Gender issues in the USA

The concept and sex, and especially his studies in psychology and sociology at the present stage. The history of the study of the concepts of masculinity and femininity. Gender issues in Russian society. Gender identity and the role of women in America.

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1.1 History of sociological gender

1.2 Femininity and masculinity

1.3 Gender issues in Russia


2.1 Gender identity

2.2 Gender role of women in America

2.3 Gender equality in America




Views on gender-based differentiation in the workplace and in interpersonal relationships have often undergone profound changes as a result of feminist and/or economic influences, but there are still considerable differences in gender roles in almost all societies. It is also true that in times of necessity, such as during a war or other emergency, women are permitted to perform functions which in normal times would be considered a male role, or vice versa.

Gender has several definitions. It usually refers to a set of characteristics that are considered to distinguish between male and female, reflect one's biological sex, or reflect one's gender identity. Gender identity is the gender(s), or lack thereof, a person self-identifies as; it is not necessarily based on biological sex, either real or perceived, and it is distinct from sexual orientation. It is one's internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or a boy or girl). There are two main genders: masculine (male), or feminine (female), although some cultures acknowledge more genders. Androgyny, for example, has been proposed as a third gender. Some socities have more than five genders, and some non-Western societies have three genders - man, woman and third gender. Gender expression refers to the external manifestation of one's gender identity, through masculine, feminine, or gender-variant or gender neutral behavior, clothing, hairstyles, or body characteristics.

Gender role theory posits that boys and girls learn the appropriate behavior and attitudes from the family and overall culture they grow up with, and so non-physical gender differences are a product of socialization.

Social role theory proposes that the social structure is the underlying force for the gender differences. Social role theory proposes that the sex-differentiated behavior is driven by the division of labor between two sexes within a society. Division of labor creates gender roles, which in turn, lead to gendered social behavior.

The term gender identity was originally a medical term used to explain sex reassignment surgery to the public, but is also found in psychology, often as core gender identity. Although the formation of gender identity is not completely understood, many factors have been suggested as influencing its development. Biological factors that may influence gender identity include pre - and post-natal hormone levels and gene regulation. Social factors which may influence gender identity include gender messages conveyed by family, mass media, and other institutions. One's gender identity is also influenced by the social learning theory, which assumes that children develop their gender identity through observing and imitating gender-linked behaviors, and then being rewarded or punished for behaving that way. In some cases, a person's gender identity may be inconsistent with their biological sex characteristics, resulting in individuals dressing and/or behaving in a way which is perceived by others as being outside cultural gender norms; these gender expressions may be described as gender variant or transgender.

The topicality of the diploma paper is in the fact that the theme is very interesting and actual for today youth, who deals with sociology of USA and is interested in gender issues.

According to the American Census Bureau, by 2050 there would be 383 million people in the USA and about 195 million of them would be women. How many of them would be known as famous scientists, writers, doctors etc? How many of them will affect the national policy? Will the number of the women representatives in the government increase? At present there are 5 women in the US Government: Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Labor, Director of EPA and the last but not the least - National Security Advisor - Condoleeza Rice. Females are allowed to enter the Navy, the Air Force and Marine Corps.

In 1990 75% of women received a high school diploma compared to 76% men high school graduates. But there were times when a woman wasn't allowed to vote and the only priority she had in life was house and children. Women wanted more than that and understood they need to fight for their rights and they still continue doing it.

One of the donators to described a feminist as each and every politically and socially conscious woman or man who works for equality within or outside the movement, writes about feminism, or calls her - or himself a feminist. Feminism stands for reproductive freedom (including access to safe, legal and accessible abortion), equality of rights with men, and is against sexism, representing woman as a sexual and maternity object only (an image created by media), domestic violence etc.

So feminism is the movement for social, political, and economic equality of men and women. Organized feminism did not really form until the first Women's Conference held in Seneca Falls (USA) in 1848. To begin with, the Women's Movement evolved out of social reform groups such as the Abolition of Slavery, the Social Purity and Temperance movements. Women began to realize that in order to transform society they would need their own organizations to do so. They campaigned upon a whole range of issues: guardianship of infants, property rights, divorce, access to higher education and the medical professions, equal pay and etc.

The main aim of the diploma paper is to tell about gender issues in USA. There are the following tasks to reach the given aim:

To give information about the notion of gender: especially history of sociological gender, femininity and masculinity;

To tell about gender issues in Russia.

To analyze gender issues in the USA: gender identity, gender role of women in America and gender equality in America.

The diploma paper consists of introduction, two chapters, conclusion and bibliography.

