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David Young

Feminist theory Introduction to feminist theory A What is feminist theory  Feminist theory is a wide ranging system of ideas about social life and human experience developed from women centered perspective  This theory is women centered in two ways o Firstly because it examines situations and expr of women in society o Secondly because it described the social world from the view point of women  This theory differs from other socio theories as it is interdisciplinary – it draws upon a variety of disciplines other than socio o It draws from socio, psych, polis ci, and cultural studies o Feminist socio are trying to deepen socio by bringing in ideas from other disciplines B The concept of gender  They distinguish between two things; gender and sex  Sex is a biological concept and refers to physical differences between males and females  Gender is a social concept and refers to culturally learnt behaviour associated with masculinity and femininity  Competition is considered within our culture as being masculine  Cooperation is considered within our culture as being feminine  Whatever is defined as masculine is valued, and feminine is devalued in society The theory of cultural feminism A what is cultural feminism  Branch of feminism that explored and celebrates the distinctive social values of women o This focuses on gender difference and how the social characteristics of women contrast with the social characteristics of men B theoretical ideas in cultural feminism th  Was developed in 19 century – associated with the first wave feminists o These feminist pointed out that men and women has different social values o They also suggested that social values of women were superior to social values of men  Pointed out that they saw these positive social characteristics made ‘feminine personality’  These feminists also talked about the state needed to adopt such positive feminine values as cooperation and passivism (non-violence) o In order words the states needs to become less masculine and become more femenine (take on more fem char like non violent and cooperation) C empirical evidence and cultural feminism  Women have o distinctive standards of ethical judgements (men and women see ethical issues in different ways) – o women have a particular style of communication o Capacity for openness and emotional experience o Lower levels of aggressive behaviour o Women have capacity for creating peaceful coexistence D Evaluation of cultural feminism  Strengths o Offers a positive assessment of:  Women  Their contribution to society  Social values that are culturally defined as feminine  Weakness o It does not explain the origins of differences between the social values of men and women The theory of liberal feminism A What is liberal feminism?  Branch of feminism that emphasizes how women are disadvantaged by cultural and ideological processes in society o Focuses on gender inequality o More specifically how the location of women in society is different and less privileged from men B theoretical ideas of liberal feminism  Basis for gender inequality o They argue that gender ineq stems from process of socialization o They argue that we learn gendered behaviour from agents of socialization – social institutions (i.e family, educational institutions, media institutions, religious institutions) o These social institutions encourage boys and girls to adopt behaviours or to go into occupations that are gendered o Historically boys have been encourages to be aggressive and independent  In terms of occupations they have been encourages to become doctors and corporate executives o Girls have been encouraged to become submissive, dependent  In terms of jobs – nurses and secretaries o this type of socialization fosters circumstances where males have more power than females  eliminating gender ineq o they see culture and ideology as the problem o hence the solution focuses on changing the cultural ideas passed on through socialization  they do so by establishing policies  they argue that we need policies to prevent sex role stereotyping in television programming  they also say we need policies to prevent discrimination when women are trying to get into male dominated occupations c empirical evidence and liberal feminism  there is a great deal of empirical evidence to support lib fem  media institutions: o research indicates that media institutions reinforce gender ineq  a study that was done in 2001 looked at kids literature (written between 1995- 1999)  researchers found that sex role stereotyping was prevalent in the literature o researchers have also looked at how children react to films (especially the recent ones like beauty and the beast) o sex roles are prevalent  educational institutions: o research found that high school guidance counsellors still often encourage students to pursue occupational goals considered appropriate for their sex o also research done on many female high school students in Canada found that they still make traditionally feminine occupational choices d evaluation of liberal feminism  strengths: o at least two strengths:  (1) lib fem usefully draws attention to the role of cultural and ideological processes in relation to gender inequality  (2) It is well supported by empirical evidence o At least two weaknesses:  (1) lib fem fails to identify the real cause of gender ineq  Cultural ideas stem from the social structure (real cause of gender ineq)  Lib fem does not address this  (2) solutions proposed are limited to reformism 
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