Feminism

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What is feminism?

  • Gender equality
  • Originated in the 18th & 19th centuries with m/c women seeking the vote
  • Has since diversified
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First Wave Feminism

  • Classical liberals consistently asserted the rights of man 
  • This led to the develpment of 1st wave feminism, with Mary Wollstonecraft, J.S. Mill & Harriet Taylor advocating the reduction of sexual discrimination primarily through equal suffrage
  • Liberal type of feminism
  • Wollstonecraft: women were essentially rational beings & therefore capable of self-determination & deserving of liberty, rights & education

Achievements of first wave liberal feminism

  • Married Women's Property Act 1870, giving married women the right to own property
  • 1928: Women had the vote on equal terms with men
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Second Wave Feminism 1

Liberal Feminism

  • By the 1960s, it was perceived that little had been done to reduce ongoing inequalities between men & women
  • After WW2, liberal feminists such as Betty Frieden (The Feminine Mystique, 1963) sought equal legal & political rights
  • Underpinned by liberal values e.g. individualism & rationalism

Achievements of second wave liberal feminism

  • Abortion Act 1967, Equal Pay Act 1970, Sex Discrimination Act 1976
  • liberalisation of divorce, taxation & property laws
  • State provision of free & legal contraception
  • Women's lifestyles & health improved & the fertility rate declined
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Second Wave Feminism 2

Socialist Feminism

  • Largely based on Marxist theories
  • Close link between capitalism & women's oppression
  • Gender equality wll come with economic revolution
  • The nuclear family is an economic unit, where marriage is a contract between the male breadwinner 7 female housewife of economic maintenance in returen for sexual services
  • Women are a reserve army of cheap labour, socialised to accept low wages & status
  • Domestic work is essential to the conomy, releasing men for paid work & keeping them fit & healthy for work
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Second Wave Feminism 3

  • Patriarchy is the most important power realtionship in the social system - "the personal is the political"
  • Women excluded from work, politics & economics as they are confined to the private sphere by domestic work & childcare
  • Diatinguish between sex & gender
  • Reject the "public-private split" - public man & private woman
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Feminist Concepts

The concept of patriarchy

  • Liberal feminists - legal & political oppression; public sphere
  • Socialist feminists - capitalism = patriarchy
  • Radical feminists - sexual revolution in the public & private spheres

The public-private split

  • Liberal feminists - personal freedom of choice
  • Socialist feminists - patriarchy originates in the public sphere & spreads to the private sphere
  • Radical feminists - patriarchy originates in the private sphere & spreads to the public sphere
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Feminist Concepts

The concept of patriarchy

  • Liberal feminists - legal & political oppression; public sphere
  • Socialist feminists - capitalism = patriarchy
  • Radical feminists - sexual revolution in the public & private spheres

The public-private split

  • Liberal feminists - personal freedom of choice
  • Socialist feminists - patriarchy originates in the public sphere & spreads to the private sphere
  • Radical feminists - patriarchy originates in the private sphere & spreads to the public sphere
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Difference Feminism

  • Do not subscribe to androgyny - argue that men & women are biologically different, making men naturally more competitive & aggressive & women more caring & empathetic
  • Women should not seek full equality with men, but should insead celebrate the distinctive traits of the female sex
  • Some essentialists choose to practice "political lesbianism", implying female superiority
  • Rejected by other strands of feminism as another form of sexism
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Anti-feminism & "post-feminism"

Anti-feminism

  • Traditional conservatives: gender hierarchy is natural, functional, inevitable & desireable
  • Some feminists have rejected androyny & instead celebrate the unique nature of womanhood & the superior roles of motherhood & domesticity

Post-feminism

  • Some argue that feminism has done its job & is now obsolete
  • Victim of its own success
  • Feminism has succeeded to the extent that women now have to search desparately for "trivial definitions of victimhood" e.g. being complimented on appearance / having doors opened for them by men
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