• Feminist Theory
o The extension of feminism into theoretical or philosophical discourse
o Asks: What is the nature of gender inequality?
o Examines women’s social roles, experience, and feminist politics in a variety of
history, medicine, education, philosophy and so on.
o General themes: discrimination, objectification, sexuality, oppression, patriarchy,
stereotyping, media, herstory, aesthetics and representation.
o Patriarchy – a social system in which males=> primary authorityfigures,including
political leadership, institutional control, and rule over the family (lineage)
• Simone de Beauvoir
o De Beauvoir (1908 –1986) - French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher,
political activist, feminist, and social theorist. Significant influence on feminist
o She wrote novels, essays, biographies, an autobiography, monographs on
philosophy, politics, and social issues.
o In the 1970s, Beauvoir became active in France's women’s liberation movement.
She signed the Manifesto of 343 in 1971, a list of famous women who claimed to
have hadan abortion,which wasillegalinFrance.Somearguemostof thewomen
had not had abortions.
o She had a long relationship with Jean Paul Sartre – famous existentialist
philosopher.She alsohad some femalepartners.Someone named Olga, who they
o Most famous book: The Second Sex (1949) –a detailed analysis of women's
oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism.
o Main thesis of the book: Men occupy the role of the self, or subject; women are
the object, the Other. Man is essential, absolute, and transcendent. Woman is
inessential, incomplete, and mutilated. He extends out into the world to impose his will on it, whereas woman is doomed to inwardness. He creates, acts, invents;
she waits for him to save her.
o De Beauvoir argues that it is natural for humans to understand themselves in
woman as Other, man is denying her humanity.
o Biology, psychoanalysis, and historical materialism – these all reveal indisputable
“essential” differences between men and women, but they do not provide
justification for woman’s inferiority.
o As an existentialist, she believed that existence precedes essence – i.e., one is not
born a woman, but becomes one. It is a (social) construction of Woman as the
quintessential Other that she identifies as fundamental to women's oppression.
o Beauvoir argued that patriarchal society involved “othering” women by applying
a false aura of "mystery" around them – exoticism/stereotyping. As a way of
controlling them. Colonialism worked similarly.
o Beauvoir argued that women have historically been considered deviant,
abnormal. “Male” is the standard – the optimal. The normal. Women’s poetry,
women’s history, women’s studies.
o Says it’s irritating to talk about it, but we have to. To deny women’s oppression
means to deny fact of other order categories that serve as bases for oppression
(race, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual preference – the variety of “Others” in
o Why do women not fight back? Why submit to this status? First, women are not a
minority. They do not have a shared past, like Pan-Africanists might say about
African Americans. There is a lack of common ground. Women do not say “we” –
except at feminist conferences.
o Second, women do not live separately from males. They feel akin to them, marry
them, have close ties.
o Third, they rely on men. Master/Slave – mutual relation. There are advantages to
being connected to men. Power, Money. o How to stop it? Rid the world of inferiority/superiority in general. “Universal
emancipation” (Marx). Not just women’s lib, but liberation from domination. Not
about defined roles – women in the boardroom as good – glass ceiling, etc. But
rather, the freedom and liberty to decide (self-determination) – to be one’s self.
• Barbara Ehrenreich
o Born in Butte, Montana, in 1941. Mining town. Father was a miner, women were
homemakers. Moved around a lot. Father got a degree and had jobs in various
o She attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, majoring in chemistry, then
switching to physics. Went to grad school at Rockefeller University in theoretical
physics. Switched to molecular biology, then to cell biology.
o Involved the anti-Vietnam war movement. Joined a nonprofit in NYC that
advocated for health care for the city’s poor. Wrote investigative stories for their
newsletter. How she became a writer.
sexism: in hospital clinic during her pregnancy. Started working for the “women’s
on feminism, American culture, and the poor. She won the National Magazine
Award for Excellence in Reporting in 1980 and received a Ford Foundation Award
for Humanistic Perspectives on Contemporary Society in 1982, a Guggenheim
Fellowship in 1987-88, and a MacArthur Foundation Grant for Research and
Writing in 1995.
o Tons of books. Most famous, Nickel and Dimed, published in 2001. She has taught
at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC, Berkeley, and is primarily a freelance
o Prison Abuse:
▪ Sabrina Harman and Lynndie England (26 yrs old) ▪ England – 3 yrs (early parole); husband 10 years. Said it was the media’s
fault, also said she was just following orders.
▪ Pics published in New Yorker. “Exposure: The Woman behind the camera
at Abu Ghraib," March 24, 2008,
▪ Harman said it was it was her role as a woman in the military. She was not
expected to wrestle prisoners into stress positions, but to serve as an
instrument of humiliation.
▪ The M.P.s were given a training session on “cultural awareness.” Said that
Arab men were sexual prudes, with a particular hangup about being seen
naked in public by women. What better way to break an Arab, then, than
to strip him, tie him up, and have a woman laugh at him? Taking pictures
may have seemed an added dash of mortification.
▪ As a feminist, the photos “broke my heart.” Why? She says: “I had no
out that I did have some illusions about women.”
▪ “If you were doing PR for Al Qaeda, you couldn't have st