Feminist theory is defined as the way feminism is explored and examined through artistic, philosophical, and theoretical discourse. At its core, feminist theory attempts to understand the nature of gender inequality through the examination of gender roles constructed by society and history. In traditional gender roles which have been reinforced by centuries of art, media, and business, men are positioned in the dominant role and act as providers for the family while women are expected to run the household and care for children.
These gender roles are extended to define men as strong, smart, and independent and define women as weak, passive, and dependent on their male partners. These gender roles manifest into the relationship between men and women where men are granted more freedom to do as they please while women are expected to act within a specific set of social rules.
Feminist theory explores common themes reinforced through societal gender norms to both recognize and attempt to redistribute this inequality. Common themes include sexual objectification, oppression, discrimination, and stereotyping.
One would agree with feminist theory because historical government documents which codify the rights of men and the rights of women differently are a great example of how this social and de facto inequality as manifested into de jure inequality. The best way to change laws is to first change the ideals of a nation’s citizens, and feminist discourse is a way to further that agenda. A great example here is how feminist theory played a role in the suffrage movement.
One would disagree with feminist theory because it does not consider other social constructs which intersect with feminism, such as race. For example, the experience of a black woman is different from the experience of a white woman, so feminist discourse which only concerns white women does not do enough to address the social inequality of black women.
Additionally, one would disagree with feminist theory if it does not consider religious practices. A woman who, for religious reasons, desires a life in the household to raise many children, may be showing her agency with that lived experience, but someone on the outside may incorrectly identify her life as an example of inequality.