Which type of feminism do you think has the most relevant political program for the society and economy of today? Explain why with reference to at least three traditions of feminism.
All through history, women have struggled to achieve equality, respect, and the same rights as men. Various people believe that this is due to the notion of patriarchy, an ideology in which men are superior to women. It is said that this type of ideology has permeated the social arrangements of societies throughout the world and as a consequence, even in the new millennium, women are still struggling for rights that most men take for granted. In order to fight patriarchy, feminism and feminist theory was created; it attempts to offer a critique of current political ideologies, attempting to create more equality amongst the genders.
Feminism is based on social, political and economical equality for women, and is a philosophy in which women and their contributions to society are valued and appreciated. It is a diverse collection of social theories, political movements and moral philosophies, largely motivated by or concerned with other political ideologies.
Feminism as a whole can be broken down in to three main different traditions and movements. Some of which are valid and relevant to today’s society and economy. Liberal Feminism, Marxist/Socialist Feminism and Radical Feminism are traditions or movements of feminist theory and ideology, contributing to what we know as today’s feminism. In my opinion though all the traditions of feminism overlap, and none have more or less right and wrong, there does remain one where its’ political program is more relevant to the social and economic structure al ready established. Liberal Feminism remains least radical and extreme when in comparison with the other two main traditions. It is due to this more conservative nature of liberal feminism that I tend to a-line myself with this ideology over another, however, I do also believe that all three have their strengths, and that for a true visionary and socially encompassing ideology all three need to be combined to form a more relevant political program. In essence however, that is what feminism is, all three traditions in one, fighting generally for the rights of women. To understand how I came to such a decision as supporting liberal feminism over the other two traditions I will illustrate what each strand is and what their political program is for society and the economy.
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Radical Feminism asserts that society is a patriarchy that primarily oppresses women. Radical feminists seek to abolish this patriarchy. They believe that women are systematically oppressed and marginalized because of man and that the eradication of our patriarchy society is the only way to give women true equality. The radical feminist’s ideology is, that “male-based authority and power structure … is responsible for oppression and inequality, and that as long as the system and its values are in place, society will not be able to be reformed in any significant way”. They identify that the only way to rid society of patriarchy is to attack the causes of the problems and also to address the fundamental components of society that support them.
The political program of the radical feminist aims to address inequalities based on gender identity, race, and social class, perceived attractiveness and sexual orientation as quick as possible by any means possible. It is often deemed so radical and extreme that rise to such a society means certain death to actual man. This ideology is often associated with the activists of the sixties and seventies because of their extreme rebellion against the norms of society. They often speak out against all social structures because of the belief that they are all created by men, and often, refuse to reproduce so that men can no longer inflict their will on coming generations. Radical feminists are the most fundamental and drastic in regards to all the traditions in feminism and often argue that contemporary society is so drastically patriarchal that the only way to escape is to live in female only communes.
Socialist feminism asserts “focus upon both the public and private spheres of a woman’s life” and argues that liberation can only be achieved by working to end both the economic and cultural sources of women’s oppression. “Socialist feminism is a dualist theory” that broadens Marxist feminism’s argument for the role of “capitalism in the oppression of women” and radical feminism’s theory of the role of gender and the patriarchy.
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“Liberal feminism asserts the equality of men and women through political and legal reform”. It is a distinctive form of feminism which focuses on a women’s ability to “demonstrate and maintain their equality through their own actions and choices. Liberal feminism looks at the personal interactions of men and women as the starting ground from which to transform society into a more gender-equitable place”. It fundamentally maintains that all people are created equal and should not be denied any form of opportunity because of gender. Liberal Feminism focuses on social change through the construction of laws and regulations of employment practices.
“According to liberal feminists, all women are capable of asserting their ability to achieve equality; therefore it is possible for change to happen without altering the structure of society”. Issues important to liberal feminists include reproductive rights and abortion access, sexual harassment, voting, education, fair compensation for work, affordable childcare, affordable health care, and bringing to light the frequency of sexual and domestic violence against women.
To understand clearly between the three main traditions of feminism we can draw on prostitution as an example. In liberal feminism, prostitution is thought of as a private business transaction, a contract mutually benefiting two individuals. They contend that a woman should be free to enter into contracts and that their political program would enable women to do so freely. Radical feminists, on the other hand, view a prostitute as a human being who has been reduced to a piece of merchandise. They believe that a prostitute’s desire to enter into such a “contract” is not done of her own free will rather, the patriarchal nature of society combined with a feeling of worthlessness. The radical feminist usually sees prostitution as an exploitative relationship where the woman is intimidated and bullied, their political program would protect woman from such exploitation. “To the socialist feminist, the prostitute is a victim of the corruption of society which accompanies class distinctions. The oppression of class in a materialistic society degrades people by categorizing them in a particular class and objectifying them. They believe that the cause of prostitution is in the structuring of society, and that is where the solution will reside”. Therefore, their political program would be to overrun the class system and this in turn will then make man and women equal.
As we can see from this example, the three traditions overlap to an extent yet remain independent to each other. In my opinion it is actually best to take in aspects and features of all three traditions, because all three are good ideologies and not one is wrong or right. However, if I must choose one straight ideology with no other as influence then as a conservative I would have to a-line myself with more the liberal approach. Because of its conservative nature in regard to the extremes within feminism, liberal feminism in my opinion has the most relevant political program for society in that it builds feminist ideology slowly and sustainably in a society built on patriarchal views and values. Sudden change to feminist ideology could have detrimental effects on the economy through work place relations law and fair work acts. In my opinion, a more conservative non-hurried approach is in the end a more effective result not only for women, but all society in general.
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