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
1 of 11

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' 
2 of 11

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 
3 of 11

Radical feminists



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) 

4 of 11

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 

5 of 11

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. 
6 of 11

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 

7 of 11

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 
8 of 11

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. 

9 of 11

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 


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

10 of 11

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 

11 of 11


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Sociological theory resources »