Term Paper on Feminism Jnu

INTRODUCTION Much of today’s world can be termed as developed considering the economic development worldwide. Nowadays much of the society is being built by the males and females equally but this was very much unlikely even in the previous decade. However, still today a lot of the under developed and the developing countries deny to treat males and females equally because they feel differently about these two genders.
This very ideology gave rise to the concept of feminism. Feminism not only deals with the problems the female population faces but it also deals with the kinds of oppression the females have to face, be it at the workplace or at home. Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women’s rights.
Much of feminism deals specifically with the problems women face in overcoming social barriers, but some feminists argue that gender equality implies a necessary liberation of both men and women from traditional cultural roles, and look at the problems men face as well. Feminism is both an intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms. Motivated by the quest for social justice, feminist inquiry provides a wide range of perspectives on social, cultural, and political phenomena.

Important topics for feminist theory and politics include: the body, class and work, disability, the family, globalization, human rights, popular culture, race and racism, reproduction, science, the self, sex work, and sexuality. Extended discussion of these topics is included in the sub-entries. Feminism brings many things to philosophy including not only a variety of particular moral and political claims, but ways of asking and answering questions, critiques of mainstream philosophical views and methods, and new topics of inquiry.
Feminist contributions to and interventions in mainstream philosophical debates are covered in entries under “Feminism, interventions”. The term ‘feminism’ has many different uses and its meanings are often contested. For example, some writers use the term ‘feminism’ to refer to a historically specific political movement in the US and Europe ; other writers use it to refer to the belief that there are injustices against women, though there is no consensus on the exact list of these injustices.
Our goal here will be to sketch some of the central uses of the term that are most relevant to those interested in contemporary feminist philosophy. For an overview of the history of feminist thought see: “Feminism, history of”. The references I provide below are only a small sample of the work available on the topics in question; more complete bibliographies are available at the specific topical entries and also at the end of this entry.
In the mid-1800’s the term ‘feminism’ was used to refer to “the qualities of females” , and it was not until after the First International Women’s Conference in Paris in 1892 that the term, following the French term feministe, was used regularly in English for a belief in and advocacy of equal rights for women based on the idea of the equality of the sexes. Some feminists trace the origins of the term “feminism” in English as rooted in the movement in Europe and the US beginning with the mobilization for suffrage during the late 19th and early 20th century and refer to this movement as “First Wave” feminism.
Those who employ this history often depict feminist as waning between the two world wars, to be “revived” in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s as what they label “Second Wave” feminism. More recently, transformations of feminism in the past decade have been referred to as “Third Wave” feminism. However, other feminist scholars object to identifying feminism with these particular moments of political activism, on the grounds that doing so eclipses the fact that there has been resistance to male domination that should be considered “feminist” throughout history and across cultures: i. . , feminism is not confined to a few (White) women in the West over the past century or so. Moreover, even considering only relatively recent efforts to resist male domination in Europe and the US, the emphasis on “First” and “Second” Wave feminism ignores the ongoing resistance to male domination between the 1920’s and 1960’s and the resistance outside mainstream politics, particularly by women of color and working class women. One might seek to solve these problems by emphasizing the political ideas that the term was apparently coined to capture, viz. the commitment to women’s equal rights. This acknowledges that commitment to and advocacy for women’s rights has not been confined to the Women’s Liberation Movement in the West. But this too raises controversy, for it frames feminism within a broadly Liberal approach to political and economic life. Although most feminists would probably agree that there is some sense of “rights” on which achieving equal rights for women is a necessary condition for feminism to succeed, most would also argue that this would not be sufficient.
This is because women’s oppression under male domination rarely if ever consists solely in depriving women of political and legal “rights”, but also extends into the structure of our society and the content of our culture, and permeates our consciousness (e. g. ,Bartky 1990). Given the controversies over the term “feminism” and the politics of circumscribing the boundaries of a social movement, it is sometimes tempting to think that there is little point in demanding a definition of the term beyond a set of disjuncts that capture different instances.
However, at the same time it can be both intellectually and politically valuable to have a schematic framework that enables us to map at least some of our points of agreement and disagreement The Ideology : Feminism Theories of gender differences 1. Biological explanation of gender differences: The overall life experiences of women from infancy to the old age is fundamentally different from that of men. Women relate differently than men to their biological offspring. Freud identified different personality structures of men and women due to having different genetic and cognitive situation.
Sensitivity to light and sound are also different in case of men and women. Differences are also found in left and right brain connection. 2. Institutional explanations of Gender differences Gender division of labor has been institutionalized in the society which link women to the functions of wife, mother and household worker as well as to the private sector. As a result they have different life experiences, different interests, different values etc. 3. Social psychological theories of gender differences: ocialization process molds people in general but particularly young children for the separate roles and institutional spheres of maleness and femaleness. In other words, socialization process molds the psychology of the young generation which let them to see women in the private and men in the public sector. ————————————————- Disciplines There are a number of distinct feminist disciplines, in which experts in other areas apply feminist techniques and principles to their own fields.
Additionally, these are also debates in which shape feminist theory and they can be applied interchangeably in the arguments of feminist theorists. Bodies In western thought, bodies have been historically associated solely with women, whereas men have been associated with the mind. The notion of the body (and not the mind) being associated with women has served as a justification to deem women as property, objects, and exchangeable commodities (among men). For example, women’s bodies have been objectified throughout history through the changing ideologies of fashion, diets, exercise programs, cosmetic surgery, etc.
The race and class of women can be a determinate of whether one body will be treated as decoration and protected which is associated with middle or upper-class women’s bodies. On the other hand, the other body is recognized for its use in labor and exploitation which is generally associated with women’s bodies in the working-class or with women of color. Second-wave feminist activism has argued for reproductive rights and choice, women’s health (movement), and lesbian rights (movement) which are also associated with this Bodies debate.
