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Feminist Theory in Sociology

Written by Elif Gulce Batgi

Besides having a lot of fields to be represented and promoted in, feminism is no different from other social inequalities where some groups of people gather and take action to minimize discrimination and also convince the other people in society to join them. Even though some of the feminist people in society, who represent and behave like feminists, are the enemies of men, actually feminism aims to build a society that is comprehended. Women are discriminated against in different fields where people against feminism can put biological differences forward and make them their excuse for not supporting it. Also, another fact that lots of people might not be aware of is, because of the people who hate feminism and who define their hate of men as a feminist ideology, feminism basically supports the equality between men and women. However, it is a fact that the words ``inequality” and “discrimination” are not enough to understand the full concept of feminism.

An early organized protest started with the repeal of expensive goods to women from consul Marcus Porcius Cato in the 3rd century BCE by the Roman women. After the repeal, Roman women blocked every entrance to the Forum. “If they are victorious now, what will they not attempt?” Cato cried. “As soon as they begin to be your equals, they will have become your superiors (1).” Only isolated voices are spoken against the inferior status of women in most recorded history. Then in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, a brave education appeal appeared from the first feminist philosopher Christine de Pisan. The defense of women had become a literary subgenre by the end of the 16th century, with Il merito delle donne (1600; The Worth of Women) (1). The period beginning from the 3rd century BCE to the 1960s and 70s is called the first wave of feminism. The 1960s and 70s are called the second wave. The first wave of feminism was affected by the abolition movement whereas the second wave was inspired and affected by the civil rights movement. Third-wave feminism involves the mid-1990s. Pioneers of this wave were Generation Xers who were born in the 1960s and ’70s in the developed world. Although the actions that women took to earn legal rights and protections in the first and second wave of feminism, they criticized the works that felt like unfinished works of the second wave. The second wave is credited to the third wave by the greater economic and professional power and status achieved by women. Lastly, the wave that has lasted since 2012 is the fourth wave of feminism. It mainly focuses on today’s problems such as sexual harassment, body shaming, and rape culture. The process is conducted via social media, which is a key point to highlight and integrate approaches and thoughts into big communities.

Feminism analyzes and highlights the discrimination that a group of people exposes to just because they are a member of the group by involuntary. There are mainly four topics that help explain how women and men differ from each other in society.

The first way to understand and analyze the inequality between women and men is by focusing on gender differences. It is also believed that the assignment of different roles can explain the inequality between men and women, including the sexual division of labor in the household (2). There are different values and traits for both women and men. Women are mostly evaluated as emotional, compassionate, delicate, submitters, whereas the men are aggressive, fighters. As a result of these differences, different roles have been assigned to them. Women are responsible for the house whereas the men work and fight.

Another approach to feminism argues that women's location and experiences are not only different, but they are also unequal when it is compared to men’s (2). Liberal feminists suggest that women have the same capacity for moral reasoning and agency, but that patriarchy has prevented women from using their capacity in all of history (2). Even marriage itself can cause inequality. A married woman has a higher stress level compared with single women and married men. Focusing on a private place, a house, is expected from women and they stay in the background in public. Even though women achieve to be in the public, it is apparent that society is programmed to abase anything a woman does.

The other feminist approach is gender oppression. Gender oppression goes even further with differences and inequalities and says that women are actively oppressed, subordinated, and even abused by men (2). It can be divided into two main theories: psychoanalytic and radical feminism.

Due to psychoanalytic feminism, human actions, childhood development, and the workings of the subconscious and unconscious cannot fully explain the production and reproduction of patriarchy (2). Radical feminism sees the patriarchy forms the power as women are oppressing women and privileging men (3).

In the last approach, structural oppression, the oppression includes other structural differences such as race, sexual orientation, gender, etc. Men are associated with intelligence, and women are associated with the body and this causes objectifying women. For a really long time starting from the past to the modern world, objectifying women caused men to be associated with war and working. Basically, both women and men are shaped due to their roles in society, however, men do not feel pressure on themselves like women. The roles that women are associated with make them respond more than it makes a man.

Inequality has always been a big problem for humanity. Differences between us such as race, gender, and economic situations have mostly caused a lot of discrimination for a really long time, even in ancient times. Feminism is a movement that presents the inequality between men and women by asserting different perspectives and solutions to society.

  1. Feminism. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica.

  2. What is feminist theory? (2011, June 22). ThoughtCo.

  3. What is radical feminism? (2005, June 6). ThoughtCo.


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