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Feminist Social Work Practice

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Brooke Ross

on 6 March 2014

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Transcript of Feminist Social Work Practice

Feminist Social Work Practice
Liberal Feminist Social Work
Cultural Feminist Social Work
Postmodern Feminist Social Work
Womanist Feminist Social Work
Radical Feminist Social Work
Feminist Theory
The Feminist theory of Social Work had its origins in the 1960's and stemmed from the civil rights and women's liberation movements from this era. It developed to help empower women of all races, ages, classes and sexual orientations. Its main focus was to understand the inequality in the genders, while promoting women's rights. Ideas explored in feminist theory include discrimination, stereotyping, objectification (especially sexual objectification), oppression, and patriarchy (Chodorow, 1989). The Feminist Theory was based on Feminism which is the belief that socially, politically, and economically, men and women should be equal. Helen Land, a social worker, believed women were overworked, underpaid, and under supported by our social programs. Due to the inequality in society, women were at high risk for many physical and mental health problems, such as: depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and anxiety (Land, 2014). Feminists work to protect women of all ages from domestic violence, and sexual harassment and sexual assault. They also advocate for workplace rights, including maternity leave, equal pay, and are against any forms of discrimination against women (Cornell, 1998). Today there are 5 branches of Feminist Social Work, they are:
1. Liberal
2. Cultural
3. Postmodern
4. Womanist
5. Radical
Liberal feminists feel that society does not treat women individually, but rather clumps them into one gender group. They believe women should have equal employment, education, and pay, and have equal access to services . They are more concerned about sexual equality rather than racial equality. They have achieved many victories for women's rights through enactment of laws that outlaw sexual discrimination, improving maternity leave, achieving educational reforms, improving economic rights within marriage, custody agreements, and even a women's right to vote (Land, 1992).
Cultural feminists put the importance on self-empowerment rather than structural change, and stress the spiritual aspect of the women's movement. They want to bring women together by developing a women centered religion. They focus on building businesses that are owned by and only serve women. Sometimes these businesses are politically motivated, and sometimes they are used for entertainment or an escape.
Postmordern feminists do not believe in male superiority and criticize the dominant order. They hope to voice a feminist view point, look at how women are affected by the social world, study how the role of power and knowledge interact in the way that women think about the world, and to see how the world can be changed from it (Flax, 1990). They believe in looking to the future rather than looking to the past.
Womanism was developed by black women writers and theorists to shed light on race and the social perceptions of racial differences. Both action and vocalization are accentuated in this theory. Among their goals is self-healing. This theory stresses the importance to recognize how society is interwoven and dominated.
Radical feminists argue that women are oppressed and that their personal problems are actually political issues that are a result of power imbalances that rise from male domination of power. Echols (1989) argued that women are damaged psychologically by the male dominant agenda. Radical feminists are against, and hope to eliminate social structure because it was created by men.
Liberal feminist social work practitioners deal with womens problems from a womens perspective and use a group approach to have women supporting other women. These women only groups allow womens issues to be forefront and not pushed aside. Their main focus is to help women who suffer from alcohol abuse, codependence issues, and dysfunctional families. They refer women to male dominated 12-step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, because they feel women should have the same access as men. They also help women by giving them counseling and psychoeducation. By doing this, they hope to raise womens self-esteem and assertiveness (Saulnier, 2000).
Participants usually are female spiritualists who are interested in contributing to a new understanding of spirituality from a womans perspective. Members use conscious raising support and mutual aid to help address womens problems. They focus on womens spirituality and self-empowerment, and come together to celebrate womanhood.
Postmodern feminist social work practitioners use language as a way to structure society. The facilitators help the participants to examine the power of words by analyzing various writers who wrote about their issues. The facilitators discuss the impact of social power by exploring the ways society views them. They work on transforming the participants perception of the world, rather than changing the world itself. Their goal is to help the individuals change through information and self-affirmation.
Saulnier, C.F. (2000). Incorporating Feminist Theory into Social Work Practice: Group Work Examples, Social Work With Groups, 23:1, 5-29. DOI: 10.1300/J009v23n01_02
Lundy, C. (2011). Social Work, Social Justice, and Human Rights: A Structural Approach to Practice. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press Inc.
Chodorow, N. (1978). The reproduction of mothering. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Land, H. (1992). Aids: A complete guide to psychosocial intervention. Milwaukee: Families International Press.
Flax, J. (1990). Postmodernism and gender relations in feminist theory. In Linda
Nicholson (Ed.), Feminism/Postmodernism. NY: Routledge, Chapman & Hall,
p. 39-62.
Womanist practitioners goals are to promote self-empowerment and consciousness raising by speaking up about racism, and by resisting systems of oppression (Land, 1992).
Echols, A. (1989). Daring to be bad: Radical feminism in America 1967-1975.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
One of Radical feminist practitioners main goals is to protect women from male violence. They hope to inspire women to be activists, and to develop a plan of action to challenge the patriarchal society.
By: Brooke Ross
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