Feminism (theory and methods)

What is feminism?

  • Feminists is a movement that argues; women suffer injustices in society because of their gender 
  • Feminists believe that most socities are based on patriarchy and male domination 
  • the first wave of feminism appeared in the 19th century with the suffragets
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Liberal feminists

  • Liberal feminists believe; that women can achieve equality through laws and policies against discrimination in areas such as employment and education 
  • Liberal feminists see sex differences as; biologically fixed 
  • they see gender as; socially constructed 
  • they promote appropriate role models in education - female teachers in traditional male subjects eg. science. 
  • in the family; they support the emergence of the 'new man' which is when the man takes an active role in the housework and childcare and is in touch with his 'feminine side' 
  • They can be seen as a critique of the functionalist view, despite being the closest feminist perspective to a concencus theory. 
  • they challenge the functionalist view of; 'the instrumental role' and 'expressive role' 
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evaluation of liberal feminists

Evaluation of liberal feminists 

  • their optimistic view is often criticised 
  • Marxist and radical feminists; liberal feminists fail to recgonise the underlying causes of female exploitation; policy changes aren't enough to bring about equality 
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Radical feminists

THE KEY CONCEPT IS PATRIARCHY 

RADICAL FEMINISTS ARGUE ; 

1. Patriarchy is universal; Firestone (1974); the origins of patriarchy lie in women's capacity to bear children 

2. Men are womens main enemy 

3. All men oppress women; (unpaid domestic labour and sexual services) 

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More on radical feminism

  • Radical feminists see all relationships as political ; when one induvidual decides to dominate another 
  • therefore relationships between the sexes are political because men dominate women 
  • men often do this through sexual or physical violence 
  • men benefit from family life more than women do. Men do very little housework compared to women. 
  • they see marriage as; a prison for women. Men may use violence against women if they don't get their own way 
  • Women and religion; some religions exclude women from places of worship and see women as 'unclean' for reasons such as childbirth. 

Strategies for equality 

1. Seperatism; living apart from men and creating a new culture of female independance 

2 Consciousness raising; bringing women together to share experiences 

3. Political lesbianism; heterosexual relationships involve 'sleeping with the enemy' lesbianism is the only non- opressive form of sexuality 

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Evaluation of Radical feminism

  • the idea of 'separatism ' has been criticised for being vauge and unachievable 
  • Liberal feminists argue that partriarchy is in decline; reforms and changing attitudes has meant equal oppurtunities for women. Gender equality is becoming a reality. 
  • Radical feminism; ignores women's violence against men and violence within lesbian relationships 
  • Marxists; class is the primary form of inequality not patriarchy. 
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Marxist feminists

  • Marxist feminists see womens subordination rooted in; capitalism. Men may benefit from womens subordination, but the main beneficiary is capitalism

Women serve capitalism in the following ways;

  • Women look after the men who work for the bosses; they satisfy their physical, emotional and sexual needs 

     when men have had a bad day, they take out all their anger on their wives and children

  •  Women give birth to the next generation of workers 
  • Women are used in the labour market as 'the reserve army of labour'

Barret; alongside overthrowining capitalism, we must ovethrow stereotypes 

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Evaluation of Marxist feminism

  • Marxist feminism fails to explain opression of women in non-capitalist socities 
  • 'Sex blind'; Marxist feminism is also accused of being 'sex blind'- fails to explain why its women and not men who perform these roles for capitalism 
  • it also fails to explain why all men and not just capitalism opress women 
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Difference feminism and poststructuralism

  • Different groups; difference feminists argue that different groups of women have different experiences.
  • other strands of feminism just assume that all women share the same experiences of opression 
  • Middle class women, working class women, white and black women, lesbian and hetrosexual women all have different experiences of patriarchy eg. homophobia, racism. 

Difference feminism argues that feminism has claimed a false 'universitality' 

in reality, it was only about the experiences of of white, western, hetrosexual middle class women 

for example, black feminists view the family as a positive thing for black women, it is a resistance to racism. 

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Postuctural feminism

  • There is not a fixed entity called 'womanhood' that is the same everywhere. 
  • Poststructuralism allows feminists to 'de-construct' things to see how they bring about inequality 
  • for example , discouses of medicine art and religion 

Evaluation 

Walby argues that there are many similarities between women eg. women face a greater risk of having low pay and being attacked sexually 

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Feminist methodology

  • Feminists claim that; research in sociology is sexist 
  • Eichler (1988); areas of sexism that run through the research process 

- Androcentricity: viewing the world from a traditional male perspective. 

- Overgeneralisation: many studies only deal with men but present their finding as if they both apply to men and women 

A number of feminists have argued that the only way to understand something is to experience it 

Therefore, it is essentail for women to capture the experiences of womenn 

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