Friday, February 12, 2010

Why Feminist Theory? // The many "ism"s of it all (to be constantly updated)

What is feminist theory:
- bell hooks describes it in her book "Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center" as:
"The guiding set of beliefs and principles that becomes the basis for actions."
-Wendy Kolmar and Frances Bartkowski describe it in "Feminist Theory: A Reader" as:
"... they attempt to explain women's situation, to understand gender asymmetry, or to understand unequal distributions of privilege and power using gender as one element of their analysis." (3).

-There is not just one "theory" but rather many that are formed with various ideas on what is the root cause of gender inequality

Why is there a need for it:
-In order to solve an issue, there must be theories of its development, which can then lead to the ending of said problem

"ism"'s of it:

Concerned with attaining economic and political equality within the context of capitalism, Liberal feminism is characterized by an individualistic emphasis on equality. According to this philosophy, society itself does not need a major overhaul, but rather laws need to be changed and opportunities have to be opened up to allow women to become equals in society. To a liberal feminist, evidence of progress is seen largely by the numbers of women in positions previous occupied by men, especially powerful positions.


Black Feminism posits that sexism and racism are inextricably linked, and that sexism will never be overcome while the system is still so fundamentally racist. This movement grew out of the discontent of African Americans women during the Women's Liberation Movement in the 1970s, who felt their particular needs as minority women were not being addressed. The term "Black feminism" is often used to encompass the needs of all women of color.


WHY WOMANISM: “Womanist” is a word that was coined by Alice Walker, an African-American author and poet, in the 1960’s. Womanism is to the working-class Black woman what traditional feminism is to the upper middle-class White woman


Radical feminism emphasizes the need for dramatic social change in order to achieve genuine equality for women. Radical feminists believe that society is extremely patriarchal, and until these patriarchy is transformed on all levels, the system will remain unjust.


(Marxist) - which seeks to develop the potential of Marxist theory to understand the capitalist sources of the oppression of women. It includes a focus on capitalism and class divisions among women
(Materialist) - a feminism that insists on examining the material conditions under which social arrangements, including those of gender hierarchy, develop... materialist feminism avoids seeing this (gender hierarchy) as the effect of a singular....patriarchy and instead gauges the web of social and psychic relations that make up a material, historical moment. Materialist feminism argues that material conditions of all sorts play a vital role in the social production of gender and assays the different ways in which women collaborate and participate in these productions


A movement towards women's liberation based on anarchist principles. An anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, anti-oppression way of addressing gender issues- and addressing other issues with a radical critique of patriarchy.


Ecofeminisim draws from and links together both the women's movement and the environmental movement. Ecofeminism draws parallels between the domination and exploitation of both women and nature.


1. Postcolonial feminists have illuminated the complex and fractured ways in which the doings of gender and sexuality are at the core of nationalisms, colonialisms and racisms, and central to politics of war and militarization.
2. Postcolonial feminism in the new millennium now accepts a crucial point, long self-evident to Third World women, that racism, colonialism and its legacies are not just the province of non-white, non-Western women. Post-colonial feminists are still in the process of contesting the Eurocentric gaze that privileges Western notions of liberation and progress and portrays Third World women primarily as victims of ignorance and restrictive cultures and religions.


1. Postmodern feminist thought challenges and avoids the essentialist definitions of femininity that was propagated during the period of modern feminism. According to the thinking that originates in post modern feminism "woman" is a debatable category, leads to the conclusion that there is no single cause for women's subordination and no single approach towards dealing with the issue.
2. Postmodern feminism is an approach to feminist theory that incorporates postmodern. The largest departure from other branches of feminism is the argument that sex is itself constructed
through language.


Post-Structuralism as a whole stems from French philosophy and can be applied to many topics. The general assumption of post-strucutral theory is that "truth" as we see it is always mediated by our own interpretations and experiences and that true objectivity is, therefore, impossible. Post-structural theory is based mostly in the fields of humanities and focuses much attention on language - since language is our tool for applying meaning to the world. This is why we say "human" instead of "mankind" or "chairperson" instead of "chairman".


