Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies
aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal
political, economic, and social rights for women
Main focus is to establish equal opportunities for
women in education and employment
“Feminist theory is a system of ideas about social life, and
human development from a woman centered perspective”
Feminist Theory is the extension of feminism into theoretical
A ‘Feminist’ advocates and supports the rights and equality of
It aims to understand the nature of Gender Inequality
It examines women's Social roles, experience, interests, and
feminist politics in a variety of fields
Feminist theory is women centered in Three ways:
The major ‘object’ or starting point of all the
investigation is situation and experience of women in
It treats women as the “central Subjects” in the
investigation process, (see the world from the point of
It is seeking to produce a better world for women .
Feminist theory is different from sociological theory in
It’s the work of interdisciplinary community
Feminist Sociologists work with double agenda (To
broaden and deepen their origin and to develop a
critical understanding of society in order to change
Contemporary feminist theories addresses such
And what about women?
Where are the women in any situation which is being
If they are not present, Why?
How do they experience the situation?
What do they contribute to it?
What does it mean to them? (Description of the Social
Why then is all this as it is? (it requires explanation of
Description and explanation are
the two faces of any sociological theory.
Third question for all feminists is:
How can we change and improve the social world so as
to make it a just place for women and for all people?
Typology is organized around feminism’s most basic
question: “And what about women?”
Essentially we see the four answers:
Women experience in many situations is different
The women location in most situation is less
privileged than men.
oppressed, restrained, subordinated, molded, used and
abused by men.
Women’s experience of difference, inequality and
oppression varies according to their locatedness in the
Each of the various theory of feminist is classified into
the theory of : Gender Difference, Gender
Inequality, Gender oppression and structural
Basic Varieties of Feminist TheoryAnswer to the descriptive
question, “What about the women?”
Distinction within theories- answers
to the explanatory questions, “why
is women’s situation as it is?”
Women’s location in, and experience of, •Cultural Feminism
most situations is different from the
men in the situation.
•Institutional and socialization
Women’s location in most situations is
not only different but also less
privileged than or unequal to that of
Women are oppressed, not just
different from or unequal to, but
actively restrained, subordinated,
molded and used and abused by men.
Women’s experience of difference,
inequality and oppression varies by
their social location within capitalism,
patriarchy and racism.
Argument against feminism was first used in male patriarchal
discourse to claim that women are inferior and subordinate to
What the argument was reversed by some first wave
Feminists, who create theory of ‘Cultural Feminism’
It extols the aspects of what was seen as “feminine Personality”
Margaret Fuller, Frances Willard, Jane
Addams, Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
They argue that governing of a state society needs Such women
Nonviolence (in Settlement of conflicts)
This is continued the present day that women has distinctive
standards for ethical judgment about mode of:
Caring attention in Women’s consciousness
Achievement motivation patterns
Female way/style of communication
Women capacity for openness to the emotional experience
Fantasies of sexuality and intimacy
Lower level of aggressiveness behavior
Capacity for creating peaceful environment
Cultural Feminism is more concerned with promoting
the values of women’s difference than explaining its origin.
It variously locate the causes of Gender Difference in Biology, in
Institutional roles, in Socialization, and in Social Interactions.
The major proponent of explanatory theories is “Alice Rossi”
She has linked different Biological functions of males and
females to different patterns of hormonally determined
development over the life cycle.
Sex specific variations in such traits as sensitivity to light and
Difference in left and right brain connectedness
Different play pattern in childhood.
The apparent fact that female are more disposed to care for
infants in nurturing way than men.
Gender difference result from the different roles, that men and
women play in various institutional settings.
Major determinant is seen in ‘Sexual Division of Labor’ that links
women with different roles like:
Studies argue that women’s experience of socialization and
institutional roles leads them to distinctive forms of
political activism.(e.g. Environmental justice movement)
Some emphasize (Static and deterministic model) people’s
active work in reproducing gender in
contextualized, ongoing interactional practices, where
cultural typifications of gender are enacted, performed
experimented with and even transformed.
These theorists describes people as “doing gender” in all
various interactions of daily life.
They carry a ‘gendered personality’
Existential and Phenomenological Analyses:
Developed one of the most enduring(remain in
existence, tolerate) theme of feminist theory:
“The marginalization of women as other in male
The world has been developed by the culture created by the men
and assuming the male as a ‘subject’ and consciousness by which
the world is viewed.
That pushes women experiences to the very margins of
conceptual framing and its more frightening, creates the
construct of the women as “the other”
“objectified being” who is assigned traits that represent the
opposite of Subject (male)
‘“otherness” is fundamental category of human thought’ that
binary opposition is one of the chief ways and
individual experience other people as a potential
threat to the subject’s consciousness.
