Feminism has had different kinds since its beginning in the 1960s. So, to understand the different kinds of Feminism let’s analyze Gender Reforms feminism first.
Gender Reform Feminisms
The feminisms of the 1960s and 1970s were the beginning of the second wave of feminism.
They are liberal feminism, Marxist and socialist feminism, and development feminism. Their roots were, respectively, 18th and 19th-century liberal political philosophy that developed the idea of Individual rights,
Marx’s 19th-century critique of capitalism and his concept of class consciousness, and 20th-century anti-colonial politics and ideas of national development. Gender reform feminisms put women into these perspectives.
Now let’s discuss these kinds of Feminism in detail here.
Theoretically, liberal feminism claims that gender differences are not based on biology, and therefore that women and men are not all that different their common humanity supersedes their procreative differentiation. If women and men are not different, then they should not be treated differently under the law.
Women should have the same rights as men and the same educational and work opportunities. The goal of liberal feminism in the United States was embodied in the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was never ratified. Politically, liberal feminists formed somewhat bureaucratic organizations, which invited men members.
Their activist focus has been concerned with visible sources of gender discrimination, such as gendered job markets and inequitable wage scales, and with getting women into positions of authority in the professions, government, and cultural institutions.
Liberal feminist politics took important weapons of the civil rights movement antidiscrimination legislation and affirmative action and used them to fight gender inequality, especially in the job market.
Affirmative action calls for aggressively seeking out qualified people to redress the gender and ethnic imbalance in workplaces. That means encouraging men to train for such jobs as nursing, teaching, and secretary, and women for fields like engineering, construction, and police work.
With a diverse pool of qualified applicants, employers can be legally mandated to hire enough different workers to achieve a reasonable balance in their workforce and pay them the same, and also give them an equal chance to advance in their careers.
The main contribution of liberal feminism is showing how much modern society discriminates against women. In the United States, it was successful in breaking down many barriers to women’s entry into formerly male-dominated jobs and professions helping to equalize wage scales and getting an abortion and other reproductive rights legalized.
But liberal feminism could not overcome the prevailing belief that women and men are intrinsically different. It was somewhat more successful in proving that even if women are different from men, they are not inferior.
The areas of emphasis of liberal feminism can be summarized as under.
- The lens of gender and gender equality
- Emphasis on the traditional understanding of human nature and personhood: rationality. Individual autonomy, self-fulfillment.
- Sex and gender neutral; all human beings possess a common nature.
- A just society is a society that allows individuals to exercise their freedom and fulfill themselves.
- Emphasis on equality of opportunity: all persons deserve an equal chance to develop their rational and moral capacities so that they can achieve personhood.
- Because society has the false belief that women are by nature less intellectually and physically capable than men it excludes women from many opportunities and the true potential of women goes unfulfilled.
- Liberal feminists argue that women share the same rational human nature men do and so should be given the same educational opportunities and civil rights as men are given.
- The goal of women’s liberation is freeing women from oppressive gender roles: sexual and gender equality.
- Liberal feminism led to advances in the economic sphere, inequality of opportunity, and in civil rights.
The main problem of liberal feminism is its tendency to accept male values as universal values All women should want to become like men, to aspire to masculine values. Liberal feminism often did not include an analysis of class or sexuality.
Marxist and Socialist Feminisms
Marx’s analysis of the social structure of capitalism was supposed to apply to people of any social characteristics. If you owned the means of production, you were a member of the capitalist class; if you sold your labor for a wage, you were a member of the proletariat.
That would be true of women as well, except that until the end of the 19th century, married women in capitalist countries were not allowed to own property in their name; their profits from any businesses they ran and their wages belonged to their husbands. Although Marx recognized that workers and capitalists had wives who worked in the home and took care of the children, he had no place for housewives in his analysis of capitalism.
It was Marxist feminism that put housewives into the structure of capitalism. Housewives are vital to capitalism, indeed to any industrial economy, because their unpaid work in the home maintains bosses and workers and reproduces the next generation of bosses and workers (and their future wives).
Furthermore, if a bourgeois husband falls on hard times, his wife can do genteel work in the home, such as dressmaking, to earn extra money, or take a temporary or part-time job, usually white-collar. And when a worker’s wages fall below the level needed to feed his family, as it often does, his wife can go out to work for wages in factories or shops or other people’s homes, or turn the home into a small factory and put everyone, sometimes including the children, to work. The housewife’s labor, paid and unpaid, is for her family.
