Feminism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Text-only Preview

Feminism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Your continued donations keep Wikipedia running!
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Statue of Emmeline
Pankhurst, a famous
suffragette, in Victoria Tower
Gardens next to the Houses of
Parliament, Westminster.
Feminism is a diverse collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies, largely
motivated by or concerning the experiences of women. Most feminists are especially concerned with
social, political, and economic inequality between men and women; some have argued that gendered and
sexed identities, such as "man" and "woman," are socially constructed. Feminists differ over the sources
of inequality, how to attain equality, and the extent to which gender and sexual identities should be
questioned and critiqued.
Feminist political activists commonly campaign on issues such as reproductive rights (including the
right to safe, legal abortion, access to contraception, and the availability of quality prenatal care),
violence within a domestic partnership, maternity leave, equal pay, sexual harassment, street harassment,
discrimination, and rape. Many feminists today argue that feminism is a grass-roots movement that
seeks to cross boundaries based on social class, race, culture, and religion; is culturally specific and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism (1 of 19)7/22/2006 8:11:02 AM

Feminism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
addresses issues relevant to the women of that society (for example female genital cutting in Africa or
the glass ceiling in developed economies); and debate the extent to which certain issues, such as rape,
incest, and mothering, are universal. Themes explored in feminism include patriarchy, stereotyping,
objectification, sexual objectification, and oppression.
q 1 Origins
q 2 Feminism in many forms
r 2.1 Subtypes of feminism
q 3 Relationship to other movements
q 4 Modern feminism
q 5 Effects of feminism in the West
r 5.1 Effects on civil rights
r 5.2 Effect on language
r 5.3 Effect on heterosexual relationships
r 5.4 Effect on religion
r 5.5 Effect on moral education
q 6 Worldwide statistics
q 7 Contemporary criticisms of feminism
q 8 Academic research about feminist issues
q 9 Famous feminists
q 10 References
q 11 See also
q 12 Books
q 13 External links
r 13.1 Feminist organizations
r 13.2 Supportive of feminism
r 13.3 Critical of feminism, or specific types of feminism
r 13.4 Feminism and religion
Main article: History of feminism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism (2 of 19)7/22/2006 8:11:02 AM

Feminism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

First International Convention of
Women in Washington D.C. Susan B.
Anthony is third from the left, front row.
Advocates of equality of the sexes and the rights of women can be found throughout history. For
example, Empress Theodora of Byzantium was a proponent of legislation that would afford greater
protections and freedoms to her female subjects, and Christine de Pizan, the first professional female
writer, advanced many feminist ideas as early as the 1300s, in the face of attempts to restrict female
inheritance and guild membership. However, feminism as a widespread philosophy and social
movement would not solidify for several more centuries.
Feminism as a philosophy and movement in the modern sense is often dated to The Enlightenment with
such thinkers as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Marquis de Condorcet championing women's
education. The first scientific society for women was founded in Middelburg, a city in the south of the
Dutch republic, in 1785. Journals for women which focused on issues like science became popular
during this period as well. Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is one of
the first works that can unambiguously be called feminist.
Feminism became an organized movement in the 19th century as people increasingly came to believe
that women were being treated unfairly. The feminist movement was rooted in the progressive
movement and especially in the reform movement of the 19th century. The utopian socialist Charles
Fourier coined the word féminisme in 1837; as early as 1808, he had argued that the extension of
women's rights was the general principle of all social progress. The organized movement was dated from
the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. In 1869, John Stuart Mill
published The Subjection of Women to demonstrate that "the legal subordination of one sex to the other
is wrong...and...one of the chief hindrances to human improvement."
Many countries began to grant women the vote in the late 1800s and early years of the 20th century
(New Zealand being first in 1893, with the help of suffragist Kate Sheppard), especially in the final
years of the First World War onwards. The reasons varied, but they included a desire to recognize the
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism (3 of 19)7/22/2006 8:11:02 AM

