Liberal or reformist feminism

  • Liberal feminists believe women can achieve gender equality through policies & laws against sex discrimination. 
  • They also call for cultural change, they believe traditional prejudices and stereotypes are a barrier to equality. They reject the idea that biological differences make women less competent or rational than men, or that men are biologically less emotional or nurturing. 
  • Sex and genderThey see sex as the biological differences between males and females, e.g, reproductive role.
  • Gender is the culturally constructed differences between the masculine or feminine roles & identities assigned to males and females, gender differences are able to vary between cultures & overtime, unlike sex.
  • They see sexist attitudes and stereotypical beliefs about gender as culturally constructed & transmitted through socialisation, therefore we must change society's socialisation patterns, e.g, challenging gender stereotyping in the media could bring about change.
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Liberal feminism pt2

  • Liberal feminism can be seen as a critique of the functionalist view of gender roles. They believe that men and women are equally capable of performing roles in both the expressive & instrumental sphere.
  • However, it is still a consensus view of society because although it recognises conflicts between men & women, they are not seen as inevitable, but merely a product of outdated attitudes.
  • They believe that men will also win if they eliminate the gender division of labour because men will be able to express their feminine & nurturing side.
  • CriticismsWalby; they offer no explanation for the overall structure of gender inequality. 
  • Marxist & radical feminists; liberal feminism fails to recognise the underlying causes of women's subordination & it is naive to believe that changes in the law or attitudes alone will be enough to bring about equality, far-reaching revolutionary changes are needed. 
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Radical feminism

  • They believe patriachy is universal, Firestone; the origins of patriachy lie in women's biological capacity to bear & care for infants, since performing this role means they are dependent on men.
  • Patriachy is the primary & most fundamental form of inequality & conflict, men are women's main enemy.
  • All men oppress all women, all men benefit from the patriachy, especially women's unpaid labour & their sexual services. 
  • The personal is political - Patriachal oppression occurs both in the public & private sphere, all relationships involve power & they are political when one person dominates another. So, personal relationships are political because men dominate women through them, also known as sexual politics
  • The threat of sexual or physical violence controls all women, Brownmiller; fear of raep is a powerful deterrent against women going out alone at night. 
  • Sexuality - The patriachy constructs sexuality to satisfy male desires, e.g, in pwnography women are passive sex objects & penetration is the main source of sexual pleasure. Rich; men force women into a narrow & unsatisfying 'compulsory heterosexuality'. 
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Radical feminism pt2

  • Change - Seperatism; women must live seperate from men, Greer; the creation of 'matrilocal' households should be an alternative to the heterosexual family. 
  • Counsciousness-raising; Sharing experiences in women-only groups, may lead to collective action if they realise other women face the same problems, e.g, 'SlutWalk' marches. 
  • Political lesbianism; heterosexual relationships are opressive because they involve 'sleeping with the enemy', lesbianism is the only non-oppressive form of sexuality.
  • Criticisms - Marxists; class, not patriachy, is the primary form of inequality, capitalist causes & benefits from female oppression. 
  • Doesn't explain why female subordination takes different forms in different societies, also assumes that all women are in the same position & ignores class/ethnicity, e.g, a middle class woman may have more in common with a middle class man, than a w/c woman. 
  • Pollert; the concept of patriachy is of little value because it involves a circular argument, patriachy is always maintaining itself. 
  • Somerville; heterosexual attraction makes it unlikely that the nuclear family will be replaced by single-sex households.
  • Liberal feminists; the patriachy is already in decline, womens's position has improved. 
  • They neglect women's violence against men. 
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Marxist feminism

  • Women's subordination in capitalist society results from their primary role as unpaid homemaker, placing them in a dependent economic position in the family. 
  • Women are the source of cheap, exploitable labour (paid less because it is asssumed they are partially dependent on their husbands earnings), reserve army of labour (moved into the labour force during economic booms & out again at times of recession, they are disposable because it is assumed their primary role is in the home), reproduce the labour force (nurture & socialise children & maintain/serve their husband), absorb anger (Ansley; women are takers of sheit).
  • The ideology of familism - Barrett; women are brainwashed to believe the family will help them attain fulfilment, through motherhood & intimacy, helping women remain subordinated. She believes otherthrowing the patriachy is not enough, the ideology of familism needs to be destroyed, in order to free the sexes from restrictive stereotypes & ensure domestic labour was shared equally. 
  • Mitchell; uses Freud's psychoanalytic theory to argue that ideas about femininity are deeply implanted in women's unconscious minds, making it difficult to otherthrow the patriachy. 
  • CriticismsHartmann; Marxism is 'sex-blind' because they don't explain why women, not men perform unpaid domestic labour.
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Dual systems feminism

  • Combines the key features of Marxist & feminism.
  • Hartmann; capitalism & patriachy are two intertwined system that form a single entity, 'patriarchal capitalism'.
  • Domestic work limit's women's availability for paid work, so the lack of work drives women into marriage & economic dependence on men, the two systems reinforce eachother. 
  • Walby; capitalism & patriachy are inter-related but their interests are not the same, capitalism demands cheap female labour for its workforce, yet the patriachy wants women to stay home.
  • As capitalism is more powerful than the patriachy, a strategy of segregation is developed instead; women are allowed into paid work, but only in low status 'women's' jobs.
  • Criticism - Pollert; patriachy is not a system in the same sense as capitalism, it is a descriptive term for a range of practices, e.g, male violence & the control of women's labour. 
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Difference feminism & poststructuralism

  • Women are not a single homogenous group, middle class, working class, black, white, gay & straight women have different experiences of oppression.
  • Feminism has claimed 'false universality' - it is not for all women, but for Western, heterosexual, middle-class women.
  • The problem of essentialism - Other feminist theories see all women as the same, they fail to reflect the diversity of women's experiences & exclude other women & their problems, e.g, sexuality is often irrelevant to women in poorer countries, where clean water & primary healthcare are far more pressing issues, 
  • Poststructuralist feminism - Butler; the white, Western, middle-clas women who dominate feminism falsely claim to represent 'univeral womanhood', feminists are wrong to believe that can adapt the enlightenment project so that it includes all women, because women are not a single entity. 
  • Rejecting essentialism & stressing the diversity of discourse will lead to a legitimation of the diversity of women's struggles, rather than prioritising some & excluding others. 
  • Criticisms - Walby; women have important similarities, they are all faced with the patriachy. 
  • Celebrating differences will divide women into different sub-groups, weakening feminism.
  • Segal; Oppression is not the result of discourses, but real inequality. 
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