Radicalism Feminism Essay

Liberal Feminism vs. Radical Feminism Essay

1490 WordsMar 22nd, 20126 Pages

Liberal Feminism and Radical Feminism

The goal of feminism as both a social movement and political movement is to make women and men equal not only culturally, but socially and legally. Even though there are various types of feminism that focus on different goals and issues, the ultimate end to feminism is abolishing gender inequality that has negative effects on women in our society. The issues and goals that a feminist may have are dependent on the social organization or the type of economic structure that is present. However, an ultimate end (a goal, achievement and/or accomplishment) would have to be social equality between men and women. This would mean the elimination of bias and discrimination towards women and the elimination…show more content…

They also argue that gender inequality in not the outcome of choices, personal attributes or relationships with others, but structural sources such as workplaces, schools, and the government as they are unable to provide women with the same resources as men. This includes healthcare, education, equal wages and an overall balance between men and women. On the other hand, radical feminism is a form of resistance feminism, which means their issues primarily lie within patriarchy or men’s dominance towards women. They argue that patriarchy is found wherever men and women are in contact with each other. They believe that patriarchy is almost impossible to abolish because to be superior is an attribute that most men have acquired of is already “built” into them. And whether it’s consciously or subconsciously, these traits are applied into their privileges that Western society has given them (because they are men) and displayed within all the different aspects and occupations in their lives. The main view of liberal feminism is that all people are created equal by God and deserve equal rights. These types of feminists believe that oppression only exists because of the way men and women are socialized by society, which supports patriarchy and keeps men in powerful positions. Liberal feminists believe that women have the same mental capacity as males and should

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Radical feminism arose in the USA, Canada, and Britain out of young women’s experiences within the civil rights, New Left, and anti-war movements of the 1960s. It was a revolutionary movement that called for fundamental institutional and cultural changes in society. There were three key beliefs guiding radical feminist activism. First, radical feminism argued that gender was the primary oppression all women face. Second, it asserted that women were fundamentally different from men. Third, it held that social institutions rely on women’s subordination, and consequently are constructed to perpetuate gender inequality, including around deeply personal facets like reproduction. Radical feminism was the most dominant force in the development of feminist activism and scholarship through the mid-1970s.

Radical feminism was distinct from the surge in liberal feminist activism that also emerged in the late 1960s. Women formed radical feminist groups such as the London Women’s Liberation Workshop, and the Redstockings, seemingly overnight in 1967 and 1968. One of the first protests was held at the opening of the US Congress in January 1968. The ”Jeanette Rankin Brigade,” named after the first woman elected to Congress and led by Rankin herself, brought 5,000 women affiliated with women’s peace groups to demonstrate against the Vietnam War. It was at this protest that the phrase ”sisterhood is powerful” was first used.

Radical feminists theorized that sex-class (women as a distinct class) was a social phenomenon maintained through violence and social sanctions. Out of this ideology developed critiques of all social institutions, including language, science, capitalism, family, violence, and law. One of the most important concepts to come out of radical feminism was the idea that the ”personal is political,” highlighting the belief that women’s intimate experiences of oppression were not isolated events, but rather products of institutional inequality. Consciousness-raising (CR) groups — small gatherings where women shared their experiences of sexism and developed a collective feminist critique — originated with the New York Radical Women, and quickly became a staple of radical feminism. It was through these groups that issues such as rape, abortion, and sexuality became politicized issues for feminist movements.

Some of the most significant legacies of radical feminist organizing are the service organizations that grew out of women’s liberation groups. Domestic violence shelters were founded in the early 1970s, as were rape crisis centers, feminist bookstores, and women’s studies programs. By the end of the 1970s, differences between radical and liberal feminisms became less clear as liberal groups radicalized and radical feminism moved toward cultural and service organizations. Simultaneously, sparked by homophobia within feminist movements, and sexism within gay liberation movements, many lesbian-identified feminists split with radical feminism. Lesbian feminism extended radical feminist ideology and argued that gender and sexuality work together to reinforce patriarchal power.

The central critique of radical feminism has been that theorizing women as a sex-class obscures differences between women, especially in terms of race, class, and nation. In Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (1990) Patricia Hill-Collins described the interrelationships of oppression as a ”matrix of domination” and argued that radical feminism marginalized women of color and poor women. Regardless of these critiques radical feminist theorizing has continued to influence feminist activism and scholarship. The institutional legacies, in the form of cultural and political organizations, continue to thrive, and radical feminist ideology continues to shape contemporary feminist movements.


  1. Crow, B. (ed.) (2000) Radical Feminism: A Documentary Reader. New York University Press, New York.
  2. Moraga, C. & Anzaldua, G. (eds.) (1981) This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Kitchen Table Press, New York.

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