In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Feminist Theory

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Anthologies
  • Classic Texts
  • Universalist Theories
  • Psychoanalytic and Interactionist Theories
  • Rejecting Universalism
  • Intersectionality
  • Deconstructing Gender
  • Beyond Gender
  • Postcolonialism and Transnationalism
  • Methodology and Epistemology
  • Sexuality
  • Embodiment

Sociology Feminist Theory
Jennifer Carlson, Raka Ray
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 July 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0020


Feminist theory explores both inequality in gender relations and the constitution of gender. It is best understood as both an intellectual and a normative project. What is commonly understood as feminist theory accompanied the feminist movement in the mid-seventies, though there are key texts from the 19th and early- to mid-20th centuries that represent early feminist thought. Whereas feminist theories first began as an attempt to explain women’s oppression globally, following a grand theoretical approach akin to Marxism, the questions and emphases in the field have undergone some major shifts. Two primary shifts have been (1) from universalizing to particularizing and contextualizing women’s experiences and (2) from conceptualizing men and women as categories and focusing on the category “women” to questioning the content of that category, and moving to the exploration of gendered practices. Thus, while many theorists do focus on the question of how gender inequality manifests in institutions such as the workplace, home, armed forces, economy, or public sphere, others explore the range of practices that have come to be defined as masculine or feminine and how gender is constituted in relation to other social relations. Feminist theories can thus be used to explain how institutions operate with normative gendered assumptions and selectively reward or punish gendered practices. Many contemporary feminists look beyond the United States to focus on the effects of transnational economic, political, and cultural linkages on shaping gender.


While Signs and Feminist Studies were the first journals dedicated to interdisciplinary feminist work, there are now several specialist journals across the social sciences. Feminism & Psychology is a leading journal in psychology and gender, while Feminist Media Studies focuses on media and communication studies. Gender & Society is the top journal in sociology of gender. While Hypatia and Feminist Theory mainly publish feminist philosophy, their articles draw heavily on works across the humanities and the social sciences.

  • Feminism & Psychology.

    A leading journal in gender and psychology, Feminism & Psychology features empirical and theoretical studies in psychology targeting audiences of both practitioners and academics.

  • Feminist Media Studies.

    A transnational, transdisciplinary journal, Feminist Media Studies presents original empirical work on gender in the field of media and communication studies.

  • Feminist Studies.

    Feminist Studies is a leading journal in feminist thought and politics. First published in 1972, its origins are directly traceable to American feminist activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. True to its beginnings, the journal’s articles aim to provide both scholarly and political insight.

  • Feminist Theory.

    This British interdisciplinary journal features feminist thought from scholars in a variety of disciplines within the social sciences and humanities.

  • Gender & Society.

    The leading journal in the sociology of gender, Gender & Society features empirical research that provides theoretically sophisticated insights into gender as a core social phenomenon in society. The journal publishes work in sociology as well as anthropology, economics, history, political science, and social psychology.

  • Hypatia.

    Hypatia is a highly readable, engaging, and interdisciplinary journal of feminist philosophy that features cutting-edge work from feminist thinkers. First published in the 1980s, Hypatia’s readership includes women studies scholars and philosophers.

  • Signs.

    First published in 1975, Signs has become a leading journal in feminist theory and gender studies. Its list of pathbreaking publications include work from Adrienne Rich, Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Raewyn Connell, Heidi Hartmann, Nancy Fraser, and Iris Marion Young, among others.

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