An Idiot’s Guide To Feminist Theory


Image from New Statesman

This topic’s title is immediately going to get people angry, while others will be uninterested because we think we get the gist of this whole ‘feminism’ thing. Unfortunately we tend to reduce ideas and topics to their stereotypical selves. When we hear about Albert Einstein we think “messy hair and E=MC2,” and when we think of Jay-Z it’s always “rapper and Beyoncé’s husband.” Subsequently, when some think of feminism they automatically go to “angry short-haired women.”

As with most things in life, especially ideologies, feminism is not one thing; rather it is a movement centered on the inequality women have faced since the beginning of time and their subjugation to become the inferior gender. That being said, the label of ‘feminist’ is as broad and vague as the label ‘leftist’ or ‘athletic’ (darts is considered a sport, but let’s not kid ourselves); there are so many branches of ideologies that it is more likely to have two feminists in the same room who disagree on most things.

Feminist theory, on the other hand, is when the ambiguous lines holding up the ideology begin to illuminate the way to understanding. There is feminist theory pertaining to everything from anthropology, philosophy, film, and basically anything humans participate in. The theories look at the nature of gender inequality within these specific fields, so for example with film it would be the portrayal of women in movies as weak, seductive or in a situation where a man must save them. This reinforces the idea that women are in constant distress and need men to save them from the evils of the world. Now we have all grown up with this idea that the guy gets the girl at the end of the film and in turn we have unwittingly participated in the propagation of this idea, that a woman without a man is basically fatal.

Image from BFI

Aesthetics also play a large part in feminist theory, in that the beauty standards currently in place in most of the world have been constructed by men; it is one that adheres to how men believe a woman should look like: thinner, fitter, symmetrical...etc.

Feminist theory attempts to dismantle this epidemic of sorts in order to allow us to understand the mistakes that we make, how we hold each other back based on ‘truths’ we were given at a young age; truths that we have continued to hold on to as we grew older and that we have not questioned the motives behind.

Unfortunately, many people (both men and women) see feminist theory as a threat, but to what? Probably a number of things: power, control, or merely a threat to their way of life. Feminist theory is not a threat; in fact it is probably the opposite. As with most things that defy the status quo, it is a tool at our disposal to advance as a species. Once we understand why we need to subjugate a portion of society, we understand ourselves better, and in turn this allows us to advance.

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