Feminism is a diverse collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies, largely motivated by or concerning the experiences of women, especially in terms of their social, political, and economic situation. As a social movement, feminism largely focuses on limiting or eradicating gender inequality and promoting women's rights, interests, and issues in society.

Within academia, some feminists focus on documenting gender inequality and changes in the social position and representation of women. Others argue that gender, and even sex, are social constructs, and research the construction of gender and sexuality, and develop alternate models for studying social relations.

Some feminist scholars consider the essence of feminism as broader than male and female relations. It has been posited that the hierarchies in businesses and government and all organizations need to be done away with and replaced with a decentralized ultra-democracy. Some argue that the concept of having any central leader in any organization is a concept derived from the male-centric family structure (and therefore in need of reform and replacement). (See Anarcha-Feminism and Post-structuralism)

Feminist scholarship is interdisciplinary, drawing on fields of study such as anthropology, legal theory, sociology, history, literature and media studies among others. Feminist Studies, Women's Studies, or Gender Studies may be their own academic departments at some universities, while at others courses that use a feminist analysis may be taught through other departments, such as any of those listed above or another department with an explicitly political bent, such as Ethnic Studies, LGBT Studies, or Queer Studies. There is an ongoing debate as to whether or not the needs of students and of the field are best served by teaching about women's issues, racism, homophobia, and other interconnected issues in departments specifically devoted to such study or as single courses through a variety of more traditional departments such as Literature, History, etc. [1][2]

Feminist political activists often campaign on issues such as reproductive rights, violence within a domestic partnership, maternity leave, equal pay, sexual harassment, discrimination, and sexual violence. Themes explored in feminism include patriarchy, stereotyping, objectification, sexual objectification, and oppression.

In the 1960s and 1970s, much of feminism and feminist theory largely represented, and was concerned with, problems faced by Western, white, heterosexual, middle-class women while at the same time claiming to represent all women through a theory of universal patriarchy and worldwide sisterhood. Since that time, many feminist theorists have challenged the assumption that "women" constitute a homogeneous group of individuals with identical interests. Feminist activists emerge from within diverse communities, and feminist theorists have begun to focus on the intersection between gender and sexuality with other social identities, such as race and class. Many feminists today argue that feminism is a grass-roots movement that seeks to cross boundaries based on social class, race, culture, and religion. Feminisms are culturally specific and addresses issues relevant to the women of each society, such as female circumcision in Sudan, or the glass ceiling in developed economies. There is an ongoing debate about the extent to which certain issues, such as rape, incest, and mothering, are universal, and under what circumstances feminists can and should intervene in other countries and form alliances with activists from other backgrounds, in light of histories of colonialism and globalization that can render forming truly helpful international projects rather difficult.

Over the years a number of feminist political parties have been formed. Although negative stereotypes about feminists are still quite common, feminism and women's rights are often subjects of mainstream or even conservative political rhetoric, as when Laura Bush used the concept of women's rights in a critique of the Middle East in 2005.[3]


  1. Lee, Rachel. “Notes from the (Non) Field: Teaching and Theorizing Women of Color.” Women's Studies on Its Own: A Next Wave Reader in Institutional Change. Ed. Robyn Wiegman. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002. 82-105.
  2. Moallem, Minoo. ““Women of Color in the U.S.”: Pedagogical Reflections on the Politics of the “Name”.” Women's Studies on Its Own: A Next Wave Reader in Institutional Change. Ed. Robyn Wiegman. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002. 368-382.
  3. "Laura Bush Emphasizes Women's Rights at Convention in Jordan", Los Angeles Times accessed April 23, 2009