Feminism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
contributions of women during the war, and were also influenced by rhetoric used by both sides at the
time to justify their war efforts. For example, since Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points recognized self
determination as vital to society, the hypocrisy of denying half the population of modern nations the vote
became difficult to ignore.
Feminism in many forms
Some forms of feminist theory question basic assumptions about gender, gender Ideologies and parties
difference, and sexuality, including the category of "woman" itself as a holistic
Part of the Politics series
concept, further some are interested in questioning the male/female dichotomy
completely (offering instead a multiplicity of genders). Other forms of feminist
theory take for granted the concept of "woman" and provide specific analyses
Christian Democracy
and critiques of gender inequality, and most feminist social movements promote
women's rights, interests, and issues. Over-time several sub-types of feminist
ideology have developed. Early feminists and primary feminist movements are
often called the first-wave feminists, and feminists after about 1960 the second-
wave feminists. More recently, some members of younger generations of
feminists have identified themselves with a "third wave" of feminism while the
second-wave continues to be active.
Green politics
In her book A Fearful Freedom: Women's Flight from Equality, Wendy Kaminer
identifies another conflict between forms of feminism, the conflict between what
she calls "egalitarian" and "protectionist" feminism. In her characterization,
egalitarian feminists focus on promoting equality between women and men, and
giving women and men equal rights. Protectionist feminists prefer to focus on
legal protections for women, such as employment laws that specially protect
female workers and divorce laws that seem to favor women, sometimes
advocating restricting rights for men, such as free speech (specifically, the right
Social democracy
to produce and consume pornography). Though the book predates third-wave
feminism, Kaminer identifies both protectionist and egalitarian currents within
first-wave feminism and second-wave feminism.
Ideologies of parties
Parties by ideology
Some radical feminists, such as Mary Daly, Charlotte Bunch, and Marilyn Frye,
Politics portal
have advocated separatism—a complete separation of male and female in
society and culture—while others question not only the relationship between
men and women, but the very meaning of "man" and "woman" as well (see Queer theory). Some argue
that gender roles, gender identity, and sexuality are themselves social constructs (see also
heteronormativity). For these feminists, feminism is a primary means to human liberation (i.e., the
liberation of men as well as women.)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism (4 of 19)7/22/2006 8:11:02 AM

Feminism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
While many leaders of feminism have been women, not all feminists are women. There are a number of
exclusively male groups which are sympathetic to feminist understandings of society and believe the
dominant model of manhood or masculinity is oppressive to women, as well as limiting for men
There is debate about feminism concerning which types should exclusively be labeled, or considered.
There are also overlapping beliefs such as in oppression by patriarchy and/or capitalism, or the belief
they are one in the same.
Subtypes of feminism
q Amazon feminism
q material feminism
q Anarcha-Feminism
q New feminism
q Anti-racist feminism
q pop feminism
q Black Feminism
q post-colonial feminism
q Chicana Feminism
q postmodern feminism which includes queer
q cultural feminism
q Difference feminism
q pro-sex feminism (also known as sexually
q ecofeminism
liberal feminism, sex-positive feminism, do
me feminism)
equity feminism
psychoanalytic feminism
existentialist feminism
radical feminism
feminism in Japan
separatist feminism
French feminism
socialist feminism
individualist feminism (also known as
libertarian feminism)
q spiritual feminism
q lesbian feminism
q standpoint feminism
q liberal feminism
q third-world feminism
q male feminism or Pro-feminist men
q transnational feminism
q Marxist feminism (related to socialist
q transfeminism
q womanism
q Certain actions, approaches and people can
also be described as proto-feminist or post-
Relationship to other movements
Some feminists take a holistic approach to politics, believing the saying of Martin Luther King Jr., "A
threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". In that belief, some self-identified feminists
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism (5 of 19)7/22/2006 8:11:02 AM

Feminism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
support other movements such as the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement. At the same
time, many black feminists such as bell hooks criticize the movement for being dominated by white
women. Feminist claims about the alleged disadvantages women face in Western society are often less
relevant to the lives of black women. This idea is the key in postcolonial feminism. Many black feminist
women prefer the term womanism for their views.
Some feminists are wary of the transgender movement because they view it as challenging the
distinction between men and women. Transgender and transsexual individuals who identify as female
are excluded from some "women-only" gatherings and events and are rejected by some feminists, who
say that no one who was assigned as male at birth can fully understand the oppression that women face.
This exclusion is criticized as "transphobic" by transgender people, who assert that their political and
social struggles are linked to those of feminists, and that discrimination against gender-variant people is
a facet of the patriarchy. (See transfeminism and gender studies.)
Modern feminism
Most feminists believe discrimination against women still exists in North American and European
nations, as well as worldwide. But there are many ideas within the movement regarding the severity of
current problems, what the problems are, and how best to confront them.
Extremes on the one hand include some radical feminists such as Gloria Allred and also Mary Daly who
argues that human society would be better off with dramatically fewer men. There are also dissidents,
such as Christina Hoff Sommers or Camille Paglia, who identify themselves as feminist but who accuse
the movement of anti-male prejudice.
Many feminists question the use of the term feminist to groups or people who fail to recognize a
fundamental equality between the sexes. Some feminists, like Katha Pollitt (see her book Reasonable
) or Nadine Strossen (President of the ACLU and author of Defending Pornography [a treatise
on freedom of speech]), consider feminism to be, solely, the view that "women are people." Views that
separate the sexes rather than unite them are considered by these people to be sexist rather than feminist.
There are also debates between difference feminists such as Carol Gilligan on the one hand, who believe
that there are important differences between the sexes (which may or may not be inherent, but which
cannot be ignored), and those who believe that there are no essential differences between the sexes, and
that the roles observed in society are due to conditioning.
In Marilyn French's seminal works analyzing patriarchy and its effects on the world at large--including
women, men and children--she defines patriarchy as a system that values power over life, control over
pleasure, and dominance over happiness. According to French, "it is not enough either to devise a
morality that will allow the human race simply to survive. Survival is an evil when it entails existing in a
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism (6 of 19)7/22/2006 8:11:02 AM

