Radical Ferminism

Topics: Feminism, Feminist theory, Radical feminism Pages: 13 (4776 words) Published: January 3, 2013


We can further understand such differences by looking more extensively at that political position known as radical feminism. In part, radical feminism was created by women who had been active in NOW and were dissatisfied with what they perceived of as NOW's conservatism. Thus in 1967 at the annual meeting of NOW subsequent to the one in which the above demands were formulated, a group of New York women allied with Ti-Grace Atkinson left NOW and subsequently formed an early radical feminist organisation, "The October 17th Movement," later called "The Feminists.'' Radical feminism was to a large extent also constituted by women whose previous political activity had been in the diverse organisations of the New Left. This was the case, for example, with such women as Shulamith Firestone and Jo Freeman, who founded an early radical feminist organisation, Radical Women, in New York City in the fall of 1967. These two women, with others, had earlier presented a series of women's demands to a New Left conference, the National Conference for a New Politics, in the spring of that year. None of the demands were taken seriously, causing them to begin thinking about the necessity of separate women's organisations outside existing groups. The early organisers of radical feminism shared with the rest of the New Left a belief in the systemic nature of much of political injustice. Thus when these women began to perceive the situation of women as representing a case of this injustice, they employed the adjective "radical" to describe their stance. It signified a commitment to look for root causes. Radical feminists viewed the activities of women who had been involved in NOW or other existing business and professional women's organisations as "reformist," helpful and necessary but fundamentally inconsequential. This view stemmed both from a belief that the criticisms liberal feminism made of relations between women and men in both domestic and non-domestic life did not go far enough, and also, from a belief that liberal feminism had no sense of the importance of gender, and the social relations of domestic life, in structuring all social life. For radical feminism, liberal feminism's belief in the power of the law to remedy inequalities between women and men testified to a lack of insight into the fundamentality of the "sex-role system," those practices and institutions which were important in creating and maintaining sex-role differences. Of particular importance was the family, for it was here that biological men and women learned the cultural constituents of masculinity and femininity, and learned about the fundamental differences of power which, according to radical feminism, were a necessary component of both. A quotation from a manifesto of New York Radical Feminists illustrates the political position: Radical feminism recognises the oppression of women as a fundamental political oppression wherein women are categorised as an inferior class based upon their sex. It is the aim of radical feminism to organise politically to destroy this sex class system.

As radical feminists we recognise that we are engaged in a power struggle with men, and that the agent of our suppression is man insofar as he identifies with and carries out the supremacy privileges of the male role. For while we realize that the liberation of women will ultimately mean the liberation of men from their destructive role as oppressor, we have no illusion that men will welcome this liberation without a struggle....

The oppression of women is manifested in particular institutions, constituted and maintained to keep women in their place. Among these are the institutions of marriage, motherhood, love and sexual intercourse (the family unit is incorporated by the above).

In sum, for radical feminism, women's inferior political and economic...
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