Marxist and socialist feminists severely criticize the family as a source of women’s oppression and exploitation. If a woman works for her family in the home, she has to be supported, and so she is economically dependent on the “man of the house,” like her children. If she works outside the home, she is still expected to fulfill her domestic duties, and so she ends up working twice as hard as a man, and usually for a lot less pay.
In examining the reasons why women and men workers’ salaries are so discrepant, proponents of comparable worth found that wage scales are not set by the market for labor, by what a worker is worth to an employer, or by the worker’s education or other credentials. Salaries are set by conventional “worth,” which is rooted in gender and ethnicity and other forms of discrimination.
Comparable worth programs compare jobs in traditional women’s occupations, such as secretary, with traditional men’s jobs, such as automobile mechanic. They give point values for qualifications needed, skills used, the extent of responsibility and authority over other workers, and dangerousness.
Salaries are then equalized for jobs with a similar number of points (which represent the “worth” of the job). Although comparable worth programs do not do away with gendered job segregation, feminist proponents argue that raising the salaries of women doing traditional women’s jobs could give the majority of women economic resources that would make them less dependent on marriage or state benefits as a means of survival.
The salient features of Marxist and Socialist feminisms are as under:
Features of Marxist Feminism
- The lens of class.
- Influence: the philosophies of Marx and Engles.
- Key concepts: class, wealth, capitalism.
- Explanation: women’s oppression originated with the introduction of private property. Capitalism is the cause of women’s oppression.
- Prescription: The capitalist system must be replaced by a socialist system in which the means of production belong to one and all.
- Rejection of the abstract individualism of liberal feminism.
- Emphasis on our social nature, as it is our social existence (class, the kind of work we do) that determines our consciousness.
- A woman’s conception of herself is a product of her social existence which is largely defined by the kind of work she does-relegated largely to domestic work in the private sphere and the reproduction of the species.
- With its emphasis on economic factors, Marxist Feminists see women as a distinct economic class, rather than as individuals, analyzing the connections between women’s work status and their self-image.
- Capitalism perpetuates the subordination of women by enforcing their economic dependence on men.
- Impact on the comparable worth debate, wages for housework, women’s double-day.
- The weaknesses of Marxist Feminism include its obscuring differences between distinct economic classes of men and women and its failure to make room for issues unrelated to the nature and function of work.
Features Socialist Feminism
- Influence: Marxism, psychoanalysis, radical feminism
- Key concepts: unity and integration of capitalist system and patriarchy
- Explanation: women’s oppression is complexly determined by a variety of forces, including economic, social, and psychological.
- Socialist feminism attempts to synthesize the best insights of Marxist and Radical feminism. Capitalism, male dominance, racism, and imperialism are intertwined and inseparable.
- Socialist feminism remains more historical than biological and more specific than universal: recognizes all the important differences among human beings-class, including sex, but also age, race, ethnicity, nationality, and sexual orientation.
- Women, like all human beings, are constituted essentially by the social relations they inhabit. A woman’s life experience is shaped by all these various dimensions.
- Refuses to reduce oppression to one single type or cause.
Addressing the economic exploitation of women in post-colonial countries on the way to industrialization, development feminism has done extensive gender analyses of the global economy.
Women workers in developing countries in Central and Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa are paid less than men workers, whether they work in factories or do piece work at home.
To survive in rural communities, women grow food, keep houses, and earn money any way they can to supplement what their migrating husbands send them.
The gendered division of labor in developing countries is the outcome of a long history of colonialism. Under colonialism, women’s traditional contributions to food production were undermined in favor of exportable crops, such as coffee, and the extraction of raw materials, such as minerals.
Men workers were favored in this work, but they were paid barely enough for their subsistence. Women family members had to provide food for themselves and their children, but with good land confiscated for plantations, they also lived at a bare survival level.
Development feminism made an important theoretical contribution in equating women’s status with control of economic resources.
In some societies, women control significant economic resources and so have a high status. In contrast, in societies with patriarchal family structures where anything women produce, including children, belongs to the husband, women and girls have a low value.
Development feminism’s theory is that in any society, if the food women produce is the main way the group is fed, and women also control the distribution of any surplus they produce, women have power and prestige. If men provide most of the food and distribute the surplus, women’s status is low. Whether women or men produce most of the food depends on the kind of technology used.
