Feminism as a Unifying and Dividing Force
Feminism is a sociological theory that has only become popular in the last half-century. It “interprets women’s personal troubles as social and political in origin” (Seidman, 2013), citing male dominance as a means of oppressing women and maintaining the current power structure. This theory of social interaction posits that the differences in social power and recognition afforded to men and women are unequal as a result of political as well as social forces, rather than any intrinsic differences in nature.
Although different schools of feminism offer different explanations for how to move forward, all agree that in its current state our society places men at an unfair advantage. It is objectively true that “in the United States, men occupy the highest positions of power in economic, political, military, educational, and cultural institutions” (Seidman, 2013). This is a result of perceived differences between men and women’s cultural roles. Women are conventionally relegated to caretaking roles, which by their nature do not confer the kind of political and social power as social roles traditionally assigned to men.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Feminists across the spectrum agree that the perception of women as naturally inclined toward assuming caretaking roles is socially informed, rather than a result of intrinsic differences between men and women. Where they differ is in how they define what it does mean to be a woman. Seidman discusses three major schools of feminst thought: gynocentric feminism, difference feminism, and postmodern feminism. These three schools all pose different ideas about what it means to be a woman in our society, although all of them adhere to the underlying sociological theory of culturally regulated male dominance and inequality.
Gynocentric feminism arose in the 1960s, and was primarily championed by middle-class white women. Its intent was to form a unified front against the patriarchy by mounting an “appeal to women’s fundamental common identity and subordination” (Seidman, 2013). It assumed shared life experiences as well as a shared state of political and social oppression. Proponents of this early school of feminist thought pointed out that men had, prior to feminism, long maintained a monopoly of control over power, not just in the form of money and governmental offices, but also over the politics of gender identity. “Since men have dominated sociology and the social sciences, their conceptual values – abstract ideas, generalization, objectivity, impersonality – have become dominant” (Seidman, 2013). These ideas are what is used to define gender roles, placing women in a position where their gender identities have been defined and determined by men rather than themselves. It assumes a shared identity across all other cultural experiences.
This movement, although it accomplished much in the name of women’s liberation, came under fire from “working-class women, Jewish women, postcolonial women, and differently abled women” (Seidman, 2013), all of whose experiences were marginalized or even excluded by gynocentric feminism. Difference feminism acknowledged the diversity of women’s experiences in society, and worked to expand the range of accepted identities that could be claimed by women.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Ultimately this led to postmodern feminism. Rather than defining women and men as two distinct and easily recognizable groups, postmodern feminism questions whether this gender binary is a valid way of interpreting women’s, or men’s, experiences. It insists that gender roles are actually “performed” rather than genuinely experienced, and seeks to break down the entrenched notions of what forms of gender performance are acceptable. As both occupations and social positions are labeled according to what is considered their appropriate gender by our society, and “considerable authority and prestige are attached to masculine roles” (Seidman, 2013), anyone who is not identified as traditionally male ends up being oppressed.
- What subset of feminist thought best describes Tomasdottir’s personal ideology?
- The article is titled “It’s Time For Women To Run For Office.” Why does she believe this to be the case?
- Tomasdottir points that women are less likely to run for office, and states that her initial response to being encouraged to run for President was to think, “Who am I to run for President? Who am I to be President?” (Tomasdottir, 2016). How would a feminist explain this response?
- The speaker notes that she had significant trouble getting access to media airtime and political debates. How is this related to her societally imposed role as a woman?
- The speaker notes that “in media, much like everywhere else, we have both conscious and unconscious bias” (Tomasdottir, 2016). Describe how conscious and unconscious bias come into play in determining who is qualified to run for political office from the standpoint of feminist theory.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
- Does it seem likely that the speaker would ascribe to the kind of unified view of women as an oppressed social class proposed by gynocentric feminism? Why or why not?
- Tomasdottir notes that her approval ratings in pre-election polls did not accurately reflect the actual support she got on election day. What contributing factors do you think help to explain the vast underestimation in the polls of how well she would with voters?
- It’s clear based on the texts that women have come a long way in their struggle against oppression. Would you say that women now have equal rights and power in Iceland, or in our society?
Seidman, Steven (2013). “Feminist Theory/Masculinity Studies.” Contested Knowledge: Social
Theory Today (5th ed.), 205-225. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Tomasdottir, Halla (Oct, 2016). “Halla Tomasdottir: It’s Time for Women to Run for Office”