Essays on Feminism

Essay Introduction

Feminism is an interdisciplinary approach to matters of equality and equity based on sex, gender, and sexuality, as understood through political activism and social theory. Feminism has evolved and progressed. What once was the critical examination of the inequalities between the two recognized biological sexes, male and female, is now a more nuanced understanding that focuses on the social constructions of gender and sexuality. Both of these are still closely tied to biology and the physical body.

Research Paper on Feminism

Feminist theory aims to disrupt and dismantle these inequalities and inequities, which arise in intersection with gender, sex, race, class, ability, and sexuality. Feminists call attention to the areas in which these intersections lead to disproportionately held power.

Thesis Statement for Feminism

Feminist theorist Michel Foucault argues that, as humans, regardless of our gender identities, our sexuality, the color of our skin, or our levels of ability, we are never able to step outside of the systems of power that we ourselves uphold and maintain. He would likely maintain that “feminism” as a concept simply serves to call attention to the fact that these very systems of power do indeed exist, but he ignores the power of feminism as an act of resistance to the patriarchy, which this movement prides itself on.

Argumentative Essay Examples of Feminism

Movements such as these are, in themselves, a form of resistance to the messages and ideals being spread through these systems. On the one hand, Foucault has turned a blind eye to the cultural implications of feminism as an act of public resistance, but in many other ways, he is also right. Because although feminists have found ways to demonstrate resistance with examples like the Women’s Rights Movement or Black Feminism, they will never find themselves outside of the systems of power and regulation that call for this kind of resistance in the first place.

Research Papers: The Body as a Site of Power

Foucault discusses and theorizes several systems of “disciplinary” power, namely the patriarchy, which operate around the body, within the body, and over the body at all times. They are constantly performed and perpetuated by everyone around us, including ourselves. “In our societies, the systems of punishment are to be situated in a certain ‘political economy’ of the body: even if they do not make use of violent or bloody punishment, even when they use ‘lenient’ methods involving confinement or corrections, it is always the body that is at issue—the body and its forces, their utility, and their docility, their distribution and their submission” (Foucault, 172).

Bodies are both powerful and powerless all at once. Our bodies are the vessels through which we experience life. The bodies we inhabit grant us certain freedoms, such as mobility and the ability to reproduce, but they also inhibit us as they are subjected to the patriarchal political technologies of the body. “This technology is diffuse, rarely formulated in a continuous, systematic discourse; it is often made up of bits and pieces; it implements a disparate set of tools or methods. In spite of the coherence of its results, it is generally no more than a multiform instrumentation. Moreover, it cannot be localized in a particular type of institution or state apparatus” (Foucault, 173).

Titles: Self-Regulation and Peer Surveillance in Feminism

These misogynistic norms and ideals aren’t just imposed on women and fem-presenting people from the outside. “Such an overt oppression would be relatively easy for women to identify and resist” (Harley, 62). Instead, the success of the female imposition of discipline upon their bodies depends on their ability to regulate themselves and police one another on aspects such as weight, beauty, and even the individual display of feminism itself. Women and people who identify as feminists police one another on how much and how well they are able to resist the patriarchy—how legitimately feminist they are. “It is the specific technique of power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exercise” (Foucault, 188).

The Body as a Measure of Feminist Authenticity

Feminists are then left to police each other on how well they perform and how well they resist. Like any other outward display of resistance to power, feminism falls under surveillance and is disciplined by other feminists who compare their ability to resist against that of others. This disciplinary power operates under a system similar to the Panopticon. It instills obedience in people who identify with feminism, who are required to police one another on whether or not they are aligning with the values and norms set by them for them. This surveillance is a form of obedience to the patriarchy” (Bartky, 80). The body itself, in how it is used and displayed, acts as a window into how truly feminist we are. We judge other women and feminists based on whether or not they choose to fall in line with the patriarchy, whether that be by wearing makeup or shaving their legs.


Of course, at the heart of the feminist movement, the truth is there is no wrong way to resist. While feminism works to resist the patriarchal norms imposed on our bodies, Foucault argues that at the very same time, feminism reinforces the patriarchy by calling it out, naming it, and admitting it requires resistance in this form, but he ignores the power of such resistance. “Foucault sometimes seems on the verge of depriving us of a vocabulary in which to conceptualize the nature and meaning of those periodic refusals of control, which, just as much as the imposition of control, mark the course of human history” (Bartky, 81).

Feminist movements are, in themselves, a form of resistance to the messages and ideals being spread through these patriarchal systems. “As modern industrial societies change and as women themselves offer resistance to patriarchy, older forms of domination are eroded” (Bartky, 80). The body—what we eat, how we dress, the daily rituals through which we attend to the body—is a medium of culture” (Bordo, 165). We can decide to refuse all of the patriarchal political technologies of the body one day while opting for a red lip and a pair of heels the next. Just because we openly display resistance with our bodies one day does not mean we’re going back on our word if we choose to embrace these very same devices the next. It is the power to choose that is truly significant.

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