A (very) brief overview of feminism


The history of the modern western feminist movements is divided into three "waves". The first wave was primarily the women's suffrage movement in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, focusing on women gaining the right to vote. the idea at that time was that if women gained the right to vote, all other forms of equality would emerge without further political activism. Psychological research explicitly exploring gender issues saw its first flurry of interest at this time, but quickly disappeared. The second wave in the 1960's was the women's liberation movement, which focused on gaining legal and social equality for women. In psychology, gender research, and in particular women's issues and experiences re-surged. The Association for Women in Psychology was formed in 1969 and Division 35 - the Division of the Psychology of Women, was created in 1973 and soon after began publication of the APA Journal Psychology of Women Quarterly. Creation of the division and especially publication of the journal increased the dissemination of research focusing on women, along with supporting the carer development of researchers interested in focusing on this area of inquiry. We are now in what constitutes the third wave of feminism. Although defining the goals of a movement is difficult while in the midst of it, the video below presents the understanding of one of the leading 3rd wave feminists..



The view of feminism from the outside is usually 1-dimensional and stereotypical. The view from the inside, however, is quite diverse, as presented in the article below.


Come to class prepared to discuss:
  • In what school(s) of feminist thought would you locate yourself? Why?
  • How do think this might impact the topics your pursue and/or how your inquires within that topic?

Critical Theory


Feminism is one of several different types of critical theories. Critical theory is a branch of inquiry that focus on how knowledge is produced (and what knowledge is and is not produced) within a particular field, along with how that knowledge is disseminated and used. Other areas include critical race theory and critical sexuality theory. Most of the critical inquires share a concern with status and power - how these are tied to people's experiences, and also how they are tied to knowledge production. Common questions asked within critical theories are:
  • What types of research questions get asked? Which types don't get asked? - both are often the location of unexamined bias, usualy reflecting current zietgists
  • What standards are set as the baseline? Or the ideal? How were these determined? By whom were they determined?
  • What are the basis for determining comparative samples? What criteria are set for sampling? Why those and not others?
  • How and why are some types of research findings disseminated and other are not?
  • Who benefits from this research? Who does it hurt?

With this perspective in mind, read one of the two article below for Thursday. Come to class prepared to discuss:
  • new questions the article raised for you
  • new views of developmental issues that raised - be sure to connect with the material we have been working with all semester
  • how do you see it connecting with the other articles on feminism and human development (see section on Social Constructionism)



Coming full circle, this last article raises questions about how development may inform feminism. Come to prepared to discuss this as well.