Feminism 15 Markers

  • Created by: Elena.S
  • Created on: 26-02-17 16:56

Emphasis on difference between sex/gender

WHY - sex refers to biological distinctions that are natural/unalterable; gender refers to different roles society forces upon men/women through constructed stereotypes of masculinity/femininity
HOW - emphasises women's physical/biological/anatomical make up doesn't determine social/political status so post-patriarchal society is possible bc gender roles/stereotypes can be challenged/overthrown

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Why "the personal is the political"?

1) rad fems rejected liberal notion that politics is only located in public not private sphere; reluctant to associate politics with just government
2) politics considered more as power relationships; arrangements whereby one group of people control the other
3) primary power relationship in private sphere has been patriarchy (men dominating women)
4) domination of women by men comes from unequal gender relations within private sphere i.e family

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Why is the patriarchy important in feminist analys

1) define patriarchy: "rule of the father"; oppression of women by men in both private (family) and public (politics) spheres
2) provides conceptual basis for understanding/explaining system of gender inequality/oppression that is neglected in conventional political thought (gender relations considered normal); gender divisions more politically significant than any other division i.e nationality/class/race
3) rad fems: systematic/institutionalised/all-empcompassing nature of male power stemming from dominance of husband/father in family

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Rejection of idea of gender inequality

1) feminists traditionally want androgynous society where differences don't matter
2) difference feminists - want emphasis on diffence > equality bc essentialism: fundamental/ineradicable differences between men/women
3) wanting to be equal implies women are "male identified" in that they take on competitive/aggressive behaviour of male society; to be "women" identified takes on pro-woman/separatism/political lesbianism

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Liberal VS radical feminism

1a) lib fem - individualism and personal identity > gender identity
1b) rad fem - importance of sisterhood bc gender divisions are most politically significant divisions in society
2a) lib fem - formal equality in public sphere
2b) rad fem - formal equality has done nothing in patriarchal society; inequality in public sphere mirrors oppression in private sphere
3a) lib fem - reform in democratic/legal system
3b) rad fem - revolution through overthrow/replacement of patriarchy i.e Cronan: "freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage"

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Link between feminism and liberalism

  • link to liberal feminism
  • liberal ideas of rationalism + individualism; men + women entitled to same rights + privileges bc they are rational people/human individuals (no gender distinction when it comes to rights and privileges)
  • equal rights: women should have equal access to public sphere (education/work/political advancement) from liberal belief in foundation/formal equality + equality of opportunity
  • key thinker: JS Mill
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Criticisms of public/private divide


  • upholds sexual equality; patriarchy operates through sexual division of labour (men in public sphere of work/politics/art + women in private sphere of family + domestic responsibilities)


  • rads: fundamental reconstruction of family/domestic/personal life (personal is political) so patriarchal oppression in public sphere is unsustainable
  • libs: unimportant, clear public/private distinction
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Difference between androgyny + essentialism


  • possession of both male + female characteristics
  • implies humans as sexless person (sex irrelevant to sociopolitical status
  • feminists: women + men have same basic nature as human beings; accepts that sexual difference are biological facts of life but no sociopolitical/socioeconomic significance ∴ gender divisions are politically/socially contrasted through stereotypes encouraging fem./masc. traits which by virtue of construction, can be deconstructed to achieve genderless personhood


  • belief that biological factors are crucial in determining psychological + behavioural traits
  • gender differences rooted in unchanged learning sexual identities ∴ personhood is a myth bc men + women are fundamentally difference
  • men oppressive + controlling; women as caring + sympathetic ∴ men > patriarchy is the problem -> subscription to pro-woman position implying female withdrawal from fundamentally corrupt male society
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Rad fem redefinition of politics

  • feminists: redefining political in questioning trad. notion that politics is only located in public sphere > private sphere + reluctant to only associate politics with elections/parties etc
  • rad fems: politics as power-structured relationships in which one party has control over another; "personal is the political" in that domination of men + subordination of women in wider society stems from unequal gender relationships in private sphere of family/domestic life
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Key features of socialist feminism

