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Feminist sociology is a conflict theory and theoretical perspective which observes gender in its relation to power, both at the level of face-to-face interaction and reflexivity within a social structure at large. Focuses include sexual orientation, race, economic status, and nationality.
At the core of feminist sociology is the idea of the systemic oppression[note 1] of women and the historical dominance of men within most societies: 'patriarchy'. Feminist thought has a rich history, however, which may be categorized into three 'waves'. The current, 'third wave', emphasizes the concepts of globalization, postcolonialism, post-structuralism and postmodernism. Contemporary feminist thought has frequently tended to do-away with all generalizations regarding sex and gender, closely linked with antihumanism, posthumanism, queer theory and the work of Michel Foucault.
Feminist theory- Charlotte Perkins Gilman's (1860-1935) work helped formalize "feminist theory during the 1960s. Growing up she went against traditional holds that were placed on her by society by focusing on reading and learning concepts different than women who were taught to be a housewife. Her main focus was on gender inequality between men and women along with gender roles placed on by society. Where men go to work secure proper income for the family while women stay at home and tend to the family along with house hold chores. She "emphasized how differential socialization leads to gender inequality". Yet, she did agree that biologically there is different between those born with female and male parts.
Parts of her research involves a theoretical orientation of a multidimensional approach to gender and discusses more in depth in her book Women and Economics. Due to gender roles she believes that women pretend to live a certain life to avoid achieving their full potential living the role of a housewife. This is an example of falling under false consciousness instead of "true" consciousness.[clarification needed] Leading the belief that women are viewed as property towards their husbands because despite their own work they may do; economically women were still dependent on husbands to provide financial support to themselves and their family. She also said that the traditional division of labour was not biologically driven, but instead pushed upon based[clarification needed] structure of how society was established since before the nineteenth century.
In the end Gilman describes it as sociobiological tragedy because women are disregarded as being part of the ideology of "survival of the fittest". Instead females are thought to be soft and weak individuals that are only good for productive reasons. Females are depicted as emotional and frail human beings who are born to serve their husbands, children, and family without living for herself. Gilman's research was conducted during a time where women being a sociologist were unheard of; she lived during a time that women couldn't even vote. Her research helps create a ripple effect along with other female sociologists that help paved wave for feminism, feminist, and concepts to correlate with feminist theory.
Women who suffer from oppression due to race may find themselves in a double bind. The relationship between feminism and race was largely overlooked until the second wave of feminists produced greater literature on the topic of 'black feminism'.
Anna Julia Cooper and Ida Bell Wells-Barnett are African American women who were instrumental in conducting much research and making valuable contributions in the field of black feminism. "Cooper and Wells-Barnett both consciously drew on their lived experiences as African American women to develop a "systematic consciousness of society and social relations." As such, these women foreshadow the development of a feminist sociological theory based in the interests of women of colour."
An instrumental contribution to the field was Kimberlé Crenshaw's seminal 1989 paper, "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex:A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics" (Crenshaw 1989). In it she outlines the manner in which black women have been erased from feminist pedagogy. Black women must be understood as having multiple identities that intersect and reinforce one another, the two key experiences of being black and of being women. Furthermore, black women suffer on both racist and sexist fronts, marginalized not only by larger systems of oppression but by existing feminist discourse that disregards their intersectionality. Crenshaw's work is integral to understanding feminist sociology, as it advocated for black feminist thought and set the building blocks for future feminist sociologists such as Patricia Hill Collins.
Modern queer theory attempts to unmake the social and contextual elements reinforcing heteronormativity by challenging oppressive institutions on traditional binary distinctions between male and female, among its many other criticisms. In this regard, feminism and queer theory address the same ways social structures violently categorize and erase women and LGBTQIA+ from the social narrative. However, sociological feminism often reinforces the gender binary through the research process "as the gendered subject is made the object of the study" (McCann 2016, 229). In her recent work "Epistemology of the Subject: Queer Theory's Challenge to Feminist Sociology", McCann confronts the theoretical perspective and methodology of feminist sociology:"[the subject] rarely reflects the fluid, unstable, and dynamic realities of bodies and experiences. To “settle” on a subject category, then, is to reinscribe a fixity that excludes some, often in violent ways (for example, those who are literally erased because their bodies do not conform to a discrete binary)" (McCann 2016, 231-232). There can be a refashioning of the field, where extending boundaries to include queer theory would "develop new and innovative theoretical approaches to research...[and] address inequality within society" (McCann 2016, 237).
Debates within ethnic relations, particularly regarding the opposing perspectives of assimilationism and multiculturalism, have led to the accusation that feminism is incompatible with multiculturalist policy. The remit of multiculturalism is to allow distinct cultures to reside in Western societies, or separate societies in general, and one possible consequence is that certain religious or traditional practices may negate Western feminist ideals. Central debates include the topics of arranged marriage and female genital mutilation. Others have argued that these debates stem from Western orientalism and general political reluctance to accept foreign migrants.