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May 29, 2013 / C H Thompson


To help the reader establish a context for feminist theory a broader historical overview is available. But before you follow the link and/or read about feminism below, the following video ‘What chance does a young girl have?’ will help you to understand why there’s a feminist movement in the first place.

This page provides example of how women’s achievements can be ‘airbrushed’ from history. A point evident in the way women struggle in the political arena. While this page helps provide you with a context for the rise of the feminist movement.

In order to understand the rise of feminist movement it’s worth noting some of the difficulties women have faced. First, women in late nineteenth century England were not recognized as individuals in either the legal or the liberal theoretical sense. Men still held formal power over the rest of the family, and women were mostly excluded from the public sphere.  John Stuart Mill and Taylor, along with some early United States feminists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, argued that the equality of women required full citizenship for women.  This would include giving women enfranchisement.

After 1865, when John Stuart Mill was in the English Parliament, he fought for women’s suffrage.  He also fought “to amend the laws that gave husbands control over their wives’ money and property.”  He also supported the campaign for birth control information to be available, and was active in other campaigns that were aimed at assisting women and children (Eisenstein, p. 128).

In UK, there is now formal equality in most areas of social life, with women and men having the same legal rights; but many feminists would argue though that this is only formal equality, not true equality as there’s still inequality in pay. The extent to which women still suffer from inequality is evident in the Chime for Change, which meets the criteria of being a new social movement. This movement founded by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter; Frida Giannini; Salma Hayek Pinault encourages Catapult projects.

Nevertheless many feminists would point out the extent to which patriarchy still dominates the social world. It is argued the former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was driven out of office Australia’s misogynist culture a point you can see she raised in the Australian Parliament in this Youtube clip.

As sociologists using Stephen Lukes’ analysis of power, we need to consider which face of power best explains Julia Gillard’s removal from office.

Notwithstanding the persistent gender inequalities it is important to fully appreciate the context in which sociological theory was developing, particularly in relation to the public and private spheres. Social theories emerged in Europe as a way of explaining the society that emerged as part of the modern era from studying the public sphere of social life.

As a result, early sociological theory paid little attention to the private spaces predominantly occupied by women. By ignoring this significant part of the social world, early sociologists had little or no theory of gender relations, sexuality, or male/female inequalities – essential aspects of our contemporary social theory. Feminists and other contemporary sociologists identified shortcomings with major classical sociological theories.


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