Woman Plus...
  N 3, 2002


Feminism - the term is formed from a Latin word femina - a woman. For the first time it was used by Alice Rossy in 1895. Nowadays there are many definitions of feminism. Often feminism is understood as theory of equality of sexes, basis of women liberation movement. Most often it is interpreted wider - as different actions, defending women rights, based on ideas of legal equality of sexes (in this case, the term may be used as a synonym of women movement). Feminism emerged form recognition of a certain injustice in social estimation of women. It attempts to analyze the reasons for and rates of women suppression and to achieve their liberation. The latter goal is not understood quite identically.

The first tide of feminism fell on the 19th - the first half of the 20th century. Its main matter comes to struggle for achieving legal equality of the sexes. In the middle of the 20th century the second wave of feminism came - it was a struggle for actual equality with men. In the middle and at the end of the 70th the movement became of a rather mass nature in the West, especially in the USA; it was shown in numerous actions, in establishment of a number of organizations and great number of small informal groups without a leader and theoretical strategy in its traditional understanding. During the 80th feminism's influence dropped a little; researchers connect it with consolidation of neo-conservative orientation and also with sharp self-criticism, which developed inside the feminism. While till the middle of the 80th theorists of feminism took into consideration only experience of a white woman from the middle class of the Western Europe and the North America, later it was confessed necessary to study and take into account the demands of other groups with their specific interests. It told not only on practice but on the theory of the movement, which more and more often refuses form categories and methods, connected with orientation on out-of-history factors.

It is not an experience of sex that is considered in feminism, but an experience of gender - not biological anatomic but cultural psychological characteristics, for features of sex and biological sexuality exist only as a product of "humanized interactions". According to feminism, to arrogate gender ideas, peculiar to the present culture, to "human nature" itself, to his sex features, means uncritical acceptance of a number of hidden tendencies, dating from patriarchal culture type. Certain types of labour division, hierarchical principles of submission, abstract technological comprehension of science, philosophy, progress and so on also may be placed here. According to feminism, these concepts are of cultural historic nature and cannot be connected either with economical or with legal reasons. Taking into account these postulates, relations between two sexes are understood in feminism as one of the types of demonstration of commanding relations, since "without bias" there exists a situation when one part of the human race, having its own interests, at the same time represents the interests of its part. It blends with a specific understanding of "objectivity", based on scientific conceptions with clear signs of "masculin orientation". In such cultures, according to theorists of feminism, a woman is presented only as "The other". Representatives of feminism consider that the schemes of rational control, that society use for women and men, as a matter of fact, differ, and the type of women spirituality remains unclaimed. That is why the aim of feminism is to take women spirituality out of "silent sphere". Principal lack of traditional theoretic analysis and necessity of political actions are considered necessary. However, unlike traditional (as far as compulsion is concerned) understanding of the political sphere, feminism interprets it loosely - as "social affairs". Such redefinition of politics in a peaceful manner is expressed in a slogan "Private - is political". In this slogan feminism combines historical critical analysis of human rights with ideology, "appealing" to changes of culture and spiritual renewal in all spheres of life of the society.

There are many branches of feminism, among which there are both comparatively little known branches (such as anarcho-feminism, conservative feminism, humanistic feminism) and much more widely spread currents (bourgeois feminism, radical feminism, liberal feminism, "black feminism", etc.).

This division itself may be considered problematic since it assumes that such untraditional outlook as feminism (with its alternative ways of theorizing and practice) is estimated from traditional points of view (for example, bourgeois or Marxist feminism and so on), though this division to currents is still accepted, in spite of the fact that it is often made on different grounds. Moreover, the term feminism is included in the names of new currents, introducing gender problems in certain fields of knowledge - eco-feminism, cyberfeminism.

Tatiana Klimenkova

Klimenkova T.A. Feminism // Modern West philosophy: Dictionary / Authors: Malahov V.S., Filatov V.P. Moscow: Polisdat, 1991. P.414.
Millet K. Sexual Politics. N. Y., 1970.
Eisenstein H. Contemporary feminist Thought. L., 1985.
Feminism and Political Theory. L., 1986.
Feminism and Methodology. Bloomington, 1987.
Feminism as Critique. Essay on the Politics of Gender in Latecapitalist Society. Cambridge, 1987.