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File:Female Liberation Symbol.png

The Female Liberation Symbol.

Feminism is a diverse, competing, and often opposing collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies, largely motivated by or concerning the experiences of women. Most feminists are especially concerned with social, political, and economic inequality between men and women; some have argue that gendered and sexed identities, such as "man" and "woman," are socially constructed while others have argued that they are both biologically and socially contructed. Feminists differ over the sources of inequality, how to attain equality, and whether gender and sexual identities or personal choices and inclinations are the basis of inequality. Thus, as with any ideology, political movement or philosophy, there is no single, universal form of feminism that represents all feminists.

Feminist political activists commonly campaign on issues such as reproductive rights (including but not limited to the right to choose a safe, legal abortion, access to contraception, and the availability of quality prenatal care), violence within a domestic partnership, maternity leave, equal pay, sexual harassment, street harassment, discrimination, and rape. Many feminists today argue that feminism is a grass-roots movement that seeks to cross boundaries based on social class, race, culture, and religion; is culturally specific and addresses issues relevant to the women of that society (for example female genital cutting in Africa or the glass ceiling in developed economies); and debate the extent to which certain issues, such as rape, incest, and mothering, are universal. Themes explored in feminism include patriarchy, stereotyping, objectification, sexual objectification, and oppression.

Feminism in psychology[]

Main article: Feminist therapy


Main article: History of feminism
File:Early feminists.jpg

First International Convention of Women in Washington D.C. Susan B. Anthony is third from the left, front row.

Christine de Pisan, the first professional female writer, advocated feminism as early as the 1300s, in the face of attempts to restrict female inheritance and guild membership.

Feminism as a philosophy and movement in the modern sense may be usefully dated to The Enlightenment with such thinkers as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Marquis de Condorcet championing women's education. The first scientific society for women was founded in Middelburg, a city in the south of the Dutch republic, in 1785. Journals for women which focused on issues like science became popular during this period as well. Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is one of the first works that can unambiguously be called feminist.

Feminism became an organized movement in the 19th century as people increasingly came to believe that women were being treated unfairly. The feminist movement was rooted in the progressive movement and especially in the reform movement of the 19th century. The utopian socialist Charles Fourier coined the word féminisme in 1837; as early as 1808, he had argued that the extension of women's rights was the general principle of all social progress. The organized movement was dated from the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. In 1869, John Stuart Mill published The Subjection of Women to demonstrate that "the legal subordination of one sex to the other is of the chief hindrances to human improvement."

Many countries began to grant women the vote in the early years of the 20th century, especially in the final years of the First World War and the first years hence. The reasons varied, but they included a desire to recognize the contributions of women during the war, and were also influenced by rhetoric used by both sides at the time to justify their war efforts. For example, since Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points recognized self determination as vital to society, the hypocrisy of denying half the population of modern nations the vote became difficult for men to ignore.

Feminism in many forms[]

Some forms of feminist theory question basic assumptions about gender, gender difference, and sexuality, including the category of "woman" itself as a holistic concept, further some are interested in questioning the male/female dichotomy completely (offering instead a multiplicity of genders). Other forms of feminist theory take for granted the concept of "woman" and provide specific analyses and critiques of gender inequality, and most feminist social movements promote women's rights, interests, and issues. Feminism is not a single ideology. Over-time several sub-types of feminist ideology have developed. Early feminists and primary feminist movements are often called the first-wave feminists, and feminists after about 1960 the second-wave feminists. More recently, some members of younger generation of feminists have identified themselves with a "third wave" of feminism. Whether this will be a lasting evolution remains to be seen as the second-wave has by no means ended nor has it ceded to the third-wave feminists.

In her book A Fearful Freedom: Women's Flight from Equality, Wendy Kaminer identifies another conflict between forms of feminism, the conflict between what she calls "egalitarian" and "protectionist" feminism. In her characterization, egalitarian feminists focus on promoting equality between women and men, and giving women and men equal rights. Protectionist feminists prefer to focus on legal protections for women, such as employment laws that specially protect female workers and divorce laws that seem to favor women, sometimes advocating restricting rights for men, such as free speech (specifically, the right to produce and consume pornography). Though the book predates third-wave feminism, Kaminer identifies both protectionist and egalitarian currents within first-wave feminism and second-wave feminism.

Some radical feminists, such as Mary Daly, Charlotte Bunch, and Marilyn Frye, have advocated separatism—a complete separation of male and female in society and culture—while others question not only the relationship between men and women, but the very meaning of "man" and "woman" as well (see Queer theory). Some argue that gender roles, gender identity, and sexuality are themselves social constructs (see also heteronormativity). For these feminists, feminism is a primary means to human liberation (i.e., the liberation of men as well as women.)