Feminism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
state of wretchedness. Intrinsic to survival and continuation is felicity, pleasure. Pleasure has been much
maligned, diminished by philosophers and conquerors as a value for the timid, the small-minded, the
self-indulgent. "Virtue" involves the renunciation of pleasure in the name of some higher purpose, a
purpose that involves power (for men) or sacrifice (for women). Pleasure is described as shallow and
frivolous in a world of high-minded, serious purpose. But pleasure does not exclude serious pursuits or
intentions, indeed, it is found in them, and it is the only real reason for staying alive"
. This philosophy
is what Marilyn French offers as a replacement to the current structure where power has the highest
Carol Tavris, author of Anger: the Misunderstood Emotion and The Mismeasure of Woman: Why
Women Are Not the Better Sex, the Inferior Sex, or the Opposite Sex
, maintains that as long as men's
experiences are considered to be the default human experiences, women will always face discrimination
in North America or elsewhere. She holds that too much emphasis is placed on innate differences
between men and woman, and that it has been used to justify the restriction of women's rights.
Effects of feminism in the West
Some feminists argue that there is still much to be done on these fronts, while others disagree and claim
that the battle has basically been won.
Effects on civil rights

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism (7 of 19)7/22/2006 8:11:02 AM

Feminism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Securing women's suffrage has been a
defining issue for the feminist movement.
Feminism has effected many changes in Western society, including women's suffrage; broad
employment for women at more equitable wages; the right to initiate divorce proceedings and the
introduction of "no fault" divorce; the right to obtain contraception and safe abortions; and the right to
university education.
Effect on language
Many English-speaking feminists are often proponents of what they consider to be non-sexist language,
using "Ms." to refer to both married and unmarried women or "he or she" (or other gender-neutral
pronouns) in place of "he" where the gender is unknown. Feminists are also often proponents of using
gender-inclusive language, such as "humanity" instead of "mankind". Feminists in most cases advance
their desired use of language either to promote what they claim is an equal and respectful treatment of
women or to affect the tone of political discourse. This can be seen as a move to change language which
has been viewed by some feminists as imbued with sexism, providing for example the case in the
English language in which the word for the general pronoun is "he" or "his" (The child should have his
paper and pencils
), which is the same as the masculine pronoun (The boy and his truck). These feminists
argue that language then directly affects perception of reality (compare Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis).
In postcolonial feminism the issue of language is often less emphasized as many non-Indo-European
languages do not have grammatical gender.
A different tendency can be seen in feminism inspired changes to the French language. Gender, as a
grammatical concept, is much more pervasive in French than in English, and as a result, it has been
virtually impossible to create inclusive language. Instead, nouns that originally had only a masculine
form have had feminine counterparts created for them. "Professeur" ("teacher"), once always masculine
regardless of the teacher's sex, now has a parallel feminine form "Professeuse". In cases where separate
masculine and feminine forms have always existed, it was once standard practice for a group containing
both men and women to be referred to using the masculine plural. Nowadays, forms such as "Tous les
Canadiens et Canadiennes
" ("all Canadians", or literally "all the male Canadians and female
Canadians") are becoming more common. Such phrasing is common in Canada, and in France, where
President Jacques Chirac routinely uses "Françaises et Français" (French women and French men) in
political speeches, but practically unknown in other French-speaking countries.
Effect on heterosexual relationships
The feminist movements have altered the nature of heterosexual relationships in Western and other
societies affected by feminism. In some of these relationships, there has been a change in the power
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism (8 of 19)7/22/2006 8:11:02 AM