Thus, the mode of production and the kinship rules that control the distribution of any surplus are significant determinants of the relative status of women and men in any society.
In addition to gendered economic analyses; development feminism addresses the political issue of women’s rights versus national and cultural traditions. At the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women Forum held in Beijing in 1995, the popular slogan was “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.”
The Platform for Action document that came out of the UN Conference condemned particular cultural practices that are oppressive to women- infanticide, dowry, child marriage, and female genital mutilation. The 187 governments that signed onto the Platform agreed to abolish these practices.
However, since they are integral parts of cultural and tribal traditions, giving them up could be seen as kowtowing Western ideas. The development feminist perspective, so critical of colonialism and yet so supportive of women’s rights, has found this issue difficult to resolve.
Indigenous women’s solution to this dilemma is community organizing around their productive and reproductive roles as mothers- so that what benefits them economically and physically is in the service of their families, not themselves alone.
However, this same community organizing and family service can support the continuance of cultural practices like female genital mutilation. which Western development feminists want to see eradicated.
The decision to not interfere with traditional and cultural practices that are physically harmful to girls, and at the same time work for their education and better health care, is a particularly problematic dilemma for the development of feminism.
The development of feminism can be broken into the following characteristics:
- Emphasis on universal human rights
- Pressure for the education of girls, Maternity, and child health care.
- Economic resources for women who contribute heavily to the support of their families.
- Marital rights and sexual autonomy,
- Confronts traditional cultural values and practices that give men power over their daughters and wives.
Gender Resistant Feminisms
As gender reform feminisms made inroads into the public consciousness in the 1970s and women entered formerly all-men workplaces and schools, they became more and more aware of constant and everyday put-downs from bosses and colleagues at work, professors and students in the classroom, fellow organizers in political movements, and worst of all, from boyfriends and husbands at home.
These “micro-inequities” of everyday life – being ignored and interrupted, not getting credit for competence or good performance, and being passed over for jobs that involve taking charge to crystallize into a pattern that insidiously wears women down.
The younger women working in the civil rights, anti-Vietnam War, and student movements in the United States in the late 1960s had even earlier realized that they were nothing more than handmaidens, bed partners, and coffee-makers to their male co-workers.
Out of this awareness that sisters had no place in any brotherhood came the gender-resistant feminisms of the 1970s. They are radical feminism, lesbian feminism, psychoanalytical feminism, and standpoint feminism.
Radical feminism is the breeding ground for many of the ideas arising from feminism. Radical feminism was the cutting edge of feminist theory from approximately 1967-1975. It is no longer as universally accepted as it was then, and no longer serves to solely define the term, “feminism.”
This group views the oppression of women as the most fundamental form of oppression, one that cuts across boundaries of race, culture, and economic class. This is a movement intent on social change, a change of rather revolutionary proportions.
Radical feminism questions why women must adopt certain roles based on their biology, just as it questions why men adopt certain other roles based on gender. Radical feminism attempts to draw lines between biologically-determined behavior and culturally-determined behavior to free both men and women as much as possible from their previous narrow gender roles.
Radical feminism had its start in small, leaderless, women-only consciousness-raising groups, where the topics of intense discussion came out of women’s daily lives housework, serving men’s emotional and sexual needs, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.
From these discussions came a theory of gender inequality that went beyond discrimination, to oppression, and a gender politics of resistance to the dominant gender order.
Radical feminism’s theoretical watchword is patriarchy, or men’s pervasive oppression and exploitation of women, which can be found wherever women and men are in contact with each other. in private as well as in public. Radical feminism argues that patriarchy is very hard to eradicate because its root- the belief that women are different and inferior – is deeply embedded in most men’s consciousness.
Radical feminism turns male-dominated culture on its head. It takes all the characteristics that are valued in male-dominated societies objectivity, distance, control, coolness, aggressiveness, and competitiveness-and blames them for wars, poverty, rape, battering, child abuse, and incest. It praises what women do feed and nurture, cooperate and reciprocate, and attend to bodies, minds, and psyches.
The important values, radical feminism argues, are intimacy, persuasion, warmth, caring, and sharing the characteristics that women develop in their hands-on, everyday experiences with their own and their children’s bodies and with the work of daily living Men could develop these characteristics, too, if they “mothered,” but since few do, they are much more prevalent in women.