It should also be noted that although many leaders of feminism have been women, not all feminists are women. There are a number of exclusively male groups which are sympathetic to feminist understandings of society and believe the dominant model of manhood or masculinity is oppressive to women, as well as limiting for men themselves.[1]

There is debate among and about feminism concerning which types should exclusively be labeled, or considered. There are also overlapping beliefs such as in oppression by patriarchy and/or capitalism, or the belief they are one in the same.

Subtypes of feminism[]

  • Amazon feminism
  • Anarcha-Feminism
  • Anti-racist feminism
  • Black Feminism
  • Chicana Feminism
  • cultural feminism
  • ecofeminism
  • equity feminism
  • existentialist feminism
  • French feminism
  • gender feminism
  • individualist feminism (also known as libertarian feminism)
  • lesbian feminism
  • liberal feminism
  • male feminism or Pro-feminist men
  • Marxist feminism (also known as socialist feminism)

  • material feminism
  • pop feminism
  • post-colonial feminism
  • postmodern feminism which includes queer theory
  • pro-sex feminism (also known as sexually liberal feminism, sex-positive feminism)
  • psychoanalytic feminism
  • radical feminism
  • separatist feminism
  • socialist feminism
  • spiritual feminism
  • standpoint feminism
  • third-world feminism
  • transnational feminism
  • transfeminism
  • womanism
  • Certain actions, approaches and people can also be described as proto-feminist or post-feminist.

Relationship to other movements[]

Some feminists take a holistic approach to politics, believing the saying of Martin Luther King Jr., "A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". In that belief, some self-identified feminists support other movements such as the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement. At the same time, many black feminists such as bell hooks criticize the movement for being dominated by white women. Feminist claims about the alleged disadvantages women face in Western society are often less relevant to the lives of black women. This idea is the key in postcolonial feminism. Many black feminist women prefer the term womanism for their views.

Feminists are sometimes wary of the transgender movement because it challenges the distinctions between men and women. Transgender and transsexual individuals who identify as female are excluded from some "women-only" gatherings and events and are rejected by some feminists, who say that no one born male can fully understand the oppression that women face. This exclusion is criticized as "transphobic" by transgender people, who assert their political and social struggles are closely linked to many feminist efforts, and that discrimination against gender-variant people is another face of the so-called patriarchy. See transfeminism and gender studies.

Effects of feminism in the West[]

Some feminists would argue that there is still much to be done on these fronts, while others would disagree and claim that the battle has basically been won.

Effects on civil rights[]

Opposed to suffrage

Securing women's suffrage has been a defining issue for the feminist movement.

Feminism has effected many changes in Western society, including women's suffrage; broad employment for women at more equitable wages; the right to initiate divorce proceedings and the introduction of "no fault" divorce; the right to obtain contraception and safe abortions; and the right to be allowed admittance into any university in the U.S..

Feminism is largely a pro-choice movement, although there are some exceptions. The national organization Feminists for Life, for instance, condemns the act of abortion, claiming that the reason that abortion is so common is because women do not have access to alternate resources and information. Feminists for Life also suggest that what they refer to as the "abortion industry" is part of a system which allows the abuse of women and women's rights.

Effect on language[]

English-speaking feminists are often proponents of what they consider to be non-sexist language, using "Ms." to refer to both married and unmarried women, for example, or the use of the term "herstory" instead of "history". Feminists are also often proponents of using gender-inclusive language, such as "humanity" instead of "mankind", or "he or she" (or other gender-neutral pronouns) in place of "he" where the gender is unknown. Feminists in most cases advance their desired use of language either to promote what they claim is an equal and respectful treatment of women or to affect the tone of political discourse. This can be seen as a move to change language which has been viewed by some feminists as imbued with sexism, providing for example the case in the English language in which the word for the general pronoun is "he" or "his" (The child should have his paper and pencils), which is the same as the masculine pronoun (The boy and his truck). These feminists argue that language then directly affects perception of reality (compare Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis). However, to take a postcolonial analysis of this point, many languages other than English may not have such a gendered pronoun instance and thus changing language may not be as important to some feminists as others. Yet, English is becoming more and more universal, and the issue of language may be seen to be of growing importance.

