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Feminist Theory Essay
Our language and other forms of social interaction are mostly gender-driven. For many years, some of the gender-biased practices have been vehemently criticized by people belonging to different social and professional circles who argued that they should be completely eliminated. For some, the desired society is the one that has all behaviors not classified as either male or female. However, in some cases, excessive efforts directed at fighting against symptoms of gender discrimination result in aggravation of the problem. It became clear that the issues of gender require more balanced and well-grounded approach implying use of scientific methods aimed at struggling with really burning problems. For many years, feminist theorists have been trying to find issues that relate to all women, as well as those that create certain distinctions between different categories of women (Assiter 123). They have also focused on factors that hinder women development. This has resulted in theorists coming up with different analytic methods, methodologies as well as theories. Based on the diversity of their findings, it has become very challenging for people to comprehend most of the feminist theories that have been established. Feminist theorists have come up with two modes of feminist theorizing: modern and postmodern/poststructural. These two modes are completely opposite to each other (142). Below, the similarities and distinctions of two modes are discussed.
MODERNIST MODE OF FEMINIST THEORIZING
Modernist feminist theorizing was characterized by a female’s effort to ensure that they do not undergo gender discrimination like they did for many years. During this era, men did not tend to be actively involved in solving the problem of inappropriate treatment of females. Socialist feminists initiated the movement aimed at improvement of females’ social position and equalizing them in rights with males, which was conducted with respect to departure from the Marxist approach. According to modernist feminist theorizing, blacks and lesbian women had identity based on race and sexual orientation and were considered separate social groups with their peculiar characteristics. These groups were not associated with various sins committed by their heterosexual counterparts. They uncovered the biased and exclusionary environment of gender, as it had been used in other elements of feminist deliberation (Diamond and Lee 45-56). Each group, given an opportunity to highlight its position with respect to feminism as a whole, stood under the standard of peculiar independence that shunned any complete attachment to male-oriented thought. Modernist female theorizing drew attention towards the issues of social differentiation, diversity and individuality. It dealt with women’s issues from the perspectives of social construct, relationship between gender and gender identity. With respect to politics, the modernist model was associated with transition from ideological configuration that was associated with the right to the ones that were radically inclined to the left. To sum up, all modern feminist theories are developed based on the assumption that women suffer from social discrimination and injustices due to their gender and, correspondingly, the idea that this situation should be changed (64).
POSTMODERN/ POSTSTRUCTURAL MODE OF FEMINIST THEORIZING
Postmodernist feminist theorizing differs from the modernist mode arguing that gender is generally developed through language. Frug asserts that gender is neither something natural nor something definitive; instead, it seems to be one of the components of a structure of meaning which is developed by language (Fraser & Linda 86). Feminists assumed that gender is not given to an individual from his/her birthday, but developed under the influence of the external environment, i.e. the society. Unlike modernist feminist theorizing which was females’ initiative directed at social and political empowering of females, the postmodern model has presented men also actively advocating for gender equality. Postmodern feminist theorizing is connected with the development of identity politics that seem to have changed the feminist theory to the one that is greatly personalized, reserved and significantly disjointed (Fraser and Linda 90). Another point of conflict is acknowledgement of the fact that most of the feminist ideas are a part of our culture; yet these ideas may be presented in a specific way so it is hard for us to comprehend them as feminists.
It is not only the existence of male feminists that has made feminists to change their approach. For many years, feminist theorists have identified presence of generalizing tendency among those who advocate for modern feminist theorizing (Pinkus para. 2). It was a common failure by the most feminist theorists to recognize the attachment of their suppositions to specific historical context. The idea of patriarchy was attributed to disposition of feminists to be inclined to universalism, especially when it comes to addressing issues to do with women’s oppression. Postmodern theorists identify this mode of objectivity as an attribute of modernity; a range of beliefs which they claim to be diminishing (Mandell 134). Generally, the postmodernist approach does not assist feminist theorists in continuing their way through today’s reasonably political truth claims.
As a result of the influence from postmodernism, most feminist theorists have now concentrated on performative aspects of gender rather than taking masculinity and
femininity as static characteristics as it had been during the epoch of feminist heorizing (Roseneil 32-43). The theorists can now represent both a man and a woman as beings that are capable of exhibiting both male and female behaviors in different environments. For men who refuse to take care of a child due to the presence of a woman are able to cope with this task when she is absent. Instead of showing masculinity and femininity behaviors as being only reflected in roles that are gender-based, the postmodern mode shows them as complementary ways of performance in each role. There are instances where females are able to show bodybuilding abilities equal to those of men.
With all the sophistication of the postmodern mode of feminist theorizing, it is imperative for feminists to work on its further development. There is no doubt that advancement in the feminist discourse has significantly contributed to development of the postmodernist trend. At the same time, paradoxically, it is also true that the major changes in the postmodernist approach are attributed to male participation with men being the prevailing authors of postmodernist ideas.
Assiter, Alison. Enlightened Women: Modernist Feminism in a Postmodern Age. New
York: Routledge, 1996.
Diamond, Irene & Lee Quinby. Feminism and Foucault: Reflections on Resistance. New Hampshire: Northeastern Univ. Press, 1988
Fraser, Nancy, and Linda Nicholson. Social Criticism without Philosophy: An Encounter between Feminism and Postmodernism. London: Duke University Press, 1989.
Mandell, Nancy. Feminist Issues: Race, Class and Sexuality. Toronto: Pearson, 2010.
Pinkus, Jenny. Feminist Poststructuralism. Aug 1996. 08 Feb 2010.
Roseneil, Sasha. “Postmodern Feminist Politics: The Art of the (Im)Possible?” Journal
of Women’s Studies, 6.2 (1999): 161-182.