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Feminist Perspectives

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

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