feminism, feminist
A social movement , having its origins in eighteenth-century England, which seeks to achieve equality between the sexes by extension of rights for women. In the 1890s the term referred specifically to the women and men who campaigned for votes for women and women's access to education and the professions. After the achievement of the vote (1920 in the United States and 1928 in Britain), an enduring tension within feminism became more evident, between the objective of equal rights with men in the public sphere and the recognition of women's difference from men with the objective of enhancing their position in the private sphere of the family. The ‘second wave’ of feminism from 1969 onwards has many different strands, but there appears to be some common core and there have been movements on behalf of women in almost every country and on a world scale through the United Nations decade for women, 1975-85.
‘Second wave’ feminism has had a significant impact on sociology. Many more women are gaining recognition for their academic work. There have been feminist critiques of the male-centred nature of much sociological theory-such as theories of crime that make no use of the fact that most criminals are male. There has been an enormous growth in research on women's lives. Perhaps most importantly, there have developed theories about the inequality of the sexes, using such concepts as gender , patriarchy , and sex roles . (For a general discussion of the implications of feminist theory for sociology see, Feminism and Sociological Theory, 1989.)
The feminist critique of (‘malestream’) sociology is well illustrated in the work of American sociologists like Jessie Bernard and Alice Rossi. The dissection of gender relations is a common strand in many of Bernard's books and articles, first from an occupational perspective in Academic Women (1964), then an interpersonal one in Future of Marriage (1972), and most recently a global perspective in The Female World (1987). Rossi has challenged sociologists to take seriously the biological component of human behaviour, and has criticized conventional interpretations of the position of women in families and politics and employment, notably in volumes such as Academic Women on the Move (1973), Gender and the Life-Course (1985), and Feminists in Politics (1982). Similarly, in Britain, Ann Oakley popularized feminist scholarship in the 1970s, via empirical research on housework (The Sociology of Housework, 1974) and on childbearing (From Here to Maternity, 1979). See also criminology, feminist ; cultural theory ; methodology, feminist ; motherhood.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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