Epistemologies The generation and production of knowledge has been an important part of feminist theory. This debate proposes such questions as “Are there ‘women’s ways of knowing’ and ‘women’s knowledge’? And “How does the knowledge women produce about themselves differ from that produced by patriarchy? ” (Bartowski and Kolmar 2005, 45) Feminist theorists have also proposed the “feminist standpoint knowledge” which attempts to replace “the view from nowhere” with the model of knowing that expels the “view from women’s lives”. Bartowski and Kolmar 2005, 45) Central to feminism is that women are systematically subordinated, and bad faith exists when women surrender their agency to this subordination, e. g. , acceptance of religious beliefs that a man is the dominant party in a marriage by the will of God; Simone de Beauvir labels such women “mutilated” and “immanent” Love A life’s project to be in love may result in bad faith; love is an example of bad faith given by both Simone de Beuvoir and Jean Paul Sartre (who were in love with each other).
A woman in love may in bad faith allow herself to be subjugated by her lover, who has created a dependency of the woman on him, allowed by the woman in bad faith Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender This debate can also be termed as intersectionality. This debate raises the issue of understanding the oppressive lives of women that are not only shaped by gender alone but by other elements as racism, classism, ageism, heterosexism, etc. One example of the concept of intersectionality can be seen through the Mary Ann Weathers’ publication, “An Argument for Black Women’s Liberation as a Revolutionary Force. Mary Ann Weathers states that “black women, at least the Black women I have come in contact with in the movement, have been expending all their energies in “liberating” Black men (if you yourself are not free, how can you “liberate” someone else? )” Women of color were put in a position of choosing sides. White women wanted women of color and working-class women to become a part of the women’s movement over struggling with their men (working-class, poor, and men of color) against class oppression and racism in the Civil Rights Movement.
This was a conflict for women of color and working-class women who had to decide whether to fight against racism or classism versus sexism—or prioritize and participate in the hierarchy. It did not help that the women’s movement was shaped primarily by white women during the first and second feminist waves and the issues surrounding women of color were not addressed. Contemporary feminist theory addresses such issues of intersectionality in such publications as “Age, Race, Sex, and Class” by Kimberlee Crenshaw.
Language In this debate, women writers have addressed the issues of masculinized writing through male gendered language that may not serve to accommodate the literary understanding of women’s lives. Such masculinized language that feminist theorists address is the use of, for example, “God the Father” which is looked upon as a way of designating the sacred as solely men (or, in other words, biblical language glorifies men through all of the masculine pronouns like “he” and “him” and addressing God as a “He”).
Feminist theorists attempt to reclaim and redefine women through re-structuring language. For example, feminist theorists have used the term “womyn” instead of “women. ” Some feminist theorists find solace in changing titles of unisex jobs (for example, police officer versus policeman or mail carrier versus mailman). Some feminist theorists have reclaimed and redefined such words as “dyke” and “bitch”—and others have invested redefining knowledge into feminist dictionaries. Psychoanalysis Psychoanalytic feminism is based on Freud and his psychoanalytic theories.
It maintains that gender is not biological but is based on the psycho-sexual development of the individual. Psychoanalytical feminists believe that gender inequality comes from early childhood experiences, which lead men to believe themselves to be masculine, and women to believe themselves feminine. It is further maintained that gender leads to a social system that is dominated by males, which in turn influences the individual psycho-sexual development. As a solution it was suggested to avoid the gender-specific structuring of the society by male-female coeducation.
In the last 30 years, the contemporary French psychoanalytical theories concerning the feminine, that refer to sexual difference rather than to gender, with psychoanalysts like Julia Kristeva,[36][36]Maud Mannoni, Luce Irigaray, and Bracha Ettinger has largely influenced not only feminist theory but also the understanding of the subject in philosophy and the general field of psychoanalysis itself. Other feminist psychoanalysts whose contribution enriched the field are Jessica Benjamin and Jacqueline Rose. Literary theory Feminist literary criticism is literary criticism informed by feminist theories or politics.
Its history has been varied, from classic works of female authors such as George Eliot, Virginia Woolf,[43] and Margaret Fuller to cutting-edge theoretical work in women’s studies andgender studies by “third-wave” authors. In the most general, feminist literary criticism before the 1970s was concerned with the politics of women’s authorship and the representation of women’s condition within literature. Since the arrival of more complex conceptions of gender and subjectivity, feminist literary criticism has taken a variety of new routes.
It has considered gender in the terms of Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, as part of the deconstruction of existing power relations. Film theory Feminists have taken many different approaches to the analysis of cinema. These include discussions of the function of women characters in particular film narratives or in particular genres, such as film noir, where a woman character can often be seen to embody a subversive sexuality that is dangerous to men and is ultimately punished with death. In considering the way that films are put together, many feminist film critics, such as Laura
Mulvey, have pointed to the “male gaze” that predominates in classical Hollywood film making. Through the use of various film techniques, such as shot reverse shot, the viewer is led to align themself with the point of view of a male protagonist. Notably, women function as objects of this gaze far more often than as proxies for the spectator. Feminist film theory of the last twenty years is heavily influenced by the general transformation in the field of aesthetics, including the new options of articulating the gaze, offered by psychoanalytical French feminism.
Art history Linda Nochlin and Griselda Pollock[49][50] are prominent art historians writing on contemporary and modern artists and articulating Art history from a feminist perspective since the 1970s. Pollock works with French psychoanalysis, and in particular with Kristeva’s and Ettinger’s theories, to offer new insights into art history and contemporary art with special regard to questions of trauma and trans-generation memory in the works of women artists. History
Feminist history refers to the re-reading and re-interpretation of history from a feminist perspective. It is not the same as the history of feminism, which outlines the origins and evolution of the feminist movement. It also differs from women’s history, which focuses on the role of women in historical events. The goal of feminist history is to explore and illuminate the female viewpoint of history through rediscovery of female writers, artists, philosophers, etc. in order to recover and demonstrate the significance of women’s voices and choices in the past. Geography Feminist geography is often considered part of a broader postmodern approach to the subject which is not primarily concerned with the development of conceptual theory in itself but rather focuses on the real experiences of individuals and groups in their own localities, upon the geographies that they live in within their own communities. In addition to its analysis of the real world, it also critiques existing geographical and social studies, rguing that academic traditions are delineated by patriarchy, and that contemporary studies which do not confront the nature of previous work reinforce the male bias of academic study. Philosophy The Feminist philosophy refers to a philosophy approached from a feminist perspective. Feminist philosophy involves attempts to use methods of philosophy to further the cause of the feminist movements, it also tries to criticize and/or reevaluate the ideas of traditional philosophy from within a feminist view. There really is not a specific school for feminist philosophy like there have been in regard to other theories.
