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What Are the Different Types of Feminist Discourse?

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  • Written By: Helen Akers
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2016
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Feminist discourse can be rooted in liberal, radical, or socialist themes. It might also be normative or descriptive in terms of its tone, language, and implied action. Common types of discourse that contain feminist ideologies include essays, poetry, novels, and editorials. Conversations between individuals, as well as advertising and promotional messages, can display elements of feminism. Textbooks that discuss and expand theories, historical developments, political movements, and business practices might also use feminist language.

Liberal feminist discourse assumes that in order for women to achieve equal status in society, they must think and behave in ways traditionally associated with men. Most of the language that displays this theme encourages women to support themselves financially, pursue careers over family life, and become less submissive. The primary direction behind liberal feminist ideology is equality and freedom in terms of social and economic power, including a more equal and accurate portrayal of female characters in the media.

A second type of feminist discourse is radical, which expresses the idea that women are different. The purpose behind radical feminist ideology is to exalt and celebrate the differences that women bring to society. As a philosophy, radical feminism can be viewed as extreme as it tends to support the idea that women should be segregated from men. Potential themes present in radical discourse include establishing a separate set of rules, language, and female driven societies that demolish patriarchal structure and power.

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Rather than focusing primarily on gender as the reason for female inequality, socialist feminist discourse also takes into account financial and social class. For example, Caucasian women who are born into families with economic and social influence typically have more control and privilege than middle-class women or women of other races. This type of discourse seeks to get rid of sexism by evenly distributing the familial responsibilities of men and women. It also attempts to even out socioeconomic differences and change the way women are portrayed in the media.

The language of feminist discourse can be either normative or descriptive. Normative language tends to make claims and define potential solutions to sexism, such as that women and men should have equal opportunities for promotions to executive level positions. Descriptive language, on the other hand, tends to describe why and how females are disadvantaged in society. An example of descriptive feminist discourse might be a statement such as, "A disproportionate amount of corporate executives are male because female applicants tend to be dismissed and overlooked due to their gender."

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