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Feminist sociology

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(1860-1935) was a women ahead of her time who work and research would help 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 my 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. 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 stated that the traditional division of labor was not biologically driven , but instead pushed upon based structure of how society was established since before the 19th 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.[1]


Heterosexism is a system of attitudes, bias, and discrimination in favour of male-female sexuality and relationships. Heterosexism describes a set of paradigms and institutionalized beliefs that systematically disadvantage anyone other than heterosexual, which can stem from personal beliefs, societal institutions and or a country's government. For example, heterosexual marriage has been or is the only lawful union between two people that was or is fully recognized and subsequently given full benefits in many countries. This has acted to greatly disadvantage people in same-sex relationships within society as compared with those in different-sex relationships.

Feminism and race

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'.[2]

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."[3]

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)[4]. 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.

Feminism and queer theory

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"[5], 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).

Feminist critiques of multiculturalism

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.

Types of feminism


  1. ^ Edles, Laura; Appelrouth (2010). Sociological Theory in the Classical Era. Pine Forge Press. pp. 9, 222–255. ISBN 978-1-4129-7564-3.
  2. ^ Mahony, Pat, and Christine Zmroczek. Class matters: 'working-class' women's perspectives on social class. London: Taylor & Francis, 1997. Print.
  3. ^ Ritzer George and Goodman Douglas (2004) Classical Sociological Theory, Fourth Ed. p.294
  4. ^ Crenshaw, K. 1989. "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics". University of Chicago Legal Forum: Vol. 1989: Iss. 1, Article 8.
  5. ^ McCann, H. 2016. "Epistemology of the Subject: Queer Theory's Challenge to Feminist Sociology". WSQ: Women's Studies Quarterly, Volume 44, Numbers 3 & 4, Fall/Winter 2016, pp. 224-243.


  1. ^ A phenomenon derived from prehistoric-human social- behavioral patterns, specifically regarding the (Fe)Male relationship; as well as significant gender differentiation in terms of physical and mental attributes. This Idea of origin is Key to the progression of 'equalist' ideals, which have grown to engulf a number of socially important injustices, yet is often not realized in the Psyche of the individual and thus not beheld, conceptually by public; possibly due to the absence of a cross-conceptual, analytical thinking pattern.[original research?]

Further reading

  • Chafetz, Janet Saltzman (1990). Gender Equity: An Integrated Theory of Stability and Change. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 0-8039-3401-7. OCLC 20131005.
  • Chambers, Clare (2008). Sex, Culture, and Justice: The Limits of Choice. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 978-0-271-03301-3. OCLC 153772741.
  • Cudworth, Erika (2005). Developing Ecofeminist Theory: The Complexity of Difference. Basingstoke, England; New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-4115-7. OCLC 59098859.
  • Enns, Carolyn Zerbe and Ada L. Sinacore (2005). Teaching and Social Justice: Integrating Multicultural and Feminist Theories in the Classroom. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. ISBN 1-59147-167-2. OCLC 55625673.
  • Frye, Marilyn (1983). The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press. ISBN 0-89594-100-7. OCLC 9323470.
  • Gottfried, Heidi (1996). Feminism and Social Change: Bridging Theory and Practice. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02198-3. OCLC 32049514.
  • Hackett, Elizabeth and Sally Anne Haslanger (2006). Theorizing Feminisms: A Reader. New York, NY; Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515009-0. OCLC 61703851.
  • Hekman, Susan J. (1996). Feminist Interpretations of Michel Foucault. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 978-0-271-01584-2. OCLC 33665193.
  • Hekman, Susan J. (1992, 1990). Gender and Knowledge: Elements of a Postmodern Feminism. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press. ISBN 1-55553-129-6. OCLC 26683085. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  • Hekman, Susan J. (1995). Moral Voices, Moral Selves: Carol Gilligan and Feminist Moral Theory. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-01483-0. OCLC 32167823.
  • hooks, bell (2001). "Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory". In Kum-Kum Bhavnani. Feminism and "Race". Oxford, England; New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-878236-5. OCLC 45136543.
  • Kafer, Alison (2005). "Hiking Boots and Wheelchairs: Ecofeminism, the Body, and Physical Disability". In Barbara S. Andrew; Jean Keller; Lisa H. Schwartzman (editors). Feminist Interventions in Ethics and Politics: Feminist Ethics and Social Theory. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0-7425-4268-8. OCLC 56840300.
  • Laslett, Barbara and Barrie Thorne (1997). Feminist Sociology: Life Histories of a Movement. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-2428-8. OCLC 42329296.
  • Lengermann, Patricia Madoo and Jill Niebrugge (1996). Ritzer, George, ed. Sociological Theory (See Chapter 12: Contemporary Feminist Theory). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-114660-1. OCLC 9536204.
  • Marshall, Barbara L. and Anne Witz (2004). Engendering the Social: Feminist Encounters with Sociological Theory. Maidenhead, England; New York, NY: Open University Press. ISBN 0-335-21270-0. OCLC 56527256.
  • Meagher, Sharon M. and Patrice DiQuinzio (2005). Women and Children First: Feminism, Rhetoric, and Public Policy. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-6539-X. OCLC 56903738.
  • Nason-Clark, Nancy and Mary Jo Neitz (2001). Feminist Narratives and the Sociology of Religion. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. ISBN 0-7591-0198-1. OCLC 47718005.
  • Okin, Susan Moller, Joshua Cohen, Matthew Howard, and Martha Craven Nussbaum (1999). Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00431-5. OCLC 40869793.
  • Rege, Sharmila (2003). Sociology of Gender: The Challenge of Feminist Sociological Knowledge. New Delhi, India; Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 0-7619-9704-0. OCLC 51203874.
  • Scales, Ann (2006). Legal Feminism: Activism, Lawyering, and Legal Theory. New York, NY: New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-9845-4. OCLC 62766074.
  • {{Cite book


  1. ^ |last=Wallace |first=Ruth A. |title=Feminism and Sociological Theory |year=1989 |publisher=Sage Publications |location=Newbury Park, CA |isbn=0-8039-3397-5 |oclc=19777800}}