On the other hand, a different tendency can be seen in French. Gender, as a grammatical concept, is much more pervasive in French than in English, and as a result, it has been virtually impossible to create inclusive language. Instead, nouns that originally had only a masculine form have had feminine counterparts created for them. "Professeur" ("teacher"), once always masculine regardless of the teacher's sex, now has a parallel feminine form "Professeuse". In cases where separate masculine and feminine forms have always existed, it was once standard practice for a group containing both men and women to be referred to using the masculine plural. Nowadays, forms such as "Tous les Canadiens et Canadiennes" ("all Canadians", or literally "all the male Canadians and female Canadians") are becoming more common. Such phrasing is common in Canada, and in France, where President Jacques Chirac routinely uses "Françaises et Français" (French women and French men) in political speeches, but practically unknown in other French-speaking countries.

Effect on heterosexual relationships[]

The feminist movements have altered the nature of heterosexual relationships in Western and other societies affected by feminism. In some of these relationships, there has been a change in the power relationship between men and women. In these circumstances, men and women have had to adapt to relatively new situations, sometimes causing confusions about role and identity. Women can now avail themselves more to new opportunities, but some have suffered with the demands of trying to live up to the so-called "superwomen" identity, and have struggled to 'have it all', i.e. manage to happily balance a career and family. In response to the family issue, many socialist feminists blame this on the lack of state-provided child-care facilities. Others have advocated instead that full responsibility for child care must not rest solely on women, but rather that men should also be responsible for managing family matters.

Some men counter that this expectation is unrealistic, claiming that a de-emphasis on breadwinning would be injurious to their ability to attract mates; while many women have the choice to try to "have it all", they claim that societal expectations placed on men preclude them from devoting themselves further to domestic chores and childrearing. Several studies support the view that, although men are derided for not devoting enough time to childrearing and domestic tasks, few women seem attracted to men who engage in these activities to the detriment of their careers. ("The Perception of Sexual Attractiveness: Sex Differences in Variability" by Townsend J.M.; Wasserman T., Archives of Sexual Behavior, Volume 26, Number 3, June 1997, pp. 243-268(26) McGraw, Kevin J. (2002) "Environmental Predictors of Geographic Variation in Human Mating Preferences." Ethology 108 (4), 303-317. In Defense of Working Fathers Sacks, Glenn. [2].) Some argue that the fact men devote less time to household chores is due to the fact that they devote more time to work outside the home. (finding, "According to the International Labor Organization, the average American father works 51 hours a week, whereas those mothers of young children who do work full time (themselves a minority) work a 41-hour week." [3].

As a counter to these arguments, sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild's books The Second Shift and The Time Bind present evidence that married men contribute much less time towards child care and housework than their wives do. However, Hochschild presented statistical evidence that this was not the case for two-career couples: according to the studies she cites, in two-career couples, men and women on the average spend about equal amounts of time working, but women still spend more time on housework. Hochschild's work mainly centers on two-career couples, but most disputes about the role of men in child care and domestic work center around two-career couples: feminist critiques of men's contribution to child care and domestic labor are typically centered around the idea that it is unfair for the woman to be expected to perform more than half of a household's domestic work and child care when both members of a couple also work outside the home. In general, in couples where one or both partners do not work outside the home, gender-based division of labor is less of a point of contention for feminists. (For more discussion of this point, see Joyce Jacobson's The Economics of Gender). In addition, a number of studies provide statistical evidence for the claim that married men do not contribute an equal share of housework, regardless of they or their wives' paid work loads: for example, Scott J. South and Glenna Spitze, "Housework in Marital and Nonmarital Households," American Sociological Review 59, no. 3 (1994):327-348 (which noted that divorced and widowed men spend significantly more time doing housework than married men do), and Sarah Fenstermaker Berk and Anthony Shih, "Contributions to Household Labor: Comparing Wives' and Husbands' Reports,", in Berk, ed., Women and Household Labor. These studies suggest that married men may actually create more domestic work for women, by virtue of their presence in the house, than the amount of work they perform themselves.

The preceding arguments mainly apply to middle-class women. In her 1996 book Dubious Conceptions, Kristin Luker discusses the effect of feminism on teenage women's choices to bear a child, both within and outside of marriage. She argues that as bearing a child without being married has become more socially acceptable for women, young women -- while not bearing children at a higher rate than in the 1950s -- have come to see less of a reason to get married before having a child, especially poor young women. As reasons for this, she argues that the economic prospects for poor men are slim, meaning that poor women have a low chance of finding a husband who will provide reliable financial support, and that husbands tend to create more domestic work than they contribute. Though the feminist movement has had minimal impact on those two factors, it may have contributed to the increasing social acceptability of bearing children outside of marriage.

