Feminism: Basic Principles. There are four major



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 www.sociology.org.uk 2005

Feminism: Basic Principles.
1. There are four major varieties of Feminism:
a. Liberal.

b. Marxist.

c. Radical.

d. Socialist (sometimes called "dual system" theory).


Other forms of Feminism include Functionalist Feminism and Black Feminism.
2. Liberal Feminism:
a. Gender prejudice is based around individual ignorance. education is seen as a valuable tool in the battle against discrimination based around ignorance.
b. It is possible to legislate (pass laws) against sexual discrimination as a way of changing individual attitudes and behaviour. For example, the Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Acts in the 1970's in Britain.
c. The general position of women in our society has significantly improved in the past 100 years. woman have legal equality with men, although they still do not have status equality with men (that is, males still tend to have generally higher social status than women).
3. Marxist Feminism.
a. Capitalist class relationships are the root cause of female oppression, exploitation and discrimination. Men are socialised into exploitative relationships in relation to work and they carry this socialisation over into the home and their relationship to women.
b. Patriarchy is an ideology (a set of related beliefs about the world - in this instance, male - female relationships) that stems from male attempts to justify the economic exploitation of women.
c. The "family system" characteristic of modern societies benefits capitalism (and, by extension, the men who tend to dominate positions of power and influence) because women:
- can be forced / socialised into unpaid domestic labour.

- can be forced / socialised into responsibility for child-rearing.


This benefits the Capitalist because they do not have to pay women to perform this role (the "reproduction of labour power" in society).
This benefits men because women perform a "domestic servant" role for all men.
d. Neither Marxist nor socialist Feminists see men as the "enemy" of women. To create a Communist / socialist society men and women have to co-operate in to:
Overthrow the Capitalist system of economic exploitation (Marxist Feminism).

Create a more-equal and equitable form of society (Socialist Feminism).


e. For Marxist Feminists, the concept of social class is considered to be more important than the concept of patriarchy since the latter is seen as a form of ideology that stems from class exploitation. Women are not a "sex class" because the only thing they have in common is their sex - an upper class woman, for example, has little if nothing in common with a working class woman. In addition, there is general agreement amongst Marxist Feminists that the points in the following section are valid.
4. Socialist Feminism.
a. Women's work and their social status is highly marginalized by their potential / actual "dual role" in modern societies (child-rearer and worker). Employers are able to exploit this dual role to pay women lower wages. Men are able to exploit this dual role by receiving "unpaid services" within the home.
b. The main reason for women's lower status in relation to men is the fact that they are generally economically dependent upon their male partner.
c. Male power over women is consolidated by ideological myths about women (that they are naturally passive, that they have maternal instincts and so forth). These myths are part of a powerful socialising influence upon women that leads them to define their major role as that of "mother, housekeeper and child-rearer".
5. Radical Feminism.
a. The concepts of patriarchy and sex class are key ideas in relation to the understanding of women's position and experience in all societies.
b. Patriarchy has existed in all known human societies and, as such, pre-dates Capitalist forms of gender inequality.
c. Patriarchal relationships are considered to have paved the way for Capitalist forms of economic and gender exploitation.
d. Sexual inequality is institutionalised in society. It is not possible to achieve sexual equality through legal means or by "changing people's attitudes".
e. Men are the enemy of women. Women are a sex class in that they share a common interest in freeing themselves from male oppression.
f. The universal causes of patriarchy are considered to be:
The exploitation of female biology by men (men can exploit women's incapacity through pregnancy, for example).
Marriage-based family relationships in which men control women's behaviour.
Heterosexual relationships.

g. One solution to the problem of patriarchal exploitation is seen to be lesbian relationships and female support groups.


h. Some Radical Feminists (e.g. Firestone) argue that female emancipation can be achieved technologically (women being freed from childbirth and so forth).
i. In general, Radical Feminists see the exploitation of women as involving both the public sphere (work for example) and the private sphere (the home - marriage as, according to David Bouchier, an "institutionalised source of female oppression”).
This a dual form of female exploitation not experienced by men.


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