CHAPTER I. The notion of gender

Gender is a set of characteristics distinguishing between male and female, particularly in the cases of men and women. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity. In 1955, sexologist John Money, introduced the terminological distinction between biological sex and gender as a role. Before his work, it was uncommon to use the word gender to refer to anything but grammatical categories. However, Money's meaning of the word did not become widespread until the 1970s, when feminist theory embraced the distinction between biological sex and the social construct of gender. Today, the distinction is strictly followed in some contexts, like feminist literature, and in documents written by organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), but in most contexts, even in some areas of social sciences, the meaning of gender has expanded to include sex or even to replace the latter word. Although this gradual change in the meaning of gender can be traced to the 1980s, a small acceleration of the process in the scientific literature was observed when the Food and Drug Administration started to use gender instead of sex in 1993. Gender is now commonly used even to refer to the physiology of nonhuman animals, without any implication of social gender roles.

In the English literature, the trichotomy between biological sex, psychological gender, and social sex role first appeared in a feminist paper on transsexualism in 1978.

Some cultures have specific gender-related social roles that can be considered distinct from male and female, such as the hijra of India and Pakistan.

While the social sciences sometimes approach gender as a social construct, and gender studies particularly do, research in the natural sciences investigates whether biological differences in males and females influence the development of gender in humans; both inform debate about how far biological differences influence gender identity formation. Etymology and usage

The historical meaning of gender is things we treat differently because of their inherent differences. It has three common applications in contemporary English. Most commonly, it is applied to the general differences between male and female entities, without any overt assumptions regarding biology or sociology. Sometimes, however, the usage is technical or overtly assumes a particular theory of human nature, which is usually made clear from the context. Finally, gender is also commonly applied to the independent concept of distinctive word categories in certain languages. Grammatical gender has little or nothing to do with differences between female and male.

According to Aristotle, the Greek philosopher Protagoras used the terms masculine, feminine, and neuter to classify nouns, introducing the concept of grammatical gender.

The words for this concept are not related to gen - in all Indo-European languages (for example, rod in Slavic languages).

The usage of gender in the context of grammatical distinctions is a specific and technical usage.

However, in English, the word became attested more widely in the context of grammar, than in making sexual distinctions.

This was noted in OED1, prompting Henry Watson Fowler in 1926 to recommend this usage as the primary and preferable meaning of gender in English.

Genderis a grammatical term only. To talk of personsof the masculine or feminine gender, meaning of the male or female sex, is either a jocularity (permissible or not according to context) or a blunder.

The sense of this can be felt by analogy with a modern expression like persons of the female persuasion. It should be noted, however, that this was a recommendation, neither the Daily News nor Henry James citations (above) are jocular nor blunders. Additionally, patterns of usage of gender have substantially changed since Fowler's day (noun class above, and sexual stereotype below).

Gender typing attempts to make distinctions made between males, females and other genders are defining characteristics of society. Though societies differ in which roles they assign to each gender, all roles as allocated on the basis of sex, and its capabilities. Males and females are expected to acquire gender/sex specific skills, and either male or feminine personality traits, based on how society views and defines individuals.

Gender typing projects societies expectations regarding people's behavior based upon their biological sex.

Gender typing is most typical during the formative years of developing one's identity. Through social learning theory children learn gender roles and behaviors, and begin to gender type. Through such reinforcing statements as Big boys don't cry or You're such a good girl, being such a good mommy to your toys, children realize what is typical of the male and female gender and gender type other traits and behaviors as they try and discover whether they belong in 'girl world' or 'boy world.' Gender typing begins as early as age 2 or 3, as children are just beginning to distinguish between male and female voices, and develop a sense of language. Children at ages 2-4 are gender typing by the clothes they see other children wear, hairstyles and what toys are okay for boys to play with and what toys girls play with. By age 5, a child now has the ablity to gender type by observing beavior, traits and tools used by men and women. A child may associate a man with the words aggressive, brave, autocrat, dominant and independent, a woman with the words emotional, sentimental, fragile, dependent and submissive. In many languages, words are masculine or feminine (la primavera or el invierno), everything in the child's world takes on a female or male presence and is gender typed. The Cognitive development theory is also important in forming one's gender identity through gender typing. Through this theory, it is explained how children socialize themselves with the gender(s) they have come to identify as. This is further emphasized by the social learning theory, or observations of these self-selected peers behaviors.

Cognitive Factors in Gender Typing

Gender typing is a mental process, it is influenced by several cognitive factors.