Radical feminism claims that most men have the potential to use physical violence against women, including rape and murder. The threat of violence and rape, radical feminism theorizes, is the way patriarchy controls all women.
Radical feminism’s political battlefield has been the protection of rape victims and battered women and the condemnation of pornography, prostitution, sexual harassment, and sexual coercion.
Since all men derive power from their dominant social status, any sexual relationship between women and men is intrinsically unequal.
The concentration on universal gender oppression has led to accusations that radical feminism neglects ethnic and social class differences among men and women and that it downplays other sources of oppression. By pitting women against men, radical feminism alienates women of color and working-class women, who feel torn between their feminist and their ethnic and class loyalties.
The main points of radical feminism can be derived as under:
- The lens of sex/gender and sexuality.
- Influence: to some extent the black power movement, and other social and progressive movements of the 1960s.
- Key concepts: biology, sex/gender system, patriarchy, power, dominance, hierarchy.
- Explanation: women’s biology is closely related to their oppression, as well as all the manifestations of sexual violence.
- Prescription: generally revolves around their conception of female biology, perhaps androgyny (radical-liberation feminists), separatism (radical-lesbian feminists), and recovery of an authentic female nature.
- Main insight: distinctions of gender, based on sex, structure virtually every aspect of our lives and are so all-pervasive that ordinarily, they go unrecognized.
- Gender is the unquestioned framework in terms of which we perceive and interpret the world. Radical feminists appeal to women not as an economic class but as a class defined by the sex/gender system.
- Sexuality is the root cause of oppression-women are oppressed because they are women. Radical feminists, through their analysis of the gender system, first disclosed the elaborate system of male domination known as patriarchy.
- Radical feminists focus on the subordination of women as their primary concern-revealing how male power is exercised and reinforced through such practices as sexual harassment, rape, pornography, and prostitution, as well as childbearing, housework, love, and marriage. Radical feminists made strides in the battle against violence against women.
- In response to the almost total domination of women by men, radical feminists have tried to celebrate womanhood in contrast to the devaluation of women that pervades the larger society, focusing on the creative power inherent in women’s biology.
- Biology gives rise to those psychological characteristics linked with women: nurturance, warmth, emotional expressiveness, endurance, and practical common sense.
- A possible problem: in celebrating womanhood are they celebrating what has already been defined as feminine by the patriarchy? Some radical feminist theory was also biological determinist and obscured differences among women.
Another important gender-resistant feminism of the 1970s and 1980s came out of feminist re-readings of Freud and the French feminist engagement with Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault.
Freud’s theory of personality development centers on the Oedipus complex – the detachment from the mother. Psychoanalytic feminism claims that the source of men’s domination of women is men’s unconscious two-sided need for women’s emotionality and rejection of them as potential castrators.
Women submit to men because of their unconscious desires for emotional connectedness. These gendered personalities are the outcome of the Oedipus complex – the separation from the mother.
Because women are the primary parents, infants bond with them. Boys, however, have to separate from their mothers and identify with their fathers to establish their masculinity.
They develop strong ego boundaries and a capacity for independent action, objectivity, and rational thinking so valued in Western culture. Women are a threat to their independence and masculine sexuality.
Girls continue to identify with their mothers, and so they grow up with fluid ego boundaries that make them sensitive, empathic, and emotional.
It is these qualities that make them potentially good mothers and keep them open to men’s emotional needs. But because the men in their lives have developed personalities that make them emotionally guarded, women want to have children to bond with.
Thus, the psychological gendering of children is continually reproduced. To develop nurturing capabilities in men, and to break the cycle of the reproduction of gendered personality structures, psychoanalytic feminisms recommend shared parenting-after men are taught how to parent.
French psychoanalytic feminism focuses on the ways that cultural productions (novels, drama, art, opera, music, movies) reflect and represent the masculine unconscious, especially fear of castration. In French feminist psychoanalytic theory, patriarchal culture is the sublimation of men’s suppressed infantile desire for the mother and fear of the loss of the phallus, the symbol of masculine difference.
Since women don’t have a phallus to lose and are not different from their mothers, they can’t participate in the creation of the culture. Women’s wish for a phallus and repressed sexual desire for their fathers is sublimated into wanting to give birth to a son; men’s repressed sexual desire for their mother and fear of the father’s castration is sublimated into cultural creations.
