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What Is Difference Gynocentric Feminism Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2718 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Gynocentric feminism focuses on the different attributes of women and men. It works to celebrate the feminine and claims sexist oppression is the destruction of femininity.

Iris Marion Young, in Humanism, Gynocentrism, and Feminist Politics,” exemplifies gynocentric feminism because he believed that the problem of women’s oppression was not to be fixed by participating in humanity, but that we needed to stop devaluing feminine virtues (p. 178). Essentially, he thought femininity was to be appreciated and that for women to be liberated and not oppressed, they had to affirm their difference (p. 184).

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Carol Gilligan, in her article, Moral Orientation and Moral Development,” believed that men and women thought differently about moral problems and how to find solutions for each. She believed that men think more from a justice perspective, which focused on egoism, practical reasoning, and terms of equality, while women thought more from a care perspective, which focused on altruism, theoretical, and terms of attachment (p. 201). She focused on women’s thought on moral development and that if they were not removed research, which was mostly conducted with male participants, we would be able to better appreciate the approach they often take on. The care perspective should be appreciated as she states that this perspective allows us to listen to others and for women to share their experiences; that the strength comes from women’s ability to refuse detachment (p. 210).

Audre Lorde, who wrote “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” uses her description of the erotic as a way to empower women to search within themselves and to explore this resource of power. She emphasized that women were fearful of it because men have controlled them into believing it is a fearful or bad thing. Lorde claimed that the erotic would give women satisfaction and allow them to define themselves rather than live by society’s definitions and standards (p. 190). She also stated that it would allow women to find strength to fight for a change against their oppression and help them seek for more than mediocrity (p. 189). Overall, the erotic is a source of power within women that Lorde felt must be celebrated and acknowledged.

3. What is dominance feminism? Explain how the work of at least three (Mackinnon, Bartky, hooks, Frye, Kimmel) exemplifies dominance feminism?

Dominance feminism focuses on the ways women have been subordinated by men. It claims sexist oppression is the subordination of women and the dominance of men. Dominance feminism focuses on how women have been pushed as an inferior sex.

Michael Kimmel, in the article, Masculinity as Homophobic: Fear, Shame, and Silence in the construction of Gender Identity, discusses how masculinity is a way to dominate both men and women. The stereotypical masculine man holds most of the power making other men fearful to not achieve this masculinity and fosters a homophobia in these men. Men have a sort of power over women as well because they are used in order to gain a higher masculine rank (p. 214). The power of violence is another way in which masculinity dominates other men and women because it makes those who can fight, better than other men, and it covers any speck of femininity (p. 214).

Kimmel also stated that masculinity is a form of “homosocial enactment” because it is other men that grant men their manhood (p. 214). Men who are afraid of being thought of as gay or as a sissy are what keep masculinity dominating. Men want to be “real men” and masculinity is a way to achieve this and it dominates gay men and women who cannot achieve this type of masculinity.

Sandra Lee Bartky, in Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power, talked about how the Panopticon of women’s bodies and appearance dominates them because they become their own jailer as they try to keep up with society’s standards of beauty (p. 278). The ideas of what women should look like keep them powerless as they spend their whole lives trying to achieve this ideal beauty that society has created. Bartky talked about how the ideal female figure, “slim, taut, small-breasted, [and] narrow-hipped”, is one of the ways this panopticon is dominating women because they will forever strive to be that small with the use of dieting (p. 279). She also goes on to say that women have little power in the amount of space they have. Women are supposed to take up less space than men and display a legs closed or crossed, hands in lap, position (p. 280).

The idea of the panopticon even dominates women by making them insecure about aging, though something they cannot escape, they are pressured into anti-aging creams to make the transitions less noticeable (p. 281). Bartky stated that the panopticon was obedient to patriarchy because it kept women in a constant “self-surveillance” and essentially this panopticon of what beauty is keeps women trying and rarely succeeding to measure up to what the beauty standards are (p. 289).