Feminism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
relationship between men and women. In these circumstances, men and women have had to adapt to
relatively new situations, sometimes causing confusions about role and identity. Women can now avail
themselves more to new opportunities, but some have suffered with the demands of trying to live up to
the so-called "superwomen" identity, and have struggled to 'have it all', i.e. manage to happily balance a
career and family. In response to the family issue, many socialist feminists blame this on the lack of
state-provided child-care facilities. Others have advocated instead that full responsibility for child care
must not rest solely on women, but rather that men should also be responsible for managing family
Some men counter that this expectation is unrealistic, claiming that a de-emphasis on breadwinning
would be injurious to their ability to attract mates; while many women have the choice to try to "have it
all", they claim that societal expectations placed on men preclude them from devoting themselves
further to domestic chores and childrearing. Several studies support the view that, although men are
derided for not devoting enough time to childrearing and domestic tasks, few women seem attracted to
men who engage in these activities to the detriment of their careers.
Some argue that the fact men
devote less time to household chores is due to the fact that they devote more time to work outside the
home. (finding, "According to the International Labor Organization, the average American father works
51 hours a week, whereas those mothers of young children who do work full time (themselves in the
minority) work a 41-hour week."
. In addition, they have argued that women hold the power of the
relationship because they direct the majority of purchases (and men direct the few large purchases) made
by a household
As a counter to these arguments, sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild's books The Second Shift and The
Time Bind
present evidence that married men contribute much less time towards child care and
housework than their wives do. However, Hochschild presented statistical evidence that this was not the
case for two-career couples: according to the studies she cites, in two-career couples, men and women
on the average spend about equal amounts of time working, but women still spend more time on
housework. Hochschild's work mainly centers on two-career couples, but most disputes about the role of
men in child care and domestic work center around two-career couples: feminist critiques of men's
contribution to child care and domestic labor are typically centered around the idea that it is unfair for
the woman to be expected to perform more than half of a household's domestic work and child care
when both members of a couple also work outside the home. In general, in couples where one or both
partners do not work outside the home, gender-based division of labor is less of a point of contention for
feminists. (For more discussion of this point, see Joyce Jacobson's The Economics of Gender). In
addition, a number of studies provide statistical evidence for the claim that married men do not
[7] [8]
contribute an equal share of housework, regardless of they or their wives' paid work loads

. These
studies suggest that married men may actually create more domestic work for women, by virtue of their
presence in the house, than the amount of work they perform themselves.
The preceding arguments mainly apply to middle-class women. In her 1996 book Dubious Conceptions,
Kristin Luker discusses the effect of feminism on teenage women's choices to bear a child, both within
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism (9 of 19)7/22/2006 8:11:02 AM

Feminism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
and outside of marriage. She argues that as bearing a child without being married has become more
socially acceptable for women, young women -- while not bearing children at a higher rate than in the
1950s -- have come to see less of a reason to get married before having a child, especially poor young
women. As reasons for this, she argues that the economic prospects for poor men are slim, meaning that
poor women have a low chance of finding a husband who will provide reliable financial support, and
that husbands tend to create more domestic work than they contribute. Though the feminist movement
has had minimal impact on those two factors, it may have contributed to the increasing social
acceptability of bearing children outside of marriage.
There have been changes also in attitudes towards sexual morality and behavior with the onset of second
wave feminism and "the Pill": women are then more in control of their bodies, and are able to
experience sex with more freedom than was previously socially accepted for them. This sexual
revolution that women were then able to experience was seen as positive (especially by sex-positive
feminists) as it enabled women and men to experience sex in a free and equal manner. However, some
feminists felt that the results of the sexual revolution were beneficial only to men. Feminists have
debated whether marriage is an institution that oppresses women and men. Those who do view it as
oppressive sometimes opt for cohabitation, open marriage or more recently to live independently
reverting to casual sex to fulfill their sexual needs.
Evangelical (Christian) feminists sometimes argue that life-long monogamy ideally promotes
egalitarianism in sex, especially when viewed in light of other common alternatives to monogamy (i.e.
polygamy, swinging, open marriage, prostitution, or infidelity). On the other hand, Friedrich Engels's
essay Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State -- sometimes considered an early feminist
work -- argues that monogamy was originally conceived of as a way for men to control women. In
addition, some modern feminists endorse polyamory , open marriage and swinging as egalitarian
lifestyles (see sex-positive feminism).
Effect on religion
Feminism has had a great effect on many aspects of religion. In liberal branches of Protestant
Christianity (and also in some theologically conservative dominations, such as Assemblies of God
citation needed
women are ordained as clergy[
], and in Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist
citation needed
Judaism, women are ordained as rabbis and cantors[
]. Within these Christian and Jewish
groups, women have gradually become more equal to men by obtaining positions of power; their
citation needed
perspectives are now sought out in developing new statements of belief[
The leadership of women in religious matters has also been resisted within Roman Catholicism. Roman
Catholicism has historically excluded women from entering priesthood and other positions in clergy,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism (10 of 19)7/22/2006 8:11:02 AM

Document Outline

  • wikipedia.org
    • Feminism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia