WSTA03H3 Study Guide - Final Guide: Queer Theory, Feminist Theory

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16 Apr 2012
Week 1 Feminist Theory
1. How to think about theory
What is theory?
- Theory:
o Is not a guess
o Is more than a speculation. Like if Susan and Amina stopped talking to each other and people
are speculating why they stopped this is not a theory. Because truth or false of these
statement could be made clear very easily. Informed speculation. It is general not specific. It
finds general pattern.
o Is not common-sense
o Is not obvious
o Involves complexity
o It does not have to be the true description of reality
o Theory explains the why and how. We have to find relationships between social patterns for
example relationship are causes of something and co-relational (happening at the same
time) this is theory.
o Not personal experience and no one theory tells you the whole truth
- Theory Theory is a set of abstract principles which the outcome of the analysis of is given facts in
their relation to one another.
o You are given facts, you find relations among the facts and then you make an abstract
o Ex. Men have more accidents then women and it was thought to be because they are bad
drivers. But it could be aggressive, risk taking. The real explanation was that men drive more
than woman because there isn’t scientific evidence that women are better drivers. Without
theories facts are just facts and aren’t important.
2. Theory’s Effects
- Challenges 'common sense’
- Offers an alternative explanation
- Questions assumptions
- Unsettles that which is taken for granted
- It opens up the horizon to other theories.
3. What is Feminism ****Good short answer
1. Studying and understanding gender as a system of cultural signs. No matter what definition of
masculine and femininity we can always read the body. The body is read.
2. These cultural signs have direct effect on how we live.
3. The present gender systems is structured by a binary opposition--masculine/feminine
4. This binary privileges men more often than women
5. Qualification: other binary oppositions are always at work
6. Feminism thinks these facts are wrong and need to be changed
- Not all men occupy positions of power other binary oppositions are always at work (age, class, race,
sexual orientation, etc.)
4. What is Feminist Theory
- Is concerned with women’s inequality
o They want to be equal but they aren’t the same.
- Is concerned with gender asymmetry
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o Concerns both men and women. The ideas of masculine and femininity at the expense of all
other gender construction in our society.
o Global, colonial conditions, psychological conditions, legal conditions
- Examines the conditions in which men are more powerful like economics.
- Challenges all structures of domination
- Explains the construction of masculinity and femininity
- It focuses on the category of women. How is it that women are oppressed because they just being a
- Feminist theory is a critique of misogyny/sexual hierarchy
- The plurality and diversity of feminism
- There are different ways of approaching these theories: the first approach/method is to divide them
into two categories (individuals versus relational) women as individuals, and other looks at an
individual woman as related to a broader sets of issues (social of standards (relational feminism)
- Second method/approach is to divide them into equality versus difference: equality feminism claims
that men and women are equal and the same (liberal feminism looks at this approach); this can also
be egalitarian feminism (society based on equality)
- Difference feminism recognizes and values the difference between men and women (sees men and
women as equal, but sees the women are different from men) equality should not mean sameness
- Another method is to categorize them to various schools or traditions.
What are those 6 Items for each theory?
1. Definition of human nature/identity/self
2. Definition of woman/womanhood/femininity
3. The cause(s) of women’s oppression
4. The solution(s)
5. Achievements/strengths
6. Failures/shortcomings/limitations
Week 2: Liberal Feminism
1. Definition of human nature is autonomous, rational, isolated, self consciousness, free will, we are by
nature self interested.
o What distinguishes us from other species is our reason
o Idea of “human” can be abstracted
o Human nature as an individual and then as a social being; for liberal feminists, first and
foremost, a human being is this isolated individual who is self-interested (first and foremost)
2. Definition of woman/femininity Men and women are the same and not sexually differentiated.
o Men and women should be able to do the same thing. They are fundamentally the SAME as
o The reason Liberal feminism thinks men and women are equal is because the way in which they
approach human nature
3. Cause of Oppression Is public/private spheres.
o “Artificial” barriers for women.
o Private sphere is the home. Women are confined in private spheres and the public is the domain
of men.
4. Solution Solution is legal equality.
o Individual rights and freedom
o The rights of women to compete with men in labor market
o The value of women’s “autonomy” and freedom
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o Reform rather than revolution
o Equal access to opportunities. We have to destroy the public/private distinction
5. Achievements They gave us legal personhood. We became equal to men in legal discourse. Equality of
men and women before the law.
o Affirmative action
o Abortion as a woman’s rights
o Highlighting violence against women
6. Critique Doesn’t recognize the difference between women and men.
o Men and women should be equal, but by recognizing their differences.
o We are born with sexed bodies. We are treated differently, discriminated against, etc.
o A woman is not the same as a man, but a woman should not be seen as inferior to men
o Liberal feminist think that you can abstract human beings; that we can find the lowest-common
denominator and abstract humans as such (human beings all have rights and reason)
o Meaning that human beings come in different shapes, sizes, and race but human beings can be
abstracted by defining them as having rights, reason, etc.
o Liberal feminists celebrate masculine characteristics. They want to celebrate women
characteristics too
o Assumption is that there is sameness, likeness between sexes; and as such, women should be
able to do what men do.
o Liberal feminist ignore the reality, they ignore the physical differences between men and
women (as to the fact women can get pregnant)
Week 3: Radical Feminism
1. Definition of Human Nature All that liberal feminism are not.
o Human nature is not neutral. We are born with sex bodies and biological differences do matter.
o Sex-gender regime = hierarchy
o Sex-gender systems A set of arrangements by which a society transforms biological sexuality
into products of human activity.
o Radical feminist came out of the Radical movement in 1960s in North America (civil rights
movements; anti capitalists; peace movement)
o You are born as female and male but femininity and masculinity are learned
o These two bodies are different but should be treated the same
o Men and women are different by nature and nurture.
o If a woman is pregnant, the society adjusts to her not that women shouldn’t get pregnant.
o Equality is good but sameness is bad. Equality has to be achieved through acknowledgement of
these differences.
2. Definition of woman/femininity
o Someone who must be celebrated and celebrate women’s characteristics
o Womanhood is not something to be ashamed of. However we learn to hide a lot of bodily
o Radical feminist say that we should celebrate our womanhood. We shouldn’t act like men to
prove ourselves.
o Some radical feminist believe women are better than men
o Not an inferior sex and not the same as men
o A world made by women: warm, supportive, nurturing and full of creativity
3. Cause of Oppression: patriarchy is universal. Existing sex-regimes. Patriarchy is the cause.
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