When one has to deal with the analysis of gender problems and the inequality of sexes in society, he or she will inevitably face lots of problems. This is so because the gender question has always arisen much controversy, and people have always failed to find a common point of view on this question. The issue of the equality of rights of the representatives of the two genders has bothered people since they started realizing their social importance. Since the moment when dignity and self-esteem have appeared as features of the human character, these notions acquired crucial importance for human beings. That is why the movement called feminism occurred as the phenomenon of the human activity directed at the overcoming of the gender inequalities and, in its most radical branches, at the establishment of women’s supremacy in the society (Goldstein, 2005). So, in this paper, we are going to analyze the three most important sub-theories of feminism. They are feminism, liberal feminism, and postmodernist feminism. The essay is aimed at finding out their differences and similarities and supplying the information with the specific examples that can be applied to International Relations. The books studied in class will be of considerable help in achieving the set goals, so we are going to apply them often.
Feminism in general is the movement fighting for the equality of rights for women in the society that is thought of as the “masculine” one. This movement appeared as a social and political phenomenon in the middle of the 19th century and its development is traditionally divided into three stages, called waves. The first one developed in the late 19th – early 20th centuries and was primarily aimed at gaining equal rights for women in all social spheres, but then concentrated on gaining political rights and powers for women of those times. It was during the first wave of feminism when the movement of suffragism appeared in Great Britain and the United States of America. The suffragettes fought for the right to vote for women, which they considered to be one of the basic freedoms and factors of individual freedom and equality of rights for both sexes (Pevehouse, 2007).
The second wave of feminism began in the 1960s and lasted till the late 1980s. The basics of this period were similar to the ones of the first wave but the interest of feminists gradually turned from global political rights to individual questions like stopping the discrimination, social recognition of the equal role of women, etc. The third wave of feminism has somewhat different values because its first aim is to overcome the influence of the experiences of white women on which the feminist movement based till the early 1990s. Here, the struggle against racism within the feminist movement can be observed as the main goal. In international relations, all three waves of feminism found their reflections. During the first wave, feminist influence on international relations was weak and manifested itself in the struggle for the right of suffrage for women which began in the UK and USA and then spread over the whole world. In the UK it resulted in the Representation of the People Act 1918 that gave voting rights to women over the age of thirty, in the USA the result was fixed in the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which was adopted in 1919 and allowed women to vote in all states. These results in certain countries were impacts for the development of feminist movements in other countries and led to the great influence of feminism and women that they have nowadays in international relations (Tickner, 2001).
Liberal feminism as one of the feminist theories is the most peaceful one because its values do not promote violence and destruction of the existing society. Being a branch of feminism, liberal feminism stands for the point of view according to which women need equal rights with men but can achieve this equality without changes to the society. What is demanded by liberal feminists is the opportunity of work, health care, and education that would be equal for men and women. One more important initiative of liberal feminism is the right to abortion, which they consider to be taken away from them and banned by males. This theory of feminism is reflected in the sphere of international relations with its demands of equality of rights to vote, to take part in the social and political life, and for more attention to the international problems of women exploitation in areas of illegal work and sex servitude (Goldstein, 2005).
As opposed to the two previous theories, postmodernist feminism is peculiar due to its denial of the biological nature of gender differences of people. The supporters of this direction keep to the point of view that sex is a biological factor but gender is attributed to social attitudes, and it is what they struggle against. The disadvantage of postmodernist feminism is that it offers no distinct program of actions and does not go further than criticizing. In international relations, this theory is slightly acceptable because it tends to destroy the basics of the modern society with which other feminist theories agree (Pevehouse, 2007).
To conclude, in this essay we tried to see the differences between the three theories of feminism and to exemplify them with specific examples. We managed to find out that feminism is a general notion for all movements, liberal feminism is a rather peaceful theory and postmodern feminism is more radical in its aims.
Goldstein, J., Pevehouse, J. International Relations. Longman; 7 edition, 2005.
Pevehouse, J., Goldstein J. Readings in International Relations. Longman; 1 edition, 2007.
Tickner, J. Ann. Gendering World Politics. Columbia University Press, 2001.