Feminism notes



Feminism is defined by two basic beliefs:

  • Women are disadvantaged because of their sex
  • This disadvantage can and should be overthrown


If someone is a feminist, what would they want to see happen?

  • Equality of the sexes/genders
  • End to disadvantage based on sex
  • End of subjugation of women in societies
  • Increase of number of women in the elite positions in public life
  • Promotion of rights relating to women, e.g. Abortion

Feminism has also been characterised by a diversity of views and political positions, leading to there being multiple branches of feminism.

History of feminism


Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women, the first text of modern feminism was published.


The Seneca Falls convention in the USA marked the start of the US women’s rights movement.


In the UK, the House of Commons defeated the first attempt to introduce female suffrage, an amendment to the Second Reform Act, proposed by John Stuart Mill.


In the USA, the National Women’s Suffrage Association was set up and led by Elizabeth Candy Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.


Female suffrage was introduced in New Zealand.


The UK suffrage movement adopted increasingly militant tactics after the formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union, led by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst.


The franchise was extended to women in the UK, but they did not have equal voting rights with men for another decade.


The Nineteenth Amendment of the US constitution granted the vote to American women.


Betty Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique was published.


Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics and Germaine Greer’s The Female ****** were published.


Feminist organisations existed in all western countries and most part of the developing world. Many different strands of feminism began to emerge, e.g. Black feminism and lesbian feminism


Feminist views

Human nature

  • Men and women have a common human nature.
  • Separatist feminists believe men are genetically disposed to domination and cruelty, while women are naturally sympathetic, creative and peaceful.]

The state

  • It is an instrument of male power and serves to exclude or subordinate women.
  • Liberal feminists regard the state as an instrument of reform that is susceptible to electoral and other pressures.


  • It is understood in terms of patriarchy and an artificial division between the public and private spheres of life. Society may therefore be seen as an organised hypocrisy designed to routinise and uphold a system of male power.


  • The economy is geared towards rewarding typically ‘male’ characteristics e.g. Competition, aggression, individualism


  • Freedom should not be dependent on gender, which historically it has been. Laws have often restricted the freedom of women, e.g. Voting, unequal divorce laws.


  • In a patriarchy, men exercise authority over women and attempt to control them. This must be challenged.


  • Feminists see equality as meaning sexual equality, in the sense of equal rights and equal opportunities or equal and social economic power.
  • Some radical feminists have argued that the demand for equality may lead to


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