1.) Kohlberg's cognitive developmental theory a.) Child notices physical and behavioral clues, and classifies herself as a girl; b.) the child then finds it rewarding to behave in gender-appropriate manner and imitate same-gender models. EXAMPLE: A girl says, I am a girl because I am more like my mother and other girls than like boys; therefore I want to dress like a girl, play girl games, and feel and think like a girl.

Three Stages: A.) Gender identity: Recognizing that you are a boy or a girl; this then organizes incoming information. This occurs between age 2 and 3. Recent research: Even in early infancy, babies male and female faces as being in different categories; but they don't think of themselves as being in one category or the other. By age 2, they identify traits as being male or female (men wear ties), but they do not see themselves as a belonging to a gender category until about age 3.

B.) Gender stability: Child accepts the idea that males remain male and females remain female; e.g., a girl will no longer think she will grow up to be like her father or Batman. This occurs between ages 4 and 5. Children of this age still have some gaps in their understanding. Two 4-year-olds: Jeremy wears a barrette to nursery school. Another boy accuses him of being a girl because only girls wear barrettes. Jeremy pulls down his pants to show that he really is a boy. The other boy replies, Everyone has a penis; only girls wear barrettes.

C.) Gender constancy: Recognizing that superficial changes in appearance or in activities will not change a person's gender. A boy who wears a dress is still a boy; a girl who plays football is still a girl. A child who understands gender constancy would not suppose that wearing a barrette makes one a girl.

This theory has been empirically confirmed cross-culturally.

Children develop schemas or naive theories that help them organize gender differences and gender roles. They tell children what kinds of information to look for in the environment and how to interpret this information. EXAMPLE: 5 - and 6-year-old children shown gender-consistent (boy playing with train) or gender-inconsistent (girl sawing wood). A week later, children distorted the information from the gender inconsistent pictures: They said that they had seen a boy sawing wood. Memory for gender consistent pictures was better, and children were more sure that they remembered it correctly. Boys who have gender constancy pay more attention to TV characters of the same sex.

Gender schemas are more important for younger children because their schemas are more rigid. Some people are more gendered in their thinking than others.

Kohlberg predicts that achievement of gender constancy should influence children's gender-typed choices. As a result, it predicts that before age 5-7 there should be little or no preference for gender-typed activities. This is massively contradicted by observation of children's behavior. Gender schema theory does not make this prediction. It proposes that children simply need to be aware of basic information about gender, such as identifying activities as gender appropriate. Children who identify themselves as being a boy or a girl engage in more gender-appropriate behavior, and they do this around age 2'way before they achieve gender stability or constancy. Achievement of gender identity is sufficient to result in gender-typed play.

Some data indicate that children engage in gender-typed play before they have gender identity. This is compatible with biological theories that boys are simply attracted to certain types of toys and activities independent of cultural labeling.

Problems with Gender Typing

The APA defines gender typing as expectations about people's behavior that are based on their biological sex, This can often result in problems, because the gender identity of an individual may not be in line with their biological sex, when they do not fulfill stereotypes or behaviors gender type, there can be a dissonance that causes problems.

While the most extreme examples of gender typing begin to cease around 6 years old, problems can also arise with gender typing. As children gender type the roles typical of a specific gender, their gender identity can come into question when they compare themselves to others. These children can either adjust their behavior to fit the gender role or as a result develop gender identity disorder.

Relation to Gender Identity and Gender Role

Gender typing is seen more as a way of viewing others, through the ways they identity with a specific gender through stereotypes typical of a specific gender. Such stereotypes can include the idea that girls ware heels and skirts, while boys ware pants don't ware heels. Gender Identity on the other hands is not how others are viewed or assessed, but how an individual views themselves, and decides which gender to identify with. The gender that one can identify with is not always clearly cut male and female, but can also include one identifying as a transgender. Gender Role is set of expectations (norms) about a gender, defining how those in that gender group ought to behave. While very similar to gender typing, it is the ominous ideas behind a specific gender, as opposed to the actual thought process of acquiring these ideas about how a gender behaves, and applying them to one's own life. Gender roles are what is assumed when gender typing.

gender society identity sociology

1.1 History of sociological gender

Gender identity is the gender a person self-identifies as. The concept of being a woman is considered to have more challenges, due to society not only viewing women as a social category but also as a felt sense of self, a culturally conditioned or constructed subjective identity. The term woman has chronically been used as a reference to and for the female body; this usage has been viewed as controversial by feminists, in the definement of woman. There are qualitative analyses that explore and present the representations of gender; feminists challenge the dominant ideologies concerning gender roles and sex. Social identity refers to the common identification with a collectivity or social category which creates a common culture among participants concerned. According to social identity theory, an important component of the self-concept is derived from memberships in social groups and categories; this is demonstrated by group processes and how inter-group relationships impact significantly on individuals' self perception and behaviors. The groups to which people belong will therefore provide their members with the definition of who they are and how they should behave in the social sphere.

