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Comparison of the theories of feminism

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1766 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Feminism has a movement has gained momentum in recent pasts to the extent that there are a number of ‘gender’ gains the world over. The theories of feminism are categorized into five, some of which are distinct and other closely related. These are: Liberal Feminism, Socialist Feminism; Radical Feminism; Post-Modern Feminism; and Multicultural feminism. However, this paper zeroes down on two, namely Liberal and Radical feminism, in an attempt to show the contribution that feminism has made (or continues to make) in the contemporary social analysis.

Liberal Feminism

Some of the proponents of this category of feminism include Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Betty Friedan and Rebecca Walker.

Liberal feminism is an individualistic form of feminism because it is generally based on women’s ability to assert their equality through their own actions and choices. This is what Eleanor calls ‘faith in rationality” (Eleanor, 1996). Accordingly, the starting point for promoting such equality is based on individual interaction between men and women and that women can change their circumstances. Liberal feminism looks at the personal interactions of men and women as the starting ground from which to transform society into a more gender-equitable place.

The issues important t to liberal feminists include reproductive rights and abortion access, sexual harassment, voting, education, fair compensation for work, affordable childcare, affordable health care, and bringing to light the frequency of sexual and domestic violence against women.

The basic tenet of liberal feminism is that it is anchored on legal and political reform as a means to ensuring equality between men and women. This, according to them, is tailored on looking at the government through lobby groups to bring about legislative changes that promote gender equity. This brings about social and economic equity. Susan Wendell, citing the work of Mackinnon (1987) () says that ‘contemporary feminism is committed to major economic reorganization and considerable redistribution of wealth, since one of the modern political goals most closely associated with liberal feminism is equality of opportunity which would undoubtedly require and lead to both. Liberal feminists argue that all people are equal and that rationality in correcting class differences should be the way to go.

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How then does this contribute to social analysis? It does so by seeing the oppression of women as not structural feature of capitalistic economic system. Further, the concept of education as a means to changing women’s status quo has had remarkable gains in recent times. Additionally, the ongoing debate and actions in the world concerning expansion of women participation has fundamentally centered on inclusiveness into the socio-economic as well as the political mainstream,

Radical Feminism

Using Mackinnon, (1987:16), Eleanor observes that that radical feminism is not one form of feminism, but simply feminism ‘unmodified’. Therefore, many others forms of feminism was only a response to ‘male psyche’ modification of feminism as it were. (Eleanor, 1996)

Feminism in its radical sense has it that society is a patriarchy that primarily oppresses women thus radical feminists seek to disband patriarchy. In this, they recognize that women’s oppression is the ‘fundamental oppression’. They further assert profoundly that ‘sexism is at the heart of patriarchy” especially in the family. Willis (1981), for example, in an essay ‘Lust Horizons: Is the women’s movement pro-sex’ argues against making alliances with the political right in opposition to pornography…” In a way they in this sense, echo the Marxist belief that if women wanted to deal with the shackles of patriarchy, then they must deal with the issue of reproduction. (Willis, 1981)

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, most radical feminists do not universally argue for the criminalization of pornography or objectification of women, but rather that in the absence of patriarchy, the public demand for such materials would drastically decrease as a much smaller percentage of the population would be aroused by viewing women’s oppression and degradation

Conclusively, radical feminism is anchored on total restructuring if society an extreme view which would call for severing relationships with men, that is ending heterosexual relationship with me.

Radical feminists seem to believe that the way to deal with patriarchy and oppression of all kinds is to address the underlying causes of these problems through revolution.

Q2. Cognitive Theory of Social comparison in explaining Crowd behavior at a large (50,000+) sporting events


A crowd can be defined in a number of ways but the widely accepted definition of crowd is that of ”large groups of individuals in the same physical environment, sharing a common goal. Usually such individuals act in a different way than when they are alone”. (Reading, 1996):

In a football match scenario, understanding the behavior of the crowd can be grounded on cognitive theory of social comparison. This theory as advanced by Festinger (1952), asserts that people tend to compare their behavior with others that are most like them. Muss and Thulman (1986) using the ideas of Festinger gives a more specific assertion by saying that people, when lacking objective means for appraisal of their opinions and capabilities, compare their opinions and capabilities to those of others that are similar to them. In the process, they attempt to correct any differences found. Basis on this social comparison theory may explain crowd behavior in a football match in the following ways:

Common Stimulus between crowd participants

According to Muss and Thulman (1986), one of the social comparisons theory implications is group formation. This according to them happens to the extent that self evaluation can only be accomplished by means of comparison with other persons. Festinger attributes this to the fact people in a crowd are driven by the desire to belong to the group. In other words, they tend to move to a group which belongs to them and which share their opinion and who have almost similar ability. For instance, it is common to see football fans that support a particular team more interested in being within the physical boundaries of their fellow supporters or those who share in their fantasy.

Imitational behavior

Using Festinger ideas, Muse and Thulman (1986) explains that ”the existence of a discrepancy in a group with respect to opinions or abilities will lead to action on the part of members of that group to reduce the discrepancy”

This should explain some behaviors in a football match setting, including one person starting to sing and the others who support the same team following swiftly. Other examples would include, booing a player, usually started by one person and followed swiftly by others.

A more propounding illustration is such crowd behavior in an event of a stampede. Usually people will tend to run to one direction regardless of if the cause of fear is genuine or not, as long as the one of their own signals them to do so.

Q3. Use sociological theories or concepts to help explain ‘Listening to music on a portable music device”


It is common today to see people across all ages and gender alike carrying and listening to music through portable devices publicly. This happens when they are in the office, driving, reading and even walking among others

While there should be a number of theories that can explain this phenomenon, system theory, does that at best in trying to justify the tight schedules that the contemporary society puts on people and the dilemmas therein. In so doing it zeroes on ‘multitasking’ as the issue or as a prime causality to this.

System theory

System theory may be traced back to the ideas of George Hegel (1770-1831), who saw the world as operating within the push of different poles, in the process creating a conflict which negates a ‘solution’ for the functioning of the whole system. Hegel imagined that the world was controlled by two opposing poles pulling towards opposite direction. He called one pole the ‘thesis’ and the opposing side the ‘antithesis’. According to him, these two struggle to create an agreed position he called the ‘synthesis’, which interestingly also come to create the thesis, the antithesis and the cycle goes on and on. In a way, one would argue that this corresponds directly to the conflict theory, but for the purposes of looking at the phenomenon as a response to holistic demands, the perspective is tied to system theory. (Pippin, 1989)

Notably, the person who qualified system theory as we know it today (within a structural functionalism paradigm) is Von Bertalanffy is a book titled ”General system theory: Foundations, Development, Applications” in 1968. He, as a biologist, endeavored to employ organismic knowledge to use the word system to describe those principles which are common to a general system.

In the book, he says that ” …there exist models, principles, and laws that apply to generalized systems or their subclasses, irrespective of their particular kind, the nature of their component elements, and the relationships or “forces” between them. It seems legitimate to ask for a theory, not of systems of a more or less special kind, but of universal principles applying to systems in general”

System theory is based on the belief that for a system (a being, an entity, an organization among others) to work sufficiently, all the parts of that system must be in order, and that there is interrelatedness of the parts.

To qualify this theory in understanding the portable music system public use phenomenon, it is important to relate it to the numerous issues that today’s human responds to, within the confluence of multitasking and not able to respond to other demands of life. Therefore, listening to portable music while responding to other systems, not only works to perpetuate interrelatedness of demands of today but also in satisfying his/her needs.


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