Ah, feminism. The F word.
It’s one of those terms that everyone thinks they know, and yet everyone’s definitions are wildly different. From Beyonce’s “equality of the sexes” to the conservative “female supremacy”, the explanations you get can really run the gamut.
Feminism is both more and less complicated than that. Something that is often lost among the general populace is the fact that there are multiple feminist theories – and thus, multiple types of feminists.
Why should you care? Well, if you are a feminist yourself, exploring these different ideologies can give you a deeper understanding of what your beliefs are. And if you hate feminists, knowing these terms will impress all the strangers you argue with on the Internet.
There are dozens of schools of thought relating to feminism, but for the purposes of this blog I will go into five. I’ve kept these explanations pretty short but each one of these belief sets is complex in its own right – these are just the overarching, defining values.
1. Liberal feminism: Liberal feminists work to achieve change within the existing system (society, government), such as enacting favorable legislation. It asserts the equality of men and women and focuses on the individual. Liberal feminists believe gender equality can be achieved without altering the structure of society.
2. Socialist/Marxist feminism: Socialist/Marxist feminists connect the plight of women with the class oppression and rampant inequality caused by capitalism. This school of thought largely believes that if lower class exploitation is overcome, gender inequality will vanish. They examine prostitution, domestic work, childcare and marriage as ways women are uniquely exploited by capitalism.
3. Radical feminism: “Rad fems” are likely the feminists most commonly associated with the movement. These feminists believe society is fundamentally sexist. Radical feminists seek to force a revolution, creating a new society which will eliminate the social construct of gender (sometimes called gender abolitionism) and thus achieve true equality.
4. Cultural feminism: Cultural feminism is unique in the way that it focuses on femininity, or the female nature. In stark contrast to radical feminists, cultural feminists emphasize the differences between males and females. They hold that women are inherently kind, nurturing and concerned for others. Cultural feminists argue for increased value placed on traditionally feminine traits and “women’s work”.
There you have it. Feminist theories in a nutshell.
“But where are the lesbians?!” you might be asking. No worries – I will get into all the angry, hairy-legged, lesbian, bra-burning, man-hating stereotypes in next week’s post!