Meaning, Feminist philosophers are just philosophers after all and can be found in the analytic and continental traditions, and the different viewpoints taken on philosophical issues with those traditions. Feminist philosophers, also have many different viewpoints taken on philosophical issues within those traditions. Feminist philosophers who are feminists can belong to many different varieties of feminism. The writings of Judith Butler, Rosi Braidotti, and Donna Haraway are most significant psychoanalytically informed influences on contemporary feminist philosophy. These women have been the main driving force behind the Feminism philosophy.
Sexology Feminist sexology is an offshoot of traditional studies of sexology that focuses on the intersectionality of sex and gender in relation to the sexual lives of women. Feminist sexology shares many principles with the wider field of sexology; in particular, it does not try to prescribe a certain path or “normality” for women’s sexuality, but only observe and note the different and varied ways in which women express their sexuality. Looking at sexuality from a feminist point of view creates connections between the different aspects of a person’s sexual life. Politics
Feminist political theory is a recently emerging field in political science focusing on gender and feminist themes within the state, institutions and policies. It questions the “modern political theory, dominated by universalistic liberalist thought, which claims indifference to gender or other identity differences and has therefore taken its time to open up to such concerns”. Economics Feminist economics broadly refers to a developing branch of economics that applies feminist insights and critiques to economics. Research under this heading is often interdisciplinary, critical, or heterodox.
It encompasses debates about the relationship between feminism and economics on many levels: from applying mainstream economic methods to under-researched “women’s” areas, to questioning how mainstream economics values the reproductive sector, to deeply philosophical critiques of economic epistemology and methodology. One prominent issue that feminist economists investigate is how the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) does not adequately measure unpaid labor predominantly performed by women, such as housework, childcare, and eldercare. Feminist economists have also challenged and exposed the rhetorical approach of mainstream economics.
They have made critiques of many basic assumptions of mainstream economics, including the Homo economicus model. In the Houseworker’s Handbook Betsy Warrior presents a cogent argument that the reproduction and domestic labor of women form the foundation of economic survival; although, unremunerated and not included in the GDP. Warrior also notes that the unacknowledged income of men from illegal activities like arms, drugs and human trafficking, political graft, religious emollients and various other undisclosed activities provide a rich revenue stream to men, which further invalidates GDP figures.
They have been instrumental in creating alternative models, such as the Capability Approach and incorporating gender into the analysis of economic data. Marilyn Power suggests that feminist economic methodology can be broken down into five categories. Legal theory The study of feminist legal theory is a school thought based on the feminist view that law’s treatment of women in relation to men has not been equal or fair. The goals of feminist legal theory as defined by leading theorist Claire Dalton, consist of understanding and exploring the female experience, iguring out if law and institutions oppose females, and figuring out what changes can be committed to. This is to be accomplished through studying the connections between the law and gender as well as applying feminist analysis to concrete areas of law Theories of gender inequality Conservatism Conservatism is not typically viewed as a feminist theory; it is included in order to provide a contrast for subsequent perspectives. Conservatives are the most satisfied with the status quo, and thus they support traditional gender arrangements.
They tend to see intrinsic value in society’s existing institutions and are unwilling to alter that which tradition has perfected. The justification for conservatism is usually rooted in biological and religious arguments. Conservatives often take an essentialist standpoint: they believe that gender differences are fixed, absolute, and biologically determined. The religious argument further supports essentialism by maintaining that gender differences were created by God or other Supreme Being. * * Liberal Feminism * Liberal feminist theory, which arose from social contract theories of the 16th and 17th centuries, is based on the values of rationality and reason, liberty, and equality. Liberal feminists believe that women and men are equal and have the same capacities and abilities, and thus women have the right to the same opportunities as men. Affirmative action, reproductive rights legislation, educational reforms, and equal opportunity legislation represent important liberal feminist programs that have attempted to assure that women and other minority groups are not systematically disadvantaged. Liberal feminists wish to achieve gender equity by working within the system, rather than overthrowing the system. Liberal feminism asserts the equality of men and women through political and legal reform. It is an individualistic form of feminism and theory, which focuses on women’s ability to show and maintain their equality through their own actions and choices. Liberal feminism looks at the personal interactions of men and women as the starting ground from which to transform society into a more gender-equitable place.
Issues important to liberal feminists include reproductive rights and abortion access, sexual harassment, voting, education, fair compensation for work, affordable childcare, affordable health care, and bringing to light the frequency of sexual and domestic violence against women. [1] Susan Wendell, who is not a liberal feminist herself, proclaimed that contemporary liberal feminism is “committed to major economic re-organization and considerable redistribution of wealth, since one of the modern political goals most closely associated with liberal feminism is equality of opportunity which would undoubtedly require and lead to both. Liberal feminists generally work for the eradication of institutional bias and the implementation of better laws. In the United States, liberal feminists have historically worked for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment or Constitutional Equity Amendment, in the hopes it will ensure that men and women are treated as equals under the democratic laws that also influence important spheres of women’s lives, including reproduction, work and equal pay issues. * Radical Feminism * * Radical feminists on the left wing believe that the subjugation of women is the most basic and fundamental oppression. Patriarchy, male domination, and men’s control over women’s bodies are responsible for women’s oppression (Enns, 1997). Radical feminists assume that all women, regardless of class, sexual orientation, or ethnic background, share this common ground.
In contrast with liberal feminists, who see value in working within the existing system, radical feminists call for a complete reorganization of society by eliminating any concentration of male power, emphasizing instead the ethics of mutuality and interdependency (Campbell & Wasco, 2000; hooks, 2000). Unfortunately, both liberal and radical feminist perspectives have been criticized, particularly by women of color, for being exclusionary and limited in scope.
