Feminism-the belief that women and men are equal and that they should be valued equally and have equal rights-is embraced by many men as well as omen. It holds in common with men’s studies the view that gender is a socially constructed concept that has important consequences in the lives of all people (Craig, 1992). According to the sociologist Ben Agger (1993). men can be feminists and propose feminist theories; both women and men have much in common as they seek to gain a better understanding of the causes and consequences of gender inequality. Over the past three decades. many different organizations have been formed to advocate causes uniquely affecting women or men and to help people gain a better understanding of gender inequality (see Box 11.4). Feminist theory seeks to identify ways in which norms. roles. institutions, and internalized expectations limit women’s behavior. It also seeks to demonstrate how women’s personal control operates even within the constraints of relative lack of power (Stewart, 1994).
Liberal Feminism III liberal feminism, gender equality is equated with equality of opportunity. 111e roots of women’s oppression ie in women’s lack of equal civil rights and educational opportunities. Only when these constraints on women’s participation are removed will women have ‘the- same chance for success as men. This approach notes the importance of gender-role socialization and suggests that changes need to be mh..Je in what children learn from their families, teachers. and the media about appropriate masculine and feminine attitudes ,and behavior. Liberal feminists fight for better child- •- care options, a woman’s right to choose n abortion, and elimination of sex discrimination in the workplace. Radical Feminism According to radical feminists, male domination causes all forms of hum~l oppression. including racism and classism tIong, 1989).
Radical feminists often trace the roots of patriarchy to women’s childbearing and child-rearing responsibilities, which make them dependent on men (Firestone, 1970; Chafetz, 1984). In the radical feminist-view. men’s oppression of women is deliberate. and ideological justification for this subordination is provided by other institutions such as the media and religion. For women’s condition to improve, radical feminists claim, patriarchy must be abolished. If institutions are currently gendered, alternative institutions-such as women’s organizations seeking better health care, day care, and shelters for victims of domestic violence and mpe-should be developed to meet women’s needs.
Socialist FemInism Socialist feminists suggest that women’s oppression results from their dual roles as paid and unpaid workers in capitalist economy. In the workplace, women are exploited by capitalism; at home, they are exploited by patriarchy (Kemp, 994). Women are easily exploited in both sectors; they are paid low wages and have few economic resources. Gendered job segregation is “the primary mechanism in capitalist society that maintains the superiority of men over women, because it enforces lower wages for women in the labor market” (Hartmann. 1976: 139). As a result, women must do domestic labor either to gain a better-paid man’s economic support or to stretch heir own wages (Lorber, 1994). According to socialist feminists, the only way to achieve gender equality is to eliminate capitalism and develop a socialist economy hat would bring equal pay and rights to women.
Multicultural Feminism Recently, academics and activists have been rethinking the experiences of women of color from a feminist perspective. The experiences of African American women and Latinas/Chicanas have been of particular interest to some social analysts. Building on the civil rights and feminist movements of the late 196(\r and early 1970s, some contemporary black feminists have focused on the cultural experiences of African American women. A central assumption of this analysis is that ace, class, and gender are forces that simultaneously oppress African American women (Hull. Bell-Scott. and Smith. 1982). The effects of these three statuses cannot be adequately explained as “double” or “triple” jeopardy (race + class + gender = a poor african American woman) because these ascribed characteristics are not simply added to one another. Instead. they are multiplicative in nature (race x class x gender); different characteristics may be’ more significant in one