Categorizing males and females into social roles creates binaries in which individuals feel they have to be at one end of a linear spectrum and must identify themselves as man or woman. Globally, communities interpret biological differences between men and women to create a set of social expectations that define the behaviors that are appropriate for men and women and determine women's and men's different access to rights, resources, power in society and even health behaviors. Although the specific nature and degree of these differences vary from one society to the next, they typically favor men, creating an imbalance in power and gender inequalities in all countries.

Western philosopher Michel Foucault, claimed that as sexual subjects, humans are the object of power, which is not an institution or structure, rather it is a signifier or name attributed to complex strategical situation. Because of this, power is what determines individual attributes, behaviors, etc. and people are a part of an ontologically and epistemologically constructed set of names and labels. Such as, being female characterizes one as a woman, and being a woman signifies one as weak, emotional, and irrational, and is incapable of actions attributed to a man. Judith Butler said, that gender and sex are more like verbs than nouns. She reasoned that her actions are limited. I am not permitted to construct my gender and sex willy-nilly, she said. [This] is so because gender is politically and therefore socially controlled. Rather than 'woman' being something one is, it is something one does. There are more recent criticisms of Judith Butler's theories which critique her writing for reinforcing the very conventional dichotomies of gender.

Social assignment and the idea of gender fluidity

According to Kate Bornstein, gender can have ambiguity and fluidity. There are two contrasting ideas regarding the definition of gender, and the intersection of both of them is definable as below:

The World Health Organization defines gender as the result of socially constructed ideas about the behavior, actions, and roles a particular sex performs. The beliefs, values and attitude taken up and exhibited by them is as per the agreeable norms of the society and the personal opinions of the person is not taken into the primary consideration of assignment of gender and imposition of gender roles as per the assigned gender. Intersections and crossing of the prescribed boundaries have no place in the arena of the social construct of the term gender.

The assignment of gender involves taking into account the physiological and biological attributes assigned by nature followed by the imposition of the socially constructed conduct. The social label of being classified into one or the other sex is obligatory to the medical stamp on the birth certificate. The cultural traits typically coupled to a particular sex finalize the assignment of gender and the biological differences which play a role in classifying either sex is interchangeable with the definition of gender within the social context.

In this context, the socially constructed rules are at a cross road with the assignment of a particular gender to a person. Gender ambiguity deals with having the freedom to choose, manipulate and create a personal niche within any defined socially constructed code of conduct while gender fluidity is outlawing all the rules of cultural gender assignment. It does not accept the prevalence of two rigidly defined genders Female and Male and believes in freedom to choose any kind of gender with no rules, no defined boundaries and no fulfilling of expectations associated with any particular gender.

Both these definitions are facing opposite directionalities with their own defined set of rules and criteria on which the said systems are based.

Social categories

Mary Frith (Moll Cutpurse) scandalised 17th century society by wearing male clothing, smoking in public, and otherwise defying gender roles.

Sexologist John Money coined the term gender role in 1955. The term gender role is used to signify all those things that a person says or does to disclose himself or herself as having the status of boy or man, girl or woman, respectively. It includes, but is not restricted to, sexuality in the sense of eroticism. Elements of such a role include clothing, speech patterns, movement, occupations, and other factors not limited to biological sex. Because social aspects of gender can normally be presumed to be the ones of interest in sociology and closely related disciplines, gender role is often abbreviated to gender in their literature.

Most societies have only two distinct, broad classes of gender roles-masculine and feminine-and these correspond with biological sexes male and female. However, some societies explicitly incorporate people who adopt the gender role opposite to their biological sex, for example the Two-Spirit people of some indigenous American peoples. Other societies include well-developed roles that are explicitly considered more or less distinct from archetypal female and male roles in those societies. In the language of the sociology of gender they comprise a third gender, more or less distinct from biological sex (sometimes the basis for the role does include intersexuality or incorporates eunuchs). One such gender role is that adopted by the hijras of India and Pakistan. Another example may be the Muxe, found in the state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, beyond gay and straight.

The Bugis people of Sulawesi, Indonesia have a tradition incorporating all of the features above. Joan Roughgarden argues that in some non-human animal species, there can also be said to be more than two genders, in that there might be multiple templates for behavior available to individual organisms with a given biological sex.

