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Diversity in Contemporary Feminism - Essay Example

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The works reflect the priorities and opinions of four feminist authors, revealing some consistent ideas of and goals for the feminist movement, yet also manifesting different perspectives on how feminist ideology can and should be defined and realized.
To begin, a recurrent thread in, and indeed the prominent thrust of all four readings, is the need to challenge and undermine the heterosexual value system embedded in our society. In "Lesbian Ethics," Sarah Hoagland succinctly explains heterosexualism as a "way of living" that accepts a balance between men "dominating and de-skilling women" and women "consequently valuing an ethics of dependence" (452). As such, men are always in the role of either protector or predator, thereby creating a self-perpetuating system of men preying on women, the victims, who thus require the protection of men (Hoagland 452-53). And, the woman who bravely attempts to break this vicious pattern by refusing to play the feminine role, such as the active feminist, is perceived as having surrendered her need for protection, thereby subjecting herself to the attacks of her predators (Hoagland 453-54). Such women suffer from a "vocabulary of abuse" (Ruddick 450) and erroneous depictions that not only indict their judgment and character (Ruddick 450), but threaten their physical safety as well (Hoagland 453-54).
From this heterosexual value system arises a "concept of 'woman'" (Hoagland 456) that these four feminists recognize as an absolute deterrent to their ideas and goals. According to Hoagland, our current perceptions lack an awareness of female power, an understanding of the violence that women as a group suffer, and a sense of female resistance to male domination (457). It is this concept, depicting women as breeding sex objects with male-defined identities and values, that Hoagland seeks to destroy (458-60).
Similarly, in "Feminism and the Environment: An Overview of the Issues," Karen J. Warren discusses theories of how the conceptualization of women and nature accounts for the historical domination of both (497). Warren recognizes that certain theorists have espoused the belief that our society perceives that which is associated with emotion, women and nature as inferior to that which is associated with rationality and men (497). Moreover, the tendency to discuss nature in terms that are both female and dominating - "[n]ature is raped, mastered, conquered, controlled, mined," "[v]irgin timber is felled," "[f]ertile soil is tilled," and unproducing land is "barren" - has given rise to an "oppressive conceptual framework" that has effected and perpetuated societal domination of women and nature by men (Warren 497, 501).
The relevance of this same, oppressive concept of woman and its impact on the development of feminist theory is recognized and expanded by Bell Hooks in "Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory." For Hooks, though, the formation of feminist ideology and its definition of "woman," originally dominated and skewed by white feminists who had more access to education, funds, and an audience than did black women, does not reflect the realities of the struggles and oppressions prevalent in society today (487). Indeed, according to Hooks, white women tend to maintain and perpetuate the ...Show more
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Summary

By definition, an ideology is a "set of beliefs held by a particular group" (Oxford English Dictionary 449). Termed "isms," some espouse benevolent and socially acceptable tenets, such as altruism, while others, like racism, reflect societal evils. Many "isms" have evolved into movements, and attempt to promote change by congealing the tenets of many into a single, employable ideology…
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