The Feminist Approach
A feminist approach (or "feminism") directs attention to women's experiences and the importance of gender as an element of social structure. Th is approach is based on the belief that "women and men are equal and should be equally valued as well as have equal rights" (Basow, 1992). According to feminists (including many men as well as women), we live in a patriarchy, a system in which men dominate women and in which things that are considered to be "male- or "masculine" are more highly valued than those considered to be "female" or "feminine The feminist perspective assumes that gender is socially created, rather than determined by one's biological inheritance. and that change is essential in order for people to achieve their human potential without limits based on gender. It also assumes that society reinforces social expectations through social learning. which is acquired through social institutions such as education. religion. and the political and economic structure of society. Some feminists argue that women's subordination can end only after the patriarchal system becomes obsolete. However. note that feminism is not one Single. unified approach. Rather. there are several feminist perspectives. which are discussed in Chapter 11 ("Sex and Gender").