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Feminist Theory

Feminist theory is a major contemporary sociological theory that analyzes the status of women and men in society with the purpose of using that knowledge to better women’s lives.

There are four major types of feminist theory¹:

  1. Gender Differences: this perspective examines how women’s location in, and experience of, social situations differ from men’s. The values associated with womanhood and femininity are just one reason as to why men and women experience the social world differently.
  2. Gender Inequality: gender-inequality theories recognize that not only is women’s location in, and experience of, social situations different but also unequal to men’s. Theorists argue that women have the same capacity for men as moral reasoning and agency, but patriarchy and the sexist patterning of the division of labor has denied women the opportunity to express and practice this reasoning.
  3. Gender Oppression: the gender oppression perspective argues that not only are women different from and unequal to men, but that they are actively oppressed. Two of the main theories in this framework are psychoanalytic feminism and radical feminism. Radical feminists believe that conscious calculation cannot fully explain the production and reproduction of patriarchy.
  4. Structural Oppression: those who study this framework posit that women’s oppression and inequality are a result of capitalism, patriarchy and racism embedded in the social structure.

A current trend in feminist theory is to analyze and question the differences between women and how other minority identities intersect with gender. How do the experiences of an Aboriginal woman in America differ from those of a white, black or hispanic woman in America? This is called intersectionality.




1. Crossman, Ashley. About. Sociology: Feminist Theory. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://sociology.about.com/od/Sociological-Theory/a/Feminist-Theory.htm

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