Historically, liberal and radical feminisms have represented issues that pertain to White heterosexual women, without necessarily considering the realities that women of color, poor and working-class women, and lesbian women might face. The following theories represent modifications to existing feminist perspectives that recognize the diverse backgrounds and experiences of women Marxist feminism Marxist feminism is a sub-type of feminist theory which focuses on the dismantling of capitalismas a way to liberate women.
Marxist feminism states that private property, which gives rise to economic inequality, dependence, political confusion, and ultimately unhealthy social relations between men and women, is the root of women’s oppression in the current social context. Marxist feminism’s foundation is laid by Engels in his analysis of gender oppression in The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State. He claims that a woman’s subordination is not a result of her biologic disposition but of social relations, and that the institution of family as it exists is a complex system in which men command women’s services.
According to Marxist theory, the individual is heavily influenced by the structure of society, which in all modern societies means a class structure; that is, people’s opportunities, wants, and interests are seen to be shaped by the mode of production that characterizes the society they inhabit. Marxist feminists see contemporary gender inequality as determined ultimately by the capitalist mode of production. Gender oppression is class oppression and the relationship between man and woman in society is similar to the relations between proletariat and bourgeoise.
Women’s subordination is seen as a form of class oppression, which is maintained (like racism) because it serves the interests of capital and the ruling class. Marxist feminists have extended traditional Marxist analysis by looking at domestic labour as well as wage work. Cultural Feminism Interestingly, cultural feminism shares characteristics with both conservatism and more radical feminist theories. Like conservatism, cultural feminists take an essentialist standpoint and maintain that a range of biologically-based gender differences exist.
Yet cultural feminists call for highlighting and valuing these differences, rather than keeping women in subordinate positions. Cultural feminists believe that, by celebrating women’s special and unique qualities, sexism and female oppression will be eliminated. In tandem with this goal, cultural feminists seek to create a more female-oriented culture. Examples of cultural feminist activities include women’s music festivals, a revival of women’s spirituality and Goddess traditions, and a recognition of women’s traditional art forms such as knitting, quilting, and weaving.
Some aspects of lesbian culture share commonalities with cultural feminism, and cultural feminism borrows from a variety of historical and ethnic traditions. Socialist Feminism. Like radical feminism, socialist feminism is also located toward the left of the political continuum. Yet socialist feminists maintain that there is no primary root of oppression, but that all forms of oppression, including sexism, racism, ethnocentrism, homophobia, heterosexism, and classism support and reinforce one another. Audre Lorde’s article “There Is No Hierarchy of Oppression” reflects this perspective.
She argues that, in order to address any one form of oppression, we must consider all of them simultaneously. Socialist feminism is a branch of feminism that focuses upon both the public and private spheres of a woman’s life and argues that liberation can only be achieved by working to end both the economic andcultural sources of women’s oppression. Socialist feminism is a dualist theory that broadens Marxist feminism’s argument for the role of capitalism in the oppression of women and radical feminism’s theory of the role of gender and the patriarchy.
Some contributors to this perspective have critiqued traditional Marxism for failing to find an inherent connection between patriarchy and classism. Marx and Engels were largely silent on gender oppression except to subsume it underneath broader class oppression. Marx felt that when class oppression was overcome, gender oppression would vanish as well. According to socialist feminists, this view of gender oppression as a sub-class of class oppression is naive and much of the work of socialist feminists has gone towards separating gender phenomena from class phenomena.
Women of Color Feminism (Womanism) Womanism recognizes the specific concerns women of color might face in a patriarchal society. While women of color experience sexism, they also may face issues of poverty, racism, and ethnocentrism. Because womanists recognize the existence of multiple oppressions, they do not necessarily view men of color as the fundamental oppressor; in fact, women of color may choose to ally themselves with men of color in the service of ending racism and other forms of oppression. Theories of gender oppression 1. Psychoanalytic feminist theory
Children relationship to their father is secondary and occasional while with their mother it is very intimate and close. But at the adult period, their separation with their mother is not only partial but also destructive. He wants a women of his own who meets his emotional needs and is dependent on and controlled by him. 2. Radical feminism Rdical feminists see all societies as characterized by oppression: racial oppression, oppression among religious group, oppression between classes etc. Among theses systems of domination and subordination, the most fundamental structure of oppression is gender. . Socialist feminism The key term of socialist feminism is capitalist patriarchy. In the capitalism, women are no doubt oppresses. When it is capitalist patriarchy, oppression becomes double for women. 4. 3d-wave feminism The real situation of society is best discovered from the view points of both men and women. Third-wave feminism found that women themselves are linked to those who oppress them as women that is linked to the men :white women oppress black women, women of upper class oppress the women of lower class etc.
Components of Feminism : Normative and descriptive In many of its forms, feminism seems to involve at least two groups of claims, one normative and the other descriptive. The normative claims concern how women ought (or ought not) to be viewed and treated and draw on a background conception of justice or broad moral position; the descriptive claims concern how women are, as a matter of fact, viewed and treated, alleging that they are not being treated in accordance with the standards of justice or morality invoked in the normative claims.
Together the normative and descriptive claims provide reasons for working to change the way things are; hence, feminism is not just an intellectual but also a political movement. So, for example, a Liberal approach of the kind already mentioned might define feminism (rather simplistically here) in terms of two claims: i. (Normative) Men and women are entitled to equal rights and respect. ii. (Descriptive) Women are currently disadvantaged with respect to rights and respect, compared with men […in such and such respects and due to such and such conditions…].
On this account, that women and men ought to have equal rights and respect is the normative claim; and that women are denied equal rights and respect functions here as the descriptive claim. Admittedly, the claim that women are disadvantaged with respect to rights and respect is not a “purely descriptive” claim since it plausibly involves an evaluative component. However, our point here is simply that claims of this sort concern what is the case not what ought to be the case.