Measurement of gender identity

Early gender identity research hypothesized a single bipolar dimension of masculinity/femininity; that is masculinity and femininity were opposites on one continuum. As societal stereotypes changed, however, the assumptions of the unidimensional model were challenged. This led to the development of a two-dimensional gender identity model, in which masculinity and femininity were conceptualized as two separate, orthogonal dimensions, coexisting in varying degrees within an individual. This conceptualization on femininity and masculinity remains the accepted standard today.

Two instruments incorporating the multidimensional of masculinity and femininity have dominated gender identity research: The Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) and the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ). Both instruments categorize individuals as either being sex typed (males report themselves as identifying primarily with masculine traits, females report themselves as identifying primarily with feminine traits), cross sex-typed (males report themselves as identifying primarily with feminine traits, females report themselves as identifying primarily with masculine traits), androgynous (either males or females who report themselves as high on both masculine and feminine traits) or undifferentiated (either males or females who report themselves as low on both masculine and feminine traits). Twenge (1997) noted that, although men are generally more masculine than women and women generally more feminine than men, the association between biological sex and masculinity/femininity is waning.

Feminism and gender studies

Biologist and feminist academic Anne Fausto-Sterling rejects the discourse of biological versus social determinism and advocates a deeper analysis of how interactions between the biological being and the social environment influence individuals' capacities. The philosopher and feminist Simone de Beauvoir applied existentialism to women's experience of life: One is not born a woman, one becomes one. In context, this is a philosophical statement. However, it may be analyzed in terms of biology - a girl must pass puberty to become a woman - and sociology, as a great deal of mature relating in social contexts is learned rather than instinctive.

Within feminist theory, terminology for gender issues developed over the 1970s. In the 1974 edition of Masculine/Feminine or Human, the author uses innate gender and learned sex roles, but in the 1978 edition, the use of sex and gender is reversed. By 1980, most feminist writings had agreed on using gender only for socioculturally adapted traits.

In gender studies the term gender is used to refer to proposed social and cultural constructions of masculinities and femininities. In this context, gender explicitly excludes reference to biological differences, to focus on cultural differences. This emerged from a number of different areas: in sociology during the 1950s; from the theories of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan; and in the work of French psychoanalysts like Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, and American feminists such as Judith Butler. Those who followed Butler came to regard gender roles as a practice, sometimes referred to as performative.

Hurst states that some people think sex will automatically determine one's gender demeanor and role (social) as well as one's sexual orientation (sexual attractions and behavior). Gender sociologists believe that people have cultural origins and habits for dealing with gender. For example, Michael Schwalbe believes that humans must be taught how to act appropriately in their designated gender in order to properly fill the role and that the way people behave as masculine or feminine interacts with social expectations. Schwalbe comments that humans are the results of many people embracing and acting on similar ideas. People do this through everything from clothing and hairstyle to relationship and employment choices. Schwalbe believes that these distinctions are important, because society wants to identify and categorize people as soon as we see them. They need to place people into distinct categories in order to know how we should feel about them.

Hurst comments that in a society where we present our genders so distinctly, there can often be severe consequences for breaking these cultural norms. Many of these consequences are rooted in discrimination based on sexual orientation. Gays and lesbians are often discriminated against in our legal system due to societal prejudices. Hurst describes how this discrimination works against people for breaking gender norms, no matter what their sexual orientation is. He says that courts often confuse sex, gender, and sexual orientation, and confuse them in a way that results in denying the rights not only of gays and lesbians, but also of those who do not present themselves or act in a manner traditionally expected of their sex. This prejudice plays out in our legal system when a man or woman is judged differently because he or she does not present the correct gender.

Recent critiques of feminist theory by Warren Farrell have given broader consideration to findings from a ten-year study of courtship by Buss. Both perspectives on gendering are integrated in Attraction Theory, a theoretical framework developed by Dr Rory Ridley-Duff illustrating how courtship and parenting obligations (rather than male dominance) act as a generative mechanism that produces and reproduces a range of gender identities.

Feminists and scholars have divided the movement's history into three waves. The first wave refers mainly to women's suffrage movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (mainly concerned with women's right to vote). The second wave refers to the ideas and actions associated with the women's liberation movement beginning in the 1960s (which campaigned for legal and social equality for women). The third wave refers to a continuation of, and a reaction to, the perceived failures of, second-wave feminism, beginning in the 1990s.

The period described as first-wave feminism refers to feminist activity during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the United Kingdom and the United States. Originally it focused on the promotion of equal contract and property rights for women and the opposition to chattel marriage and ownership of married women (and their children) by their husbands. However, by the end of the nineteenth century, activism focused primarily on gaining political power, particularly the right of women's suffrage. Yet, feminists such as Voltairine de Cleyre and Margaret Sanger were still active in campaigning for women's sexual, reproductive, and economic rights at this time.

