Understanding Feminism

Understanding Feminism

Understanding Feminism

Understanding Feminism

Synopsis

"Understanding Feminism" provides an accessible guide to one of the most important and contested movements in progressive modern thought. Presenting feminism as a dynamic, multi-faceted and adaptive movement that has evolved in response to the changing practical and theoretical problems faced by women, the authors take a problem-oriented approach that maps the complex strands of feminist thinking in relation to women's struggles for equal recognition and rights, and freedom from oppressive constraints of sex, self-expression and autonomy. Each chapter focuses on a different cluster of concerns, demonstrating key moves in second-wave feminist thought, as well as some of the diversity in response-strategies that encompass both socio-economic and cultural-symbolic concerns. This approach not only shows how central feminist insights, theories and strategies emerge and re-emerge across different contexts, but makes clear that far from being 'over', feminism remains a vital response to the diverse issues that women (and men) find pressing and socially important.

Excerpt

The history of women’s struggle to change their lives is a long one. The term “feminism”, which highlights their oppression specifically in relation to men, however, has been in use in English only since the campaigns for women’s suffrage during the last decade of the nineteenth century. More recently, it has been the resurgence of women’s movements in the late 1960s – the so-called “second wave” – that is usually associated with feminist strivings for women’s equal rights, and freedom from oppressive constraints of sex, self-expression and autonomy. Most of the theoretical work of modern feminism has occurred during the period since this resurgence, and it is this work that is our focus in Understanding Feminism.

Second-wave feminisms emerged in the west in conjunction with the social contestations of student protest movements, anti-war movements and, in the United States, the struggle for civil rights for blacks. In this they echoed earlier challenges to women’s subordination that characteristically reflected and radically extended wider social movements for change. British sociologist Sheila Rowbotham’s Women in Movement (1992) traces some of these developments across the world during the period since the Enlightenment: from the struggles of women against the identification of human reason and progress with the reason and progress of men during the eighteenth-century revolutions in America and France, and their organization for women’s rights during the movement to abolish slavery, to their mobilization on behalf of women in nineteenth-century social reform, the Russian revolution, the quest for Indian self-rule and Chinese communism. In all of these . . .

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