A CRASH COURSE ON FEMINIST THEORIES
Based on research on different Feminist Theories
by NCWDI members, 1997


There are values that have been established in the society which effect all social/psychological interactions:
 
NORM
Men
White/European
Financially Secure
Heterosexual
Able bodies
Formal Education
Young Age
OTHER
Women
Asian, Middle East, etc..
Poor, Working class
Homosexual
Disable, handicap
Experimental Education
old, middle age

On a social pyramid, Norm is on the top with less population and other is at the base with more population.

So, most of the feminist theories are evolved around the aim to bring these two sets of values. At least they claim such goals.


The usual approach is to define the elements of oppression


What are the elements of oppression:

1. Violence

2. Economics

3. Institutional Power

Right or wrong there have been different analysis of this approach with regard to women:

- Blaming the victims (along the same line as Mullah's, women are the source of sin, so

their victimization is justified)

- Internalizing the oppression (women think they are the source of the problem, hence

the strong self-doubt in women. One strong sign of this in west is the high rate of

depression among women, especially the successful ones.)
 


So what are the feminist theories that are actually in practice to overcome these issues? Feminist theories which
were somewhat practiced in some societies took a heavy toll after the end of cold war. Marxist feminism have
always been coupled with socialist feminist in order to be put in practice.

Before the cold war, their target was:

1. Class - group

2. Materialism

3. Structures - established laws and social systems

4. Resources of power

They strongly believed that gender issues will resolve by addressing the class issues. After the end of cold war,
majority of activists and theories of the Marxist/Socialist feminism joined the radical feminism. Many joined the
Postmodern feminism and internalized the issues. Postmodern Feminism heavily emphasizes on individualism. It
has non-activism as its hidden agenda. It doesn't promote any kind of collective effort and that's why most of the
postmodern feminists don't even agree with each other's work.

A pure intellectual state of mind. Unfortunately, it is very attractive among Women Studies programs in US, UK
and France.

Radical and liberal feminism are actually the two major theories that have been picked up by different
organizations and institutions for practice and are still going strong.

At this point if we look at the 5 major theories with the effect of the cold war, we will see the following:
 
 
Class Analysis
Marxist, Socialist
Radicals

 

Individual Analysis
 Liberal and Postmodern
 New wave of psycho-feminists
Lesbians (historically from-1970's to early 80's)

 Note: There are a lot of cross referencing between the above two analysis. For example, Radical feminists are
mostly in theory, where liberal feminists are the strong activists line NOW organization.

A CLOSER LOOK AT LIBERAL VS. RADICAL FEMINISM:

There are 2 distinct spheres:

-Public sphere (this belongs mostly to men and has been established based on male-dominated standards)

-Private & domestic sphere (this belongs to women and it's based on feminine values, motherhood, nurturing,
etc..)

The parameters of private sphere consists of: family, husband and children.

The parameters of public sphere consists of: Government, Religion, Business, Media, Military, Judicial,
Education, Health care.

With this in mind, lets look at how feminism looks at this spheres:

Liberal Feminism believes in Liberalism which is based on:

1. Individual- rights of individuals

2. Education- That is the solution to the problems

3. Voluntarism- Choices to be made

4. Idealism - It is the ideas that make the changes. So, good ideas will make good changes.

It is mainly based on meritocracy, which means the harder you work, the more empowered you will be, the more
opportunities you will have and goals you will achieve. A merit system.

Therefore, Liberal Feminism (and Marxist Feminism) believe in a strong barrier between public and private
spheres. They are strong advocates of Right to Privacy which follows the specific issues like contraceptives,
abortions and gay/lesbian rights. Liberal feminism believes men = women, therefore women has to work her way
up in a male-dominated society to achieve a true equality. They promote the theory of "Sameness".

Radical feminism, on the other hand, looks in to class, gender and sex-class. They believe in weakening the
barriers between the public and private sphere. They encourage police involvement in violence against wives at
home, child abuse and pornography. The issue of pornography is in diametric view with Liberal feminism,
because the liberals believe that's an individual rights and they make the decision to be involved or not..hence,
protecting a male-dominated scheme..

Radical feminists go to the root of the problem. They believe in order to eliminate the male-control in public
which roots to private, women should redefine their reproductive role. They encourage the reproductive
technologies. They believe if the sexuality is a private issue for women then the violence against women, sexual
violence like pornography, prostitution should stop.

The way Radical feminism goes after redoing the structures based on new values is very similar to socialism. It is
the male-dominated structure that has to be replaced. They strongly promote positive discrimination.

A SIDE NOTE:

The radical and liberal approach which was discussed here with regard to changing the structure vs. working your
way up within the existing structure.

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