There have been changes also in attitudes towards sexual morality and behavior with the onset of second wave feminism and "the Pill": women are then more in control of their bodies, and are able to experience sex with more freedom than was previously socially accepted for them. This sexual revolution that women were then able to experience was seen as positive (especially by sex-positive feminists) as it enabled women and men to experience sex in a free and equal manner. However, some feminists felt that the results of the sexual revolution were beneficial only to men. Feminists have debated whether marriage is an institution that oppresses women and men. Those who do view it as oppressive sometimes opt for cohabitation or more recently to live independently reverting to casual sex to fulfill their sexual needs.

Evangelical (Christian) feminists sometimes argue that life-long monogamy ideally promotes egalitarianism in sex, especially when viewed in light of other common alternatives to monogamy (i.e. polygamy, prostitution, or infidelity). On the other hand, Friedrich Engels's essay Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State -- sometimes considered an early feminist work -- argues that monogamy was originally conceived of as a way for men to control women. In addition, some modern feminists endorse polyamory as an egalitarian lifestyle (see sex-positive feminism).

Effect on religion[]

Feminism has had a great effect on many aspects of religion. In liberal branches of Protestant Christianity (and in some theologically conservative dominations as well, such as Assemblies of God[4]), women are ordained as clergy, and in Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism, women are ordained as rabbis and cantors. Within these Christian and Jewish groups, women have gradually become more nearly equal to men by obtaining positions of power; their perspectives are now sought out in developing new statements of belief. In Islam women have historically contributed to all aspects of Islamic life, from religious edicts to aid on the battlefield. A large portion of the sayings of Muhammad are taken from his wife Aisha, whom men often consulted on religious matters. In this day you will often see many women scholars on Arabic satellite television answering Islam-related questions, asked by both genders. One matter remains debatable nowadays, which is whether or not a woman can lead men in prayers. Although all classical Islamic scholars of jurisprudence rule that it is prohibited in Islamic Law, a small portion of contemporary Muslims believe that there is evidence leading to the contrary. The leadership of women in religious matters has also been resisted within Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism has historically excluded women from entering priesthood and other positions in clergy, allowing women to hold positions as nuns or as laypeople.

Feminism also has had an important role in embracing new forms of religion. Neopagan religions especially tend to emphasize the importance of Goddess spirituality, and question what they regard as traditional religion's hostility to women and the sacred feminine. In particular Dianic Wicca is a religion whose origins lie within radical feminism. Among traditional religions, feminism has led to self examination, with reclaimed positive Christian and Islamic views and ideals of Mary, Islamic views of Fatima Zahra, and especially to the Catholic belief in the Coredemptrix, as counterexamples. However, criticism of these efforts as unable to salvage corrupt church structures and philosophies continues. Some argue that Mary, with her status as mother and virgin, and as traditionally the main role model for women, sets women up to aspire to an impossible ideal and also thus has negative consequences on human sense of identity and sexuality.

There is a separate article on God and gender; it discusses how monotheistic religions reconcile their theologies with contemporary gender issues, and how modern feminism has influenced the theology of many religions.

Effect on moral education[]

Opponents of feminism claim that women's quest for external power, as opposed to the internal power to affect other people's ethics and values, has left a vacuum in the area of moral training, where women formerly held sway. Some feminists reply that the education, including the moral education, of children has never been, and should not be, seen as the exclusive responsibility of women. Paradoxically, it is also held by others that the moral education of children at home in the form of homeschooling is itself a women's movement. Such arguments are entangled within the larger disagreements of the Culture Wars, as well as within feminist (and anti-feminist) ideas regarding custodianship of societal morals and compassion.

Effects of feminism in the East[]

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Worldwide statistics[]

The neutrality of this section is disputed.

Female share of seats in elected national chambers in November 2004 (percent)
Rwanda 49.0
Sweden 45.3
South Africa 42.0
Namibia 42.0
Denmark 38.0
Finland 37.5
Norway 36.4
Spain 36.0
Netherlands 35.0
Pakistan 33.3
Germany 32.8
Iceland 30.2
New Zealand 28.3
Austria 27.5
Canada 21.1
China 20.2
UK(Commons) 17.8
Mauritius 17.0
United States 15.0
Japan 7.1

The following is a sampling of statistics related to the relative status of women worldwide.

