What contributions do Feminist Theories make to not only understanding gender difference, but also to remedying gender discrimination?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Modern feminist theories are critical to understanding how gender differences are constructed as well as remedying disparities in gender treatment.  Part of what defines modern feminist theory is the establishment of gender differences.  

A common thread in feminist theory is distilling the establishment of gender differences.  Understanding how these differences exist helps to bring out the reality of gender discrimination. Thinkers like Friedan articulate such a condition:  "A myth invented by men to confine women to their oppressed state. For women it is not a question of asserting themselves as women, but of becoming full-scale human beings."  Friedan's analysis makes clear that the recognition of gender differences is a way to acknowledge gender discrimination. This same idea can be seen in the works of de Beauvoir:   "...she is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her"  Feminist theories illuminate the conditions that govern the state of gender relationships.  They do so in the hopes of bringing attention towards the need for change.  In this context, understanding gender difference can initiate the process of remedying gender discrimination.

Feminist theory is rooted in understanding gender difference.  Its exploration of this idea in different contexts is essential to the discipline.  It is in this understanding that feminist theory makes one of the most important contributions to remedying gender discrimination.  Feminist theory provides the language in which individuals can understand the presence of bias and oppression.  Through this acknowledgement and validation, feminist theory suggests that such discrimination can be understood and overcome.  Feminist theory would not advocate such a nuanced position without being able to provide some aspect of transformation as a result.  In her analysis of feminist theory, bell hooks argues that the inclusion of men in this dialogue becomes an essential component of feminist theory:

 ...men are the primary agents maintaining and supporting sexism and sexist oppression, they can only be eradicated if men are compelled to assume responsibility for transforming their consciousness and the consciousness of society as a whole.

In hooks's argument, the inclusion of men becomes another critical aspect to feminist theory's remedying the issue of gender discrimination.  The discipline seeks to create a language and a share pattern of recognition in which men and women acknowledge and understand "the other" in order to remedy it. Through including men in its dialogue and means of study, feminist theory recognizes gender difference and offers a potential remedy because of its inclusion of men. Gender discrimination is shown as something that can be overcome because both genders share a common language to articulate its reality.

It is in this light where Feminist Theories make significant contribution in acknowledgement and remedying of gender discrimination. In understanding where differences exist and including both genders in establishing this dialogue, Feminist Theory shows what is in the hopes of what can be.

thewanderlust878 | Student

Feminists often get put down, made fun of, and shunned because of their ideals of gender equality. Many people believe that the theories/ideas that feminists hold include man-hating, bra-burning ideas that are irrational and should be dismissed. However, these people fail to realize what feminism is actually doing to help society. The idea of feminism itself has had an impact on gender discrimination, which in return helps ignorant individuals learn the meaning of gender differences. Feminists strive to make equality for women, which allows things such as women receiving lower pay, less working hours, etc, to come into the light and forces all of society to gaze upon it and do something about it.