Moreover, as indicated by the ellipsis above, the descriptive component of a substantive feminist view will not be articulable in a single claim, but will involve an account of the specific social mechanisms that deprive women of, e. g. , rights and respect. For example, is the primary source of women’s subordination her role in the family? (Engels 1845; Okin 1989) Or is it her role in the labor market? (Bergmann 2002) Is the problem males’ tendencies to sexual violence (and what is the source of these tendencies? ? (Brownmiller 1975; MacKinnon 1987) Or is it simply women’s biological role in reproduction? (Firestone 1970) Disagreements within feminism can occur with respect to either the descriptive or normative claims, e. g. , feminists differ on what would count as justice or injustice for women (what counts as “equality,” “oppression,” “disadvantage”, what rights should everyone be accorded? ) , and what sorts of injustice women in fact suffer (what aspects of women’s current situation are harmful or unjust? ).
Disagreements may also lie in the explanations of the injustice: two feminists may agree that women are unjustly being denied proper rights and respect and yet substantively differ in their accounts of how or why the injustice occurs and what is required to end it (Jaggar 1994). Disagreements between feminists and non-feminists can occur with respect to both the normative and descriptive claims as well, e. g. , some non-feminists agree with feminists on the ways women ought to be viewed and treated, but don’t see any problem with the way things currently are.
Others disagree about the background moral or political views. In an effort to suggest a schematic account of feminism, Susan James characterizes feminism as follows: Feminism is grounded on the belief that women are oppressed or disadvantaged by comparison with men, and that their oppression is in some way illegitimate or unjustified. Under the umbrella of this general characterization there are, however, many interpretations of women and their oppression, so that it is a mistake to think of feminism as a single philosophical doctrine, or as implying an agreed political program. James 2000, 576) James seems here to be using the notions of “oppression” and “disadvantage” as placeholders for more substantive accounts of injustice (both normative and descriptive) over which feminists disagree. Some might prefer to define feminism in terms of a normative claim alone: feminists are those who believe that women are entitled to equal rights, or equal respect, or…(fill in the blank with one’s preferred account of injustice), and one is not required to believe that women are currently being treated unjustly.
However, if we were to adopt this terminological convention, it would be harder to identify some of the interesting sources of disagreement both with and within feminism, and the term ‘feminism’ would lose much of its potential to unite those whose concerns and commitments extend beyond their moral beliefs to their social interpretations and political affiliations. Feminists are not simply those who are committed in principle to justice for women; feminists take themselves to have reasons to bring about social change on women’s behalf.
Taking “feminism” to entail both normative and empirical commitments also helps make sense of some uses of the term ‘feminism’ in recent popular discourse. In everyday conversation it is not uncommon to find both men and women prefixing a comment they might make about women with the caveat, “I’m not a feminist, but…”. Of course this qualification might be (and is) used for various purposes, but one persistent usage seems to follow the qualification with some claim that is hard to distinguish from claims that feminists are wont to make.
E. g. , I’m not a feminist but I believe that women should earn equal pay for equal work; or I’m not a feminist but I’m delighted that first-rate women basketball players are finally getting some recognition in the WNBA. If we see the identification “feminist” as implicitly committing one to both a normative stance about how things should be and an interpretation of current conditions, it is easy to imagine someone being in the position of wanting to cancel his or her endorsement of either the normative or the descriptive claim.
So, e. g. , one might be willing to acknowledge that there are cases where women have been disadvantaged without wanting to buy any broad moral theory that takes a stance on such things (especially where it is unclear what that broad theory is). Or one might be willing to acknowledge in a very general way that equality for women is a good thing, without being committed to interpreting particular everyday situations as unjust (especially if is unclear how far these interpretations would have to extend).
Feminists, however, at least according to popular discourse, are ready to both adopt a broad account of what justice for women would require and interpret everyday situations as unjust by the standards of that account. Those who explicitly cancel their commitment to feminism may then be happy to endorse some part of the view but are unwilling to endorse what they find to be a problematic package. As mentioned above, there is considerable debate within feminism concerning the normative question: what would count as (full) justice for women? What is the nature of the wrong that feminism seeks to address?
E. g. , is the wrong that women have been deprived equal rights? Is it that women have been denied equal respect for their differences? Is it that women’s experiences have been ignored and devalued? Is it all of the above and more? What framework should we employ to identify and address the issues? (See, e. g. , Jaggar 1983; Young 1990a; Tuana and Tong 1995. ) Feminist philosophers in particular have asked: Do the standard philosophical accounts of justice and morality provide us adequate resources to theorize male domination, or do we need distinctively feminist accounts? (E. g. Okin 1979; Hoagland 1989; Okin 1989; Ruddick 1989; Benhabib 1992; Hampton 1993; Held 1993; Tong 1993; Baier 1994; Moody-Adams 1997; Walker 1998; Kittay 1999; Robinson 1999; Young 2011; O’Connor 2008). Note, however, that by phrasing the task as one of identifying the wrongs women suffer (and have suffered), there is an implicit suggestion that women as a group can be usefully compared against men as a group with respect to their standing or position in society; and this seems to suggest that women as a group are treated in the same way, or that they all suffer the same injustices, and men as a group all reap the same advantages.
But of course this is not the case, or at least not straightforwardly so. As bell hooks so vividly pointed out, in 1963 when Betty Friedan urged women to reconsider the role of housewife and demanded greater opportunities for women to enter the workforce (Friedan 1963), Friedan was not speaking for working class women or most women of color (hooks 1984, 1-4). Neither was she speaking for lesbians. Women as a group experience many different forms of injustice, and the sexism they encounter interacts in complex ways with other systems of oppression.
