Feminism is both a political stance and a theory that focuses on gender as a subject of analysis and as a platform to demand equality, rights, and justice. Feminism’s key assumption is that gender role are predetermined and the woman is trained to fit into those roles. This means that roles like ‘daughter’ or ‘mother’ are not natural but social because the woman has to be trained to think, talk, act in particular ways that suit the role.
The feminist theory argues that the representation of women as weak, docile, innocent, seductive, irrational, or sentimental is rooted in where she does not have power. A woman is treated as a sex object or a procreating- machine, has less power political, and financial rights, and is abused. Feminism, therefore, is a worldview that refuses to delink art from existing social conditions and practices. Feminism explores the cultural dimensions of the woman’s material life. Cultural texts naturalize the oppression of women through their stereotypical representation of women as weak/vulnerable, obstacle, sexual object, etc. The task of criticism, therefore, is to reveal the underlying ideologies within these texts because they are instrumental in continuing women’s oppression.
Feminism’s key political and theoretical stance is this: the inequalities that exist between men and women are not natural but social, not preordained but created by men so that they retain power. Religion, the family, education, the arts, knowledge systems are all social and cultural ‘structures’ that enable the perpetual reinforcement of this inequality. These structures are effective means of emphasizing male domination because they do not appear oppressive. They retain power because, with their ability to persuade, the structures convince the woman that she is destined to be subordinated.
The feminist theory works to unpack these ideologies of dominance. It analyses gender relations: how gender relations are constructed and experienced by both men and women. Toril Moi is emphatic that feminist criticism is a political project: “Feminist criticism is a specific kind of political discourse, a critical and theoretical practice committed to the struggle against patriarchy and sexism.” European feminism as a theory might be traced back to the 18 Century writings of Mary Wollstonecraft. In her A Vindication of the Rights of Women(1792), Wollstonecraft rejected the established view that women are naturally weaker or inferior to men. The unequal nature of gender relations, she proposed, was because the lack of education kept the women in a secondary position. She further proposed that women must be treated as equals because they play a crucial role in society. Women themselves should strive to become ‘companions’ rather than mere wives to their husbands.
In the 20″C the novelist Virginia Woolf provided the first critiques antly that we can recognize as marking feminism as we know it today. In works like A Room of One’s Own(1929) and Three Guineas(1938), Woolf explored gender relations. One of the first writers to develop a woman-centric notion of reading and education, she argued that the patriarchal education system and reading practices prevent women readers from reading as women. They are Constantly trained to read from the men’s point of view. Woolf also argued that authorship itself is gendered. The language available to the women is patriarchal.
Cotemporary social views of gender owe much to critiques of patriarchy in the words of Simone de Beauvoir. De Beauvoir argued in her most famous work, The Second Sex that men are able to mystify women. This mystification and stereotyping were instrumental in creating patriarchy. She argued that women, in turn, accepted this stereotype, and were thus instruments of their own oppression. In fact, women are measured by the standard of men and found ‘inferior’. This is the process of othering where women will always be seen, not as independent or unique but as a flawed version of the male. Men and women are, therefore, constantly engaged in this subject- other relationships where the man is the subject and the woman the other.
The third-wave feminism of the 1990s argued that ‘men and ‘women’ are social categories that can only be defined in relation to each other. The writings of Judith Butler embody a postmodern view of gender. Butler (1990)argued that far from being a set of fixed values and roles imposed by society, gender was a performance or role enacted by individuals. This performance of gender is, of course, social in the sense that it is enacted, validated, and accepted by society. Thus, gender and its meaning are constructed through repeated performances. (As Judith Butler put it, “Identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results.” Even clothing, mannerism, speech, and language are all signs that bodies are to declare their gender to the world.
The postcolonial feminists suggest that the category ‘women’ is itself a dominating ideology because it sees only white women and their lives as standards. The postcolonial critics have argued that women are not homogeneous and that the experiences of a woman in interior Rajasthan or Kenya cannot be compared with that of a white woman banker or Wall Street. Postcolonial women’s studies in Asia and Africa have put forwarded issues like women’s health, legal rights, domestic abuse, the rights of the tribal and the Dalit women.
Indeed, the terms like race, ethnicity, class and even geography came to be included as analytical categories within feminism and produced new forms of feminist cultural theory: black, lesbian, or more recently cyberfeminism.
Different types of feminism
Liberal Feminism: Liberal feminism asserts the equality of men and women through political and legal reforms. Liberal feminists sought to abolish political, legal, and other forms of discrimination against women to allow them the same opportunities as men. Liberal feminists served to alter the structure of society to ensure the equal treatment of women. More recently, liberal feminism has additionally taken on a more narrow meaning which emphasizes women’s ability to show and mention their equality in their own actions and choices. In this sense, liberal feminism uses the personal interaction between men and women as the place from which to transform society. This use of the term differs from liberal feminism in the historical sense, which emphasized political and legal reforms and held that women’s own actions and choices alone were not sufficient to bring about gender equality.
Issues important to modern liberal communists include reproductive and abortion rights, Sexual harassment, voting, education, “equal pay for equal work”, affordable child care affordable health care, and bringing to light the frequency of sexual and domestic violence against women.
Radical feminism: Radical feminism is a movement that believes sexism is so deeply rooted in society that the only cure is to eliminate the concept of gender completely. Radical feminists suggest changes, such as finding a technology that will allow babies to grow outside of a woman’s body to promote more equality between men and women. This will allow women to avoid missing work for maternity leave, which radical feminists argue is one more reason women aren’t promoted as quickly as men. In fact, radical feminists would argue that the entire traditional family is sexist. Men are expected to work outside the home while women are expected to take care of children and clean the house.
Socialist feminism: Socialist feminism rejects radical feminism’s main claim that patriarchy is the only or primary source of oppression of women. Rather, socialism communism asserts that women are unable to be free due to their financial dependence on males in society. Women are subjected to the mail rulers in capitalism due to an uneven balance in wealth. They argue that liberation can be only achieved by working to end both the economic and cultural sources of women’s oppression.
Cultural feminism: It is developed from radical feminism, although they hold many opposing views. It is also a feminist theory of difference that raises the positive aspects of women. As radical feminism died out as a movement, cultural feminism has moved on cultural feminism believes in encouraging feminine behavior rather than masculine behavior, for example, the belief that “women are kinder and gentler than men,” prompts cultural feminists to call for an invasion of women’s culture into the male-dominated world, which would presumably result in less violence and fewer wars.
Eco-feminism: Eco-feminism is a social and political movement that unites environmentalism and feminism. Eco-feminists believe that these connections are illustrated through traditionally “females” values such as reciprocity, nurturing, and corporation, which are present both among men and women in any nature. Eco-feminists argue that the men in power control the land, and therefore are able to exploit it for their own profit and success. In this situation, eco-feminists consider women to be exploited by men in power for their own profit, success, and pleasure. The eco-feminists argue that women and the environment are both exploited as passive pawns in the race of domination. Eco-feminists argue that those people in power are able to take advantage of them distinctly because they are seen as passive and rather helpless. Eco-feminism connects the exploitation and domination of women with that of the environment.