What women represent in phallic culture is the sexual desire and emotionality men must repress to become like their father’s men who are controlled and controlling. No matter what role women play in cultural productions, the male gaze sees them as desired or despised sexualized objects.
Phallic cultural productions, according to psychoanalytic feminism, are full of aggression, competition, and domination, with an underlying misogynist subtext of fear of castration becoming women. To resist and counter woman-centeredness.
French feminism called for women to write from their biographical experiences and their bodies- about menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and sexuality.
That way, women can resist their suppression by the dominant phallic culture. However, urging women to produce woman-centered art and literature locks them into a categorically female sensibility and emphasizes their difference from men and the dominant culture even more.
Women’s emotional and erotic power is unleashed and made visible in women’s cultural productions, but they are separated from men’s culture, which is still dominant.
- The crux of Psychoanalytic theory goes as under:
- The lens of the psyche
- Influence: Freud, the psychoanalytic movement, including object relations theory
- Key concepts: sexuality, the Oedipus complex, id, ego, superego
- Explanation: women’s oppression is tied to how she resolves the Oedipus complex
- Prescription: altering parenting habits, re-conceptualizing the oedipal stage; women must gain insight into how their psychic lives-especially their sexual lives-were structured while they were still infants.
- Weaknesses: is female sexuality parasitic upon male sexuality? How does psychoanalysis deal with issues of race and class?
Radical, lesbian, and psychoanalytic feminist theories of women’s oppression converge in standpoint feminism, which turns from resistance to confrontation with the dominant sources of knowledge and values. The main idea among all the gender-resistant feminisms is that women’s and women’s perspectives should be central to knowledge, culture, and politics, not invisible or marginal.
Whoever sets the agendas for scientific research, whoever shapes the content of education, and whoever chooses the symbols that permeate cultural productions has hegemonic power. Hegemony is the ideology that legitimates a society’s unquestioned assumptions. In Western society, the justifications for many of our ideas about women and men come from science. We believe in scientific “facts” and rarely question their objectivity.
Standpoint feminism is a critique of mainstream science and social science, a methodology for feminist research, and an analysis of the power that lies in producing knowledge. Simply put, standpoint feminism says that women’s “voices” are different from men’s, and they must be heard if women are to challenge hegemonic values.
The impact of the everyday world in its experiential reality and the structures that limit, shape, organize, and penetrate it are different for people in different social locations but especially for women and men because Western society is so gender-divided.
Men do not recognize that the knowledge they produce and the concepts they use come out of their own experiences. Rather, they claim that their scientific work is universal, general, neutral, and objective. But women know that it is partial, particular, masculine, and subjective because they see the world from a different angle, and they have been excluded from much of science.
The grounding for standpoint theory comes from Marxist and socialist feminist theory, which applies Marx’s concept of class consciousness to women, and psychoanalytic feminist theory, which describes the gendering of the unconscious. Standpoint feminism argues that as physical and social reproducers of children- out of bodies, emotions, thought, and sheer physical labor – women are grounded in material reality in ways that men aren’t.
Women are responsible for most of the everyday work, even if they are highly educated, while highly educated men concentrate on the abstract and the intellectual. Because they are closely connected to their bodies and their emotions, women’s unconscious as well as a conscious view of the world is unitary and concrete.
If women produced knowledge, it would be much more in touch with the everyday, material world, and with the connectedness among people.
Gender Revolution Feminisms
The 1980s and 1990s have seen the emergence of feminist theories that attack the dominant social order by questioning the clearness of the categories that comprise its hierarchies.
These feminisms deconstruct the interlocking structures of power and privilege that make one group of men dominant, and range everyone else in a complex ladder of increasing disadvantage.
They also analyze how cultural productions, especially in the mass media, justify and normalize inequality and subordinating practices. These feminisms thus have the revolutionary potential of destabilizing the structure and values of the dominant social order.
They are multi-ethnic feminism, men’s feminism, social construction feminism, post-modern feminism, and queer theory.
Men’s feminism is a burgeoning field of study that applies feminist theories to the study of men and masculinity. Men’s feminism took on the task called for by feminists studying women in relationship to men – to treat men as well as women as a gender and to scrutinize masculinity as carefully as femininity.
