Feminism is a political discourse aimed at equal rights and legal protection for women (Wikipedia, n. d. ).
According to Steans (n. d. ), feminism covers different perspectives and practices, […] it is a “point of departure”, where opposing values and practices are assessed and evaluated. It also explains the notion from which “one’s own actions are given social meaning and political significance” (p.
15). There are many different streams in feminism, “all concerned with issues of gender difference; that advocate equality for women; and that campaign for women's rights and interests” (Wikipedia, n. . ).However, this paper will focus on liberal and radical feminism. Liberal and radical feminism fight for equality and change within society, but is this really necessary? This paper will give a critical analysis of the different aspects of liberal and radical feminism and some of the different fields in those studies such as: gender, separatism and masculinity.
“Liberal feminism is centrally concerned with equal rights, […] rights were frequently denied to women on the ground that they were ‘irrational’ creatures and so less than fully human” (Steans, n. . p. 16).A good example of liberal feminism is the American women fighting for the right to vote during the 19th century.
This fight started in 1848, at Seneca Falls, by Elizabeth Katy Stanton, and finally ended in 1920 when women received the right to vote (One Women, One Vote). They were not trying to change the system, they were “only” fighting for the right to vote. Liberal feminism does not see the system as flawed and it, therefore, does not need to be changed.Think for example of the family, liberal feminism would want to make the family more equal but will not try to change the deeply embedded system in the rest of the society that suppresses or differentiates women from the rest.
As Okin (1987) mentions, even the smallest changes can be very significant, especially changes within the family. The family is a “crucial place for early moral development and for the formation of our basic attitudes towards others.It is […] a place where we learn to be just. It is important that children who are to become adults with a strong sense of justice and commitment spend their early years in a loving environment where principles of justice and equality are abided (Okin, 1987, pp 316-319). However, the problem is that many families are not equal in the divisions of tasks and treatment. This is where liberal feminism will have to come into play to fight for equality within the family to create a place where young children can learn about justice and equality.
However, the question remains if liberal feminism looks deep enough at the problem.Can the problems that exist within the family be changed by just demanding equality? Many believe not. Furthermore, many women do not think that there is inequality within their family, and therefore, do not believe that the change that needs to be made needs to be made by them. During a class discussion one girl said that her mother was perfectly happy being a housewife and taking care of her children. The problem with this statement is that a mother will not tell her daughter very quickly that she is very unhappy and/or lonely, which many women are according to Bergman (1986).
Because these women work alone and are surrounded by small children all the time, they do not have much interaction with adults and as a result have become very lonely (p. 203). Another area in which liberal feminism is active, is in the fight for equality between races. Racism has become institutionalized, meaning that it has become part of our “system of believes and behaviours by which a group defined as a race is oppressed, controlled and exploited”, it is a part of our everyday society and embedded in a system of power relations (Collins ; Anderson, 1995, pp. 9-60).Like Yamato (n.
d. ) states, various elements of racism are not able to do much damage, but for one “generally overlooked key piece: power/privilege”. In our society, people are stratified into different classes and some of these classes have more privileges than others (p. 74). McIntosch (1988) adds that “whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege.
” White peoples skin colour is an asset for any move they are educated to want to take. Whiteness protects them in many cases from violence, hostility (p. 79-81) and inequality based on skin colour.But again can liberal feminism change this systemic racism by only wanting to change inequality or does the whole system need to be changed? McIntosch (1988) states that the disapproval of the system will not be enough.
“To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tools here” (p. 82). McIntosch is taking a more radical view here at believing that the system is flawed and needs change.
Just as Firestone (1970) said, “No matter how many levels of consciousness one reaches, the problem always goes deeper” (p. 53). Steans (n. d. ) explains radical feminism as not seeing women’s oppression as a by-product of capitalism but rather as the root of all systems of oppression. The central thought of radical feminism is patriarchy.