In contemporary terms, this is known as the problem of intersectionality (Crenshaw 1991). This critique has led some theorists to resist the label “feminism” and adopt a different name for their view. Earlier, during the 1860s–80s, the term ‘womanism’ had sometimes been used for such intellectual and political commitments; more recently, Alice Walker has proposed that “womanism” provides a contemporary alternative to “feminism” that better addresses the needs of Black women and women of color more generally (Walker 1990)
Protofeminism Protofeminism is a term used to define women in a philosophical tradition that anticipated modern feminist concepts, yet lived in a time when the term “feminist” was unknown,that is, prior to the 20th century. The precise use of the term is disputed, 18th-century feminism and 19th-century feminism being also subsumed under “feminism” proper. The utility of the term protofeminist is rejected by some modern scholars in analogous fashion to “postfeminist”. That term is said to have been coined by Toril Moi in 1985 in “Sexual/Textual Politics” to advocate a feminism that would deconstruct the binary between equality-based, or ‘liberal’ feminism and difference-based or ‘radical feminism'”. ) Ancient Greece The role of women is discussed in book six of Plato’s The Republic. “Are dogs divided into hes and shes, or do they both share equally in hunting and in keeping watch and in the other duties of dogs? or do we entrust to the males the entire and exclusive care of the flocks, while we leave the females at home, under the idea that the bearing and suckling their puppies is labour enough for them? The Republic states that women in Plato’s ideal state should work alongside men, receive equal education and share equally in all aspects of the state. The sole exception was that women were to work in capacities which did not require as much physical strength. Middle East In the Middle East during the Middle Ages, an early effort to improve the status of women occurred during the early reforms under Islam, when women were given greater rights in marriage, divorce and inheritance. Women were not accorded with such legal status in other cultures, including the West, until centuries later.
The Oxford Dictionary of Islam states that the general improvement of the status of Arab women included prohibition of female infanticide and recognizing women’s full personhood. “The dowry, previously regarded as a bride-price paid to the father, became a nuptial gift retained by the wife as part of her personal property. ” Under Islamic law, marriage was no longer viewed as a “status” but rather as a “contract”, in which the woman’s consent was imperative. “Women were given inheritance rights in a patriarchal society that had previously restricted inheritance to male relatives. Annemarie Schimmel states that “compared to the pre-Islamic position of women, Islamic legislation meant an enormous progress; the woman has the right, at least according to the letter of the law, to administer the wealth she has brought into the family or has earned by her own work. ” The Islamic studies professor William Montgomery Watt states: The name “Muhammad” in traditional Thuluth calligraphy by Hattat Aziz Efendi It is true that Islam is still, in many ways, a man’s religion.
But I think I’ve found evidence in some of the early sources that seems to show that Muhammadmade things better for women. It appears that system in some parts of Arabia, notably in Mecca, a matrilineal was in the process of being replaced by a patrilineal one at the time of Muhammad. Growing prosperity caused by a shifting of trade routes was accompanied by a growth in individualism. Men were amassing considerable personal wealth and wanted to be sure that this would be inherited by their own actual sons, and not simply by an extended family of their sisters’ sons.
This led to a deterioration in the rights of women. At the time Islam began, the conditions of women were terrible – they had no right to own property, were supposed to be the property of the man, and if the man died everything went to his sons. Muhammad improved things quite a lot. By instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, education and divorce, he gave women certain basic safeguards. Set in such historical context the Prophet can be seen as a figure who testified on behalf of women’s rights.
There is evidence of matrilineality in pre-Islamic Arabia, from the Amirites of Yemen to the Nabateans in Northern Arabia. One can speculate that a motivation of Mohammed’s revolution was precisely to remove matrilineality and install a purely patriarchal system (the one that we witness today). His wife Khadijah is the last successful businesswoman one can find in Arabia. There is evidence that Khadijah was the norm, not the exception, before Mohammed’s revolution. After Mohammed’s revolution, the Arabian businesswoman disappears.
So it is likely that Mohammed’s revolution specifically targeted the matrilineal system and replaced it with one of the strictest patrilineal systems in the world. Far from being a “proto-feminist”, Mohammed would therefore instead be the one who removed rights that at time where widely available to women both in Europe and in Asia. The Qur’an, attributed to Mohammed, speaks for itself: it is highly discriminatory against women. Whilst in the pre-modern period there as not a formal feminist movement, nevertheless there were a number of important figures who argued for improving women’s rights and autonomy. These range from the medieval mystic and philosopher Ibn Arabi, who argued that women could achieve spiritual stations as equally high as men to Nana Asma’u, daughter of eighteenth-century reformer Usman Dan Fodio, who pushed for literacy and education of Muslim women. Women played an important role in the foundations of many Islamic educational institutions, such as Fatima al-Fihri’s founding of the University of Al Karaouine in 859.
This continued through to the Ayyubid dynasty in the 12th and 13th centuries, when 160 mosques and madrasahs were established in Damascus, 26 of which were funded by women through the Waqf (charitable trust or trust law) system. Half of all the royal patrons for these institutions were also women. As a result, opportunities for female education arose in the medieval Islamic world. In the 12th century, the Sunni scholar Ibn Asakir wrote that women could study, earn ijazahs (academic degrees), and qualify as scholars and teachers.
This was especially the case for learned and scholarly families, who wanted to ensure the highest possible education for both their sons and daughters. Ibn Asakir was in support of female education and had himself studied under eighty different female teachers in his time. Female education in the Islamic world was said to be inspired by Muhammad’s wives: Khadijah, a successful businesswoman, and Aisha, a renowned hadith scholar and military leader. According to a hadith attributed to Muhammad, he praised the women of Medina because of their desire for religious knowledge.
While there were no legal restrictions on female education, some men did not approve of this practice, such as Muhammad ibn al-Hajj (d. 1336) who was appalled at the behaviour of some women who informally audited lectures in his time: “[Consider] what some women do when people gather with a shaykh to hear [the recitation of] books. At that point women come, too, to hear the readings; the men sit in one place, the women facing them. It even happens at such times that some of the women are carried away by the situation; one will stand up, and sit down, and shout in a loud voice. Moreover,] her ‘awra will appear; in her house, their exposure would be forbidden — how can it be allowed in a mosque, in the presence of men? ” The labor force in the Caliphate were employed from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, while both men and women were involved in diverse occupations and economic activities. Women were employed in a wide range of commercial activities and diverse occupations in the primary sector (as farmers for example), secondary sector (as construction workers, dyers, spinners, etc. and tertiary sector (as investors, doctors, nurses, presidents of guilds, brokers, peddlers, lenders, scholars, etc. ). Muslim women also held a monopoly over certain branches of the textile industry, the largest and most specialized and market-oriented industry at the time, in occupations such as spinning, dyeing, and embroidery. In comparison, female property rights and wage labour were relatively uncommon in Europe until the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the 12th century, the famous Islamic philosopher and qadi (judge) Ibn Rushd, known to the West as Averroes, claimed that women were equal to men in all respects and possessed equal capacities to shine in peace and in war, citing examples of female warriors among the Arabs, Greeks and Africans to support his case. In early Muslim history, examples of notable female Muslims who fought during the Muslim conquests and Fitna (civil wars) as soldiers or generals included Nusaybah Bint k’ab Al Maziniyyah, Aisha, Kahula and Wafeira, and Um Umarah.
