Different Types of Feminist Theories  


Feminism is the organized movement which promotes equality for men and women in political, economic and social spheres. Feminists believe that women are oppressed simple due to their sex based on the dominant ideology of patriarchy. Ridding society of patriarchy will result in liberation for women, men, minorities, and gays.


Patriarchy is the system which oppresses women through it's social, economic and political institutions. Throughout history men have had greater power in both the public and private spheres. To maintain this power, men have created boundaries and obstacles for women, thus making it harder for women to hold power. There is an unequal access to power. Patriarchy also includes the oppression of minorities and homosexuals.


Feminism ideology can take many different forms. In the 1970's, women started developing a theory which helped to explain their oppression. Pockets of resistance began to organize and challenge patriarchy. By the 1980's, however, feminists started disagreeing on particular issues linked to feminism. What was once one theory, began to branch out into many theories that focused on different feminist issues. Today, there are as many definitions of feminism as there are feminists. Each definition of feminism depends on a number of factors including ones own beliefs, history and culture.




Advocates of Radical Feminism:


Mary Daly


Radical feminism promotes the basis for many of the ideas of feminism. They usually clash with the ideals of the liberal feminist, because radical feminists believe that society must be changed at its core in order to dissolve patriarchy, not just through acts of legislation. Unfortunately, this type of feminism also attracts a lot of negative media attention creating a backlash of feminism. Radical feminists believe that the domination of women is the oldest and worst kind of oppression in the world. They believe this because it spans across the world oppressing women of different races, ethnicities, classes and cultures. Radical feminists want to free both men and women from the rigid gender roles that society has imposed upon them. It is this sex-gender system that has created oppression and radical feminist's mission is to overthrow this system by any possible means. Sometimes radical feminists believe that they must rage a war against men, patriarchy, and the gender system which confines them to rigid social roles. They completely reject these roles, all aspects of patriarchy, and in some cases, they reject men as well.

Radical feminists emphasize their difference from men. They form groups that exclude males completely. This type of feminist highlights the importance of individual feelings, experiences and relationships. Radical feminists have divided into two groups with very different views.



Radical-Libertarian Feminism


Radical-Libertarian feminists believe that femininity and reproduction limit women's capacity to contribute to society. Women should essentially be androgynous. Radical-Libertarian feminists like to violate sexual norms and believe that women should control every aspect of their sexuality. They also advocate artificial means of reproduction so that less time is devoted to pregnancy and more time is devoted to worthwhile things. They are strong promoters of abortion, contraceptives and other forms of birth control.



Radical-Cultural Feminism


Radical-Cultural feminist views are dramatically different from Radical-Libertarian feminists views. The Radical-Cultural feminists believe that women should encompass their femininity because it is better than masculinity. Mary Daly advocates finding the “wild female within”. This type of radical feminist sees sex and penetration as male dominated. They see a link between sex, female subordination, porn, rape and abuse. These must be eliminated, according to Cultural-Radical feminists. Yet another opposing view is that reproduction is the source of power for women. They believe that men are jealous of women, and that they try to control reproduction through means of technology.



Advocates of Liberal Feminism:


Betty Friedan


National Organization for Women



Liberal feminism was most popular in the 1950's and 1960's when many civil rights movements were taking place. The main view of liberal feminists are that all people are created equal by God and deserve equal rights. These types of feminists believe that oppression exists because of the way in which men and women are socialized, which supports patriarchy and keeps men in power positions. Liberal feminists believe that women have the same mental capacity as their male counterparts and should be given the same opportunities in political, economic and social spheres. Women should have the right to choose, not have their life chosen for them because of their sex. Essentially, women must be like men.


Liberal feminists create and support acts of legislation that remove the barriers for women. These acts of legislation demand equal opportunities and rights for women, including equal access to jobs and equal pay. Liberal feminists believe that removing these barriers directly challenges the ideologies of patriarchy, as well as liberates women.


Liberal feminists are responsible for many important acts of legislation that have greatly increased the status of women, including reforms in welfare, education and health. Unfortunately. Liberal feminism has been known to only concentrate on the legislation aspect in the fight against patriarchy. It has been criticized for not breaking down the deeper ideologies of society and patriarchy. Also, it has been criticized for ignoring race and class issues.



Advocate for Socialist Feminism:


Alison Jaggar


Socialist feminists believe that there is a direct link between class structure and the oppression of women. Western society rewards working men because they produce tangible, tradable goods. On the other hand, women's work in the domestic sphere is not valued by western society because women do not produce a tangible, tradable good. This gives men power and control over women. Socialist feminists reject the idea that biology predetermines ones gender. Social roles are not inherent and women's status must change in both the public and private spheres.



Socialist feminists like to challenge the ideologies of capitalism and patriarchy. Much like the views of radical feminists, socialist feminists believe that although women are divided by class, race, ethnicity and religion, they all experience the same oppression simply for being a woman. Socialist feminist believe that the way to end this oppression is to put an end to class and gender. Women must work side by side men in the political sphere. In order to get anything accomplished, women must work with men, as opposed to ostracizing them. There must be a coalition between the two and they must see each other as equals in all spheres of life. In contrast to ideals of liberal feminism, which tend to focus on the individual woman, the socialist feminist theory focuses on the broader context of social relations in the community and includes aspects of race, ethnicity and other differences.



Advocate of Cultural Feminism:


Carol Gilligan


Cultural feminists believe that there are fundamental, biological differences between men and women, and that women should celebrate these differences. Women are inherently more kind and gentle. Cultural feminists believe that because of these differences, if women ruled the world there would be no more war and it would be a better place. Essentially, a women's way is the right and better way for everyone. Western society values male thought and the ideas of independence, hierarchy, competition and domination. Females values ideas such as interdependence, cooperation, relationships, community, sharing, joy, trust and peace. Unfortunately, says the cultural feminist, these ideas are not valued in contemporary western societies.



Cultural feminists are usually non-political, instead focusing on individual change and influencing or transforming society through this individual change. They usually advocate separate female counter-cultures as a way to change society but not completely disconnect.



Advocate of Ecofeminism:


Vandana Shiva


Ecofeminists believe that patriarchy and male domination is harmful to women, as well as the environment. There is a link between a male's desire to dominate unruly women and wilderness. Men feel as though they must tame and conquer both in order to have complete power. Ecofeminists say that it is this desire that destroys both women and the Earth.


Ecofeminists believe that women have a central role in preserving nature because woman understand and are one with nature. There is a deep connection that men cannot understand between the Earth and women, hence the terms Mother Nature or Mother Earth. Women need to use their superior insight to reveal how humans can live in harmony with each other and with nature.