Introduction to Feminism: Notes

1. Feminism

2. Lenses of Gender

3. Mutual interaction and multiplicative effect of all marginalizing cultural lenses

Transforming the Debate: Notes

Eradicating Androcentrism: "[T]he cultural debate about sexual inequality must be reframed so that it addresses not male-female difference but how androcentric social institutions transform male-female difference into female disadvantage" (Bem 176-77); we must move away from debating whether men and women are fundamentally the same or fundamentally different, take for granted "at least a subset of sexual differences," and concentrate on how to eradicate androcentrism (see Bem, chapter 6).

  1. Given all the differences of race, class, ethnicity, etc. among women, is there enough underlying similarity to constitute women as a viable political group who can be served by a feminist program of social change?
  2. Causes of Inequality: Do the economic and political disadvantages facing women stem from sex discrimination or from personal choices made by women?
  3. Strategies for Ending Inequality: Is the best strategy gender neutrality (never make any distinctions on the basis of sex) or special protection for women (make provisions for women's childbearing and child rearing roles)?
  4. Nature of Desired Equality: Should women and men play exactly the same roles at work and home or should women continue to play different roles but get the same respect, status, rewards, etc. as men?

Eradicating Gender Polarization: Controversial, radical, and difficult to achieve program that would reduce the male-female distinction to a narrow biologically-based difference in reproductive function: "people of different sexes would no longer be culturally identified with different clothes, different social roles, different personalities, or different sexual and affectional partners any more than people with different-colored eyes or different-sized feet are now" (Bem 192).

  1. Gender polarization keeps both men and women from fully developing their human and individual potential
  2. Gender polarization reinforces androcentrism and strengthens the social reproduction of male power.
  3. Depolarizing gender necessitates situations that give women more experience of power and status and that give men more experience of nurturance and responsible service to others.
  4. Eradicating androcentrism requires a social revolution; eradicating gender polarization also requires a psychological revolution.

"It will take ferocious creativity to do the restructuring so as to arrive at a society where both female-male equality and important communal values are protected, where the economic structure is designed with consideration for the needs of female and male employees and their families. Nothing is more certain than that such a goal will never be reached if women are the only ones who change." Hilary Lips, Women, Men, and Power (Mayfield 1991) 200.

Women and Law Syllabus