Some have claimed that women generally had more legal rights under Islamic law than they did under Western legal systems until more recent times. English Common Law transferred property held by a wife at the time of a marriage to her husband, which contrasted with the Sura: “Unto men (of the family) belongs a share of that which Parents and near kindred leave, and unto women a share of that which parents and near kindred leave, whether it be a little or much – a determinate share” (Qur’an 4:7), albeit maintaining that husbands were solely responsible for the maintenance and leadership of his wife and family. French married women, unlike their Muslim sisters, suffered from restrictions on their legal capacity which were removed only in 1965. ” Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard University, notes: As for sexism, the common law long denied married women any property rights or indeed legal personality apart from their husbands. When the British applied their law to Muslims in place of Shariah, as they did in some colonies, the result was to strip married women of the property that Islamic law had always granted them — hardly progress toward equality of the sexes. European Renaissance
Christine de Pizan lecturing to a group of men Simone de Beauvoir wrote that “the first time we see a woman take up her pen in defense of her sex” was Christine de Pizan who wrote Epitre au Dieu d’Amour (Epistle to the God of Love), as well as The Book of the City of Ladies, at the turn of the 15th century. Catherine of Aragon, the first official female Ambassador in European history, commissioned a book by Juan Luis Vives arguing that women had a right to an education, and encouraged and popularized education for women in England during her time as Henry VIII’s wife.
Renaissance humanists such as Vives and Agricola argued that aristocratic women at least required education; Roger Ascham educated Elizabeth I, and she not only read Latin and Greek but wrote occasional poems, such as On Monsieur’s Departure, that are still anthologized. However, women who were exceptionally accomplished were described as manly or called witches. Queen Elizabeth I was described as having talent without a woman’s weakness, industry with a man’s perseverance, and the body of a weak and feeble woman, but with the heart and stomach of a king.
The only way she could be seen as a good ruler was for her to be described with manly qualities. Being a powerful and successful woman during the Renaissance, like Queen Elizabeth I meant in some ways being male, a perception that unfortunately gravely limited women’s potential as women. Women were given the sole role and social value of reproduction. This gender role defined a woman’s main identity and purpose in life. The ancient philosopher Socrates was well-known as an exemplar to the Renaissance humanists as their role model for the pursuit of wisdom in many subjects.
Surprisingly, Socrates has said that the only reason he puts up with his wife, Xanthippe, was because she bore him sons, in the same way one puts up with the noise of geese because they produce eggs and chicks. This analogy from the revered philosopher only propelled the claim that a woman’s sole role was to reproduce. Marriage during the Renaissance was what defined a woman. She was who she married. When unmarried, a woman was the property of her father, and once married, she became the property of her husband. She had few rights, except for any privileges her husband or father gave her.
Married women had to obey their husbands and were expected to be chaste, obedient, pleasant, gentle, submissive, and, unless sweet-spoken, silent. In the 1593 A. D. play, The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, Katherina and Bianca’s father treats his daughters like property; the man who gives the best offer gets to marry them. When Katherina is outspoken and wild, society shuns her; she is seen as a wayward woman – a shrew – who needs to be tamed into submission. When Petruchio tames her, she readily goes to him when he summons her, almost like a dog.
Her submissiveness is applauded, and the crowds at the party accept her as a proper woman since she is now “conformable to other household Kates”. Education was an element celebrated by society. Men were pushed to go to college and become knowledgeable in many subjects, but women were discouraged from acquiring too much education and told to be obedient wives. A woman named Margherita, living during the Renaissance, learned to read and write at the age of about 30 so there would be no mediating factors between the letters of her and her husband.
Although Margherita did defy gender roles, she wanted to become educated not in hopes of becoming a more enlightened person, but because she wanted to be a better wife by being able to communicate to her husband directly. When a woman did involve herself in learning, it was certainly not the norm. In a letter the humanist Leonardo Bruni sent to Lady Baptista Maletesta of Montefeltro in 1424, he wrote “While you live in these times when learning has so far decayed that is regarded as positively miraculous to meet a learned man, let alone a woman. The emphasis of a woman shows how it was indeed very rare for a woman to participate in the Renaissance. In general, Bruni thought that women should have an education on par with men, but with one significant exception. In the letter he writes, “For why should the subtleties of… a thousand… rhetorical conundra consume the powers of a woman, who never sees the forum? The contests of the forum, like those of warfare and battle, are the sphere of men. Hers is not the task of learning to speak for and against witnesses, for and against torture, for and against reputation….
She will, in a word, leave the rough-and-tumble of the forum entirely to men. ” The famous Renaissance salons that held intelligent debate and lectures were obviously not welcoming to women. This blatant denial would lead to problems that educated women faced and contribution to the low probability that a woman would get educated in the first place During the 16th century, Modesta di Pozzo di Forzi worked in Venice and Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa wrote The Superior Excellence of Women Over Men. Seventeenth century: nonconformism, protectorate and restoration
Marie de Gournay (1565–1645), the last love of Michel de Montaigne who published posthumously his Essays, wrote two feminist essays, The Equality of Men and Women (1622) and The Ladies’ Grievance (1626). In 1673, Francois Poullain de la Barre wrote De l’egalite des deux sexes (On the equality of the two sexes). The 17th century saw the development of many nonconformist sects which allowed more say to women than the established religions, especially the Quakers. Noted feminist writers on religion and spirituality included Rachel Speght, Katherine Evans, Sarah Chevers and Margaret Fell.
