Feminist Philosophy

Do you think men and women should get paid💰the same for doing the same job? Do you think it’s totally cool when guys wear pink or paint their nails💅🏼? Do you stan Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the Notorious RBG)? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re probably a feminist! Don’t worry, though, you don’t have to buy one of those pink hats to be a feminist. In its simplest form, feminism is a movement that advocates for gender equality. Feminist philosophy, however, has evolved through time to analyze not only issues relating to the inequality between men and women, but also broader issues with gender👩‍🎤🧑‍🎤👨‍🎤, sexuality👨‍❤️‍👨, and current social structures.

We commonly use the concepts sex and gender interchangeably. But feminist philosophy tells us that they are actually quite different! Simone de Beauvoir was one of the first feminist philosophers to draw this distinction, claiming that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman💁🏾‍♀️.” What she means by this is that women do not naturally enjoy the color pink or wearing dresses👗 and makeup💄! Feminist philosophers argue that women like these things because of societal expectations placed upon them. Current feminist philosopher Judith Butler has expanded on Beauvoir’s idea by claiming that gender is “performative” or that it is ultimately a performance that we put on in our daily lives. 

Another concept very important to feminist philosophy is the patriarchy. Maybe you’ve heard someone say “fight the patriarchy🤜💥” and wondered what that was, exactly. The patriarchy consists of the norms and expectations in our daily lives that help men and hurt women. For example, the idea that men should be the breadwinners 👨🏻‍🔧  while women should be stuck at home all day cleaning and making dinner is a patriarchal idea. But the patriarchy can even hurt men in many ways as well🤕. The patriarchy puts an expectation on women to be subservient to men but also puts an expectation on men to be emotionless and tough😐. I don’t know about you, fellow reader, but sometimes I (a man) don’t want to ignore how I’m feeling and “be a man” about it! Studying feminist philosophy can help you better see how sexism rears its ugly face in many parts of our current society and better understand how to combat this so we can live in a more equitable society no matter your gender or your identity.


  • Feminist Philosophy

    Philosophy Now Radio Show

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  • Kate Kirkpatrick on the Life and Work of Simone de Beauvoir

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Want to Know More?

Questions to Think About

  • What gender-related expectations do you encounter in your life?

  • Are society’s gender roles harmful? In what ways?

  • Do you see the patriarchy in your daily life?

  • Why do gender-related expectations exist?

  • How does society react to women rejecting gender roles? What about men?

Key Thinkers

  • Simone de Beauvoir

  • Mary Wollstonecraft

  • Marilyn Frye

  • Judith Butler

  • Martha Nussbaum

  • Uma Narayan

  • Angela Davis

  • Luce Irigaray

  • Iris Young

  • Sally Haslanger

  • Carol Gilligan

  • Bell Hooks

Key Texts

Key Terms

  • oppression
    long-term poor treatment of people in certain groups created and continued by those with power in society
  • gender
    refers to how people think about themselves (gender identity) or how one is perceived in society
  • sex
    refers to whether one is male or female based on biological characteristics
  • patriarchy
    a social system in which men hold the most power in society
  • misogyny
    hatred of or prejudice toward women
  • double bind
    Situations where few options are available and all options are pretty bad
  • gender norms
    expectations for men to only act masculine and women to only act feminine

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