Article

Feminist Theory

Jennifer Carlson and Raka Ray

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0020
Feminist Theory

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Feminist theory explores both inequality in gender relations and the constitution of gender. It is best understood as both an intellectual and a normative project. What is commonly understood as feminist theory accompanied the feminist movement in the mid-seventies, though there are key texts from the 19th and early- to mid-20th centuries that represent early feminist thought. Whereas feminist theories first began as an attempt to explain women’s oppression globally, following a grand theoretical approach akin to Marxism, the questions and emphases in the field have undergone some major shifts. Two primary shifts have been (1) from universalizing to particularizing and contextualizing women’s experiences and (2) from conceptualizing men and women as categories and focusing on the category “women” to questioning the content of that category, and moving to the exploration of gendered practices. Thus, while many theorists do focus on the question of how gender inequality manifests in institutions such as the workplace, home, armed forces, economy, or public sphere, others explore the range of practices that have come to be defined as masculine or feminine and how gender is constituted in relation to other social relations. Feminist theories can thus be used to explain how institutions operate with normative gendered assumptions and selectively reward or punish gendered practices. Many contemporary feminists look beyond the United States to focus on the effects of transnational economic, political, and cultural linkages on shaping gender.

Article.  8612 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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