Lesson 4, Topic 4
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2.4 Theories of the state: Feminist

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Feminist theory emerged from these feminist movementsand includes general theories and theories about the origins of inequality, and, in some cases, about the social construction of sex and gender, in a variety of disciplines. Feminist activists have campaigned for women’s rights-such as in contract, property, and voting-while also promoting women’s rights to bodily integrity and autonomy and reproductive rights. They have opposed domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. In economics, they have advocated for workplace rights, including equal pay and opportunities for careers and to start businesses. Feminist theory aims to understand gender difference and gender inequality and focuses on gender politics and sexuality. Providing a critique of these social and political power relations, much of feminist theory focuses on the promotion of women’s rights. Themes explored in feminist theory include discrimination, stereotyping, objectification (especially sexual objectification), oppression, and patriarchy. Feminist theory is academically concentrated in women’s studies and encompasses work in history, anthropology, sociology, economics, literary criticism, (supported by women’s literature, music, film, and other media), art history, psychoanalysis, theology, philosophy, geography, and other disciplines.

The global idea of feminism refers to the belief that men and women deserve equality in all opportunities, treatment, respect, and social rights. In general, feminists are people who try to acknowledge social inequality based on gender and stop it from continuing. Feminists point out that in most cultures throughout history men have received more opportunities than women.

Types of Feminism are:

(i) Radical Feminism: Radical feminism is a movement that believes sexism is so deeply rooted in society that the only cure is to eliminate the concept of gender completely. Radical feminists suggest changes, such as finding technology that will allow babies to be grown outside of a woman’s body, to promote more equality between men and women. This will allow women to avoid missing work for maternity leave, which radical feminists argue is one reason women aren’t promoted as quickly as men. Radical feminists, seeking to understand the roots of women’s subordination, have provided the major theoretical understanding that has served as the basis for the inspiration and analysis guiding women’s movements around the world.

(ii) Marxist and Socialist Feminism: Feminists, grounded in Marxist and socialist analysis, attribute women’s oppression principally to the capitalist economic system where global corporate power prevails.  Many other feminists believe that this form of power seen in the class system is a crucial factor in women’s subordination but see patriarchy as the major force behind women’s subjugation. Socialist feminism is a movement that calls for an end to capitalism through a socialist reformation of our economy. Basically, socialist feminism argues that capitalism strengthens and supports the sexist status quo because men are the ones who currently have power and money.

(iii) Cultural Feminism: Cultural feminism is a movement that points out how modern society is hurt by encouraging masculine behavior, but society would benefit by encouraging feminine behavior instead. Cultural feminism emphasizes essential differences between men and women in terms of biology, personality and behavior.  Women are seen to have different and superior virtues that provide the foundation for a shared identity, solidarity and sisterhood.  Since by nature women are viewed as kind and gentle than men, it follows that if women were in power, the world would be a better place.

(iv) Liberal Feminism: This kind of feminism works within the structure of mainstream society to integrate women into it and make it more responsive to individual women’s rights, but does not directly challenge the system itself or the ideology behind women’s oppression. They focus mostly to protect equal opportunities for women through legislation. The suffragist movement is an example.