To ifeminist equality was achieved when the individual rights of women were fully acknowledged under laws that protected the person and property of men and women. It made no reference to women being economically or socially equal, only to equal treatment under just laws. Equality meant that the self-ownership of women was legally respected. Self-ownership meant that any adult had the right to choose any lifestyle that did not involve aggressing against another human being.


Based on the premise that lesbianism and feminism were inextricably linked, the two words were often hyphenated. Lesbian feminism offered a trenchant critique of patriarchy and the institutionalization of heterosexuality, and claimed that its political impact resided in resistance to male domination.


Separatist feminism is a stream of feminism that is against heterosexual relationships of any kind. They believe that the political and sexual inequalities between men and women cannot be resolved. Separatist feminists basically feel that males do not make any positive contributions to the feminist movement and even men that mean well, still replicate the dynamics of patriarchy.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

the "Woman Question"

What it is: "...women in 19th-century American society did not use the term 'feminism.' Rather they talked in terms of the role of woman, woman's rights, 'the woman movement,' and differences of opinion on 'the woman question.'"


Sites for Feminist Theory resources
Made by: Alan Liu at the University of California - Santa Barbara

Why it's helpful: Provides links to various websites, schools, essays, zines, etc. Includes general resources for feminist theory, actual feminists (Judith Butler, Simone de Beauvoir, etc.), and a few more specific areas such as ecofeminism and cyborgs. Also includes "suggest a link", so more can be added to the list from viewers of the site

Would use this for: If I needed information about the few specific feminists the website has links for, and to find other websites to go to for more information. May not be my first choice.
Made by: the Center for Digital Discourse and Culture at Virginia Tech University

Why it's helpful: comes in three different languages ( English, French, Spanish), can choose from fields within feminism, different national/ethnic feminisms, and individual feminists. Has many ares to choose from. Only provides books to look up on your own for each subject.

Would use this for: To look up books to use for research, does not provide any other information
Made by: The Gender Inn team

Why it's helpful: Comes in both English and German, provides reading list links of other websites, bibliographies of introductory texts for all fields of women and gender studies, and other websites to look up

Would use this for: Perhaps looking up books, look up resources written by international feminist as the website is based out of Germany and has the most information about feminists and schools from that area
Made by: Karla Tonella, University of Iowa

Why it's helpful: Provides many links to various topics from "The Agony of Feminism: Why Feminist Theory is Necessary After All" to "Womanist Theory and Research". While also providing a little information about each site, where it's based out of, what information can be found there, etc.

Would use this for: I like how it gives additional information about each site so you can know exactly what it can be useful for. Has many links on tons of topics, would go to this when looking for resources. Great site
Made by: Ken Middleton, reference/microforms librarian at MTSU Library.

Why it's helpful: For American Women's History, to look up specific events and eras. Ranging from abolitionists, arab americans, culinary history, peace movement to writers. Provides bibliographies, archive sources, digital collections, books, websites and more.

Would use this for: More information about women's history, gives a lot of information about many topics. Nothing for feminist theory specifically.
Made by: Allan Hunter

Why it's helpful: Written by a theorist and provides many of his own papers, research, etc. Related links section seemed helpful. Broken up into many topics, but many of the sites are no longer in use.

Would use this for: Not sure I would, most of the sites did not work.
Made by: Penny Welch August

Why it's helpful: Is a professor and has many links, articles, journals, etc. that she uses for her class. Nice layout, not overwhelming.

Would use this for: Researching Black Feminist Thought, it has the most information I found compared to other sites.
Made by: Cornell University

Why it's helpful: Provides encyclopedias and dictionaries along with brief synopsis of each. Along with periodical indexes and websites, all with brief explanations of each.

Would use this for: Looking up resources to look into, really helpful that it provides explanations of all the resources given. A lot of information, can become overwhelming to look through each site and decide which is best.
Made by: Richard L. W. Clarke, lecturer.

Why it's helpful: Feminist theory sites broken down by history, region, topics and more. While providing information from 2000- 2010, so most up to date. Also provides sources to look up both offline and online, which are broken down even further to primary and secondary sources to use. Easy to navigate.

Would use this for: Looking up specific areas, lots of information about regional feminist theory which none other really had. Started using it soon as I found it.