Analysis of exploitation of women, and proposals for alternatives.
The varieties of feminism are very great. All involve the assumption that, as a matter of observable fact, women are a category oppressed and exploited by men as a category.
Both the accounts of this division, and the proposals for reform, revolution, or transformation differ greatly.
Juliet Mitchell and Ann Oakley, eds, What Is Feminism? (Oxford, 1986)
Feminism is a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that aim to define and establish the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes.[a] Feminism incorporates the position that societies prioritize the male point of view, and that women are treated unjustly within those societies. Efforts to change that include fighting against gender stereotypes and establishing educational, professional, and interpersonal opportunities and outcomes for women that are equal to those for men.
Feminist movements have campaigned and continue to campaign for women’s rights, including the right to: vote, hold public office, work, earn equal pay, own property, receive education, enter contracts, have equal rights within marriage, and maternity leave. Feminists have also worked to ensure access to legal abortions and social integration, and to protect women and girls from rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence. Changes in female dress standards and acceptable physical activities for females have often been part of feminist movements.
Some scholars consider feminist campaigns to be a main force behind major historical societal changes for women’s rights, particularly in the West, where they are near-universally credited with achieving women’s suffrage, gender-neutral language, reproductive rights for women (including access to contraceptives and abortion), and the right to enter into contracts and own property. Although feminist advocacy is, and has been, mainly focused on women’s rights, some feminists argue for the inclusion of men’s liberation within its aims, because they believe that men are also harmed by traditional gender roles. Feminist theory, which emerged from feminist movements, aims to understand the nature of gender inequality by examining women’s social roles and lived experience; it has developed theories in a variety of disciplines in order to respond to issues concerning gender.
Numerous feminist movements and ideologies have developed over the years and represent different viewpoints and aims. Traditionally, since the 19th century, first-wave liberal feminism that sought political and legal equality through reforms within a liberal democratic framework was contrasted with labor-based proletarian women’s movements that over time developed into socialist and Marxist feminism based on class struggle theory. Since the 1960s both of these traditions are also contrasted with radical feminism that arose from the radical wing of second-wave feminism and that calls for a radical reordering of society to eliminate male supremacy; together liberal, socialist and radical feminism are sometimes called the “Big Three” schools of feminist thought. Since the late 20th century many newer forms of feminisms have emerged. Some forms of feminism have been criticized for taking into account only white, middle class, college-educated, heterosexual, or cisgender perspectives. These criticisms have led to the creation of ethnically specific or multicultural forms of feminism, such as black feminism and intersectional feminism