Louise Weiss along with other Parisian suffragettes in 1935. The newspaper headline reads THE FRENCHWOMAN MUST VOTE.

In Britain the Suffragettes, and possibly more effectively, the Suffragists campaigned for the women's vote. In 1918 the Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed granting the vote to women over the age of 30 who owned houses. In 1928 this was extended to all women over twenty-one. In the United States leaders of this movement included Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony, who each campaigned for the abolition of slavery prior to championing women's right to vote and strongly influenced by Quaker thought. Other important leaders include Lucy Stone, Olympia Brown, and Helen Pitts. American first-wave feminism involved a wide range of women, some belonging to conservative Christian groups (such as Frances Willard and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union), others resembling the diversity and radicalism of much of second-wave feminism (such as Matilda Joslyn Gage and the National Woman Suffrage Association). In the United States, first-wave feminism is considered to have ended with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1919), granting women the right to vote in all states. The term first wave, was coined retrospectively after the term second-wave feminism began to be used to describe a newer feminist movement that focused as much on fighting social and cultural inequalities as political inequalities.

Second-wave feminism refers to a period of feminist activity beginning in the early 1960s and lasting through the late 1980s. The scholar Imelda Whelehan suggests that the second wave was a continuation of the earlier phase of feminism involving the suffragettes in the UK and USA. Second-wave feminism has continued to exist since that time and coexists with what is termed third-wave feminism. The scholar Estelle Freedman compares first and second-wave feminism saying that the first wave focused on rights such as suffrage, whereas the second wave was largely concerned with other issues of equality, such as ending discrimination.

The feminist activist and author Carol Hanisch coined the slogan The Personal is Political which became synonymous with the second wave. Second-wave feminists saw women's cultural and political inequalities as inextricably linked and encouraged women to understand aspects of their personal lives as deeply politicized and as reflecting sexist power structures.

Third-wave feminism is said to have begun in the early 1990s, arising as a response to perceived failures of the second wave and also as a response to the backlash against initiatives and movements created by the second wave. Third-wave feminism seeks to challenge or avoid what it deems the second wave's essentialist definitions of femininity, which (according to them) over-emphasize the experiences of upper middle-class white women.

A post-structuralist interpretation of gender and sexuality is central to much of the third wave's ideology. Third-wave feminists often focus on micro-politics and challenge the second wave's paradigm as to what is, or is not, good for females. The third wave has its origins in the mid-1980s. Feminist leaders rooted in the second wave like Gloria Anzaldua, bell hooks, Chela Sandoval, Cherrie Moraga, Audre Lorde, Maxine Hong Kingston, and many other black feminists, sought to negotiate a space within feminist thought for consideration of race-related subjectivities.

Third-wave feminism also contains internal debates between difference feminists such as the psychologist Carol Gilligan (who believes that there are important differences between the sexes) and those who believe that there are no inherent differences between the sexes and contend that gender roles are due to social conditioning.


Post-feminism describes a range of viewpoints reacting to feminism. While not being anti-feminist, post-feminists believe that women have achieved second wave goals while being critical of third wave feminist goals. The term was first used in the 1980s to describe a backlash against second-wave feminism. It is now a label for a wide range of theories that take critical approaches to previous feminist discourses and includes challenges to the second wave's ideas. Other post-feminists say that feminism is no longer relevant to today's society. Amelia Jones has written that the post-feminist texts which emerged in the 1980s and 1990s portrayed second-wave feminism as a monolithic entity and criticized it using generalizations.

Theoretical schools

Feminist theory is an extension of feminism into theoretical or philosophical fields. It encompasses work in a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, economics, women's studies, literary criticism, art history, psychoanalysis and philosophy. Feminist theory aims to understand gender inequality and focuses on gender politics, power relations, and sexuality. While providing a critique of these social and political relations, much of feminist theory also focuses on the promotion of women's rights and interests. Themes explored in feminist theory include discrimination, stereotyping, objectification (especially sexual objectification), oppression, and patriarchy.

The American literary critic and feminist Elaine Showalter describes the phased development of feminist theory. The first she calls feminist critique, in which the feminist reader examines the ideologies behind literary phenomena. The second Showalter calls gynocriticism, in which the woman is producer of textual meaning including the psychodynamics of female creativity; linguistics and the problem of a female language; the trajectory of the individual or collective female literary career and literary history. The last phase she calls gender theory, in which the ideological inscription and the literary effects of the sex/gender system are explored. This model has been criticized by the scholar Toril Moi who sees it as an essentialist and deterministic model for female subjectivity and for failing to account for the situation of women outside the West.