  • patriarchy can only be understood in context of socioeconomic factors (implies male domination + female oppression linked to workings of capitalist system)
  • Engels: patriarchy arose as result of institution of private property + fact that men felt property would only be passed onto sons (ensured by mono marriage)
  • sexual division of labour (women confined to private/domestic sphere) serves interests of capitalism by
    1) creating woman as reserve army of labour
    2) relieving men of housework/child-rearing so can concentrate time + energy on paid employment
    3) creating powerful incentive for men to stay in work to support families
  • female emanicipation -> radical social change (either fundamentalist or revisionist)
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  • cons: undermines key institutions of society i.e family leading to social breakdown; ideology dedicated to gender differences undermines social cohesion + national unity
  • liberals: collectivist > individualist; criticisms of public/private divide as maintenance of private sphere maintains foundation of freedom in society
  • socialists: emphasis on conflict of interest between men/women rather > conflict of interest between capital and labour -> weakened class consciousness + undermining prospects of fundamental social change
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First wave feminism

  • key thinker: Wollenstonecraft
  • 1800 + 1900s
  • characterised by demand for female suffrage based on widened male franchise
  • first wave: early form of feminism developed in mid-1800s based on pursuit of sexual equality in areas of political + legal rights i.e suffrage rights
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Second wave feminism

  • key thinker: Betty Friedan
  • 1960s + 1970s
  • second wave: form of feminism emerging in 1960s + 1970s characterised by more radical concern with women's liberation including in private sphere of home + family
  • focused on personal/psychological/sexual aspects of female oppression i.e Women's Liberation Movement
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Forms of feminism

  • liberal: form of feminism grounded in belief that sexual differences are irrelevant to personal worth with call for equal rights for women and men in public sphere
  • socialist: form of feminism linking subordination of women to dynamics of capitalists economic system with emphasis that women's liberation requires process of radical social change
  • radical: form of feminism holding gender divisions to be most politically significant of social cleavages + believes that they are rooted in structures of domestic life
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Redefining the political

  • politics understood in public sphere
  • family + personal life in private sphere ∴ non-political
  • feminists: politics is activity taking place in all social groups
  • Millett: politics is "power-structured relationships/arrangements whereby one group is controlled by another" i.e between husbands + wives
  • sexual inequality as result of sexual division of labour in society thought as natural > political
  • public sphere - politics/work/art/lit by men
  • private sphere - family/domestic responsiblities by women who are excluded from politics
  • ∴ feminist challenge against divide between public man + private woman
  • RAD FEM VIEW - female oppression starts at home due to conditioning/distribution of housework/domestic responsibilities + politics of personal/sexual conduct ∴ responsibilities of private life should be transferred to state/public bodies i.e increased welfare or crèches at work
  • SOCIALIST FEM VIEW - women's roles in conventional family linked to maintenance of capitalist economic system
  • LIBERAL FEM VIEW - no restrictions on women in public sphere but no politicisation of private sphere as realm of personal choice + indiv. freedom
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  • patriarchy: "rule by the father"; dominance of men + subordination of women in society at large
  • dominance of father within family symbolises male supremacy in all other institutions
  • Millett: patriarchy contains two principles - male shall dominate female; elder male shall domainte younger" ∴ patriarchal society is hierarchic characterised by both sexual + generational oppression
  • western societies have improved situation of women i.e education/rights/marriage + divorce law/legalisation of abortion
  • developing world still has blatant patriarchy i.e FGM/bride murders/dowry systems
  • LIBERAL FEM VIEW - face of patriarchy is under-representation of women in senior positions in public life
  • SOCIALIST FEM VIEW - economic aspects bc patriarchy works with capitalism/gender subordination/class inequality HOWEVER some say gender inequality is consequence of class system so to address issue, capitalism needs to be abolished
  • RAD FEM VIEW - patriarchy as systematic/institutionalised/pervasive form of male power rotted in family; male domination + female subordination in society is reflection of power structures in domestic life
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Sex and gender (1/2)

  • anti-fems argue gender divisions are natural + that female physical/anatomical make-up suit her to subordinate + domestic role (biology is destiny) i.e ability to bear children is linked to social position
  • feminists: biological facts don't necessarily disadvantage women or determine social destiny; just bc women can become mothers but don't have to accept responsibilities of it - link between childbearing + child-rearing is cultural in that women are expected to stay at home bc structure of trad. family life which could be rectified by symmetrical families, extended families, state provision
  • sex: biological differences that are natural + unalterable linked to reproduction
  • gender: cultural term referring to different roles society ascribes to men + women, differences imposed by stereotypes of masc. + fem.
  • patriarchy assumes social distinctions are rooted in biology + anatomy
  • feminists: sex differences are minor + don't explain/justify gender distinctions so human nature is androgynous (possession of both male + female characteristics; used to imply humans are sexless person in sense that sex is irrelevant to social role/political position); humans possess genetic inheritance of mother + father ∴ embody male + female traits
  • ∴ goal of feminism = achievement of genderless personhood
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Sex and gender (2/2)