  • According to the United Nations Human Development Report 2004: Section 28, Gender, Work Burden, and Time Allocation, women work on average more than men, when both paid employment and unpaid household tasks are accounted for. In rural areas of the developing countries surveyed, women perform an average of 20% more work than men, or an additional 98 minutes per day. In the OECD countries surveyed, on average women performed 5% more work than men, or 18 minutes per day.
  • Women are underrepresented in all of the world's major legislative bodies (see Women in National Parliaments, November 2004). In 1985, Finland had the largest percentage of women in national legislature at approximately 32 percent (P. Norris, Women's Legislative Participation in Western Europe, West European Politics). Currently, Sweden has the highest number of women at 45 percent. The United States has just 14 percent. The world average is just 9 percent. In contrast, half of the members of the recently established Welsh Assembly Government are women.

Perspective: the nature of the modern movement[]

Most feminists believe discrimination against women still exists in North American and European nations, as well as worldwide. But there are many ideas within the movement regarding the severity of current problems, what the problems are, and how best to confront them.

Extremes on the one hand include some radical feminists such as Mary Daly who argues that human society would be better off with dramatically fewer men, which goes against the call for equality the movement has sought to achieve. There are also dissidents, such as Christina Hoff Sommers or Camille Paglia, who identify themselves as feminist but who accuse the movement of anti-male prejudice. However, the former in particular has drawn criticism for what many feminists term being an apologist for male privilege at the expense of women.

On the other hand, many feminists question the use of the term feminist to groups or people who fail to recognize a fundamental equality between the sexes. Some feminists, like Katha Pollitt (see her book Reasonable Creatures) or Nadine Strossen (President of the ACLU and author of Defending Pornography [a treatise on freedom of speech]), consider feminism to be, solely, the view that "women are people." Views that separate the sexes rather than unite them are considered by these people to be sexist rather than feminist.

There are also debates between difference feminists such as Carol Gilligan on the one hand, who believe that there are important differences between the sexes (which may or may not be inherent, but which cannot be ignored), and those who believe that there are no essential differences between the sexes, and that the roles observed in society are due to conditioning. There is debate among scientists and social scientists as to whether social and psychological differences between men and women are rooted in biology. Some scientists attribute many observed differences in men's and women's behavior to biological differences between the sexes, while others argue for a stronger focus on the effects of socialization. Still others believe that the complex interactions between genes and environment make it impossible to make a definite statement on the subject, given the current state of scientific knowledge.

In Marilyn French's seminal works analyzing patriarchy and its effects on the world at large--including women, men and children--she defines patriarchy as a system that values power over life, control over pleasure, and dominance over happiness. According to French, "it is not enough either to devise a morality that will allow the human race simply to survive. Survival is an evil when it entails existing in a state of wretchedness. Intrinsic to survival and continuation is felicity, pleasure. Pleasure has been much maligned, diminished by philosophers and conquerors as a value for the timid, the small-minded, the self-indulgent. "Virtue" involves the renunciation of pleasure in the name of some higher purpose, a purpose that involves power (for men) or sacrifice (for women). Pleasure is described as shallow and frivolous in a world of high-minded, serious purpose. But pleasure does not exclude serious pursuits or intentions, indeed, it is found in them, and it is the only real reason for staying alive" Beyond Power This philosophy is what French offers as a replacement to the current structure where power has the highest value--and it is this feminism to which many (women and men) subscribe. However many believe this view is flawed, simply because one who desires power will usually obtain power over one who does not.

Carol Tavris, author of Anger: the Misunderstood Emotion and The Mismeasure of Woman: Why Women Are Not the Better Sex, the Inferior Sex, or the Opposite Sex, maintains that as long as men's experiences are considered to be the default human experiences, women will always face discrimination in North America or elsewhere. She holds that too much emphasis is placed on innate differences - real or perceived - between men and woman, and that it has been used to justify the restriction of women's rights. She also argues that it is a fallacy to equate 'equality' with 'sameness'. For example, employment benefits for pregnant women are sometimes called 'special treatment', but -- Tavris argues -- because only women can become pregnant, this viewpoint is wrong. It would only be special treatment, she argues, if both men and women could become pregnant and women received benefits for pregnancy that men did not. She argues that there is a need to view both men's and women's experiences as human experiences, rather than holding one as the standard.

Contemporary criticisms of feminism[]

In feminism as with any ideology or political movement there are many dissenting voices both inside and outside the movement. Criticism of feminism as a whole ideology, criticism of specific types of feminism and/or criticism of specific feminist ideas has come from feminists themselves, from non-feminists, from masculists, from social conservatives and from social progressives. Some critics are critical of specific aspects of feminism without being critical of feminism as a whole, while other critics seek to challenge the whole basis of feminism, and other critics argue against specific schools of thought within feminism while accepting the basic tenets of feminism.

