chapter
12 Pages

FEMINIST THEORY Negotiating feminist identities and Theatre of the Oppressed

ByANN ELIZABETH ARMSTRONG

In 1983 Alice Jaggar defined feminism saying that “all feminists address the same problem: what constitutes the oppression of women and how can that oppression be ended?” (1983: 124). In 1990 and again in 2000, bell hooks offers a slightly different definition: “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression” (2000: vii). More recently, in 2003 Chandra Mohanty explains that feminism recognizes “that sexism, racism, misogyny, and heterosexism underlie and fuel social and political institutions of rule and thus often lead to hatred of women and . . . violence against women.” In identifying oppressive forces, she adds that “[t]hese ideologies, in conjunction with the regressive politics of ethnic nationalism and capitalist consumerism, are differentially constitutive of all of our lives in the early twenty-first century” (2003: 3). With each of these definitions, we see ways in which feminist perspectives have grown to be more inclusive, sustaining a more complex view of the world. These definitions trace a movement from defining “woman” as a stable entity to more of an analysis of the relationship between the operations of power and their effects on real women. Jaggar situates her question around oppression that only concerns women, presumably those defined by biology. Broadening the definition, hooks links the effects of sexism with the operations of all oppressions, noting that feminism is for everybody, men and women of all races and classes. Mohanty, then, asks us to consider the interdependence of economic and political forces at both a micro and macro level as sources of sexist oppression. Definitions of feminism are as varied as are women’s experiences; however, such definitions share many features. They all seek to value women in their different contexts and advocate social change that empowers women without disempowering others.