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Lesson 3 –Theory . Feminism . By the end of this lesson, you will be able to . Identify and define the main types of feminist theory, Identify and define the similarities and differences between feminist theories, Apply and evaluate the strengths and limitations of feminist theories.

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By the end of this lesson you will be able to
By the end of this lesson, you will be able to ...

  • Identify and define the main types of feminist theory,

  • Identify and define the similarities and differences between feminist theories,

  • Apply and evaluate the strengths and limitations of feminist theories

Feminist theory

Feminist theory

A quick reminder.....\..\..\..\..\My Videos\feminism.wmv

Feminist theory1
Feminist theory

  • Ali G interviews Sue Lees

Recap from last year
Recap from last year...

  • Do you consider yourself a feminist?

  • How do you define the term ‘feminist’?

  • Has feminism made life in the UK better?

Which of the following issues are important to you
Which of the following issues are important to you?

  • Equal opportunities in education

  • Equal opportunities in employment

  • Equal pay

  • A woman’s right to control her body

  • Sexual freedom

  • Violence against women (rape, domestic abuse, etc)

  • Maternity leave

  • Childcare

What are the 4 types of feminism
What are the 4 types of feminism?

  • 1.

  • 2.

  • 3.

  • 4.

  • Any others?

First wave feminism
First Wave Feminism

  • The first organised wave of feminist protest occurred in the mid to late-nineteenth century with the activities of the Suffragettes and Suffragists. Both these groups aimed to introduce the right to vote for women, and both would utilise radical means to achieve it.

Second wave feminism
Second Wave Feminism

In 1928, all women aged over 21 were given the right to vote - and many suffrage groups disbanded. However, this did not mean that women stopped writing and campaigning for change. During the 1960s, a new, second-wave of feminism began to gain momentum in Britain - influenced by three key social events:

  • The success of the Civil Rights movement

  • New technologies – the contraceptive pill

  • Women in employment during the war

Second wave feminism1
Second Wave Feminism

  • 1960s and 70s - women's liberation groups began to appear– dual function

    • Consciousness raising - highlighting gender inequalities and arguing that women's lives should no longer be seen as trivial and unimportant.

    • Campaigning to bring about direct social change

    • feminists disrupting Miss World Contest 1970

    • a forum for battered husbands in 2006

Liberal feminism
Liberal feminism

  • Equality through legal reform.

  • Change the existing system “from within”.

  • 1970 Equal Pay Act

  • 1969 Divorce Reform Act

Sex and gender
Sex and gender

  • Oakley (1972)

  • Sex –

  • Gender –

  • Must change socialisation patterns

  • Appropriate role models in education, family, media.

Evaluation of liberal feminism
Evaluation of Liberal Feminism

+ Very optimistic view

+ Their work helped to demonstrate that gender differences are not inborn, but are cultural

  • Over-optimistic?

  • Ignores the deep-seated structures causing women’s oppression (capitalism & patriarchy)

  • Fails to recognise the underlying causes of women’s subordination


Use the handout on the sex discrimination and equal pay act.

1. What are the terms of the Sex Discrimination Act (1975)?

2.What are the terms of the Equal Pay Act (1970)?

3.What are the exceptions to these laws?

4.How might gender equality be improved if the 2008 Equality Bill is brought into law?

Radical feminism
Radical feminism

  • Society is patriarchal - that it is inherently and structurally biased towards men.

  • Lobbying for legal change in the ways suggested by their Liberal counterparts is unlikely to bring about equality

  • If the system itself is patriarchal, changes to the position of women brought about by working within that system will always be within the terms agreed by men.

  • Suggest 3 ways in which patriarchal power may be exercised within the family.

The personal is political
The personal is political

  • Oppression in public sphere of work and private sphere of family

  • Sexual politics

  • Sexual and physical violence

  • Sexuality


  • Personal and sexual relationships must be transformed if women are to be free.

  • How could this be done?

  • Separatism

  • Consciousness-raising

  • Political lesbianism

  • Which of these do you think would be most successful? What are the problems with each strategy?

Evaluation of radical feminism
Evaluation of radical feminism

+ draw attention to the political dimension of areas such as marriage, rape & pornography

  • Marxists say that class, not patriarchy is the primary form of inequality

  • No explanation of why female subordination takes different forms in different societies

  • Assumes all women are in the same position

  • Inadequate theory of how patriarchy will be abolished

Marxist feminism
Marxist feminism

  • Patriarchy as a product of capitalism.

  • Engels - the male dominated family is necessary for capitalism

  • Subordination of women performs a no. of important functions for capitalism:

    • Women a source of cheap, exploitable labour

    • Women are a reserve army of labour

    • Women reproduce the labour force

    • Women absorb anger – Ansley – women as ‘takers of shit’

  • What do nurturing and socialising the next generation of workers and maintaining the current generation actually involve?

  • How might women’s domestic role enable capitalists to pay male workers less?

The ideology of familism michele barrett
The ideology of familism – Michele Barrett

  • Not just the economy that oppresses women

  • Why do women and marry and live in nuclear families when this is what oppresses them?

  • The ideology of familism

  • Must overthrow this and capitalism in order to secure women’s liberation.

Evaluation of marxist feminism
Evaluation of Marxist feminism

+ greater understanding of the importance of structural factors than liberal feminism.

  • Fails to explain women’s subordination in non-capitalist societies.

  • Unpaid domestic labour may benefit capitalism, but it doesn’t explain why it is women and not men that do it.

Dual systems theory
Dual systems theory

  • An attempt to combine Marxist feminism and radical feminism

  • Hartmann – capitalism and patriarchy

  • Domestic work limits women’s availability for paid work – but the lack of work opportunities drives many women into marriage and economic dependence on a man.

  • Thus, the two systems reinforce each other.

Evaluation of dual systems theory
Evaluation of dual systems theory

+ shows how two systems interact and structure one another.

- Patriarchy is not actually a system in the same sense as capitalism. Patriarchy is merely a descriptive term for a range of practices such as male violence and control of women’s labour.

Black feminism
Black feminism

  • Arose out of a concern that mainstream feminism only accounted for the experience of white women.

  • Due to racism, black women faced a dual-oppression, and a new form of feminism was needed in order to explain their situation.

  • Using your textbooks, find studies to support this theory. Also provide an evaluation of this theory.

Postmodern approach to feminism
Postmodern approach to feminism

  • The starting point for this school is the notion - first outlined by dual-systems feminism - that it is difficult to describe the experience of all women as an homogenous group.

  • For instance, women of different ethnicities, localities, sexualities and (dis)abilities have different experiences - for which the broad-brush approach of traditional feminism fails to account. Postmodern feminists, such as Butler, therefore reject the notion of femininity as a “catch-all” - and instead argue that there are a range of different femininities. The research of postmodern feminists is consequently an attempt to sensitise the perspective to this diversity of experience.


  • Which type of feminism is being evaluated in each of the statements on the handout?

Homework due next friday
Homework due next Friday

  • Assess the usefulness of feminist contributions to our understanding of society today. (33 marks)

  • Using lesson 3 – questionnaire on the blog and other sources complete the research methods pack.