Feminist Theories

Cultural feminism is a feminist theory that is based on the biological differences between women and men, such as: reproductive capacity, female communication style, women’s lower level of aggression than men, ethical judgment, etc. Although society rejects it, cultural feminism proclaims those attributes to be differences that are distinctive and superior virtues in women. This approach permits feminists to avoid rather than confront conflicting issues posed by the essentialist thesis.

The essentialist thesis was first used against women by men in leadership positions, holding androcentric beliefs, to claim that women are inferior to men. Jane Addams and other female theorists countered that if this country wanted to keep society under control, we needed women and their nonviolent ways in order to pacify men during disputes. Existential feminism is a feminist theory that explores and celebrates women’s social roles and value in society. This theory states that women are seen as insignificant in a male-created culture.

Existential feminism sees women as being born into a world that undervalues their experiences in favor of portraying the male view. Men are given the good qualities, while women suffer with “otherness. ” Such as: men are strong and women are weak, men are capable and women need “saving,” men are brave and women are meek. Women are viewed as objects lacking worth until a man desires them. Feminist institutional theory focuses on the fact that gender differences are direct results of the different roles that women and men are assigned in various institutional settings. This conditioning begins in the home when individuals are babies.

Even young children can’t help but notice the differences in the division of labor in the family home. Women are seen as the caretakers and men are viewed as the breadwinners. When one is continually faced with this particular assignment of social roles in the home, it naturally tends to carry over into other areas of life. Little girls are brought up to believe that they are not as qualified as males to enter certain areas of employment, and they readily accept the fact that their male counterparts will always earn higher wages than they do for performing the same duties.

Feminist interactionist theory views gender as interacting with others in a way of conforming to the fitting gender behavior expected by society. This particular theory is the most detailed when attempting to understand the roots of gender difference. Babies are born with “sex,” not gender. It is easy to see whether a baby is a boy or a girl, but it is society that labels one as “male,” or “female. ” It is this typifying that dictates the ways in which a person should think, feel, and behave according to society’s expectations. Gender Inequality states that women are not equal to men in our society.

It is a fact that women do not earn as much as men in the job market, women have fewer resources than men do, women have less power, social status, and fewer opportunities. Women and men both have the need for self-actualization, but women are less empowered than men are to realize that need due to their situations in society. Liberal Feminism is the major expression of gender inequality theory. It argues that women and men should be viewed as equals since we are all human beings, and that inequality is the result of sexist divisions of labor, and that equality could become a reality simply by devising a new pattern for labor expectations.

All differential treatment due to gender differences are viewed as unjust and disadvantageous to women. The fact that there are definite barriers between men and women in society, and that any attempts to remove them are met with extreme opposition is a sign of sexism. Psychoanalytic Feminism examines the ways in which boys grow up in a society that not only values maleness, it devalues femaleness. It explains women’s oppression as stemming from men’s deep emotional need to control women. Even Sigmund Freud condemned women as “the problem,” yet excluded women who were “more masculine than feminine. Freud believed that individual and social problems between men and women stemmed from the fact that women have a monopoly on mothering. A mother’s body is one’s first experience with the physical universe, but sometimes mothers are unreliable. Infants are completely dependent on their mothers to meet all of their needs. As a consequence of this dependence, men attempt to avoid experiencing this type of dependence ever again by trying to control women and nature. Sources Cited: Ritzer, George. “Contemporary Feminist Theories. ” Contemporary Social Theory & it’s Classical Roots. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. Print

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