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Feminist theory

The rise of the women's movement led to some radical changes within sociology and other disciplines. Feminist perspectives in sociology emphasize the centrality of gender in analyzing the social world. Most feminists agree that knowledge is integrally related to questions of sex and gender. Because men and women have different experiences and view the world from different perspectives, they do not construct their understandings of the world in identical ways. Feminists often charge that traditional sociological theory has denied or ignored the 'gendered' nature of knowledge and has instead projected conceptions of the social world, which are male-dominated. Males have traditionally occupied positions of power and authority in society and have an investment in maintaining their privileged roles, according to feminists. Under such conditions, gendered knowledge becomes a vital force in perpetuating established social arrangements and legitimating male domination.

According to Judith Butler, gender is not a fixed category, an essence, but a fluid one, exhibited in what people does rather than what they are. Susan Faludi has also pursued the theme of gender identity. In Stiffed: The Betrayal of Modern Man (2000), a book on masculinity, Faludi shows that the idea that men dominate in all spheres is a myth. On the contrary, there is something of a crisis of masculinity today in the world that men supposedly own and run. Some groups of men are still confident and feel in control; many others find themselves marginalized and lacking in self-respect. The success that at least some women have achieved is part of the reason, but so too are changes in the nature of work. Feminist theory has changed and developed markedly since the 1980s and the themes it pursues are very different from those that emerged from within 1960s feminist movements.