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Personal is Political

Barbara Ryan

Subject Gender Studies
Sociology » Sociology of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

Key-Topics feminism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The personal is political was a term used in the early days of the contemporary women's movement to mean that if something was happening to you, it was happening to other women too. What appeared to be a personal issue was actually a political one that occurred because of unequal gender relations. Exclusion and exploitation were not individual acts, but were shared under a system of patriarchy. The branch of the contemporary movement known as the radical or women's liberation sector met in small groups to talk about their lives. The intent and effect was what became known as consciousness raising: becoming aware of things you did not notice or accepted without considering how such assumptions or practices came to be, and especially not questioning who benefited from these practices. One way to think about the feminist use of the personal is political is to put it into a sociological framework. In doing this, a term that comes to mind is the ‚ÄúSociological Imagination‚ÄĚ of C. Wright Mills (1959) , who recognized the importance of context and drawing connections between one's experience and social reality. Mills wrote about locating personal troubles in the structural/political realm and the importance of positioning biography within history. Although he never used the term, his ideas are there and predate feminism, but it took the movement to crystallize the meaning and apply ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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