example: Legilsation such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Equal Pay Act 1970 and Equality Act 2010.

Socialist Feminist view - Socialist feminists hold the most vehement views on liberation. For them women's enslavement is economic. They are used as a cheap source of labour, both within the home and the work force in general. By closing off opportunities to them men have forced women into inferior subservant economic roles. This is in the interests of both capitalism and patriarchy.

Key theorist: Maria Dalla Costa 'The Power of Women and the subversion of the community 1972' - Subordination is part of economic exploitation. Example: Female domestic labour is an important part of capitalist production enabling profit.

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Give the radical feminist view of the conceptual d

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Radical Feminist view: The Personal is the Political - Radical feminists have claimed that the 'personal is the political' in order to reject traditional theories which have kept women isolated in the private sphere away from political action. Many issues which concern women and work like domestic violence havent been tackled by the state as they are regarded as a matter for each individual. Therefore radicals seek to break down this barrier.

Key theorist: Kate Millet 'Sexual Politics' - Women's independence in economic life is viewed with distrust in religion, psychology and advertising. Example: Female oppression is thought to operate in all areas of life originating in the family.

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Define what feminists mean by 'Patriarchy'

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Patriarchy - Narrow definition means 'rule by the father' and in limited sense can refer to merely the dominance of a father within the family over his wife and children. Wider definition: 'Rule by men', a system of discrimination against women by men both within the family and outside. The system relies on a set of interconnected phenomena that depend on each other to maintain male dominance. It was the second wave feminists who came up with the concept.

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Give the Liberal, Socialist and Radical Feminist i


Liberal - unequal opportunities

Socialist - Capitalism

Radical - All pervasive

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Liberal feminist view: A result of unequal opportunities - Liberal feminists interpret patriarchy in terms of its application into politics, employment and the economy. They point to male domination of senior positions in politics, employment professions and business and draw attention to unequal distribution of rights, entitlement and opportunities. Theorist: Betty Friedan - Betty Friedan refers constantly to the cultural domination of women by men and its difficulty to escape.

Socialist Feminist view: Linked to capitalism - Socialist feminists incorporate patriarchy into a theory of dual oppression which operates in tandem with capitalism, gender subordination and class inequality. In general womens feminists see the solution as the overthrow of capitalism and regard patriarchy as created by class oppression. It has been argued capitalism not patriarchy is the issue. Theorist: Maria Dalla Costa: 'The Power of Women and the subversion of the Community 1972' - Subordination is a part of economic exploitation due to capitalism.

Radical Feminist view: All pervasive - Radical feminists view patriarchy as being the core of all social and political relations. It serves as a sexual division of labour and means of organising society founded on biology rather than history economics. They concentrate particularly on sexual and psychological forms of exploitation emphasising the role of the father. Theorist: Kate Millet: 'Sexual Politics 1970' - Patriarchy's chief institution is the family. It is both a mirror of and connection with the larger society, a unit within patriarchal whole.

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Explain Liberal Feminism's: Key Concepts, Origin a

Key Concepts: Ideological

Origin and extent of oppression: Reason

Goals - Equality

Tactics - Reform

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Key Concepts: Ideological basis - Individual as basis for greater equality. All individuals have equal moral worth, entitled to equal treatment etc. Gender identity of secondary importance. Individuals to be judged on rational grounds i.e. talent.

Origin and extent of oppression - Both sexes had an equal capacity for reason therefore women were entitled to the same rights as men. Females were subordinate because of lack of education. A fully educated women with full civil rights and legally independent from her husband would be free.

Goals - Achievement of personhood (legal/political equality) No radical restructuring of society (natural inequality) Eg: Equal pay, outlaw discrimination, positive discrimination, legal right to abortion.

Tactics - Reform not revolution. Leal guarantee for women on maternity leave. Legal right to abortion. Legal protection against violence/****. Liberals have problems with womens issues that arise in societies.

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Give four Liberal Feminist theorists and their wor

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Mary Wollstonecraft - 'Vindication of the Rights of Women' 1972. - Both sexes had an equal capacity for reason therefore women entitled to the same rights as men.

JS Mill / Harriet Taylor - 'On the subjugation of women' 1869. - Society should be organised on the basis of reason.

Betty Friedan - The Feminine Mystique

Naomi Wolfe - 'The Beauty Myth' 1992

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Give Socialist feminism's: Key Concepts, Origin an

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Key Concepts: Philosophical basis of economic class where patriarchy is rooted in the economic structure of society. Orthodox Marxists: Private class discrimination over sex discrimination. Women's discrimination of secondary importance, by-product of capitalism. Modern socialists - 'Dual systems theory'.

