Feminist Theory

Lana Rakow

in Communication

ISBN: 9780199756841
Published online July 2012 | | DOI:
Feminist Theory

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Feminist theory in communication is developed and used by scholars to understand gender as a communicative process, with the goal of making social changes important to the well-being of women and, ultimately, everyone. Despite a common purpose, feminist scholars differ on many grounds and typically work in subareas across the discipline of communication. Contemporary feminist theory blossomed among scholars interested in women and communication in the United States in the 1980s, with attention devoted to it in programming in academic communication associations and with a new wave of publishing that theorized, rather than assumed, gender differences. Its arrival grew from at least three inspirations over prior decades. First, developments in feminist theory in many disciplines were brought into the field by feminist scholars working across traditional disciplinary boundaries. When these developments made their way into the field of communication, they shook assumptions about women and men by rejecting the idea of an essentially gendered individual in favor of a view of gender and sexuality as culturally constructed and reproduced. Second, feminist communication activists, scholars, and professionals had laid important groundwork preceding the infusion of feminist theory into the field. They raised issues about media content and industry employers, questioned the androcentric nature of the history and research canonized in the field, proposed changes to media systems, and focused attention on women’s experiences with communication. Feminist theory, then, arrived in communication amid a strong record of research on women as speakers, organizers, and professionals and on sexist mass media images. Third, feminist theorizing, as it was undertaken in communication as well as in other disciplines, too often failed to consider its own theoretical assumptions about race and ethnicity, sexuality, class, and nationality, which, as a result, produced countervailing critiques of both white and Western feminist scholarship. These critiques pushed feminist theorists to reexamine assumptions about the universality of women’s experiences and the difficulties of solidarity in light of white privilege and Western colonialism. Because contemporary feminist theory in communication continues to reformulate taken-for-granted approaches about differences within and across gender systems and geographies, the choice of selections reflects the decision to reject canonizing texts and authors in favor of casting a wide net to cover the range of issues broached by, or that are important to, feminist scholars. Further, the selections that have been made address, or contribute substantially to, theory rather than primarily describe or summarize, and they include those that are focused on communication by communication scholars.

Article.  13609 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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