This article will go over a four different types of Feminist theory, Liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, Radical Feminism, and Dual-System Feminism. To briefly examine how they differ from one an another, and what they believe to be the barriers to gender equality between men and women. These types of feminism are not to be confused with the different waves of feminism (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc), which refer to disputed periods of feminist activism.
Quite a tame strand of feminism, these feminists argue that gender inequality lies in the denial of rights to women in primarily the fields of education and employment. It holds individual choice as supreme and historically has fought for law changes in order to allow women to express their political freedom. With its reliance on gaining political rights, it should be noted however that liberal feminism ignores the deeprooted nature of gender inequality and patriarchy (Walby, 1990).
Liberal feminism is often conflated with Libertarian feminism.
For Marxist Feminists, male domination over women is a by product of the current system of production within this Capitalist epoch. With society split between the bourgeoisie exploiting the proletariat, a subgroup is needed in society to prepare the next group of workers. This job falls onto women. Women end up as free care providers for the child, husband, and extended family through cooking, cleaning, hosting, and providing healthcare (typically free).
Men release their pent up aggression onto women once they get home rather than towards the capitalist system. Marxist theory, as always, reads like a story. because it is one grant theory which fails to leave space for individual experience. This feminist perspective fails to notably explain the diversity in abuse situations and tends to act as though men cannot experience sexual abuse. It should be noted that gender equality is assumed to come about when communism is achieved, so no luck for women in capitalist society.
Radical feminists see gender equality as a system whereby men benefit from female subordination which has been created through Patriarchy. Unlike Marxist feminists, they don’t see female subordination as being a byproduct of Capitalism, but a part of the patriarchal system like male violence. Men inherently have a vested interest in the continuation of patriarchy so will not let it go easily. Even sexual desire must be questioned as it is centered around male notions of desire.
Radical feminists dispute amongst themselves about many things. One of which is whether pornography is beneficial to women or not. The second being whether females should live in societies completely separate to men and assume the role of lesbians.
Dual-Systems Theory Feminism
A synthesis of Marxists and Radical feminist theory, therefore neither Capitalism or Patriarchy take a position of importance as we’re in a capitalist-patriarchal society where both systems work together. Patriarchy provides a system of control and law and order, while capitalism provides a system of economy in the pursuit of profit (Walby, 1990, p.5) both systems inherently benefit men.
Hartmann (1979) argues that at work, men used occupational segregation to keep the best jobs for themselves. Can women such as Oprah be argued to have been limited by Capitalism? Or is she just an outlier case?
Some forms of feminism always tend to be more popular than others, whilst the use of the term ‘patriarchy’ is popular with young women today most wouldn’t advocate women move to a society free of men. Most actually enjoy the company of men but are truly seeking a society where they are treated with respect and humanely. I’m not sure what type of feminist I am, but I know that I’ve been a feminist for a long time. Other notable types which haven’t been mentioned include Socialist Feminism, Anarcha-Feminism, PostColonial Feminism, and Black Feminism. All of which have made amazing contributions to the field.
By Shaneka Knight
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