Marilyn Frye, in Willful Virgin or Do You Have To Be a Lesbian to Be a Feminist?, argued that heterosexuality dominated women. Though she also brings up similar points as Bartky, in that women are trying to prepare their bodies for their husbands, she overall argues that if women were to reject the feminine values and patriarchy, then the patriarchal society would start to crumble (p. 329). Frye also stated that abandoning female heterosexuality would weaken racism as well as patriarchy (p. 329). She goes on to say female heterosexuality is something that is learned and getting rid of it will allow women to not be dominated and allow them to construct themselves and the institutions that control them (p. 329). Female heterosexuality is used to dominate women because it is beneficial to men. She states that it is for male fraternity and created out of patriarchal kinship systems (p. 329). Frye’s solution to ending this domination over women is to become a willful virgin, which means that women would be “free…not married, not bound to, not possessed by any man” (p. 330).

4. Identify three of our authors whose work (that we have read for class) extends beyond the boundaries of only one of the three approaches to feminist theory. For example, explain how they can be seen as endorsing considerations from both humanist and dominance feminism (or some other combination of the three frameworks).

Many of the authors we have read in class do not fit in a box of only one of the approaches, Humanist, Gynocentric, and Dominance Feminism. Some of their articles contain arguments of more than one of these approaches to feminist theory.

Simone de Beauvoir, in The Second Sex, argued that in the relationship between men and women, women were considered of less importance than the man. She explained these ideas that men were the most desirable by saying men dominated as the Self and women were the Other (p. 116). She stated that men could think about themselves without women, but that women could not think of themselves without man (p. 116). In this statement, men clearly are believed to have the power, in which women are of little importance to them because they can continue on without needing or thinking about women. This dualistic view was created to keep women subordinate, so they could accept their title of Otherness, which kept men as the Self and the dominant sex.

Through this dualistic idea that makes women inferior to men, de Beauvoir argued that women and men together, were all part of the human species equally and that women contributed to half of humanity (p. 114). Likewise, she further stated that the Self could only have his privilege of being the most important if men and women were unequal; that women must be a minority (p. 116). She argued that there are just as many women on earth as there are men and thus women should not be unequal (p. 117). Therefore, in a humanist approach, women and men should be considered equal because there are no reasons to believe women are the minority.

Carol Gilligan, in her article believed that there were two different perspectives in viewing a moral problem; the Justice Perspective and the Care Perspective. She considered the idea that women and men thought of moral problems in different ways. More specifically, she thought women took more of the Care Perspective, which focused on feelings and altruism, while men took on more of the Justice Perspective, which focused on practical reasoning and egoism (p. 201).

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However, in a humanist approach, she argued that women and men could use both and are aware of both perspectives (p. 200). She stated that children could shift between both forms of reasoning and “explain the logic to two moral perspectives” (p. 206). Gilligan further argued that although there may be a preference to the type of moral reasoning men and women use, they both can understand both perspectives (p. 206). Regardless of how they choose to solve a moral problem, they can think about the problem in both ways (p. 206).

Audre Lorde argued from a gynocentric approach that women have a resource of power that is rooted in “our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling” (p. 188). Through this source of power, the erotic “can provide energy for change” to fight against the oppression on women (p. 189). Lorde argued that it allowed women to define their selves rather than live by society’s definitions and allows them to “go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society” (p. 189).

Unfortunately, women have been dominated by men into thinking they should suppress the erotic. Lorde stated that men use the erotic against women and since the erotic is a source of empowerment, men have convinced women to fear it (p. 189). Men use this fear to keep women subordinate to them. If women fear the powers of the erotic, then men are able to control them, keeping the inequality between them unchanged in society without women striving to change it. It allows men to completely dominate women so that women do not grasp the power the erotic holds and use to fight against their oppression.

6. Are women’s personal lives more or less a matter of feminist concern of each of the three frameworks of feminist theory? Why or why not?

