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Feminist theory is the extension of feminism into theoretical, or philosophical, ground. It encompasses work done in a broad variety of disciplines, prominently including the approaches to women's roles and lives and feminist politics in anthropology and sociology, economics, women's and gender studies, feminist literary criticism, and philosophy (especially Continental philosophy.)
Feminist theory aims to understand the nature of inequality and focuses on gender politics, power relations and sexuality. While generally providing a critique of social relations, much of feminist theory also focuses on analyzing gender inequality and the promotion of women's rights, interests, and issues. Themes explored in feminism include discrimination, stereotyping, objectification (especially sexual objectification), oppression, and patriarchy.
- Main article: Psychoanalytic feminism
Psychoanalytic feminism is based on Freud and his psychoanalytic theories. It maintains that gender is not biological but is based on the psycho-sexual development of the individual. Psychoanalytical feminists believe that gender inequality comes from early childhood experiences, which lead men to believe themselves to be masculine, and women to believe themselves feminine. It is further maintained that gender leads to a social system that is dominated by males, which in turn influences the individual psycho-sexual development. As a solution it was suggested to avoid the gender-specific structurization of the society by male-female coeducation. This section is a stub. You can help by .
- Main article: Radical feminism
This section is a stub. You can help by . A radical feminist would argue that the only way to rid womankind from male domination is to segregate men and women into two different communities. Contrary to socialist feminists, radicals believe that simply abolishing the current hegemonic state will not rid 'the fairer sex' from oppresion; it is only with the partition of men from women that true equality can exist between the sexes. Critics may point out that seperating men from women would surely prevent the human race from producing children, and as such, would result in the end of human existence. However, a radical would suggest that with the advances made in biological science over recent decades, an all-female population would be able to sustain its numbers through insemination methods such as IVF. Any male offspring produced would simply be transported to the male community and raised there.
This utopian vision is often looked negatively upon by others for being unrealistic in its expectations. Of all the factions that exist within the feminst ideology, Radical feminism remains the smallest and least influential.
- Main article: Liberal feminism
- Main article: Socialist feminism
This section is a stub. You can help by . There exists a common ground between socialist and radical feminists in so far as both factions believe that only with the abolition of the current hegemonic state, can true equality exist between men and women. Unlike radicals however, Socialist feminists do believe that men can coexist with women in this post-capitalist vision of the future. This is because socialists suspect the capitalist system to be the root cause of female oppression, rather than males themselves. A belief amongst socialists of any kind is that a population can be nutured into a state of equality, and as such, would have no need to separate men from women. With the abolition of the class structure, a socialist may argue, comes the erosion of male domination within society.
- Main article: Marxist feminism
- Main article: Postmodern feminism
Modern feminist theory has been extensively criticized as being predominantly, but not exclusively, associated with western middle class academia. Not only that, but feminism has been criticized as being far too gender-centric, and ignores many of the other, far more important problems of Racism and social inequality. In fact, many social reformers from within the American Liberal Tradition see feminism as counterproductive and a distraction in the pursuit of wider social justice. It should be noted that many see feminism, primarily due to its western middle-class roots, as just another form of oppression. The fact that feminism has no mainstream male equivalent seems to highlight the biased nature of the movement. Other thinkers have criticized the labeling of Feminism as an Ideology; on the grounds that it varies wildly depending on the ideology it is associated with. Hence feminism can be seen as one aspect of other ideologies, as the above breakdown shows, rather than an ideology in its own right.
- Feminist theory website (Center for Digital Discourse and Culture, Virginia Tech University)
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