Women difference from men results in part from this
fact of cultural construction which excludes them and
in part from their internalization of otherness.
Four themes characterizing ‘Gender Inequality’, these are :
Both genders are situated in society not only differently but also
unequally (e.g. women get less opportunities, material
resources, social status, power and self actualization)
Inequality results from the organization of society, not from any
significant biological or personality differences between women
Although individual human beings may vary somewhat from
each other in profile of potential and traits. But no pattern
of natural variation distinguishes the sexes; all human are
characterized by a deep need of freedom to seek selfactualization.
All inequality theories assume that both genders respond
fairly, easily and naturally to more egalitarian social structures
and situations. (it is possible to change the situation)
But the theorists of Gender difference present a picture
that what ever the cause of difference but they are more
durable, more penetrative and less easily to change.
Major expression of ‘Gender Inequality’ theory is liberal
All people are created equal and should not be denied equality of
opportunity because of gender.
Liberal Feminists focus their efforts on social change through the
construction of legislation and regulation of employment
Liberal feminism thus, rest on the beliefs that :
All human beings have certain essential features- capacity for
reason, moral agency and self-actualization.
The exercise of these capacities can be secured through legal
recognition of universal rights
The inequalities between men and women are assigned by
‘sex’, are actually social constructions, having no basis in “nature”
Social change for equality can be produced by an organized
appeal to reasonable public and state.
Contemporary Feminists’, an introduction to the concept of gender
as :“a way of understanding all the socially constructed features
built around an idea of sex identity and used to produce
inequality between persons considered ‘male’ and persons
considered ‘female …”
Contemporary Liberal Feminism’s explanation of Gender
inequality turns on interplay of Four factors and these are:
The social construction of Gender
The gendered division of labor
The doctrine and practice of private and public spheres.
Finally for Liberal Feminists, the ideal gender arrangement is one
in which each individual acting as a free and responsible moral
agent chooses the life style most suitable to her or him, and has
that choice accepted and respected, be it for housewives or
househusbands, unmarried or married, childless or with
children and heterosexual or homosexual.
Describes women’s situations as a result of direct power
relationship between men and women in which men have
fundamental and concrete interest in controlling, using and
Domination means in which one party/individual, the
dominant, succeeds in making the other party, the subordinate.
This pattern o f gender oppression is incorporated in deepest
ways into society’s organization.
Basic structure of Domination is called “Patriarchy”
there are two major variants of oppression theory:
It attempts to explain patriarchy by reformulating the theories of
Emotions often deeply buried in sub conscious and
unconscious areas of the psyche.
Also highlight the importance of infancy and early
There are two basic themes of psycho-analytic Feminism:
Women, because of intimate involvement with bearing
and rearing new life, are less oppressed than
men, because of their own morality and men adopt a
series of defenses , all of which leads towards their
Second theme, it centre on two facets of early childhood
Individuation and recognition
In all societies, infants and children experience their earliest
development in a close intimate relationship with a women- a
This theory gives us the deepen insight into the understanding
of Gender oppression.
Male power and privilege is the basis of social relations
Sexism is the ultimate tool used by men to keep women
Women are the first oppressed group
Women's oppression is the most widespread & deepest
Women’s oppression provides a conceptual model for
understanding all other forms of oppression.
Refusing to reproduce is the most effective way to escape.
Speak out against all social structures because they are created
it states that oppression results from the fact that some group of
people derive direct benefits from controlling, using and
oppressing other groups of people
It analyze how those interest in domination are enacted through
mechanism of social structure, the arrangements of interactions
are always the arrangements of power.
We look at two types of structural oppression, and these are :
They see capitalism rather than patriarchy as being principle
source of women oppression
Women’s inferior position is the result of class-based capitalism
Socialist believe that history can be made in the private
sphere (home) not just the public sphere (work)
An increased emphasis on the private sphere and the
role of women in the household
Equal opportunities for women in the public sphere.
Marx & Engels:
Engels focused that the economic factors are responsible for the
subservience of women.
According to Engles the dominancy of man in marriage is simply
His economic dominancy
Man owned the means of production (outside the home)
Man enjoy greater power
Marx and Engels were actually against Capitalism but according
to them- Capitalism creates the new economic foundations like:
Demand of female wages labor would increase status and power
of women within the family.
No dependency on ‘man’ regarding economy
Gender under Communism states that, there is complete
equality between men and women under capitalism because
‘means of production’ are communally owned
Sexual inequality would be end
Gender roles may be disappear