Canadian journalist Kate Fillion is an example of a feminist who criticizes aspects of victim- focused feminism and who emphasize the characterization of women as moral, sexual, and social actors who sometimes do bad things that they are accountable for. She, among others such as Carol Tavris and Camille Paglia is critical of beliefs held by other feminists that women are morally and otherwise superior to men. She believes that theories of one-gender victimhood infantilize women.

Postcolonial feminists criticise certain ideas of Western forms of feminism, notably radical feminism and its most basic assumption, universalization of the female experience. They argue that this assumption cannot so easily be applied to women for whom gender oppression comes second to, for example, racial or class oppression.

Feminist and non-feminist critics suggest that the continual emphasis on women's issues throughout the evolution of the movement has resulted in gynocentric ideology. It is claimed by these critics that some feminists are biased by the lens that filters their world views and they would like to see a gender-neutral term such as "gender egalitarianism" replace "feminism" when used in reference to the belief in basic equal rights and opportunities for both sexes.

Many who support masculism argue that because of both traditional gender roles and sexism infused into society by feminists, males are and have been oppressed. Their view as expressed by Warren Farrell in "The Myth of Male Power" is that the traditional world was a "bi-sexist" world, not a "uni-sexist" one, and that the issues men faced then still exist plus several new ones created by feminist ideologies. One complaint is that feminists promote misandry, even male inferiority - it has been demonstrated that replacing the words "male" and "female" in some feminist writings with "black" and "white" respectively would make these texts seem more racist to more people than the corresponding feminist writings would seem sexist.

Another masculist concern is that the belief in a glass ceiling for women may have resulted in affirmative action programs that promote women more for the purpose of public relations than for merit. Sexual harassment is also a topic of dispute: critics claim that, in the name of protecting women, men are discriminated against when they are the subject of claims; and that they are treated less seriously when claiming cases. The same is true with domestic violence, and even though oft-quoted feminist research suggests that over 30% of the victims of domestic violence are male, only a handful of the thousands of tax-funded shelters in the U.S. will even admit men.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Other masculist concerns include inequity in health funding (particularly breast vs. prostate cancer), societal sympathy for women vs. vilification of men (e.g., emphasis on "violence against women" and concealment of violence by and/or for women), and fears of censorship. The concept of "patriarchy" is also questioned by masculists, largely because masculists examine whether a government's actions are more in line with men's interests or women's interests, not based on the gender of the people performing the actions, but on the actions themselves.

Another way some people criticise feminism is to quote radical feminists, such as Marilyn French's "All men are rapists, and that is all they are". Other quotations that some anti-feminists cite to indicate their belief that feminism is anti-male include Gloria Steinem's famous slogan "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle", or Andrea Dworkin's quote from her novel Ice And Fire: "I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig.".

Responses to Criticism[]

Of The Myth of Male-Power and masculist views of male oppression in general, sociologist Michael Flood holds that since Warren Farrell "states that he withdraws from that part [of feminism] that blames and plays victim, it is therefore striking that blaming and playing victim is precisely what Farrell does on behalf of men, in his account of men’s powerlessness"[5]. Flood characterizes Warren Farrell's women existing only as "greedy bitches who falsely accuse men of rape to get money or revenge, parasitic wives living luxuriously on the earnings of their overworked husbands, selfish avoiders of military combat, and cruel sexual rejectors". Michael Flood (with other sociologists and feminists such as Carol Tavris) emphasizes power and hierarchical competition between men and observes that, "Many of Farrell’s examples of men’s powerlessness are in fact examples of some men’s powerlessness at the hands of other men". Flood contends trivialization and neglection of other social attitudes such as homophobia and racism with Farrell's assertions such as "they [black men, homosexual men, and Indian men in America having the toughest time among men] do not provide an economic security blanket for women."

Trish Wilson, writer and freelance investigative reporter, is another such critic of masculism, men's rights advocates, and father's rights advocates. In her review of Warren Farrell's Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say, she criticizes what she believes is expecting no initiative on the part of men but demanding action and work from only women. She notes of Farrell's book that he "admits on page 9 that he has placed more emphasis on hearing personal criticism from (men) than on (women) giving it. Not only is the woman responsible for the moral and emotional health of the marriage, her opinions are rendered less important than that of her husband"[6]. She further notes bending statistics and findings he cites in his book as, "such a finding is in direct opposition to the man who had written that 'male power' is a myth." Of the masculist claim, included in Farrell's book, that women's health if given priority over men's and that further it is the result of feminism, she notes the success of Viagra and the widespread, open support it has been given by men. She notes this is true despite how "[Viagra has] been misused in a recreational fashion", that "Men had voluntarily given sexual performance priority over male health, including the one issue that concerns many men and men's health groups -- prostate cancer". She continues, "Stockholders, pharmaceuticals, advertising companies, and the health care community stand to make much more money from drugs like Viagra than they ever will from pouring money into prostate cancer research". A pharmaceutical rep in fact recently stated the technology exists to create an oral contraceptive specific to the needs of men, however nobody is willing to put money out as "(men fear) they'll lose their virility". She notes neither women nor feminists can be responsible for the actions men do not take or where their priorities are.