Movements and ideologies

Liberal feminism seeks individualistic equality of men and women through political and legal reform without altering the structure of society. Radical feminism considers the male-controlled capitalist hierarchy as the defining feature of women's oppression and the total uprooting and reconstruction of society as necessary. Socialist feminism connects oppression of women to exploitation, oppression, and labor. Marxist feminists feel that overcoming class oppression overcomes gender oppression; some socialist feminists disagree. and has branched into such as anti-pornography feminism, opposed by sex-positive feminism. Anarcha-feminists believe that class struggle and anarchy against the state require struggling against patriarchy, which comes from involuntary hierarchy. Separatist feminism does not support heterosexual relationships. Lesbian feminism is thus closely related. Other feminists criticize separatist feminism as sexist.

Conservative feminism is conservative relative to the society in which it resides. Libertarian feminism conceives of people as self-owners and therefore as entitled to freedom from coercive interference. Individualist feminism or ifeminism, opposing so-called gender feminism, draws on anarcho-capitalism.

Ecofeminists see men's control of land as responsible for the oppression of women and destruction of the natural environment, but a criticism is that ecofeminism focuses too much on a mystical connection between women and nature.


Cultural feminism attempts to revalidate undervalued female nature or female essence; its critics assert that it has led feminists to retreat from politics to lifestyle.

During much of its history, feminist movements and theoretical developments were led predominantly by middle-class white women from Western Europe and North America. However, at least since Sojourner Truth's 1851 speech to American feminists, women of other races have proposed alternative feminisms. This trend accelerated in the 1960s with the civil rights movement in the United States and the collapse of European colonialism in Africa, the Caribbean, parts of Latin America, and Southeast Asia. Since that time, women in developing nations and former colonies and who are of colour or various ethnicities or living in poverty have proposed additional feminisms.

Womanism emerged after early feminist movements were largely white and middle-class. Black feminism argues that sexism, class oppression, and racism are inextricably bound together. Chicana feminism focuses on Mexican American, Chicana, and Hispanic women in the United States. Multiracial or women of colour feminism is related.

Standpoint feminists argue that feminism should examine how women's experience of inequality relates to that of racism, homophobia, classism, and colonization. Postcolonial feminists argue that colonial oppression and Western feminism marginalized postcolonial women but did not turn them passive or voiceless. Third-world feminism is closely related. These discourses are related to African feminism, motherism. Stiwanism, negofeminism, femalism, transnational feminism, and Africana womanism.

Postmodern feminists argue that sex and gender are socially constructed, that it is impossible to generalize women's experiences across cultures and histories, and that dualisms and traditional gender, feminism, and politics are too limiting. Post-structural feminism uses various intellectual currents for feminist concerns. Many post-structural feminists maintain that difference is one of the most powerful tools that women possess. Contemporary psychoanalytic French feminism is more philosophical and literary than is Anglophone feminism.

Riot grrrl (or riot grrl) is an underground feminist punk movement that started in the 1990s and is often associated with third-wave feminism (it is sometimes seen as its starting point). It was grounded in the DIY philosophy of punk values. Riot grrls took an anti-corporate stance of self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Riot grrrl's emphasis on universal female identity and separatism often appears more closely allied with second-wave feminism than with the third wave. The movement encouraged and made adolescent girls' standpoints central, allowing them to express themselves fully.

Lipstick feminism is a cultural feminist movement that attempts to respond to the backlash of second-wave radical feminism of the 1960s and 1970s by reclaiming symbols of feminine identity such as make-up, suggestive clothing and having a sexual allure as valid and empowering personal choices.


Christian feminism is a branch of feminist theology which seeks to interpret and understand Christianity in light of the equality of women and men. Because this equality has been historically ignored, Christian feminists believe their contributions are necessary for a complete understanding of Christianity. While there is no standard set of beliefs among Christian feminists, most agree that God does not discriminate on the basis of biologically-determined characteristics such as sex. Their major issues are the ordination of women, male dominance in Christian marriage, and claims of moral deficiency and inferiority of abilities of women compared to men. They also are concerned with the balance of parenting between mothers and fathers and the overall treatment of women in the church.

