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University of Guelph
Political Science
POLS 1150
Byron Sheldrick

 Feminism -feminism is often thought of in the terms of achieving equality for women -this involves not only establishing equal rights and opportunities for women and eliminating discriminatory practices, but also challenging the traditional views about women that have often had the effects of confining women to domestic life and restricting freedom -many feminists argue that political decisions should give greater emphasis to the different experiences and values of women instead of being based primarily on male values -according to feminists, all societies are, to varying extents, characterized by patriarchy -Lorraine Code (1988, p. 18) “patriarchal societies are those in which men have more power than women, readier access than women to what is valued in the society and, in consequence, are in control over many, if not most aspects of women’s lives” -changing the patriarchal nature of society is a basic goal of feminism Background -a sexual division of labour has always been prevalent in societies and seen as natural; women are seen as suited for household duties, including raising the children, and men are seen as best suited for politics, ruling, and other public activities -some argue that women needed to be protected from the harsh realities of politics, while others viewed women as too prone to emotion more so than reason -Aristotle even asserted that “the male, unless constituted in some respect contrary to nature, is by nature more adept in leading than the female” -Aristotle therefore argued that men should rule in both the household and the political community -“The Declaration of the Rights of Man”, a product of the French Revolution in 1789, inspired one of the first statements on feminist ideas when Mary Wollstonecraft rejected the common notion that women’s natural role was to please men and bear and raise children in her own charter, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) -Wollstonecraft advocated that women are human beings with the sae capacity for rational thinking as men, and should therefore have the same rights as men -as with other perspectives, there are a variety of different versions of contemporary feminism; the three basic categories are: 1. liberal feminism 2. socialist feminism 3. radical feminism Liberal Feminism -liberal feminism continues the struggles for women in the late 19 and early 20 centuries for equal legal and political rights, (often termed the “first wave” of feminism) and equal opportunities in areas such as education and employment -influential American feminist Betty Friedan said “my definition of feminism is simply that women are people in every sense of the word, who must be free to move in society with all the privileges and opportunities and responsibilities that are in their human and America right” -she stated that women suffered by being confined to the role of housewife, by pursuing a career and gaining economic independence it would allow women to lead more fulfilling lives -the key problem for liberal feminists is the discrimination against women that limits their opportunities -liberal feminism focuses on ensuring that women have the freedom and opportunity to engage in politics, business, careers, and employment on the same basis of men -it has been successful to some degree in that laws and policies that discriminated against women have been eliminated in many countries and many women have taken that opportunity to obtain higher education and pursue professional careers -although the proportion of women in top positions in politics and business is much higher than it was several decades ago, women are still strongly under-represented in most countries’ important positions Socialist Feminism -socialist feminism views women as oppressed by both the male-dominated character of society and the capitalist system -socialist feminists argue that male-female relations reflect the exploitative relationships of capitalists to workers; EX: just as the capitalist boss dominates and exploits workers, so, too, husbands are dominant in the home and exploit the labour of their wives -socialist feminists argue that the liberation of women involves both a struggle against patriarchy and the transformation of capitalism into a more co-operative and egalitarian socialist society -overcoming the sexual division of labour in which women have primary responsibility for most domestic duties, along with transforming the division of labour in the capitalist system, would also enable everyone to live more creative, fulfilling lives Radical Feminism -in the radical feminist perspective, patriarchal values are deeply embedded in culture and affect the way that women, as well as men, see themselves -male supremacy is maintained through the dominant values, ideas, and practices of society, which encourage women to be dependent upon and subservient to men and also, according to radical feminists, by the use of force in the form of violence against women, including threat of rape, to keep women under control and subordinate -radical feminism views the oppression of women as the oldest, most pervasive, and most deeply entrenched form of oppression -Robin Morgan (a leading feminist writer) argued that “sexism is the root oppression, the one which, until and unless we uproot it, will continue to put fort the branches of racism, class hatred, ageism, competition, ecological disaster, and economic exploitation” (1977) -the implication is that the struggle of women against oppression is fundamentally revolutionary because it has the potential to end various forms of domination and subordination Liberation -the goal of radical feminism is liberation -liberation involves freeing the human potential that has been stifled by the organization and values of society -oppression warps the personality of the oppressed, particularly by forcing them to adopt the values of the oppressor -in other words, radical feminists argue that the way society defines what it is to be female and make is restrictive to both women and men -patriarchal values not only are oppressive to women but men as well as it can force men to adopt socially defined masculine values and behaviours rather than develop a fully rounded character -for radical feminists, liberation will ultimately be the for the good of all -liberation is not simply a matter of ending male domination of positions of governing authority or of limiting the power of the state over women, rather radical feminism seeks a fundamental transformation of social institutions, values, and personal relationships -many radical feminists view male dominance in the family as the root of male social, political, and economic domination -many radical feminists argue that women must organize separately from men in order to free themselves from oppression -the prevalence of male power and values make it necessary for women as an oppressed class to organize themselves collectively as women and more so because those who are oppressed and have internalized the values of male-dominated society, radical feminists argue that a key task is to raise women’s awareness of their oppression and to encourage women to take pride in their identity as women Feminism and Male-Female Differences -feminists argue that women’s values are based primarily on the roles that society has prescribed for them, such as raising children and caring for sick and elderly family members -because of this perspective, different gender roles, like the expectation that men will be breadwinners and women will look after domestic duties, are socially created, and imposed, rather than reflecting inherent biological differences between men and women -liberation involved being free of such socially created roles, thereby allowing women and men to adopt or experiment with different roles -some feminists have even sought to create an androgynous society in which male-female differences are virtually irrelevant -female attributes like; nurturing, caring, co-operation, emotion and spirituality are undervalued in male-dominated societies which instead emphasize competition, aggression, and rationality -in this perspective society needs to be transformed so that female values are given greater importance -men and women tend to have different, but equally valid, sense of morality; women are more likely to base their moral judgements on an ethic if care and on the specific context and circumstances in which moral issues arise; men tend to base their judgements more on abstract, universally applicable principles or “right” and “wrong” Promoting Women’s Identity -by celebrating women and their values, feminists hope to encourage women to be more independent and politically active -the development of a distinctive identity and culture of women is seen as an important element in encouraging women to have confidence to collectively liberate themselves from oppression -some feminists have been critical of the notion that women share a common identity arising out of their common womanly experiences; black feminists have argued that women of color suffer double the oppression based on their gender and their race -the characteristics of sisterhood proclaimed by the largely white, middle-class, educated, heterosexual spokespersons for the feminist movement do not adequately reflect the diversity of women’s experiences  Environmentalism -in 1962 American biologist Rachel Carson wrote in her book Silent Spring that the voices of birds was being silenced by synthetic pesticides and more generally, that the fragile ecology of the earth was threatened by the large-scale production and use of dangerous chemicals -environmentalism is not simply an expression f concern about various environmental problems and support for efforts to clean up the environment and reduce pollution, rather, it provides a distinctive perspective on the fundamental causes of environmental problems and a vision of an environmentally sustainable world -environmentalism also includes the belief that humanity needs to fundamentally change its relationship with nature -influenced by the scienc
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