But, oppression plays an important role as well. It can be explained as the “systematic, institutionalized mistreatment of one group of people by another for whatever reason. ” Usually the oppressors have the access to economic resources, respect and information, while the oppressed are seen as humans with whom something is wrong (Yamato, n. .
p. 12).A similar study was done by Marilyn Frye (n. d. ) who states that, oppression’s roots lie in the element press; “The press of the crowd; pressed into military service; to press a pair of pants; printing press; press the button. ” Something pressed is something, or someone, “caught between barriers and forces which are so related to each other that they jointly restrain, restrict or prevent the thing’s motion or mobility.
Mold. Mobilize. Reduce” (pp. 31-32).
Powerful. Unfair.Cruel. Knowledge has become a part of oppression as well. Knowledge is that body of information, facts, and theories through which a society or culture defines what is true and important.
” Knowledge can become a part of oppression because to be excluded from “these bodies of knowledge” and the process of creating knowledge, as women and other marginalized groups often have been, “is to live in a “reality” not of one’s own making” (Kolmar, n. d. ). By keeping certain knowledge away from groups of people, power over these people is generated. Power to influence and oppress these minority groups that do not have access to important knowledge.
Patriarchy plays a big role in oppression, because a part of patriarchy is the “actual power structure built around men’s domination of women” (Blood, Tuttle ; Lakey, 1983, p. 155). Furthermore, Johnson (1997) found that we all participate in something larger then ourselves. We do not create this, but we do have the power to affect it trough the choices that we make.
This something is patriarchy, it is a system that cannot be reduced to the people who participate in it, be it man or women, black or white. “Patriarchy is a kind of society organized around certain kinds of social relationships and ideas.As individuals we all participate in it. ” Johnson furthermore states that, if a society is oppressive, then all the people who grow up in it will tend to “accept, identify with, and participate in it as “normal” and unremarkable life. ” Meaning that all men and women are involved in this oppressive system, and “none of us can control whether we participate, only how…” (pp.
99-105). Or as Blood, Tuttle and Lakey (n. d. ) state, patriarchy is not just a power structure “out there”; it is “mainly enforced by our own acceptance of its character ideals for our lives” (p. 155).However much I believe that the system of patriarchy needs to be changed, radical feminism does move across the edge sometimes.
A good example of this is given by Marilyn Frye (n. d. ). She believes that the process of a man opening a door for a women renders the women as weak or incapable. She states that the gallant gestures have no practical meaning, it is symbolic. These behaviours “intimate the behaviour of servants towards their masters and thus mock women.
”The message behind the false helpfulness of male gallantry is “female dependence , the invisibility or insignificance of women, and contempt for women” (pp. 0-41). What is the men supposed to do, slam the door in the women’s face? Life would get dull very fast when we are all supposed to act the same. One can also see opening the door as a sign of respect toward women. As Steans (n.
d. ) noted, in the radical feminists attempt to find a basis for solidarity among women and give suggestions for alternatives to patriarchal society, they have tended to “gloss over major divisions which exist between groups of women and men” (p. 20).Both liberal and radical feminism have their drawbacks, but they have both studied important social phenomenon such as gender, separatism and masculinity.
Gender is not what you are biologically, male or female, but what we become because of our sex. Gender plays such an important role in feminism because with gender it all begins, the devaluation of the feminine. Meaning that feminine traits are devalued and seen as weak. “As a process gender creates the social differences that define “women” and “men”” (Lorber, 1994, p. 114).
We cannot avoid gender socialization, the process by which female and male babies are turned into eminine and masculine (Kourany, Sterba ; Tong, 1999), because it is virtually in “every significant dimension of a child’s environment” and is “structured according to cultural expectations of appropriate gender behaviour” ( Renzetti ; Curran, 1995, p. 12). Gender limits women in the way of employment, economic stability, child rearing and power. And this is mainly because men are afraid for the power women have , as Rich (1983) explains, men were (and still are) afraid of the power of the Great Mother.
In the beginning, she was powerful and mysterious, connected to the wholeness of nature.But for those outside the process, she became too strong, unable to partake in the mystery of wholeness represented by the Great Mother, “men first divided her, then wrested more and more control on her divided powers” (p. 154). One thing that women can do to get part of their power and control back again is deny men access. “When women separate, they are simultaneously controlling access and defining. ” By doing so these women are being insubordinate because access and definition are fundamental parts of power (Frye, 1983, pp.
