I'm tough, I'm ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay. ~Madonna Ciccone
Feminism is a political discourse aimed at equal rights and legal protection for women (Wikipedia, n.d.). According to Steans (n.d.), feminism covers different perspectives and practices, […] it is a “point of departure”, where opposing values and practices are assessed and evaluated. It also explains the notion from which “one’s own actions are given social meaning and political significance” (p. 15). There are many different streams in feminism, “all concerned with issues of gender difference; that advocate equality for women; and that campaign for women's rights and interests” (Wikipedia, n.d.). However, this paper will focus on liberal and radical feminism. Liberal and radical feminism fight for equality and change within society, but is this really necessary? This paper will give a critical analysis of the different aspects of liberal and radical feminism and some of the different fields in those studies such as: gender, separatism and masculinity.
“Liberal feminism is centrally concerned with equal rights, […] rights were frequently denied to women on the ground that they were ‘irrational’ creatures and so less than fully human” (Steans, n.d. p. 16). A good example of liberal feminism is the American women fighting for the right to vote during the 19th century. This fight started in 1848, at Seneca Falls, by Elizabeth Katy Stanton, and finally ended in 1920 when women received the right to vote (One Women, One Vote). They were not trying to change the system, they were “only” fighting for the right to vote. Liberal feminism does not see the system as flawed and it, therefore, does not need to be changed. Think for example of the family, liberal feminism would want to make the family more equal but will not try to change the deeply embedded system in the rest of the society that suppresses or differentiates women from the rest. As Okin (1987) mentions, even the smallest changes can be very significant, especially changes within the family. The family is a “crucial place for early moral development and for the formation of our basic attitudes towards others. It is […] a place where we learn to be just.” It is important that children who are to become adults with a strong sense of justice and commitment spend their early years in a loving environment where principles of justice and equality are abided (Okin, 1987, pp 316-319). However, the problem is that many families are not equal in the divisions of tasks and treatment. This is where liberal feminism will have to come into play to fight for equality within the family to create a place where young children can learn about justice and equality. However, the question remains if liberal feminism looks deep enough at the problem. Can the problems that exist within the family be changed by just demanding equality? Many believe not. Furthermore, many women do not think that there is inequality within their family, and therefore, do not believe that the change that needs to be made needs to be made by them. During a class discussion one girl said that her mother was perfectly happy being a housewife and taking care of her children. The problem with this statement is that a mother will not tell her daughter very quickly that she is very unhappy and/or lonely, which many women are according to Bergman (1986). Because these women work alone and are surrounded by small children all the time, they do not have much interaction with adults and as a result have become very lonely (p.203). Another area in which liberal feminism is active, is in the fight for equality between races. Racism has become institutionalized, meaning that it has become part of our “system of believes and behaviours by which a group defined as a race is oppressed, controlled and exploited”, it is a part of our everyday society and embedded...