This increased participation of women was not without opposition, notably John Bunyan, leading to persecution, and emigration to the Netherlands and the Americas. Over this and preceding centuries women who expressed opinions on religion or preached were also in danger of being suspected of lunacy or witchcraft, and many like Anne Askew died “for their implicit or explicit challenge to the patriarchal order”. Burning of witches In France as in England, feminist ideas were attributes of heterodoxy, such as the Waldensians and Catharists, than orthodoxy.
Religious egalitarianism, such as embraced by the Levellers, carried over into gender equality, and therefore had political implications. Leveller women mounted large scale public demonstrations and petitions, although dismissed by the authorities of the day. This century also saw more women writers emerging, such as Anne Bradstreet, Bathsua Makin, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, Lady Mary Wroth, and Mary Astell, who depicted women’s changing roles and made pleas for their education.
However, they encountered considerable hostility, as exemplified by the experiences of Cavendish, and Wroth whose work was not published till the 20th century. Astell is frequently described as the first feminist writer. However, this depiction fails to recognise the intellectual debt she owed to Schurman, Makin and other women who preceded her. She was certainly one of the earliest feminist writers in English, whose analyses are as relevant to day as in her own time, and moved beyond earlier writers by instituting educational institutions for women.
Astell and Behn together laid the groundwork for feminist theory in the seventeenth century. No woman would speak out as strongly again, for another century. In historical accounts she is often overshadowed by her younger and more colourful friend and correspondent Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. The liberalisation of social values and secularisation of the English Restoration provided new opportunities for women in the arts, an opportunity that women used to advance their cause. However, female playwrights encountered similar hostility. These included Catherine Trotter, Mary Manley and Mary Pix.
The most influential of all was Aphra Behn, the first Englishwoman to achieve the status of a professional writer. Critics of feminist writing included prominent men such as Alexander Pope. In continental Europe, important feminist writers included Marguerite de Navarre, Marie de Gournay and Anne Marie van Schurmann (Anna Maria van Schurman) who mounted attacks on misogyny and promoted the education of women. In the New World the Mexican nun, Juana Ines de la Cruz (1651–1695), was advancing the education of women particularly in her essay entitled “Reply to Sor Philotea”.
By the end of the seventeenth century women’s voices were becoming increasingly heard, becoming almost a clamour, at least by educated women. The literature of the last decades of the century being sometimes referred to as the “Battle of the Sexes”, and was often surprisingly polemic, such as Hannah Woolley’s “The Gentlewoman’s Companion”. However women received mixed messages, for they also heard a strident backlash, and even self-deprecation by women writers in response.
They were also subjected to conflicting social pressures, one of which was less opportunities for work outside the home, and education which sometimes reinforced the social order as much as inspire independent thinking. Modern Age Feminism Eighteenth century: the Age of Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment was characterised by secular intellectual reasoning, and a flowering of philosophical writing. Many Enlightenment philosophers defended the rights of women, including Jeremy Bentham (1781), Marquis de Condorcet (1790), and, perhaps most notably, Mary Wollstonecraft (1792). Jeremy Bentham
The remarkable utilitarian and classical liberal philosopher Jeremy Bentham said that it was the placing of women in a legally inferior position that made him choose the career of a reformist, at the age of eleven. Bentham spoke for a complete equality between sexes including the right to vote and to participate in the government, and opposed the strongly different sexual moral standards to women and men. In his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1781) Bentham strongly condemned the common practice in many countries to deny women’s rights because of their allegedly inferior minds.
Bentham gave many examples of able female regents. Marquis de Condorcet The mathematician, classical liberal politician, leading French revolutionary, republican and Voltairean anti-clericalist, Marquis de Condorcet was a fierce defender of human rights, including the equality of women and the abolition of slavery, already on the 1780s. He advocated women’s suffrage for the new government, writing an article for Journal de la Societe de 1789, and by publishing De l’admission des femmes au droit de cite (“For the Admission to the Rights of Citizenship For Women”) in 1790. Wollstonecraft and A Vindication
Perhaps the most cited feminist writer of the time was Mary Wollstonecraft, often characterised as the first feminist philosopher. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is one of the first works that can unambiguously be called feminist, although by modern standards her comparison of women to the nobility, the elite of society (coddled, fragile, and in danger of intellectual and moral sloth) may at first seem dated as a feminist argument. Wollstonecraft identified the education and upbringing of women as creating their limited expectations based on a self-image dictated by the male gaze.
Despite her perceived inconsistencies (Brody refers to the “Two Wollestonecrafts”) reflective of problems that had no easy answers, this book remains a foundation stone of feminist thought. Wollstonecraft believed that both genders contributed to inequality. She took it for granted that women had considerable power over men, but that both would require education to ensure the necessary changes in social attitudes. Her legacy remains in the continued need for women to speak out and tell their stories.
Her own achievements speak to her own determination given her humble origins and scant education. Wollstonecraft attracted the mockery of Samuel Johnson, who described her and her ilk as “Amazons of the pen”. Given his relationship with Hester Thrale it would appear that Johnson’s problem was not with intelligent educated women, but that they should encroach onto a male territory of writing. For many commentators, Wollstonecraft represents the first codification of “equality” feminism, or a refusal of the feminine, a child of the Enlightenment. Other important writers
Other important writers of the time included Catherine Macaulay who argued in 1790 that the apparent weakness of women was caused by their miseducation. In other parts of Europe, Hedvig Charlotta Nordenflycht was writing in Sweden, and what is thought to be the first scientific society for women was founded in Middelburg, in the south of Holland in 1785. This was the Natuurkundig Genootschap der Dames (Women’s Society for Natural Knowledge). which met regularly to 1881, finally dissolving in 1887. Journals for women which focused on science became popular during this period as well.
Other authors, however, point out that women have been scientists for 4,000 years. Nineteenth Century The feminine ideal 19th century feminists reacted not only to the injustices they saw but also against the increasingly suffocating Victorian image of the proper role of women and their “sphere”. This was the “feminine ideal” as typified in Victorian conduct books for example by Sarah Stickney Ellis and Mrs. Beeton. The Angel in the House and El angel del hogar, bestsellers by Coventry Patmore and Maria del Pilar Sinues de Marco, came to be symbols of the Victorian feminine ideal.
Feminism in fiction Just as Jan

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