1) difference feminism: form of feminism holding that there are deep + ineradicable difference between men + women rooted in biology/culture/material experience from essentialism: belief that biological factors are crucial in determining psychological + behavioural traits so social + cultural characteristic reflect deeper biological differences
2) postmodern feminists: sex isn't clear cut biological distinction in that biological womenhood doesn't belong to all women i.e bearing children, attraction to men etc ∴ distinction is entangled

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Equality and difference

  • LIBERAL FEM VIEW - legal + political equality with men so that women can compete in public life on equal terms with men ∴ equality = equal access to public realm
  • SOCIALIST FEM VIEW - equal rights meaningless unless women enjoy social equality addressing issues of ownership of wealth/pay differentials/distinction between paid + unpaid labour
  • RAD FEM VIEW - equality in family + personal life i.e child care, control of one's body, sexual expression + fulfilment
  • equality feminism: form of feminism aspiring to goal of sexual equality defined in any/all terms ∴ feminism defined as liberation from men
  • difference feminists: equality implies being like men ∴ women want to be like men + are male-identified by adopting competitive + aggressive behaviour; liberation is achieving fulfilment as women ∴ adopting pro-woman feminism
  • pro-woman feminism: form of feminism advancing positive image of women's attributes + propensities usually stressing creativity/caring/sympathy/co-op; sex differences have political + social importance bc women are fundamentally different at psycho-biological level
  • cultural feminism: form of feminism emphasising engagement with women-centred culture/lifestyle, typically repelled by corrupting + aggressive male world of political activism
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Liberal feminism

  • liberal influence on first wave: women as rational indiv. + distinction of sex should not impact this ∴ right/liberties should be enjoyed by all
  • liberal influence on second wave: emphasis on individualism in that women should have equal access to public/political life i.e increasing representation of women in senior positions
  • essentially reformist in opening up public life > challenging patriarchal structure of society
  • reform only needed in equal rights in public sphere bc right to education + vote + career + liberalisation of divorce law/abortions have been achieved in West
  • men + women have different natures so women's leaning towards family + domestic life is influenced by natural impulses so willing choice
  • appeals to educated middle class women who can vote/pursue careers/enter public life
  • social disadvantage ignored so fails to address issues of working class/WOC/disabled/sapphic women
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Socialist feminism (1/2)

  • relationship between sexes rooted in social/economic structure + only radical social change offers genuine emanicipation
  • pre-capitalist societies were matriarchal but capitalist societies based on private property owned by men
  • bourgeois family inherently patriarchal + oppressive bc men wish only bio sons to receive properties so insistence on mono marriage for wives but ignored by husbands
  • women compensated for repression by cult of feminists extolling attractions of romantic love which is organised hypocrisy to protect male privileges + property
  • trad. family should be replaced with communal loving + free love
  • confinement of women to domestic sphere server economic interests of capitalism:
    1) reserve army of labour during increased production but dispensable during recessions
    2) bearing + rearing children provides next generation of workers whilst relieving men of such duties who can concentrate on paid + productive work
    3) incentive for worker to stay in work to provide for wife + children
  • Marxists: class warfare > gender warfare bc otherthrow of capitalism -> women's liberation
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Socialist feminism (2/2)

  • moderns: position of women must be analysed in cultural/ideological roots of patriarchy > economic roots
  • Mitchell:
    1) women as members of workforce + active in production
    2) bearing children reproduces human species
    3) responsible for socialisation of children
    4) sex objects
    ∴ women need emancipation from all not just replacement of capitalism
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Radical feminism

  • sexual oppression as most fundamental feature of society + that other forms of injustice are secondary
  • patriarchy as system of politico-cultural oppression with origin in family + domestic/personal life ∴ female liberation requires sexual revolution to overthrow structures based on androgynous human nature however pro-woman extols womanhood over equality
  • deep + unalterable differences sometimes lead to cultural feminism or politically assertive revolution (if sex differences are natural, roots of patriarchy lies within male sex so all men psychologically disaposed to oppress all women so men are the problem i.e Brownmiller: men have biological capacity to **** + benefit from it)
  • ∴ sexual equality impossible due to relationships between men + women must involve oppression; het women are male-identified + political lesbianism makes female-identified women; Atkinson: "feminism is the theory; lesbianism is the practice"
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