a comparative look at feminisms


A Comparative Look at Feminisms

Kimberly C. DeGrasse

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University of North Texas
A Comparative Look at Feminisms

      The issues of inequality have plagued
various minority groups for some time, although some efforts have been made to
address and correct these differences. Of the discussed inequalities, it is
perhaps gendered disparity that is most often ignored. One reason for this
difference in recognition it that it is easier to distinguish the differences
between groups regarding race and class, making gender inequality a more
difficult subject to address. Unlike the physical variances in the
interpretations of class and race, gender differences go beyond those that are
physical, requiring the need to be addressed on a deeper level. This
acknowledgement includes paying attention to the countless differences between
males and females, as well as questioning the appropriate methods of addressing
these differences to achieve gender equality. Although feminist theories have a
common ground—an interest in women’s oppression—they have different ideas of
what the most problematic issue is and how to address it. These feminist theories,
termed liberal, Marxist, socialist, and radical feminism, have introduced
different perspectives which have adopted three methodologies to gender
inequality—the sameness, difference, and dominance perspectives. Because these feminist
theories overlap, many individuals find themselves agreeing with one theory for
certain issues and another theory for others (Barak, Leighton, & Cotton,
2015). These feminist theories all address some problematic aspects of gender
inequality, though there is no single theory that serves as a solution to
achieving true gender equality. It is the combined aspects of the theories of
feminism that may have an impact on the ways in which women are viewed, giving
way for true gender equality.

Liberal Feminism

feminism tends to give focus to gender discrimination and the idea that certain
legal and everyday restrictions have contributed to the oppression of women.
This theory of feminism aims to gain equal rights for both men and women via
legal changes, especially relating to economic opportunities. Some argue that
the sameness perspective of liberal feminism may be harmful to women in that
standards of treatment for women are based on the pre-existing standards of
treatment for men (Barak et al., 2015). The view of liberal feminism began in
the 1970s, centering on the equality of women in society. Some of the platforms
of liberal feminism include equal access to public issues such as education and
employment opportunities, showing little concern for private issues (Griffin,
2017). Liberal feminists want to see women fully empowered into social systems
by way of creating legal solutions to address existing problems. They
acknowledge the secondary status of women in society, and attempt to address
the issues that arise from this form of oppression.

Marxist Feminism

feminism has taken interest in the oppression of women as being an addition to
the oppression among different social classes. Marxist feminists argue that the
powerful few, usually white males, contribute to the already difficult
obtainment of equal economic opportunity for women, making it nearly impossible
for equality to be realized in a society that gives a majority of power to a
small number of individuals. In adopting the difference perspective, Marxist
feminism attempts to shed light on the issues created by the capitalist system,
urging for the recognition of women’s place in society to be acknowledged and
addressed (Barak et al., 2015). The oppression of women through systems of
capitalism is said to be a contributing factor to the view of women as
second-class citizens. It is for this reason that Marxist feminists argue that
the reconstruction of the capitalist economy must be achieved for advancements
regarding women’s equality (Floyd-Thomas, 2016). These advancements are meant
to improve on the equal treatment of women, regardless of their social status.

Socialist Feminism

socialist feminism theory is somewhat of a continuation of the Marxist theory
in that it is in agreeance with the idea that capitalism plays a significant
role in the oppression of women. As a result, socialist feminism calls for the
elimination of the “twin evils,” capitalism and patriarchy, arguing that they
largely contribute to the oppression of poor and working women. Socialist
feminism highlights the disparate treatment faced by women because of sexist
ideologies, using the difference perspective to call for changes to be made in
the treatment of women in a social context (Barak et al, 2015). To achieve
gender equality, socialist feminists urge for reformation among the economic
and cultural spheres, acknowledging the coexistence of oppressive effects
regarding both class and gender. Additionally, socialist feminism acknowledges
the existence of factors which can increase oppression among certain groups of
women. Socialist feminism recognizes the heightened suffering felt by blacks,
Hispanics, and lesbians, claiming that these further discriminatory factors
have added to their level of oppression (Gordon, 2013). It is the perspectives
of socialist feminism that accounts for the greater oppression of those women
belonging to more than minority group, and urges for the recognition of the
problems associated with this issue.

Radical Feminism

feminism maintains that a male-ruled society leads to the problem of more
female victims. The dominance perspective is used to create arguments made by
radical feminists, claiming that not enough is done by other feminism theories
to address the issues at hand. Radical feminists claim that more must be done
to improve the value of women, reducing the control of women by men. Urging for
total reformation of political structures, as well as social institutions,
radical feminists attempt to eradicate patriarchy to achieve gender equality.
Focusing on the issue of male-dominance, rather than that of class inequality
or legal structures, radical feminism addresses some of the more serious issues
regarding women’s oppression, such as incidences of victimization including
rape and assault (Barak et al, 2015). Additionally, the radical feminist theory
goes beyond addressing the issue of patriarchy as being a contributing factor
for women’s oppression, seeking to explore alternatives to the patriarchal
structure of society (Mills, Durepos, & Wiebe, 2010). These efforts have
exposed some of the more detrimental aspects of gender inequality through the
focus on such issues as victimization, further showing the need for reform in
the way of equal treatment for the sexes.

Summary and Future

            While feminism
theories over the years have all contained valid suggestions of the sources of
women’s oppression and the course of action that should be taken to address these
issues, women today are still viewed and treated as a lesser class than men. Although
the disparate treatment of women has been recognized and addressed by means of
the creation of feminist theories, there is still much work to be done in the
way of taking progressive steps towards gendered equality. Despite the increase
in women’s rights and the decrease in male power, feminism efforts have
certainly not eliminated patriarchy, allowing for the continuance of a
male-dominated society in which women are forced to exist (Barak et al, 2015).
Progress regarding women’s equality has come to a halt over the last several
years, preventing the issues associated with gender inequality from being
further diminished. A recent increased focus on the intersectionality of feminism
has shed light on the additional effects faced by women who also belong to
other minority groups, including those related to race and sexual orientation
(Dastagir, 2017). Perhaps it is this current focus that will once again resume
the progressive efforts of women’s equality. Attempts will likely continue to
be made in the advancement of gender equality, though it is difficult to say at
what rate these efforts will be made, or how effective they may be in achieving
gendered equality.