feminism strands

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Feminist Strands
Liberal Feminism
These are feminists who gender inequalities are a result of a patriarchal culture which encourages gender role
socialization during primary socialisation e.g. men encouraged to be strong, physical and the `earner'/ women as
housewives, dependent, caring, inferior. They are strong believers in gender equality through campaigning against sex
discrimination and for equal rights and opportunities for women through legislation.
Although full gender equality hasn't been achiev ed yet, and that we need more `family friendly' policies, she does argue
there has been gradual progress in the family through The Women's Liberation Movement which achieved several legal
The Sex discrimination Act, 1975 which outlaws discrimination in employment (has now created ­ The Equal
Opportunities Commission),
Paid maternity leave for women,
Childcare centres such as Sure Start,
Control over their own fertility, and choice over marriage or cohabitation,
The Divorce Reform Act, 1969 ­ broadened grounds for divorce;
The Domestic Violence Act, 1976 ­ increasing protection for battered wives
Outlawing of marital rape, 1994 as part of Criminal Justice Act
These feminists also believe gradual gender equality can be and is being achieved through changing the socialisation
process and therefore people's attitudes e.g. rise of househusbands, parents socialising their sons and daughters differently
However, liberal feminists fail to challenge underlying causes of women's oppression. Some also claim that they are naïve
for thinking changes in law or attitudes will bring equality. Rather, far reaching revolutionary changes to deep-rooted
social structures are needed.
Radical Feminism
These feminists blame men, rather than the general socialisation process, for women's oppression in the family. They
believe that familial ideology is simply just patriarchal ideology because the very idea of marriage and the `natural,
gendered roles' in the nuclear family only confirms male power e.g. men benefit from women's unpaid domestic labour
and from their sexual services, and they then dominate women further through threat of domestic and sexual violence.
Even when women work part time to `suit their motherhood', this still maintains patriarchy - the man is still the main
breadwinner with the power to control finances and decision making.
Legal changes will NOT reduce female exploitation because the government is patriarchal i.e. `oppression will not be
ended by giving women a bigger piece of the pie b ecause the pie itself is rotten'. For these, the patriarchal system needs to
be overturned and the family, which is the root of women's oppression, needs to be abolished i.e. if biological motherhood
ceases because it's used to justify her role; or separatism ­ women must organize themselves to live independently of
marriage and men. This is called `political lesbianism' ­ the idea that heterosexual relationship are oppressive because they
involve `sleeping with the enemy'
However: does this strand ignore choices that women make? Are their proposed changes realistic? Do they acknowledge

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Marxist Feminism: claim that the main cause of women's oppression in the family is capitalism, not men. They see
the oppression of women in the family as linked to the exploitation of the working class, whereby women face double
exploitation ­ patriarchy and capitalism.…read more

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Difference Feminism
These feminists argue that previous strands fail to take into account the fact that there are no fixed certainties
about gender and sexuality; men and women will not behave in a particular way automatically. Not all men
oppress women within families and use patriarchy to assert their dominance; just like not all women feel
oppressed by the traditional, homemaker role and actually choose this role for fulfilment in their lives i.e.…read more


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