Sociology Index


Marxist Feminism, Socialist Feminism, Glass Ceiling Hypothesis

Feminism is a diverse political and intellectual movement chiefly developed by women, but having increasing influence with both sexes, that seeks to criticize, re-evaluate and transform the place of women in social organization and in culture. A major area of concern to feminism is the recovery and articulation of women's' experience in history and in contemporary societies and a wholesale reconstruction of the fundamental intellectual assumptions of social practices.

Webster’s Dictionary defines feminism as “The theory, cult or practice of those who advocate such legal and social changes as will establish political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

A social movement whose goal has been, and continues to be, the elimination of the patriarchal nature of society. Two large waves of feminist organization can be identified, the first following the French Revolution and extending the principles of liberty and freedom to women. This period is associated with Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797). The second can be identified with French writer Simone De Beauvoir's The Second Sex in 1952 and, in North America, with the publication of Betty Friedan's book, The Feminine Mystique, in 1963.

While there is not a single feminist theory, central to all such theories is an attempt to understand the social, economic and political position of women in society, with a view to liberation. Feminist theory has challenged the claims to objectivity of previous social science and by examining society from women's position has called much social science into question as being male-centred and a component of the hegemonic rule of patriarchy.

A form of feminism which rejects the belief that the differences between men and women are socially constructed or are established through socialization. Rather, it believes men and women are different in essence and that these differences arise from differing human natures.


A perspective influenced by the sociology of knowledge that claims less powerful members of society are able to achieve a more complete view of social reality than are others. Less powerful groups, like women and minorities, may be less incorporated into the reward system of society and more clear sighted and critical about its inequalities and deficiencies. The sociology of knowledge assumption behind this is the idea that knowledge is socially constructed and shaped by the social position occupied by the knower. It follows then that the point of view of the researcher is also shaped by their position in society and standpoint feminism acknowledges this and claims for it a positive role in contributing to a rounded understanding of the character of the society.

“Towards a Female Liberation Movement” put it this way: “There is something horribly repugnant in the picture of women performing the same menial chores all day, having almost interchangeable conversations with their children, engaging in standard television arguments with their husbands, and then in the late hours of the night, each agonizing over what is considered to be her personal lot, her personal relationship, her personal problem.” - Toward a Female Liberation Movement by Beverly Jones and Judith Brown, June 1968.

Gainesville Women's Liberation co-founder Carol Giardina said in 1989, If you know that we are a sex that fights for our freedom, then you already understand the Pro -Woman Line. Do you fight for it on the street, in your bedroom, in your classroom? When you take a deep breath and say the thing in class or to your boyfriend that you just can't help yourself from saying. You try to shut it up but out it comes. This isn't really just women, it's all oppressed people who can't stop themselves from fighting back. We call it the Pro-Woman Line because we discovered it about women and developed it in the Women's Liberation Movement. - Carol Giardina, "Women's Studies or Women's Liberation Studies," 1989 Women's History Month speech at the University of Florida.

Redstockings -
Redstockings was a name taken in 1969 by one of the founding women's liberation groups of the 1960's to represent the union of two traditions: the bluestocking label disparagingly pinned on feminists of earlier centuries, and red for revolution.
Redstockings women would go on to champion and spread knowledge of vital women's liberation theory, slogans and actions that have become household words such as consciousness-raising, the personal is political, the pro-woman line, sisterhood is powerful, the politics of housework, the Miss America Protest, and "speakouts" that would break the taboos of silence around subjects like abortion.