Feminism and Recent Research[]

Political scientist Warren Farrell has recently used statistical analysis to argue that the reasons why men earn more than women are based on personal choice rather than gender discrimination. In his Dark Side of Man: Tracing the Origins of Violence, anthropologist Michael Ghiglieri rejected Susan Brownmiller's theory that male-female rape is about power rather than sex; he did not address male-male, female-male, and female-female forms of rape in his analyses.

Some natural and social scientists have also used science in order to question theories of innate social or cognitive differences between men and women, such as Anne Fausto-Sterling in Myths of Gender. Carol Tavris in The Mismeasure of Woman uses psychology and sociology to voice the failure, despite much noise, to both identify innate differences between males and females in many instances and then further to pin down how identified innate differences in males and females dictate, and account for, perceived differences between men and women. She argues there is a reliance on ever-changing hypothesizes (and the hysteria they create instead of evidence) to justify inequality. She further argues a tendency to punish women for not conducting themselves on traditional male terms, which provides a counter-argument for Warren Farrel's wage-gap ideas. Other social scientists and scientists Barbara Ehrenreich, Kristin Luker, and Stephanie Coontz, among others, have brought the tools of their respective disciplines to point out problems in social and scientific theories that some anti-feminist authors cite in their arguments. Carol Tavris and Evelyn Fox Keller look at how the rhetoric of science reflects a masculine perspective and argues that we need to examine science's claims to objectivity. In fact many anthropologists (Haviland, Prins, Walrather, McBride) note that a non-masculine perspective is relatively new in studies of human evolution and culture. Primotologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (Infanticide: Comparative and Evolutionary Perspectives, Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants and Natural Selection) notes the prevalence of masculine-coined stereotypes and theories, such as the non-sexual female, despite "the accumulation of abundant openly available evidence contradicting it" (Hrdy, 1988, p.120).

In Sexually Aggressive Women: Current Perspectives and Controversies, over a dozen contributors from the psychological and sex research specialties addressed the questions: "why are there so few studies on sexually aggressive women and why are the results of this research so often discounted?". They noted the overwhelming focus of rape research, rape reporting, and rape law on male-perpetrator forms of rape and the glaring lack of research into female-perpetrated forms for rape. They explored feminist ideologies, feminist politics and other non-feminist phenomena that pose problems for researchers of female-perpetrated rape and other female-perpetrated sex crimes.

Feminism Today and Its Issues[]

Modern feminists still deal with issues of their predecessors often taking an approach appropriate to changes made (or lack thereof). Among them are for example rape, reproductive rights, abortion, pay, domestic abuse, male bias, and sexuality.

Some goals and concerns of modern feminism

  • To promote a positive image of female sexuality (be it heterosexuality or lesbianism) and allow women to take control of their own in culture where it is treated as either dirty or "sinful", only catering to the satisfaction of heterosexual males, or non-existant.
  • To prevent rape head-on. Instead of addressing it as something women (the majority of rape victims) have to deal with trying to avoid, addressing it as something men (almost exclusively the perpetrators) have to prevent. To make the issue not what she wore, what she drank, where she went, how late, how what she did gave the impression she was asking for it, but that the man raped the woman who wore/drank/was present (at night)/didn't actually ask. To concentrate on what is true of the men who rape and take steps to counteract it instead of ignoring it lest it offend some, rather than concentrating on what women should not do.

Double standards, denigration

  • a societal tendency to consider men "angry", "upset", "down", but women "irrational", "hormonal" and subsequently not taking the woman as seriously
  • a societal tendency to use the male experience as the standard
  • a sexually active female being considered a "slut", "whore", or immoral, but a male is praised
  • excusing destructive behavior of boys (while chastising girls for the same actions from a young age) with "boys will be boys", no matter the detriment to people around them


Feminists point out that women who are raped are judged by male standards, either for not doing what men would do or for not conducting themselves while keeping in mind what (heterosexual) men may think. For example whether a woman attempted to fight off a perpetrator during a rape is often a huge factor and used against her. Feminists argue that this is applying the traditional male experience to women, who aren't usually raised to defend themselves (like men) and are typically shorter, weigh less, physically weaker, and therefore wouldn't always risk the further physical pain the rapist is capable of inflicting. Also the victim is chastized or questioned due to what she wore being considered "attractive", what she drank "irresponsible", and not considering who may be present at an event she attends.

