Feminist Theory as Microanalysis and Macroanalysis
Early Feminist Theory and Marxism
Feminist Theory and Symbolic Interactionism
Feminist Theory and Macroanalysis
Feminist Theory and Microanalysis
|Analyses of Gender as a Factor in Macrosystems and Microinteractions|
|Macro Level||Micro Level|
Criticisms of Feminist Theory
Some critics argue that feminist theorists lack a coherent research agenda and a unified goal or approach. While many feminist theorists agree that gender oppression exists, they differ on its causes or even on what a desirable alternative would be. Others object that feminist theory has historically ignored issues of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and multiculturalism. Most early feminism, from the 19th century through the mid–20th century, was driven by middle-class white women and reflected only their values and concerns. Women of color and poor women often did not find their interests and experiences reflected in the work of white feminist theorists. Black feminists, in particular, have challenged the notion that white feminists are allies. Many of them point out that white theorists may have no real understanding or concern for the social experience of black women. Whereas white women have to contend with power structures that discriminate against them based on their gender, women of color face this same discrimination but also face discrimination based on race. Feminist theory that concentrates solely on questions of gender fails to consider the ways that race, class, and other factors impact women in society.
Another criticism of feminist theory is that it ignores sexual orientation and gender nonconformity. Heterosexual feminists have examined the role of marriage, both as a power dynamic and as a social institution, without considering the experience of homosexual women. Trans and gender-nonconforming people have also challenged what it means to be a woman and argue that feminist theory does not consider them when studying the role of gender in society.
Feminist theorists have also been criticized for failing to consider or accept cultures outside of Europe and North America. Some cultures embrace practices that Western feminists find oppressive, such as arranged marriage, bans on women driving, and requiring women to wear covering clothing in public. Sociologists generally strive to take a position of cultural relativism, which posits that all cultures are equal in value and avoids viewing or judging a culture from the perspective of another culture. Some feminist theorists argue that it is important to identify and analyze gender-based oppression in all cultures. Others argue that Western feminists operate within a larger framework of global systems of oppression and impose their values and beliefs on other cultures without considering how women within other cultures feel and think about the customs and structures that Western theorists find oppressive.
Feminist Theory and Intersectionality
Influenced by criticism that feminist theory focuses only on the experience and values of white, middle-class, Western women, many feminist theorists seek to go beyond those limitations. One influential approach is intersectionality, a framework for examining how factors of social stratification such as gender, age, race, class, and sexual orientation are not separate, but intertwined. American social theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw (b. 1959) proposed this term in 1989 to describe how power and oppression come from multiple sources in a society. A related concept is the matrix of domination, the social environment in which multiple sources of oppression, based on factors such as race, ethnicity, class, sex, and gender, intersect to affect individuals' lives. American sociologist Patricia Hill Collins (b. 1948) introduced this term in 1990 to provide a framework with which to analyze the context of multiple forces of discrimination and oppression. For example, in the United States a black, lesbian Muslim woman with a physical disability may have more trouble finding a job than a white, heterosexual, able-bodied Christian woman. Since their introduction in the late 20th century, both intersectionality and the matrix of domination are concepts that are applied to the study of various issues of social stratification.An intersectional feminist approach recognizes and analyzes the effects of multiple, overlapping social forces on individuals. It argues that gender, age, race, class, and sexual orientation cannot be fully understood when considered independently but must also be understood in combination. Intersectionalist feminists stress that each individual's social experience is different and cannot be understood without considering all the factors that impact a person's place and experience within a society.