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Feminist Theorists

Key Writers About Feminist Theory

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Simone de Beauvoir

1908 - 1986
Simone de Beauvoir, a novelist and essayist, was part of the existentialist circle. Her 1949 book, The Second Sex, quickly became a feminist classic, inspiring women of the 1950s and 1960s to examine their role in culture.

Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan - 2004
Getty Images / Peter Kramer
1921 - 2006
Betty Friedan combined activism and theory in her feminism. She was the author of The Feminist Mystique (1963) identifying the "problem that has no name" and the question of the educated housewife: "Is this all?" She was also the founder and first president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and an ardent proponent of and organizer for the Equal Rights Amendment. She generally opposed feminists taking positions that would make it difficult for "mainstream" women and men to identify with feminism.

Gloria Steinem

1934 -
Feminist and journalist, Gloria Steinem was a key figure in the women's movement from 1969. She founded Ms. magazine, starting in 1972. Her good looks and quick, humorous responses made her the media's favorite spokesperson for feminism, but she was often attacked by the radical elements in the women's movement for being too middle-class-oriented. She was an outspoken advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment and helped found the National Women's Political Caucus.

Robin Morgan

1941 -
Robin Morgan is known for her feminist activism and writing. She is a poet, a novelist, and has also written non-fiction. Several of her anthologies are classics of feminism, including Sisterhood Is Powerful.

Andrea Dworkin

1946 - 2005
Andrea Dworkin, a radical feminist whose early activism including working against the Vietnam War, became a strong voice for the position that pornography is a tool by which men control, objectify, and subjugate women. With Catherine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin helped draft a Minnesota ordinance that did not outlaw pornography but allowed victims of rape and other sexual crimes to sue pornographers for damage, under the logic that the culture created by pornography supported sexual violence against women.

Camille Paglia

1947 -
Camille Paglia, a feminist with a strong critique of feminism, has proposed controversial theories about the role of sadism and perversity in Western cultural art, and the "darker forces" of sexuality that she claims feminism ignores. Her more positive assessment of pornography and decadence, relegation of feminism to political egalitarianism, and assessment that women are actually more powerful in culture than men are has put her at odds with many feminists and non-feminists.

Susan Faludi

1959 -
Susan Faludi is a journalist who wrote Backlash:The Undeclared War against Women, 1991, which argued that feminism and women's rights were undermined by the media and corporations -- just as the previous wave of feminism lost ground to a previous version of backlash, convincing women that feminism and not inequality was the source of their frustration.

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