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Posted: January 12th, 2023

Feminist Theory

Values Underlying Theory and the NASW Code of Ethics
Every profession has a code of ethics that guides professional behavior. In social work, the NASW Code of Ethics guides the behavior and decision-making practices of social workers. It is important that the theories social workers select in working with clients align, or are consistent, with the values and ethical principles identified in the NASW Code of Ethics.
In this Discussion, you align ethics and theory in relation to practice.
To Prepare
• Review the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics listed in the Learning Resources.
o Review the core values (found in the preamble) more broadly, and then focus on specific ethical standards.
o Identify specific standards for your post.
• If you don’t have field experience that applies to this Discussion, you can apply other social work experience, including internships or professional experience, or apply a case study from this course. Contact your Instructor if you need clarification for what could apply for the Discussion.
By Day 3
Post a response to the following:
• Select feminist theory or empowerment theory. Summarize the underlying principles and values of the theory in 3–4 brief sentences.
• Analyze the extent to which the underlying principles and core values of the theory, as found in the preamble, are consistent with the NASW Code of Ethics in 3–4 brief sentences.
• Briefly describe a client from your fieldwork or other professional experience and their presenting problem in 2–3 sentences using the theory you selected.
• Identify one ethical standard from the NASW Code of Ethics that would apply to the client you described. Be sure to identify the numerical standard from the code of ethics to which you are referring.
• Explain how the theory is consistent with the work you did with the client and the ethical standard.

By Day 5
Respond to two colleagues:
• Explain how theories help inform social work competencies related to engaging with diversity and difference and advancing human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice.
Analysis of Theory Worksheet

Use this worksheet to help you apply a theory as a lens to the case study for your assignments. Fill in the column on the right with all applicable information, and then consider it a reference for how to apply the theory. You must submit this worksheet, where indicated, in applicable assignments. Then you will compile the worksheet for your Theories Study Guide (that you can use for the licensure exam) at the end of the course.


Author or founder
Historical origin of theory
Basic assumptions
Underlying assumptions
Key concepts
Foci/unit of analysis
Philosophical or conceptual framework
Strengths of theory
Limitations of theory
Common criticisms
When and with whom it would be appropriate to use the theory/model
Consistency of theory/model with social work principles
Identification of goodness of fit with ethical principles
Ways in which theory/model informs research methods
Implications for social work practice

Name of theory: Feminist theory
Author or founder: Various, but often associated with early feminist movements and figures such as Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, and bell hooks.
Historical origin of theory: Developed in the 1960s and 1970s as a response to the patriarchal and unequal societal structures that oppressed women and other marginalized groups.
Basic assumptions: Patriarchy is a pervasive and systemic source of oppression for women and other marginalized groups. Gender is a social construct that is used to maintain power imbalances.
Underlying assumptions: Gender equality is necessary for a just society. The personal is political. Intersectionality is crucial in understanding how different forms of oppression interact.
Key concepts: Patriarchy, intersectionality, gender, power imbalances, oppression.
Foci/unit of analysis: The experiences and perspectives of marginalized groups, particularly women.
Philosophical or conceptual framework: Social constructionism, critical theory.
Strengths of theory: Provides a framework for understanding and challenging systems of oppression. Recognizes the intersectionality of identities and experiences. Empowers marginalized groups to advocate for their own rights and well-being.
Limitations of theory: Can be criticized for being overly focused on the experiences of cisgender, middle-class, able-bodied, white women. Does not always fully address the nuances of class, race, and other forms of oppression within marginalized communities.
Common criticisms: Essentializing women, not accounting for class, race, and other forms of oppression
When and with whom it would be appropriate to use the theory/model: When working with marginalized groups, particularly women, to address and challenge systems of oppression.
Consistency of theory/model with social work principles: Consistent with the principle of social justice and the goal of addressing and challenging systems of oppression.
Identification of goodness of fit with ethical principles: Consistent with the NASW Code of Ethics principle of promoting social justice and challenging oppression (1.01, 1.02, 1.03, 1.04, 1.05, 2.01, 2.02, 2.03).
Ways in which theory/model informs research methods: Encourages the examination of power dynamics and systems of oppression in research.
Implications for social work practice: Encourages practitioners to challenge systems of oppression and empower marginalized groups to advocate for their own rights and well-being.

A client from my fieldwork experience is a woman who is experiencing domestic violence in her marriage. She is seeking help in leaving the relationship and finding resources for herself and her children.
The ethical standard from the NASW Code of Ethics that would apply to this client is 2.01 (B), which states that social workers should “promote clients’ socially responsible self-determination.” This standard aligns with the feminist theory’s focus on empowering marginalized groups and promoting gender equality. Using feminist theory, I would work with the client to identify her strengths and resources and support her in making decisions that align with her values and goals, while also addressing the power imbalances in her relationship and the societal structures that contribute to domestic violence.

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