Feminism and the Political:
The Fight for
Although feminism can be seen as a highly political movement in its attempts to define oppressions and effect social change, feminist relationships to 'the political', if we take this to mean the traditionally defined formal sphere of politics, have been complex and difficult. On the one hand, feminists have sought to end women's continuing exclusion from formal state political institutions and sites of political power, whereas on the other hand, they have argued that the theoretical bases on which these institutions are established are flawed, and further, that the definition of the political must be extended beyond the institutions and issues to which it has traditionally been limited - to include, for example, the family and personal relationships. This chapter will examine feminist critiques of and its relationship to the political, first examining feminist analyses of women's exclusion from formal politics, and then going on to consider different feminist definitions of 'the political' and to analyse ways in which feminists have sought to attain full political citizenship for women.
The starting point for many feminist analyses of politics has been the fact that women have been excluded from the exercise of political power. For long periods of history women were denied the vote in Western democracies, and women are still dramatically underrepresented in formal political institutions and decision-making