Feminism – Theory and Methods

Lesson objectiveTo explore what Feminists believe
Lesson outcomes• Compare Feminism to different perspectives
• Evaluate Feminism
• Explain what Feminists believe

Feminism is a big part of Sociology. Whilst this page will go into great depth, the true art of referring to Feminism is to refer to it both generally and specifically.

Generally, Feminism is a structural theory. Structuralism is an idea based on the assumption that the actions of humans are structured by the social environment.

The next step is understanding that Feminism is a conflict theory, which suggests that there is conflict in society.

Feminism is not the philosophy of proving women are treated badly by men, but rather that there is gender inequality.

There are certain waves of Feminism.

Liberal Feminists

Liberal feminists aim for equality between the sexists. Males are supposed to be masculine and females, feminine. Those who do not conform to these roles are shunned by society. LF want to minimise this gap between masculine and feminine e.g. all females and males should be paid the same. They argue that slow progression is the way forward.


1. Liberal Feminists identify that equality can be achieved through current norms and values. This means that women have to become more like men to gain equality.

2. It emphasises how women often have to choose between work and home.

3. It’s rejected by black feminists and postmodern feminists for assuming all women share the same experiences and therefore have the same issues.

Marxist Feminists

Marxist Feminists focus on marrying inequalities in gender and capitalism. Marxist families, similar to radical feminists, highlight the family as a cause of suppressing women. They create ideas such as dual burden (this is where woman are expected to mostly contribute to the housework whilst managing their paid work) and the triple shift (Duncombe and Marsden highlight women have to complete the Dual burden whilst managing with the emotional needs of the house) which focus on how women are unpaid and just expected to contribute to housework etc. This oppression of women stems from the development of private property. This was where men owned properties and took care of the running of estates leaving women to act as the maternal figure. In order for women to succeed, they had to follow the instructions of the men who had the money. Women are treated as working class regardless of their social status in the UK. They also seek revolutionary change in the form of a communist society, where all property will be communally owned and remove the power related to private property.


1. Marxism is a male theory which doesn’t adapt well to women’s lives because it ignores culture, violence and sexuality as well as neglecting issues around race and ethnicity.

2. Communist societies have exploited women more than capitalist ones; they never reached positions of authority and seriously had their fertility messed with (think; China’s one child policy and Russia’s all out love affair with abortion).

Black Feminists.

Black feminists argue that not all women are equally disadvantaged and that women of ethnic minorities have harder times. E.g. Black women live twice as hard than white women. ​Most women used in advertising are white and black women find it harder to succeed in life. 

Black and Asian women in developing countries have had barbaric issues to contend with such as female genital

mutilation, mass rape and the HIV epidemic. Meanwhile, White, western women are concerned with equal rights at

work. This shows that women are not fighting for all the same rights and that ‘equal rights’ is too vague. Different women are fighting for different things. 

Race, class and gender impact on women’s lives in the form of racism, poverty and sexism and the disadvantages that come with all of these.


1. Black feminism emphasises race over sex or class, however, there is little evidence to suggest this is the most significant factor.

2. It lumps together all white women, when actually ethnic minorities still exist in white populations. e.g. Romanian women in London.

Postmodernist Feminists

Postmodernist Feminists take an interactionist micro perspective and suggest that all women suffer genderisation equally.  Women are exploited by many different things in postmodern society because all women are very different and have very different identities. There are different varieties of women all with different pressures and different levels of power.

There is one constant, however, is all feminism which is language. The focus in postmodern feminism is very much on language and in unravelling the sexist ways in which language frames our thoughts. Why are males called pimps and females called slags? What do these connotations show?

Postfeminists argue that the English language is structured in terms of opposites: male / female; white / black; good /

bad; true / false; beautiful / ugly. Most of the English language, however, is pro male and anti female and this is called ‘Phallocentric’. They then link this to how women are treated in society. For example, why do women in football get paid less than men?


1. Women are having a male view of their sexuality imposed upon them through a process known as the ‘male gaze’.

2. This perspective loses sight of actual and acute oppression such as that faced by self immolating women in Afghanistan and reduces all of women’s woes down to phallocentric language. 

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