I get these great ideas and I say to myself, “Hey Arbourist, you should write a primer on feminism so you do not have to explain and reexplain 101 material until you turn blue”…then (as usual) someone else has already done it and done it better than I could do.  So, many thanks to Thinking Girl for her concise definitions :)  –

What is Feminism?

Feminism is a way of looking at the world, a framework or lens through which other issues can be examined. The basic premise of feminism is that societal structures are based on a false assumption that men are superior to women, and that this state of society is unfair and unfounded and causes gender oppression.

Feminism, like women, is not homogenous. There are many, many offshoots of feminism which hold different theories about the nature of gender inequality, how to achieve gender equality, theories about the relationship between gender inequality and other forms of inequality such as racism, homophobia/heterosexism, classism, theories about the relationships between gender inequality and the environment, etc. Some of these include:

  • Radical feminism
  • Marxist feminism
  • Lesbian feminism
  • Black feminism
  • Postmodern feminism (including queer theory)
  • Post-colonial feminism
  • Third World feminism
  • Socialist feminism
  • Liberal feminism
  • Ecofeminism
  • Equity feminism
  • Gender feminism
  • Sex-positive feminism (including anti-pornography theory)

What is Patriarchy?

A mainstay in feminist theory is patriarchy, a relationship of power existing between men and women in which men are in control of socio-economic political power and women are subordinate. Patriarchy informs all other social systems and relationships between men and women, men and other men, and women and other women. Patriarchy is the root of gender oppression. Patriarchy is insidious and runs very deep. It is The MATRIX. It is not always immediately visible to the naked eye. Feminist analysis exposes the ugliness, existence, and persistence of patriarchy, even in seemingly innocuous situations.

What is Oppression?

Oppression is the wide-spread social privileging of some groups over other groups through social structures and institutions. An important thing to understand is that oppression consists of two inter-related phenomena: subjugation and privilege. They live side-by-side. Dismantling oppression means dismantling BOTH of these phenomena.

Something else that is important to understand is that oppression is not discrimination. Oppression is about systems and relations of power, and exists in social structures and institutions. Oppression is wide-spread subjugation of one group while simultaneously privileging another group. This means that those groups who are subjected to oppression are not in a social position to oppress people belonging to the dominant group. There is no such thing as “reverse” sexism, racism, homophobia, (dis)ableism, classism, etc.