Origin and extent of oppression - 1. Based on Orthodox communists belief in economic determinism, a strict interpretation of the pre-dominance of economic factors in Marxist theory. 2. Womens liberation should be seperate to but part of the wider struggle by the working classes. 3. Orthodox communists criticsied women who wished to form seperate organisations.

Goals - 1. Equal Classless society, 2. Achieve womens emancipation through social and economic restructuring. 3. End the use and abuse of cheap women labour. 4. Awaken political consciousness.

Tactics - Radical women focus on womens leadership as decisive to social change and train women to take their place at the forefront of the struggle. Workers liberty demand childcare, welfare state. General struggle against capitalism.

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Give four socialist theorists and their works.

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Friedrich Engels - 'The origin of the family, private property and the state' 1884.

Alexandra Kollontai (first wave) - Only women member of Lenin's central committee.

Sylvia Pankhurst - 1882 - 1960

Sheila Rowbotham - 'Women's liberation and New Politics'. Socialist theory need to consider oppression culturally.

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Outline Kate Millet's: Key Concepts, Origin, Goals

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Key Concepts - Sexual oppression is the most fundamental feature of society, gender is the social cleavage and the most politically significant, more important  than social class. Patriarchy is all pervasive, systematic, institutionalised process of gender oppression in public and private.

Origin and extent of oppression - Millett agreed with Betty Friedan that the roots of patriarchy lie in the traditional structure of the family. But went further in her analysis and argued that patriarchy had invaded the whole of human culture and society, existing in politics, business and media.

Goals - Millet's objective was too create an androgynous society in which there would be no significant gender differences between men and women. Male / female relations could resume on basis of true equality.

Tactics - Women form their own consciousness which should be completely seperate from men. Must have no relations with men and must form own communities like anarchist communes of 1960's and 1970's.

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Outline Shulasmith Firestones: Key Concepts, Origi

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Key Concepts - Based on an androgynous view of human nature, there is no connection between biological differences and gender. Its therefore nature of our society which causes patriarchy.

Origin and extent of oppression - Firestone saw the alienation of women as solely the result of sexual oppression. The oppression of women by men emanated from biological differences and the assumption that male sexual characteristics were superior.

Goals - Following her quasi-Marxist analysis foresaw emergence of a sexless society where no individual could suffer inferiority on grounds of biology.

Tactics - The oppressed sex would rise up, the catalyst would be technology when women could reproduce without men.

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Outline Mary Daleys: Key Concepts, Origins, Goals

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Key Concepts - An intrinsic link between women and nature (focussing on biological connections surrounding childbreaing) and women would liberate themselves from patriarchal culture if aligned with nature. To many eco-feminists the problems surrounding ecological destruction and climate change are traced to deficiencies of men.

Origin - Seperatist feminists do not support conventional relationships with men as sexual differences between men and women are viewed as irresolvable. Men cannot make positive contributions to feminism and all men replicate the dynamics of patriarchy.

Goals - 1. Every culture must begin to affirm the female future. 2. Species responsibility must be returned to women in every culture. 3. The percentage of men must be reduced and maintained at 10% of the human race.

Tactics - If women and humanity are to avoid an impending ecological crisis patriarchy should be overthrown and a female run society controlled. In future pro-creation occurs through parthenogenesis.

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Give two reasons why it is not compatible to have




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Organic / Biological critique - The organic society argues that every established feature serves a fundamental function in society, then it follows that sexual divisions of labour and social roles are destiny. Women by means of their emotional and psychological features, as well as their physical natures are fitted for the role of mother and homemaker. This attack derives from the core Conservative concept of the organic society.

Traditionalist critique - Another Conservative argument against feminism is based on the central position Conservatives give tradition. This is the view that the traditional patriarchal family has been vindicated by history - it has stood the test of time. This argument takes on a universalist aura as its proponents often go on to argue that the patriarchal family has existed over long periods of time and in a wide range of societies. The family is the natural unity of society and womens role within it is so fundamental to its survival that any attempt to alter the structure must produce extreme negative results that will destabilise society as a whole.

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Give one further example of why Conservatism is in


So Co


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Social cohesion critique - An associated criticism is linked to the Conservative emphasis on social stability and cohesion (private women as source of nurturing and stability within the family). Attempts to move women away from this model will, in general be socially dysfunctional, provoking an increased incidence of family breakdown. Children will be ineffectively parented and socialised, which will in turn lead to increased levels of anti-social behaviour. These argments lead to opposition to government policies aimed at increasing womens participation in work. Instead many Conservatives say that more support should be given to married couples through the tax system and mothers encouraged to remain at home with the children.