365-366).And by grabbing back parts of power women become a danger to men and their lifes and need to be suppressed and punished. One aspect that feminism often does not research is masculinity, and this is a serious fault. Because of this error, critique on masculinity is often ignored. Men’s feelings are not of the powerful, but “of those who see themselves as powerless” ( Kimmel, 1994, p.
152). These are the feelings that come inevitably from the discontinuity between the social and the psychological, between the aggregate analysis that reveals how men are in power as a group and the psychological fact that they do not feel powerful as individuals.They are the feelings of men who were raised to believe themselves entitled to feel that power, but do not feel it. (Kimmel, 1994) Men are pressured and evaluated by their environment and one of the biggest fears of men is to be seen as inadequate. Their fear is not of women, but of being shamed in front of other men.
This shame leads to silence – “the silence that keep other people believing that we actually approve of the things that are done to women” (Kimmel, 1994, 149-150).This social pressure by men on men make men repress their feelings. Petrie (1982) states that men ere being told to “behave or you will be destroyed. ” This has made men cautious and now men find that they are too careful, too private, not open and not willing to explore. They cannot expect to go on like this, to go trough a lifetime of silence and repressing their feelings because they are male (p.
234). It is therefore important for feminism to start studying the effects gender socialization have on men as well, and to start thinking of solutions that will help create a society where ALL men and women are equal to one another. Lastly I would like to take a completely different view upon feminism.A short while ago I was reading a Dutch article in “Het Parool”, a Dutch newspaper, in which Marike Stellinga was talking about feminism in the corporate culture. This article really got me thinking. Do women even want to be on top? In Holland most women choose for a part-time job and only 20% of the women want a job at the top.
Stellinga says that on the way to the top, people get eliminated, “that is a definition of the top. ” When a women fails, she can fall back on the point that she was discriminated because she is a women. When a man fails all he can blame is himself.By demanding that more women should work at the top, women are actually discriminating against man. First let them prove that all women really want a position at the top of the hierarchy. When one compares the amount of Dutch full-time women working at the top, to the amount of full-time man at the top, the former group is a bigger one.
People just do not want to see that the largest part of women do not choose for a high position, according to a survey with working women, they are happy with what they are doing right now. Dutch women do what they want, then, the answer from feminists is that they do not notice that they are being oppressed.These feminists do not even see the women as able to know whether they are happy or not. Many feminists try to push women into a mold in which 80% of the women do not fit. In summary, is the fight for equality and change within the society really necessary? It most definitely is. As long as the society does not change there will remain inequality between the genders, races and classes.
Like Kimmel (1994) said, peace of mind and relief from gender struggle will only be achieved in a climate of political inclusion, not exclusion (p. 154).How this must be achieved is a topic for further study, as well as the differences between the sexes and how they view feminism. It is important that this becomes a fight within which the entire society is involved. What can we do to take away the fear of men to loose power? What I do know is that there is not one stream of feminism better than the other.Liberal feminism often does not go into the subject deep enough, for one thing to change the whole society must change, “No matter how many levels of consciousness one reaches, the problem always goes deeper” (Firestone, 1970, p.
53). This would mean taking a more radical approach, but sometimes radical feminism is just too radical. Not everything needs to be changed from within society. Thinking that opening a door for women makes them weak just blows my mind. I believe that a balance between these two types of feminism needs to be found in order to find a solution to the problems that exist in the world because of patriarchy, gender, masculinity and racism.Furthermore, the fact that many women are happy with how things are right now need to be taken into account as well.
We need to fight for equality, but at the same time, keep in mind the freedom and rights of individuals as well. We cannot push all women into one mold, we need to value the differences between the sexes and use both to create a society in which no one is discriminated. Finally, I would like to end my article with a quote: “Never let the hand you hold, hold you down” (Feminism quotes, n. d. ).