In dominance feminism, women’s personal lives are of a crucial feminist concern. Dominance feminism focuses on the subordination of women and how men have been considered the dominant sex, which affects women as they being kept as the inferior sex in our society. Marilyn Frye, arguing in the dominance approach, considered heterosexuality a form of male domination (p. 327). She considered the idea that heterosexuality revolved around the man. She argued that to get rid of this male dominance on women, women had to get rid of the heterosexual and to be a willful virgin, which meant a woman was free and not possessed by any man (p. 330). The inequality between men and women is a big concern for dominance feminists and those like Marilyn Frye are trying to find ways that women can escape, in a sense, the dominance over them.

Gynocentric feminism also focuses on women’s personal lives as a major concern. This approach celebrates women and femininity. It essentially argues that how people think about femininity affects women. As Iris Marion Young thought, the oppression on women denied and devalued “feminine virtues and activities by a…masculinist culture” (p. 178). Gynocentric feminism celebrates these virtues by claiming that “women’s bodies and traditionally feminine activity [is] the source of more positive values” (p. 178). Young argued that “women’s reproductive processes keep us linked with nature and the promotion of life to a greater degree than men’s” (p. 178). Gynocentric feminism focuses on women as a concern because it focuses on celebrating them and their femininity and claims that femininity is not the problem and that we should be promoting its values (p. 179).

Humanist feminism does not truly focus on the personal lives of women as a concern in feminist theory because it focuses more on things like laws in order for all people to be equal rather than specifically women. Iris Marion Young defined both humanist and gynocentric feminism quite well in contrast to each other. He defined this approach as emphasizing the idea that women and men should all be judged by the same standards and that femininity kept women oppressed (p. 175). Simone de Beauvoir, a humanist feminist, also believed obviously that men and women should be equal, but in terms of the views of society, were considered the Other and inferior. She argued to focus on changing this dualistic idea of the Self and the Other and though on some level it does concern women’s lives, it is more about creating an overall common humanity between men and women.

EXTRA CREDIT: Presentation 10/21/2010 by Virinder Moudgil

Hormones in Health and Disease: Advances in Breast Cancer

In Professor Moudgil’s presentation on Breast Cancer, he discussed the positive effects hormones have on the body, as well as, the functions in the body that are influenced by hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers that are released into the bloodstream by endocrine glands or cells. The classifications of hormones are steroids, polypeptides, amino acid derivatives, and fatty acid derivatives. Moudgil then discussed the sources of estrogen in the body; the ovaries, adrenal gland, and adipose (fat) tissue. Hyperplasia, or cancer, can be spread by attacking other surrounding tissues, which is called Mestastasis.

In Moudgil’s powerpoint slides, he had a chart for the leading causes of deaths among women. Breast cancer was the second most common type, with about 39,840 people or 15 percent of all deaths in 2010 being a result of breast cancer. He also discussed Ductal Carcinoma as being the most common form of breast cancer and stated that this kind of cancer was confined to the lining of milk ducts in the breast.

Moudgil listed out the risk factors of getting breast cancer for both men and women. He first mentioned that women were more likely to get breast cancer, but that it is not uncommon for men to get the disease. Among the risk factors for women are increasing age, personal history (for example, if a woman had breast cancer in one breast, she has a higher risk of getting breast cancer in the other breast as well), family history among first degree relatives, inherited genes, increased radiation exposure, obesity, beginning menstruation at a younger age, beginning menopause at 55 years old or older, having their first child at an older age, postmenopausal hormone therapy, and consistent use of alcohol. Moudgil also went on to discuss how a woman’s body shape can increase her chances of developing breast cancer. He claimed that women with an “apple shape,” in which most of their weight is carried on top, are three times as likely to develop breast cancer as women who are “pear shaped.” The risk factors for men included older age, excessive use of alcohol, exposure to estrogen, family history of breast cancer, Klinefelters syndrome, having had liver disease, obesity, and also radiation exposure. Overall, Moudgil said that the average possibility of anyone getting breast cancer was one in eight. Of course, the possibility increases as we age, but the overall chance is one in eight.

Moudgil also mentioned two types of mutations: sporadic and hereditary. A sporadic mutation is the most common and is when certain cells mutate. Hereditary mutations are simply from one’s parents. As far as treatments go for breast cancer, there are medications available to help with hormones after menopause, reconstructive surgery, and hormone blocking therapies.


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