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Feminist 
Theory and Gender 
Dr. Sara Diaz 
WGST 202: Gender, Difference, and Power 
Gonzaga University
Liberal Feminist Theory 
• Based on principles of Classical Liberalism 
• Individual rights, freedom, choice, and privacy ...
Radical Feminist Theory 
• Focused on patriarchal control of women’s 
bodies, sexuality, and reproduction. 
• emphasis on ...
Socialist Feminism: 
• Oppression of women comes from patriarchy 
and capitalism 
• Draws on theories of Marx and on theor...
Feminist Postmodernism 
• Emphasizes the fluidity of social categories, 
depending on historical time, place, and cultural...
Multiracial Feminism 
• Emphasize how systems of privilege and 
oppression work together 
• Race, gender, class, national ...
Postcolonial Feminism 
• Resistant to nationalism while still anti-colonial 
• Questions Western “paternalism” – White 
me...
SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM
Biological Determinism & 
Essentialism 
Organizes people into groups based on 
what we assume to be basic biological 
diff...
Examples of Biological Determinism 
• Women are nurturing because they bear 
children, therefore they should stay home and...
Social Construction Theory: 
Social Construction Theory asks us to examine our 
assumptions about what can be attributed t...
Social Construction Theory: 
• Does NOT deny that biological differences 
exist, but urges us to think critically about 
h...
Definition of Gender 
Gender is a social construction that 
establishes our definitions of self, our 
relations with other...
Sex vs Gender 
Binary Sex/Gender System 
Sex Category Male Female 
Gender Man/Boy Woman/Girl 
Gender Expression Masculine ...
Impact of Gender 
• There are different rules for the behavior 
of males and female in all aspects of our 
lives. 
• Becau...
Daily Response Question 
According to Lorber how does gender 
work to maintain systems of power?
Discussion Question 
• Using the types of feminism described 
earlier how might you categorize 
Lorber’s position?
Gender 
•What doors are unlocked, closed 
according gender? If you are 
categorized male? Female? 
Transgender? 
• Public ...
Gender 
•How do we do gender? 
• Is it possible to change the way you 
do gender? 
•What are the consequences? 
•How does ...
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WGST 202 Day 4 Gender

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  • At this point we need some terminology to describe some common concepts. The central questions we will persue work against what is known as biological determinism.
  • The idea of “gender” arose out of social construction theory. In GWSS gender is distinguished from sex. Sex is a category that is assigned at birth based on a doctor’s assessment of our genetalia. In modern Western society there are only two categories assigned (male and female) This is not always true in all parts of the world or at all times! GENDER is how we learn to behave based on the sex category into which we were placed. So if we were categorized as female we are gendered feminine and raised to be a woman. It is important to note that these three words (female, feminine, woman) in GWSS likewise (male, masculine, man) …
  • So how are we gendered differently and what meaning does that have for us in the world???
  • Transcript of "WGST 202 Day 4 Gender"

    1. 1. Feminist Theory and Gender Dr. Sara Diaz WGST 202: Gender, Difference, and Power Gonzaga University
    2. 2. Liberal Feminist Theory • Based on principles of Classical Liberalism • Individual rights, freedom, choice, and privacy • Explains oppression of women in terms of unequal access to existing political, economic, and social institutions. • Seeks legal equality in existing institutions • Emphasis on reform through legislation and education
    3. 3. Radical Feminist Theory • Focused on patriarchal control of women’s bodies, sexuality, and reproduction. • emphasis on women's health care • Emphasizes supposed fundamental differences between women and men (essentialist/determinist) • Seeks liberation through eradication of patriarchy • Reform won't work: Revolution must occur
    4. 4. Socialist Feminism: • Oppression of women comes from patriarchy and capitalism • Draws on theories of Marx and on theories developed by radical feminists • Focus on economic exploitation but also draws on insights of psychoanalytic theory (such as Freud) • Focus on differences between men and women • Not reform, but more focused on global restructuring of production
    5. 5. Feminist Postmodernism • Emphasizes the fluidity of social categories, depending on historical time, place, and cultural context • Is often grounded in "discourse" or language. • How does language construct social world? • Is opposed to modernism (positivism) • Deconstructs categories • What is a “woman”? • Feminist postmodernists are often accused of relativism.
    6. 6. Multiracial Feminism • Emphasize how systems of privilege and oppression work together • Race, gender, class, national citizenship, sexuality among other identities all function together and so must be analyzed together (intersectional) • Women can exploit other women • Difference as positive • Pragmatism: Use what works
    7. 7. Postcolonial Feminism • Resistant to nationalism while still anti-colonial • Questions Western “paternalism” – White men/women saving brown women from brown men. • Emphasizes women’s agency and resistance • impact of global capitalism on women’s lives • transnational women’s organizing • Difference as positive • “Strategic” coalitional politics
    8. 8. SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM
    9. 9. Biological Determinism & Essentialism Organizes people into groups based on what we assume to be basic biological differences. Further, it assumes those differences explain characteristics of large groups of people and justifies life outcomes.
    10. 10. Examples of Biological Determinism • Women are nurturing because they bear children, therefore they should stay home and raise children. • Women are more emotional than men and therefore not well suited for jobs that need rational decision making. • EG President, example of premenstrual syndrome • Men are better at math and science and therefore should go into fields like engineering, architecture, physics.
    11. 11. Social Construction Theory: Social Construction Theory asks us to examine our assumptions about what can be attributed to biology and to think about how social contexts shape and interpret biological differences.
    12. 12. Social Construction Theory: • Does NOT deny that biological differences exist, but urges us to think critically about how we interpret those socially. • Argues that a lot of social phenomena occur because of the social interpretation of assumed differences rather than any determination actually made by biology.
    13. 13. Definition of Gender Gender is a social construction that establishes our definitions of self, our relations with others, and our life chances...Moreover, is not just an individual attribute. Instead, it is part of the social structure of society and thus has an institutional component... --Margaret Anderson, Thinking about Women, p. 30
    14. 14. Sex vs Gender Binary Sex/Gender System Sex Category Male Female Gender Man/Boy Woman/Girl Gender Expression Masculine Feminine
    15. 15. Impact of Gender • There are different rules for the behavior of males and female in all aspects of our lives. • Because we live in a society that places higher value on men (among other social categories) these rules result in differential access to power and resources. • Because of this much of feminist theorizing deals with power.
    16. 16. Daily Response Question According to Lorber how does gender work to maintain systems of power?
    17. 17. Discussion Question • Using the types of feminism described earlier how might you categorize Lorber’s position?
    18. 18. Gender •What doors are unlocked, closed according gender? If you are categorized male? Female? Transgender? • Public Bathrooms •What else?
    19. 19. Gender •How do we do gender? • Is it possible to change the way you do gender? •What are the consequences? •How does gender get inscribed on the body?
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