Feminist theory, or feminism, is support of equality for women and men. Although all feminists strive for gender equality, there are various ways to approach this theory, including liberal feminism, socialist feminism, and finally radical feminism. Let’s take a look at the basic feminist ideas and various approaches to achieving gender equality.
Basic Feminist Ideas:
People who consider themselves feminist (both male and female) disagree on many things. That being said, most feminist agree on five basic principles:
- Feminists believe in working to increase equality. Feminist thought links ideas to action, insisting we should push for change toward gender equality (and not just talk about it).
- Feminists also believe in expanding human choice, the idea that both men and women should be able to develop their human traits, even if those go against the status quo. If a woman wants to be a mechanic, she should have every right and opportunity to do so.
- Another feminist principle, eliminating gender stratification, proposes that laws and cultural norms that limit the income, educational, and job opportunities for women should be opposed.
- The final two principles are fairly straightforward: ending sexual violence and promoting sexual freedom – that women should have control over their sexuality and reproduction.
Types of Feminism
Liberal feminism is rooted in classic liberal thinking that individuals should be free to develop their own talents and pursue their own interests. This approach sees gender inequalities as rooted in the attitudes of our social and cultural institutions. Liberal feminists do not see women’s equality as requiring a reorganization of society, but they do seek to expand the rights and opportunities of women.
A main focus is protecting equal opportunities for women through legislation. A big step forward for the agenda of liberal feminists was the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, which in part states that Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Socialist feminism evolved from the ideas of Karl Marx, who blamed capitalism for increasing patriarchy by concentrating power in the hands of a small number of men. One main tenet is that the family form created by capitalism (women staying home, while men work) is the main source of women’s inequality, and that replacing the traditional family can only come about through a socialist revolution that creates a government to meet the needs of the family.