A prime goal has been to develop a theory, not of masculinity, but of masculinities, because of the diversity among men. There are no universal masculine characteristics that are the same in every society. Nor, for that matter, in any one society, or in any one organizational setting, as earlier studies of working-class men and racial stratification made very clear.
The main theory developed in men’s feminism, which has been used to dissect the differences between and within groups of middle-class and working-class men of different ethnic groups and sexual orientations, is a concept of hegemonic masculinity. Hegemonic or dominant men are those who are economically successful, ethnically superior, and visibly heterosexual.
Yet the characteristics of masculinity, hegemonic or otherwise, are not the source of men’s gender status. Genders – men’s and women’s – are relational and embedded in the structure of the social order. The object of analysis is thus not masculinity or femininity but their oppositional relationship. Neither men nor women can be studied separately: the whole question of gender inequality involves a relationship of haves and have-nots, of dominance and subordination, of advantage and disadvantage.
Men’s feminism argues that gender inequality includes men’s denigration of other men as well as their exploitation of women. Low-level men workers around the world are oppressed by the inequalities of the global economy, and young working-class urban men’s impoverished environment and “last for risk have made them an endangered species.
Men’s feminism blames sports, the military, fraternities, and other areas of male bonding for encouraging physical and sexual violence and misogyny. It deplores the pressure on men to identify with but not be emotionally close to their fathers and to be “cool” and unfeeling towards the women in their lives and distant from their own children.
But many men feminists have been critical of the men’s movements that foster a search for the primitive or “wild man” and of religiously oriented men’s organizations that link responsibility to a family with patriarchal concepts of manhood. They argue that these movements seek to change individual attitudes and do not address the structural conditions of gender inequality or power differences among men.
The sources of gender inequality that men’s feminism concentrates on are embedded in the stratification systems of Western societies as well as in the homophobia of heterosexual men, who construct their masculinity as clearly opposed to that of homosexual men.
Thus, it is necessary for prominent men of all ethnic groups in politics, sports, and the mass media to appear heterosexual.
Gender inequality is also embedded in men’s jockeying for the leading positions in whatever arena they find themselves, in and excluding women as much as possible from the competition.
It is not an accident that so much of the language of the competition is the language of sports because organized sports are not only an immediate site of masculinity displays but also a source for vicarious competitiveness and for the creation of symbolic icons of masculine strength and beauty. Unfortunately, these are also icons of physical and sexual violence.
Men’s feminism provides a needed corrective in bringing men into gender research as a specific subject of study, but it does not offer new theoretical perspectives. Rather, men’s feminism is an amalgam of social construction, multi-ethnic, psychoanalytic, and development feminism and gay studies. It is likely that men’s feminism will eventually be absorbed into more general feminist perspectives.
Social Construction Feminism
While multi-ethnic feminism focuses on the effects of location in a system of advantage and disadvantage, and men’s feminism on the hierarchical relationships of men to other men and to women, social construction feminism looks at the structure of the gendered social order as a whole. It sees gender as a social side institution that is built into all the major social organizations of society.
In social construction feminist theory, inequality is the core of gender itself: Women and men are socially differentiated in order to justify treating them unequally. Thus, although gender is intertwined with other unequal statuses, remedying the gendered part of these structures of inequality may be the most difficult because gendering is so pervasive.
Social construction feminism focuses on the processes that create gender differences and also renders the construction of gender invisible.
Social construction feminism argues that the dichotomies of male and female biological sex and physiology are also produced and maintained by social processes. Genital and hormonal ambiguities are ignored or overridden in the sex categorization of infants and the gendering of sports and physical labor ignores the overlaps in female and male stature and musculature.
Social construction feminism also analyzes the historical and cultural context in which sexuality is learned and enacted, or “scripted.” What sexual behaviors are approved, tolerated, and tabooed differ for women and men and vary for social groups over time and place.
Most people, however, voluntarily go along with their society’s prescriptions for those of their gender status, because the norms and expectations get built into their individual sense of worth and identity.
In the social construction feminist view, long-lasting change of this deeply gendered social order would have to mean a conscious reordering of the gendered division of labor in the family and at work, and at the same time, undermining the taken-for-granted assumptions about the capabilities of women and men that justify the status quo.
Social construction feminism is faced with a political dilemma. If political activities focus on getting individuals to understand the constrictions of gender norms and expectations and encourage resistance to them in every aspect of their lives, it would not necessarily change the social structure.
