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The Three Primary Schools of Feminist Theory

What is feminist theory and what are its primary assumptions and critical strategies?

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Basic Feminist Theory

The feminist response to culture that has coalesced in the last half of the twentieth century recognizes a deeply ingrained prejudice against women. At times borrowing from both Marxist and structuralist methodology, feminist critics have explored a pervasive binary opposition built around gender which subordinates women to being perceived as or treated as objects and by which the power and value of all that is male is affirmed. This cultural web of power and privilege is called the patriarchy.

The feminist critique of patriarchal culture has a lengthy tradition. Among the earliest of feminists was Mary Wollstonecraft. Her eighteenth-century text, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, argues that women should challenge society's assumption of female inferiority and that women must strive to articulate their own identities and roles within (patriarchal) society.

Picking up where Wollstonecraft left off are twentieth-century voices such as Virginia Woolf (A Room of One's ...

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