Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Feminism

Curious about feminism but too afraid to ask? Below is a list of all the basics you should know.

compiled by Alyssa Miller ’13


Phallocentrism- “The belief that the male is superior to the female or, more generally, the belief that what is male is a legitimate, universally applicable point of reference for all things human.”

Misogyny- “The hatred and fear of women.”

Patriarchy- “The systematic domination of women by men, achieved and maintained through male control of cultural, social, and economic institutions.”

Sexual Difference- “The distinction that one’s ‘sex’ is defined by the biological difference between men and women, while ‘gender’ refers to the social experience of those differences.”

Gender Studies- “An interdisciplinary field of inquiry … starting with the premise that the gender of an individual does not flow naturally from his or her anatomical sex.”

Women’s Studies- “A broad area of interdisciplinary inquiry … [that] seeks to reclaim and preserve the history, arts, literature and culture of women buried beneath or treated as peripheral by male-centered historical and cultural accounts … is concerned with developing a theoretical understanding of female social identity and culture … [and aims to] foster progressive social and political change for women and other oppressed groups.”

Types of Feminism


Liberal feminism centers around the idea of equal treatment for women: equal rights, equal access and equal pay, among others. Liberal feminists attempt to gain equal rights for women within “established political and social spheres,” earning them the category of “revisionists” (meaning that they reevaluate preexisting ideas rather than revolutionaries, who attempt to make major change to the social structure).


Radical feminism addresses the oppression of women as a class of people. It also views actions such as marriage and childrearing as patriarchal institutions rather than private activities. Radical feminists believe that biological differences between men and women are used as tools of oppression.


Cultural feminism, which grew out of radical feminism, celebrates women’s culture and community and reclaims “traditional female” traits and roles as positive, or even superior.  Unlike liberal feminism, which aims to gain equal access for women in already existing male institutions, cultural feminism calls for re-imagined institutions in terms of “female” qualities.


Also known as “Marxist feminism,” socialist feminism addresses the inadequacies of gender relations in terms of male supremacy and capitalism, reproduction and production, and concepts such as “invisible labor,” or unpaid work that women are expected to do such as childrearing and cleaning.

*Source: Joseph Childers and Gary Netzi, The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism

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