FEMINIST SOCIAL THEORY
Vimal Kumar V.
School of Social Sciences
Mahatma Gandhi University
Feminism is a collection of movements
and ideologies aimed at defining,
establishing, and defending equal
political, economic, and social rights for
Feminist theory is a conflict
theory that studies gender,
patriarchy, and the oppression
In most societies, women have
been systematically oppressed
Classical social generally ignored
women or had misleading analysis of
issues related to women.
Feminist theory has developed in three
1. The first wave focused on suffrage and
2. The second focused on inequality between
3. Third wave, emphasize globalisation, post
colonialism, post structuralism and post
Origin of Feminism
France in 1610: Salon (a gathering for
intellectual discussion) started outside
of the royal court. It reserved for
upper class women.
1792: Mary Wollstonecraft published
one of the seminal works of modern
feminism. The "Vindication of the
Rights of Women"
The Revolutionary War in
1774 and the French
Revolution in 1789 also
advanced the concept of
By mobilizing more women
politically and establishing a
consensus of freedom as a
In 1848, Mott and Stanton held a
woman's rights convention in Seneca
Falls, New York, where a declaration of
independence for women was drafted.
19&20th century US, UK,
Netherlands and Canada.
Primarily on gaining women's suffrage
(the right to vote)
It emerged in the
environment of urban
The wave formally began at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 when 300
men and women rallied to the cause of equality for women. Elizabeth Cady
Stanton (d.1902) drafted the Seneca Falls Declaration outlining the new
movement's ideology and political strategies.
The convention lead to the
Declaration of Sentiments.
• Modeled after the Declaration of
• All men and women created equal.
• Spoke of the supremacy of man in regards to
divorce and education
The convention marked a 22 year battle to gain
women the right to vote in the United States.
• In 1920 US women won the right to vote.
Second Wave began in the early
1960's in the United states. Later it
spread to Europe and Asia. It lasted
through the early 1980's.
It focused on social inequality between genders.
It tackled the issues like sexuality, family, the
workplace, reproductive rights, de facto
inequalities, and official legal inequalities.
Published in 1949 and it deals with the
treatment of women throughout
history and is often regarded as a major
work of feminist philosophy and the
starting point of second-wave feminism.
Betty Friedan A leading figure in the women's movement in the
United States, her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique is often
credited with sparking the second wave of American feminism in the
20th century. In 1966, Friedan founded and was elected the first
president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which
aimed to bring women "into the mainstream of American society
now [in] fully equal partnership with men".
The report of the [American] Presidential
Commission on the Status of Women found
discrimination against women in every aspect of
American life and outlined plans to achieve equality.
Specific recommendations for women in the workplace
included fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave,
and affordable childcare.
1971-The first women's liberation
march in London occurred.
1973-Women are allowed on the
floor of the London Stock
Exchange for the first time.
1974-Contraception became free
for women in the United
1979- Margaret Thatcher became the
first female Prime Minister of the
Rebecca Walker, then a 23-year-old,
bisexual African-American woman
born in Jackson, Mississippi, coined
the term "third-wave feminism" in
Third wave feminist theory
critiques generalizations about
sex and gender.
interpretation of gender and
sexuality, is central to much of
the third wave ideology.
Reproductive rights (e.g. abortion)
Reclaiming derogatory terms
First two waves of
feminism were dominated
by white women from
Third Wave feminism is very
more on personal
empowerment as a starting
place for social change.
There are several different
types of Feminist theory,
but all of them share
•They all believe that there is a
fundamental division in society between
men & women.
•That women are to some extent
exploited by men.
•That society is male dominated or
Differences between the
Variations between Feminists can be
lumped into 4 broad approaches
Radical (basically meaning extreme)
feminists Believe that men are the enemy,
and that they control, exploit &
oppress women through the process of
patriarchy (male rule or domination)
in employment, family relations,
sexual relations & status.
Radical Feminists solution to this:
Men give up their patriarchy
Women exist without men & self-reproduce
Women keep their lives separate from men
Abolish the nuclear family unit
In the 1970’s a number of women began to draw
Upon Marxist theory to explain the oppression of
Women in society.
They do not see women’s oppression arising
solely From Patriarchy, but primarily from
Capitalism that Forces them to be unpaid
labourers & nurturers in Order to maintain
Liberal Feminism is less of a theoretical
perspective and more of a political movement.
They tend to criticise other Feminists for ignoring
the progress that has been made in society with
regards to gender inequality.
They are also more likely to argue that gender
Roles are also limiting for men
Basically, the 3 branches of feminism we have
just considered tend to see women as a single
group who share the same interests,
experiences & types of exploitation.
Difference Feminism, that has much in common
with Post modernism, argues that women have
a variety of interests & needs and are not one
single united group.
Feminism has always thrived on and grown
from internal discussions and disagreements.
Feminist movement has made changes in
Western society; right to vote, equal pay,
Feminist theories are not capable of
addressing issues facing by women from
different cultural contexts.