Postmodern Feminism and Queer Theory
Post-modern feminism and queer theory go the furthest in challenging gender categories as dual, oppositional, and fixed, arguing instead that sexuality and gender are shifting, fluid, and multiple categories. They critique politics based on a universal category, Woman, presenting instead a more subversive view that undermines the solidity of a social order built on concepts of two sexes, two sexualities, and two genders.
Postmodern feminism and queer theory examine the ways societies justify the beliefs about gender at any time (now and in the past) with ideological “discourses embedded in cultural representations or “texts” Not just art, literature, and the mass media.
Queer theory is an offshoot of postmodern deconstructionist cultural studies. Neither are necessarily feminist, the analysis of cultural gender discourses has merged into postmodern feminism.
The queer theory goes beyond cultural productions to examine the discourses of gender and sexuality in everyday life as texts ripe for deconstruction. In queer theory, gender and sexuality are “performances” – identities or selves we create as we act and interact with others.
Queer theorists have explored whether transvestism, dressing in the clothes of the “other” gender, creates a freer social space or reproduces conventional gendering. Women and men, homosexual and heterosexual and bisexual, those who cross-dress for “drag” performances, costume parties, Mardi grass, and gay pride parades, as well as those who live in the other’s gender status, are all texts with a gendered and sexualized discourse.
If social construction feminism puts too much emphasis on institutions and structures, and not enough on individual actions, postmodern feminism and queer theory have just the opposite problem.
In queer theory, all the emphasis is on agency, impression management, and presentation of the self in the guise and costume most likely to produce or parody conformity.
Social construction feminism’s analyses of the institutional and organizational practices that maintain the gender order could be combined with postmodern feminist and queer theory’s deconstruction of how individuals do and undo gender.
The main features of postmodern feminism are as under:
- Influences: Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, and other postmodernists
- Key concepts: difference and diversity (race, culture, class)
- Explanation: Women as the difference
- Prescription: by refusing to center, congeal, and cement their separate thoughts into a unified truth too inflexible to change, feminists resist patriarchal dogma.
Ecofeminism is a theory that rests on the basic principle that patriarchal philosophies are harmful to women, children, and other living things. Parallels are drawn between society’s treatment of the environment, animals, or resources and its treatment of women.
Ecofeminism views patriarchal society to be a structure that has developed over the last 5,000 years while considering matriarchal societies (a society in which females are the center of the societal roles and structures, to be the original hierarchy.
Influences: radical environmentalism, animal-rights movement
Key concepts: the nature/culture divide, the relationship between human and nonhuman nature.
Explanation: Women, nonhuman animals, and the environment have all been identified together as natural forces to be dominated by Man
Prescription: overcoming the rift between nature and culture, feminism must work to eliminate all forms of the oppression of nonhuman nature
Ecofeminists argue that we will not succeed in eliminating the hierarchical relations that plague the human social order unless we also eradicate those that regulate the relationships between the human social order and nonhuman nature. The denigration of women and men of color, of working-class women and men, and of animals has its material origins in the subjugation of women by men. The male-female relationship is the paradigm for any and all hierarchical relationships.
The theory is that there are fundamental personality differences between men and women and that women’s differences are special and should be celebrated. This theory of feminism supports the notion that there are biological differences between men and women.
For example, “women are kinder and more gentle than men,” leading to the mentality that if women ruled the world there would be no wars.
Cultural feminism is the theory that wants to overcome sexism by celebrating women’s special qualities, women’s ways, and women’s experiences, often believing that the “woman’s way” is the better way.
Amazon feminism focuses on physical equality and is opposed to gender role stereotypes and discrimination against women based on assumptions that women are supposed to be, look, or behave as if they are passive, weak, and physically helpless.
Amazon feminism rejects the idea that certain characteristics or interests are inherently masculine (or feminine), and upholds and explores a vision of heroic womanhood. Amazon feminists tend to view all women are as physically capable as all men.
Separatists are often wrongly depicted as lesbians. These are the feminists who advocate separation from men; sometimes total, sometimes partial.
The core idea is that “separating” from men enables women to see themselves in a different context. Many feminists, whether or not separatist, think this is a necessary “first step.” for personal growth. However, they do not necessarily endorse permanent separation.
You may also like these: