Elevate Difference

Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction

Rosemarie Tong’s Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction offers a clear, thorough introduction to feminist theory. With detailed chapters on Liberal Feminism; Radical Feminism; Marxist and Socialist Feminism; Psychoanalytic Feminism; Care-Focused Feminism; Multicultural, Global, and Postcolonial Feminism; Ecofeminism; and Postmodern and Third Wave Feminism, the book presents even-handed coverage of the major schools of feminist thought.

The chapters are on average thirty to thirty-five pages long. The text is, thus, concise enough to be useful in survey or introductory feminist theory courses. The theoretical origins of each school thought are examined, and each chapter also considers supportive and opposing views in relation to the different ‘branches’ of feminism. As such, the book offers a useful dialogue that not only reveals the important contributions of these different feminisms (and the key thinkers from each branch), but also scrutinizes the unexamined assumptions and biases in each approach.

While portions of the book are dry and a bit tedious to wade through, this is understandable given the wide-ranging coverage and the textbook type format. It would be difficult for any author, even one as obviously well-versed in feminist theory as Tong, to share a history of feminist thought that didn’t sometimes tend towards an encyclopedic style. Moreover, even though the coverage of primary sources becomes wearisome at times (especially for readers already well versed in feminist theory), the comprehensive approach that considers the strengths and weaknesses of each theoretical branch is well worth wading through (and particularly useful for those new to feminist theory).

One area that seems missing in this revised addition is a consideration of transnational feminism. An overview of this branch, especially considering its current importance to the field, would have improved the chapter entitled “Multicultural, Global, and Postcolonial Feminism.” Another missing area of feminist thought is sexuality studies and queer theory. Given the explosive growth of these branches of thought, this seems an odd omission. However, in spite of these absences, the book is certainly a very useful introduction to feminist thought. In addition to being useful for survey courses in feminist theory, the book also serves as a great reference text to have on hand, especially given the excellent bibliography.

Written by: Professor What If, October 21st 2008

It's interesting - I read this book for a feminist theory undergrad class and found it rather confusing at the time, not because I didn't understand feminism but because I didn't understand Tong's divisions between "types" of feminism. It's strange (though not surprising?) to hear that in the past decade, the book hasn't changed nearly as much as its multiple rewrites should have allowed? Or this is another problem with white and/or academic women naming feminism, saying "these things are valid, these are not"? I'm a white academic female too, but that doesn't mean I wasn't hoping for a better update on this text.

Having taught this book in various iterations, I remain unconvinced and unsatisfied by its insistence on dividing different feminisms into separate camps and chapters. It really lacks analysis of feminisms (plural) -- instead, there are these different forms of feminism (singular) that create more divides than bridges. I find to be useless, if I'm being frank. There is very little that is useful, especially now, because it writes feminism and feminist thought as so divisive and fractured -- it does have a useful bibliography but the "comprehensive introduction" to "feminist thought" is misleading -- it is not comprehensive (as the reviewer "Prof. What if" notes) and it does more to divide than unite in terms of ways to bridge feminisms and feminist thought so we can actually make change. As a professor and scholar, I'm underwhelmed and cannot use this text in an intro, topics, or seminar. It might be useful as an introduction in the most simplistic terms (that is, never heard of feminism whatsoever) but anyone who has ever thought about feminism as the need to reach across perceived, enforced, legal, real, and other boundaries between and among feminist-identified people will be critical and disappointed by this book.