Islamic feminism is concerned with the role of women in Islam and aims for the full equality of all Muslims, regardless of gender, in public and private life. Islamic feminists advocate women's rights, gender equality, and social justice grounded in an Islamic framework. Although rooted in Islam, the movement's pioneers have also utilized secular and Western feminist discourses and recognize the role of Islamic feminism as part of an integrated global feminist movement. Advocates of the movement seek to highlight the deeply rooted teachings of equality in the Quran and encourage a questioning of the patriarchal interpretation of Islamic teaching through the Quran, hadith (sayings of Muhammad), and sharia (law) towards the creation of a more equal and just society.

Jewish feminism is a movement that seeks to improve the religious, legal, and social status of women within Judaism and to open up new opportunities for religious experience and leadership for Jewish women. Feminist movements, with varying approaches and successes, have opened up within all major branches of Judaism. In its modern form, the movement can be traced to the early 1970s in the United States. According to Judith Plaskow, who has focused on feminism in Reform Judaism, the main issues for early Jewish feminists in these movements were the exclusion from the all-male prayer group or minyan, the exemption from positive time-bound mitzvot, and women's inability to function as witnesses and to initiate divorce.

The Dianic Wicca or Wiccan feminism is a female focused, Goddess-centered Wiccan sect; also known as a feminist religion that teaches witchcraft as every woman's right. It is also one sect of the many practiced in Wicca.

Secular or atheist feminists have engaged in feminist criticism of religion, arguing that many religions have oppressive rules towards women and misogynistic themes and elements in religious texts.

Societal impact

The feminist movement has effected change in Western society, including women's suffrage; in education; in gender neutrality in English; job pay more nearly equal to men's; the right to initiate divorce proceedings; the reproductive rights of women to make individual decisions on pregnancy (including access to contraceptives and abortion); and the right to enter into contracts and own property. Feminists have struggled to protect women and girls from domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault, emphasizing the grounds as women's rights, rather than as men's traditional interests in families' safety for reproductive purposes. On economic matters, feminists have advocated for workplace rights, including maternity leave, and against other forms of gender-specific discrimination against women. They have achieved some protections and societal changes through sharing experiences, developing theory, and campaigning for rights.

Civil rights

From the 1960s on, the campaign for women's rights was met with mixed results in the U.S. and the U.K. Other countries of the EEC agreed to ensure that discriminatory laws would be phased out across the European Community.

In the U.S., the National Organization for Women (NOW) began in 1966 to seek women's equality, including through the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which did not pass, although some states enacted their own. Reproductive rights in the U.S. centered on the court decision in Roe v. Wade enunciating a woman's right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term. Western women gained more reliable birth control, allowing family planning and careers. The movement started in the 1910s in the U.S. under Margaret Sanger and elsewhere under Marie Stopes and grew in the late 20th century.

The division of labor within households was affected by the increased entry of women into workplaces in the 20th century. Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild found that, in two-career couples, men and women, on average, spend about equal amounts of time working, but women still spend more time on housework, although Cathy Young responded by arguing that women may prevent equal participation by men in housework and parenting.

In international law, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international convention adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and described as an international bill of rights for women. It came into force in those nations ratifying it.

In the final three decades of the 20th century, Western women knew a new freedom through birth control, which enabled women to plan their adult lives, often making way for both career and family. The movement had been started in the 1910s by US pioneering social reformer Margaret Sanger and in the UK and internationally by Marie Stopes.


Gender-neutral language is a description of language usages which are aimed at minimizing assumptions regarding the biological sex of human referents. The advocacy of gender-neutral language reflects, at least, two different agendas: one aims to clarify the inclusion of both sexes or genders (gender-inclusive language); the other proposes that gender, as a category, is rarely worth marking in language (gender-neutral language). Gender-neutral language is sometimes described as non-sexist language by advocates and politically-correct language by opponents.


Feminist theology is a movement that reconsiders the traditions, practices, scriptures, and theologies of religions from a feminist perspective. Some of the goals of feminist theology include increasing the role of women among the clergy and religious authorities, reinterpreting male-dominated imagery and language about God, determining women's place in relation to career and motherhood, and studying images of women in the religion's sacred texts.


The distinction between sex and gender is generally that sex is biological (e.g., chromosomal or morphological) while gender is social or cultural (e.g., how societies structure relationships).

Men and masculinity

Feminist theory has explored the social construction of masculinity and its implications for the goal of gender equality. The social construct of masculinity is seen as problematic as it associates males with aggression and competition, and reinforces patriarchy and unequal gender relations. The concept of masculinity is also seen as harmful to men by narrowing their life choices, limiting their sexuality, and blocking full emotional connections with women and other men. Some feminists are engaged with men's issues activism, such as bringing attention to male rape and spousal battery and addressing negative social expectations for men.

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