Example: US Neo Conservatives - The New Right tried to re-assert pro-family patriarchal values and ideas through their neo-Conservative social policies, as they seem to be natural and are viewed as a guarantee of social order and stability. For example the rise in crime and vandalism among young people were blamed upon working mothers, symbolised by Pat Robertson who spoke for the 'moral majority'.

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Give one area that Conservatism is compatible with





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Third Wave Liberal Feminism Agenda - Some forms of modern Conservatism subscrive to what is recognisably a third wave of liberal feminist agenda. For them it is certainly reasonable for a Conservative to believe that society can embrace female equality and the reduction of gender differences without risking social disorder. On the Conservative Party website George Osborne writes 'we will not impose choices on them'.

A feminist backlash - Feminists have consequently argued that Conservative values are not based on respecting a womens right to choose their lifestyle, but ultimately on male patriarchal authority.

Example: Modern UK Conservative Party - Conservatives attempt to deal with feminist arguments about the oppression of women by employing the 'different but equal response'; that fixed roles should not imply any notions of superiority or inferiority. This position conceeds that equal respect is not always given to women, Conservatives criticise abusive and patronising language directed at women. On the Conservative party website Osborne advocated 'free choice'.

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Give two radical feminist criticisms of Liberal In

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Plays down extent of oppression - Radical feminists have claimed that 'the personal is the political' in order to reject traditional theories which have kept women isolated in the private sphere away from political action. The traditional division of labour has been strongly criticised by feminists like Elstain who claimed that there was a traditional distinction between public man and private woman. This distinction meant that the majority of women were kept within the private sphere in the domestic role of a housewife and mother whilst men had the role of breadwinner. Radical feminists have claimed that the liberal distinction has served the purpose of maintaining patriarchy. Also many issues which concern women like domestic violence havent been tackled by the state because they've been regarded as a matter for the individual.             

Makes collective action hard - They are critical of Liberal feminist groups like the National Organisation for women whom they viewed as advancing womens liberation only as a type of institutional reform whilst ignoring the interpersonal power of men over women. Radicals such as the Redstockings identify male supremacy as the oldest, most basic form of discrimination with all other forms of exploitation and oppression extensions of male supremacy. They argue that to develop female class consciousness the sexist foundations of all our institutiions eed to be publicly exposed, this is the only programme based on the realities of life.                                                                                                       

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Give three more Radical Feminist criticisms of Lib

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Male Bias - Radical feminists have insisted that society should be understood as patriarchal which for them as opposed to Liberals and socialists, refers to a systematic, institutionalised all pervasive provess of gender oppression which exists in all aspects of life both public and private. This links to the key radical feminist slogan: 'the personal is the political'. Due to patriarchy all relations between men and women are viewed as inevitably oppressive. Millet agreed with Betty Friedan that the roots of patriarchy lie in the traditional structure of the family. This has led to a growth in 'difference feminists' who dont aim for equality with men but seek difference.

Middle Class, White, Western Bias - The main critics of feminism are Conservatives who have a fixed view of human nature implying that biological circumstances of women are natural, they are also rooted in the past through their belief in tradition and argue that a loss of this would damage social cohesion.

It hasn't worked - All radical feminists believe that the solution to the problem of women in scoiety cannot be achieved by mere reform but must involve a revolutionary transofrmation of the structure of society in which the patriarchal structures are overthrown and replaced. This will be achieved through gaining sisterhood and raising consciousness.

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Give two radical feminist criticisms of socialist

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Limited: Patriarchy cannot be limited to economic sphere - Radical feminists sharply criticise the socialist feminist belief that women's oppression is economically based instead pointing to the wider social prejudice which lays at the foundation of womens equality. Radical feminists sought social revolution through the liberation from patriarchy, which is seen as a reflection of the basic fact that personal relations between men and women reflect exploitation and subserviance.

Example: Like Liberals they believe that Patriarchy does not recognise the boundary between public and private spheres, illustrated by Greer in 'The Whole Woman' who argues that liberation does not come about through 'assimilation rather through self definition and determination'.

Socialist groups and countries have been patriarchal - Socialist feminists adaptation of Marxist theory in their attempt to understand the subjugation of women instead of the acceptance that gender differences are at the heart of oppression is seen as naive. Seperatist feminists would instead argue for an androgynous society in which there would be no significant differences between men and women, whilst raising female consciousness.

Example: This was sharply supported by Kate Millet in the 1930's: she said that in place of family seperate communities should be set up in whcih female consciousness should be raised. British Feminist Julie Mitchells sought to link psychology to women's inferior status.

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really good and useful!  but you cant see the titles; you can sometimes make out what its trying to say and others you cant. other than that brill!



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