Feminists also believe this reaches outside of the court and is a reflection of a broad societal problem. An example of what feminists term "blaming the victim" came in response to the rape and murder of Imette St. Guillen in New York City after a late night of drinking. Many American news outlets and public responses emphasized the victim's actions or stated she was "asking for trouble" and women should remember to be "more guarded". This caused outrage among feminists and other activists groups. Toni K. Troop of Jane Doe Inc. said of the incident and it's reflection of culture that, “It is appalling how quickly we can jump to blame the victim and not look at the broader context in which violence against women occurs.”.

Feminists argue the focus should be the perpetrator and that the female experience and recognition of her rights as a citizen should be considered.

Famous feminists[]

See list of feminists.

See also[]


  • Antrobus, Peggy. The global women's movement - Origins, issues and strategies, London, Zed Books 2004
  • Berk, Sarah Fenstermaker, ed. Women and Household Labor, Sage 1980.
  • Bradley, Martha Sonntag. Pedestals and Podiums: Utah Women, Religious Authority, and Equal Rights, Salt Lake City, Signature Books 2005
  • Butler, Judith (1994). "Feminism in Any Other Name", differences 6:2-3: 44-45.
  • Chesler, Phyllis Woman's Inhumanity to Woman, Thunder's Mouth, 2002.
  • Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. 1899.
  • Code, Lorraine, ed., Encyclopedia of feminist theories, Routledge 2000
  • Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought. Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment, Second Edition, Routledge 2000
  • Echols, Alice. Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975, University of Minnesota Press 1990
  • Faludi, Susan. "Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women". 1992 (ISBN 0385425074)
  • Farrell, Warren. Why Men Earn More 2005 (ISBN 0-8144-7210-9)
  • Fillion, Kate, Lip Service: The Truth About Women's Darker Side in Love, Sex, and Friendship, Harper Collins 1997.]
  • French, Marilyn. Beyond Power; War Against Women; From Eve to Dawn, a 3-volume history of women
  • Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Second Shift 1990 (ISBN 0380711575)
  • Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work 1997 (ISBN 0805044701)
  • Jacobson, Joyce P. The Economics of Gender 1998. (ISBN 0631207260)
  • Kaminer, Wendy. A Fearful Freedom: Women's Flight from Equality, Addison Wesley 1990 (ISBN 0201092344)
  • Kampwirth, Karen. Feminism and the Legacy of Revolution: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas, Ohio UP 2004
  • Lerner, Gerda. The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to Eighteen-Seventy, Oxford University Press 1994
  • Luker, Kristin. Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of the Teenage Pregnancy Crisis. (Harvard University Press, 1996) (ISBN 0674217039)
  • Mead, Margaret. Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935)
  • McElroy, Wendy. Sexual Correctness: The Gender-Feminist Attack on Women, McFarland, 2001.
  • Paglia, Camille Vamps and Tramps: New Essays, Vintage 1994.
  • Pearson, Patricia, When She Was Bad: How Women Get Away with Murder, A Controversial Look at Female Aggression, Virago Press, 1998.
  • Schneir, Miriam. Feminism : The Essential Historical Writings , New York: Vintage 1994
  • Silverman, Kaja. Male Subjectivity at the Margins, p.2-3. New York: Routledge 1992
  • Sommers, Christina Hoff. Who Stole Feminism? - How women have betrayed women (1996)
  • Tavris, Carol. The Mismeasure of Woman: Why Women Are Not the Better Sex, the Opposite Sex, or the Inferior Sex. Simon and Schuster, 1992. ISBN 0671662740
  • Thomas, Calvin. (ed.) "Introduction: Identification, Appropriation, Proliferation", Straight with a Twist: Queer Theory and the Subject of Heterosexuality, p.39n. University of Illinois Press (2000)
  • Wertheim, Margaret. Pythagoras' Trousers - God, Physics, and the Gender Wars, W.W. Norton & Co. (1995, 1997)
  • Vermeulen, Stephanie Stitched-Up: Who fashions women's lives' Jacana (2004) ISBN 1-77009-029-0

External links[]

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Feminist organizations[]

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