GV4H3      Half Unit
Feminist Political Theory

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Sarah Goff


This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Gender, MSc in Gender, MSc in Gender (Research), MSc in Gender (Rights and Human Rights), MSc in Gender, Development and Globalisation, MSc in Gender, Policy and Inequalities and MSc in Political Theory. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). In previous years we have been able to provide places for all students that apply but that may not continue to be the case. Priority is given to students in the MSc Political Theory programme.

Course content

This course covers some of the central debates in contemporary feminist political theory, with a particular emphasis on the legacy and usefulness of liberalism. The course focuses on debates and differences within feminist political theory, rather than justifications for, or defences of, feminist political theory. Among the problems raised are conceptions of the individual and individual autonomy; the relative invisibility of gender issues in mainstream literature on justice and equality; the tendency to conceive of equality in sex-blind terms; the tendency to presume a universally applicable set of norms. We consider the theoretical debates in relation to a number of contemporary political issues. Topics likely to be addressed include: feminism and contract, individualism and autonomy, equality and the politics of difference, marriage and feminist perspectives on trans issues.


This course provides a combination of seminars and lectures totalling 20 hours in the Winter Term. There will be a reading week in WT Week 6.

Formative coursework

Students will submit a short formative essay (up to 1500 words) and will be given feedback on this before submitting their assessed coursework.

Indicative reading

Simone de Beauvoir (1949) The Second Sex; Susan Moller Okin ‘Forty Acres and a Mule for Women’ Politics, Philosophy & Economics (2005); Carole Pateman (1988) The Sexual Contract; Iris M Young (1990) Justice and the Politics of Difference;  Anne Phillips (1995) The Politics of Presence; Clare Chambers (2017) Against Marriage: An Egalitarian Defence of the Marriage-Free State; Serene Khader (2018) Decolonizing Universalism: Towards a Transnational Feminist Ethic; Talia Mae Bettcher ‘Evil deceivers and make-believers: Transphobic violence and the politics of illusion’ Hypatia (2007).


Essay (100%, 4000 words).

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 24.7
Merit 59.7
Pass 15.6
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2022/23: 17

Average class size 2022/23: 9

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication