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Feminist movements and ideologies

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Title: Feminist movements and ideologies  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Index of feminism articles, Feminist art movement in the United States, History of feminism, Feminist art movement, War on Women
Collection: Feminist Movements and Ideologies, Women's Rights
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Feminist movements and ideologies

Several movements of feminist ideology have developed over the years. They vary in goals, strategies, and affiliations. They often overlap, and some feminists identify themselves with several branches of feminist thought.


  • Movements and ideologies 1
    • Liberal 1.1
    • Anarchist 1.2
    • Socialist and Marxist 1.3
    • Radical 1.4
    • Cultural 1.5
    • Separatist and lesbian 1.6
    • Black and womanist 1.7
    • Chicana 1.8
    • Asian American 1.9
    • Native American 1.10
    • Multiracial 1.11
    • Postcolonial 1.12
    • Third-world 1.13
    • Standpoint 1.14
    • Libertarian 1.15
    • Post-structural 1.16
    • Postmodern 1.17
    • French 1.18
    • Environmental 1.19
    • Transfeminism 1.20
  • Shared perspectives 2
  • Criticism 3
  • References 4

Movements and ideologies


Liberal feminism asserts the equality of men and women through political and legal reform. It is an individualistic form of feminism, which focuses on women's ability to show and maintain their equality through their own actions and choices. Liberal feminism uses the personal interactions between men and women as the place from which to transform society. According to liberal feminists, all women are capable of asserting their ability to achieve equality, therefore it is possible for change to happen without altering the structure of society. Issues important to liberal feminists include reproductive and abortion rights, sexual harassment, voting, education, "equal pay for equal work", affordable childcare, affordable health care, and bringing to light the frequency of sexual and domestic violence against women.[1]


Emma Goldman, pioneer anarcha-feminist author and activist.

Anarcha-feminism (also called anarchist feminism and anarcho-feminism) combines anarchism with feminism. It generally views patriarchy as a manifestation of involuntary hierarchy. Anarcha-feminists believe that the struggle against patriarchy is an essential part of class struggle and of the anarchist struggle against the state.[2] In essence, the philosophy sees anarchist struggle as a necessary component of feminist struggle and vice-versa. As L. Susan Brown puts it, "as anarchism is a political philosophy that opposes all relationships of power, it is inherently feminist".[3][4]

Important historic anarcha-feminists include Emma Goldman, Federica Montseny, Voltairine de Cleyre, Maria Lacerda de Moura, and Lucy Parsons. In the Spanish Civil War, an anarcha-feminist group, Mujeres Libres ("Free Women"), linked to the Federación Anarquista Ibérica, organized to defend both anarchist and feminist ideas.

Contemporary anarcha-feminist writers/theorists include Germaine Greer, L. Susan Brown, and the eco-feminist Starhawk. Contemporary anarcha-feminist groups include Bolivia's Mujeres Creando, Radical Cheerleaders, the Spanish anarcha-feminist squat La Eskalera Karakola, and the annual La Rivolta! conference in Boston.

Socialist and Marxist

Socialist feminism connects the oppression of women to Marxist ideas about exploitation, oppression and labor. Socialist feminists think unequal standing in both the workplace and the domestic sphere holds women down.[5] Socialist feminists see prostitution, domestic work, childcare, and marriage as ways in which women are exploited by a patriarchal system that devalues women and the substantial work they do. Socialist feminists focus their energies on far-reaching change that affects society as a whole, rather than on an individual basis. They see the need to work alongside not just men but all other groups, as they see the oppression of women as a part of a larger pattern that affects everyone involved in the capitalist system.[6]

Marx felt that when class oppression was overcome gender oppression would vanish as well;[7] this is Marxist feminism. Some socialist feminists, many of Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party, point to the classic Marxist writings of Frederick Engels[8] and August Bebel[9] as a powerful explanation of the link between gender oppression and class exploitation. To some other socialist feminists, this view of gender oppression is naive and much of the work of socialist feminists has gone towards separating gender phenomena from class phenomena. Some contributors to socialist feminism have criticized these traditional Marxist ideas for being largely silent on gender oppression except to subsume it underneath broader class oppression.[10]

In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, both Clara Zetkin and Eleanor Marx were against the demonization of men and supported a proletarian revolution that would overcome as many male–female inequalities as possible.[11] As their movement already had the most radical demands of women's equality, most Marxist leaders, including Clara Zetkin[12][13] and Alexandra Kollontai[14][15] counterposed Marxism against feminism, rather than trying to combine them.


Radical feminism considers the male-controlled capitalist hierarchy, which it describes as sexist, as the defining feature of women's oppression. Radical feminists believe that women can free themselves only when they have done away with what they consider an inherently oppressive and dominating patriarchal system. Radical feminists feel that there is a male-based authority and power structure and that it is responsible for oppression and inequality, and that, as long as the system and its values are in place, society will not be able to be reformed in any significant way. Some radical feminists see no alternatives other than the total uprooting and reconstruction of society in order to achieve their goals.[16]

Over time a number of sub-types of radical feminism have emerged, such as cultural feminism, separatist feminism, and anti-pornography feminism, the last opposed by sex-positive feminism.


Cultural feminism is the ideology of a "female nature" or "female essence" that attempts to revalidate what they consider undervalued female attributes.[17] It emphasizes the difference between women and men but considers that difference to be psychological, and to be culturally constructed rather than biologically innate.[18] Its critics assert that, because it is based on an essentialist view of the differences between women and men and advocates independence and institution building, it has led feminists to retreat from politics to "life-style".[19] One such critic, Alice Echols (a feminist historian and cultural theorist), credits Redstockings member Brooke Williams with introducing the term cultural feminism in 1975 to describe the depoliticisation of radical feminism.[19]

Separatist and lesbian

Separatist feminism is a form of radical feminism that does not support heterosexual relationships. Lesbian feminism is thus closely related. Separatist feminism's proponents argue that the sexual disparities between men and women are unresolvable. Separatist feminists generally do not feel that men can make positive contributions to the feminist movement and that even well-intentioned men replicate patriarchal dynamics.[20] Author Marilyn Frye describes separatist feminism as "separation of various sorts or modes from men and from institutions, relationships, roles and activities that are male-defined, male-dominated, and operating for the benefit of males and the maintenance of male privilege—this separation being initiated or maintained, at will, by women".[21]

Black and womanist

Angela Davis speaking at the University of Alberta on 28 March 2006

Combahee River Collective in 1974 which not only led the way for crucial antiracist activism in Boston through the decade, but also provided a blueprint for Black feminism that still stands a quarter of a century later. Combahee member Barbara Smith’s definition of feminism that still remains a model today states that, “feminism is the political theory and practice to free all women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, physically challenged women, lesbians, old women, as well as white economically privileged heterosexual women. Anything less than this is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement.”[23] The Combahee River Collective argued in 1974 that the liberation of black women entails freedom for all people, since it would require the end of racism, sexism, and class oppression.[24] One of the theories that evolved out of this movement was Alice Walker's womanism. It emerged after the early feminist movements that were led specifically by white women, were largely white middle-class movements, and had generally ignored oppression based on racism and classism. Alice Walker and other womanists pointed out that black women experienced a different and more intense kind of oppression from that of white women.[25]

Angela Davis was one of the first people who articulated an argument centered around the intersection of race, gender, and class in her book, Women, Race, and Class.[26] Kimberle Crenshaw, a prominent feminist law theorist, gave the idea the name Intersectionality while discussing identity politics in her essay, Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence Against Women of Color.



A major branch in postmodern feminist thought has emerged from contemporary psychoanalytic French feminism. Other postmodern feminist works highlight stereotypical gender roles, only to portray them as parodies of the original beliefs. The history of feminism is not important in these writings—only what is going to be done about it. The history is dismissed and used to depict how ridiculous past beliefs were. Modern feminist theory has been extensively criticized as being predominantly, though not exclusively, associated with Western middle class academia. Mary Joe Frug, a postmodernist feminist, criticized mainstream feminism as being too narrowly focused and inattentive to related issues of race and class.[68]


French feminism is a branch of feminist thought from a group of feminists in France from the 1970s to the 1990s. It is distinguished from Anglophone feminism by an approach which is more philosophical and literary. Its writings tend to be effusive and metaphorical, being less concerned with political doctrine and generally focused on theories of "the body."[69] The term includes writers who are not French, but who have worked substantially in France and the French tradition,[70] such as Julia Kristeva and Bracha Ettinger.

In the 1970s, French feminists approached feminism with the concept of Écriture féminine, which translates as 'feminine writing'.[71] Hélène Cixous argues that writing and philosophy are phallocentric and along with other French feminists such as Luce Irigaray emphasizes "writing from the body" as a subversive exercise.[71] The work of the feminist psychoanalyst and philosopher, Julia Kristeva, has influenced feminist theory in general and feminist literary criticism in particular. From the 1980s onwards, the work of artist and psychoanalyst Bracha Ettinger has influenced literary criticism, art history, and film theory.[72][73] However, as the scholar Elizabeth Wright pointed out, "none of these French feminists align themselves with the feminist movement as it appeared in the Anglophone world."[71][74]


Janet Biehl is one of the premier authors on social ecology

Ecofeminism links ecology with feminism. Ecofeminists see the domination of women as stemming from the same ideologies that bring about the domination of the environment. Western patriarchal systems, where men own and control the land, are seen as responsible for the oppression of women and destruction of the natural environment. Ecofeminists argue that the men in power control the land, and therefore are able to exploit it for their own profit and success. In this situation, Ecofeminists consider women to be exploited by men in power for their own profit, success, and pleasure. Thus Ecofeminists argue that women and the environment are both exploited as passive pawns in the race to domination. Ecofeminists argue that those people in power are able to take advantage of them distinctly because they are seen as passive and rather helpless.[75]

Ecofeminism connects the exploitation and domination of women with that of the environment. As a way of repairing social and ecological injustices, ecofeminists feel that women must work towards creating a healthy environment and ending the destruction of the lands that most women rely on to provide for their families.[75]

Ecofeminism argues that there is a connection between women and nature that comes from their shared history of oppression by a patriarchal Western society. Vandana Shiva claims that women have a special connection to the environment through their daily interactions with it that has been ignored. She says that "women in subsistence economies, producing and reproducing wealth in partnership with nature, have been experts in their own right of holistic and ecological knowledge of nature's processes. But these alternative modes of knowing, which are oriented to the social benefits and sustenance needs are not recognized by the capitalist reductionist paradigm, because it fails to perceive the interconnectedness of nature, or the connection of women's lives, work and knowledge with the creation of wealth."[76]

However, feminist and social ecologist Janet Biehl has criticized ecofeminism for focusing too much on a mystical connection between women and nature and not enough on the actual conditions of women.[77]


Transfeminism (or trans feminism) is, as defined by Robert Hill, "a category of feminism, most often known for the application of transgender discourses to feminist discourses, and of feminist beliefs to transgender discourse".[78] Hill says that transfeminism also concerns its integration within mainstream feminism.[79] He defines transfeminism in this context as a type of feminism "having specific content that applies to transgender and transsexualpeople, but the thinking and theory of which is also applicable to all women".

Transfeminism includes many of the major themes of other third-wave feminism, including diversity, body image, oppression, misogyny, and women's agency. It is not merely about merging trans concerns with feminism, but often applies feminist analysis and critiques to social issues facing trans women and trans people more broadly. Transfeminism also includes critical analysis of second-wave feminism from the perspective of the third wave.[80]

Early voices in the movement include Kate Bornstein and Sandy Stone, whose essay The Empire Strikes Back was a direct response to Janice Raymond.[81] In the 21st century, Susan Stryker[82][83] and Julia Serano[84] have contributed work in the field of transgender women.[was work about feminism?]

Shared perspectives

Movements share some perspectives while disagreeing on others. For example, some movements differ on whether discrimination against women adversely affects men. Movements represented by writers [87] Ellen Willis, weighing economics and feminism, considered an alliance with men necessary to women's liberation.[88] Florynce Kennedy wrote, "Men are outraged, turned off, and wigged out, by threats that women might withdraw consent to oppression, because they—men—subconsciously (and often consciously) know that they—men—are oppressed."[89] Mary Wollstonecraft wrote, "From the respect paid to property flow . . . most of the evils and vices which render this world such a dreary scene to the contemplative mind. . . . One class presses on another; for all are aiming to procure respect on account of their property . . . . [M]en wonder that the world is almost, literally speaking, a den of sharpers or oppressors."[90] "Those writers are particularly useful, in my opinion, who make man feel for man, independent of the station he fills, or the drapery of factitious sentiments."[91] "Men are not aware of the misery they cause, and the vicious weakness they cherish, by only inciting women to render themselves pleasing".[92] "To say the truth, I not only tremble for the souls of women, but for the good natured man, whom everyone loves."[93]

Other movements consider men primarily the causative agents of sexism. Mary Daly wrote, "The courage to be logical—the courage to name—would require that we admit to ourselves that males and males only are the originators, planners, controllers, and legitimators of patriarchy. Patriarchy is the homeland of males; it is Father Land; and men are its agents."[94] The Redstockings declared, "We identify the agents of our oppression as men. . . . [M]en dominate women, a few men dominate the rest. . . . All men receive economic, sexual, and psychological benefits from male supremacy. All men have oppressed women."[95] In a somewhat less clear-cut position, Kate Millett wrote in Sexual Politics, "The following sketch . . . . must . . . be both tentative and imperfect. . . . [O]ur society, like all other historical civilizations, is a patriarchy. . . . The fact is evident at once if one recalls that . . . every avenue of power within the society . . . is entirely in male hands. . . . If one takes patriarchal government to be the institution whereby that half of the populace which is female is controlled by that half which is male, the principles of patriarchy appear to be two fold: male shall dominate female, elder male shall dominate younger. However, just as with any human institution, . . . contradictions and exceptions do exist within the system."[96]


According to Linda Zerilli and Donna Haraway, "'taxonomies' of feminism ... can create artificial dichotomies between feminist discourses that seriously impede constructive political debates about subjectivity for women."[97]


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  97. ^ Zerilli, Linda M. G., The Trojan Horse of Universalism: Language As a 'War Machine' in the Writings of Monique Wittig, in Robbins, Bruce, ed., The Phantom Public Sphere (Minneapolis, Minn.: Univ. of Minn. Press, 1993 (ISBN 0-8166-2124-1)), p. 150 (n. 21 (citing Haraway, Donna, A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s, in Weed, Elizabeth, Coming to Terms (N.Y.: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1989), p. 181) omitted) (author asst. prof., poli. sci. dep't, Rutgers Univ.).

Donna Haraway, author of A Cyborg Manifesto, with her dog Cayenne.

Postmodern feminism is an approach to feminist theory that incorporates postmodern and post-structuralist theory. Judith Butler argues that sex, not just gender, is constructed through language.[52] In her 1990 book, Gender Trouble, she draws on and critiques the work of Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Lacan. Butler criticizes the distinction drawn by previous feminisms between biological sex and socially constructed gender. She says that the sex/gender distinction does not allow for a sufficient criticism of essentialism. For Butler, "woman" is a debatable category, complicated by class, ethnicity, sexuality, and other facets of identity. She states that gender is performative. This argument leads to the conclusion that there is no single cause for women's subordination and no single approach towards dealing with the issue.[52]

Judith Butler at a lecture at the University of Hamburg.


Post-structural feminism, also referred to as French feminism, uses the insights of various epistemological movements, including psychoanalysis, linguistics, political theory (Marxist and post-Marxist theory), race theory, literary theory, and other intellectual currents for feminist concerns.[65] Many post-structural feminists maintain that difference is one of the most powerful tools that women possess in their struggle with patriarchal domination, and that to equate the feminist movement only with equality is to deny women a plethora of options because equality is still defined from the masculine or patriarchal perspective.[65][66]


Individualist feminism is typically defined as a feminism in opposition to what writers such as Wendy McElroy and Christina Hoff Sommers term political or gender feminism.[58][59][60] However, there are some differences within the discussion of individualist feminism. While some individualist feminists like McElroy oppose government interference into the choices women make with their bodies because such interference creates a coercive hierarchy (such as patriarchy),[61][62] other feminists such as Christina Hoff Sommers hold that feminism's political role is simply to ensure that everyone's, including women's, right against coercive interference is respected.[55] Sommers is described as a "socially conservative equity feminist" by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.[55] Critics have called her an anti-feminist.[63][64]

There are several categories under the theory of libertarian feminism, or kinds of feminism that are linked to libertarian ideologies. Anarcha-feminism combines feminist and anarchist beliefs, embodying classical libertarianism rather than contemporary minarchist libertarianism. Recently, Wendy McElroy has defined a position, which she labels "ifeminism" or "individualist feminism", that combines feminism with anarcho-capitalism or contemporary minarchist libertarianism, and she argued that a pro-capitalist and anti-state position is compatible with an emphasis on equal rights and empowerment for women.[56] Individualist anarchist-feminism has grown from the United States-based individualist anarchism movement.[57]

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Classical liberal or libertarian feminism conceives of freedom as freedom from coercive interference. It holds that women, as well as men, have a right to such freedom due to their status as self-owners."[55]


Since the 1980s, standpoint feminists have argued that feminism should examine how women's experience of inequality relates to that of racism, homophobia, classism and colonization.[49][50] In the late 1980s and the 1990s, postmodern feminists argued that gender roles are socially constructed,[51][52][53] and that it is impossible to generalize women's experiences across cultures and histories.[54]


Third-world feminism has been described as a group of feminist theories developed by feminists who acquired their views and took part in feminist politics in so-called third-world countries.[42] Although women from the third world have been engaged in the feminist movement, Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Sarojini Sahoo criticize Western feminism on the grounds that it is ethnocentric and does not take into account the unique experiences of women from third-world countries or the existence of feminisms indigenous to third-world countries. According to Mohanty, women in the third world feel that Western feminism bases its understanding of women on "internal racism, classism and homophobia".[35] This discourse is strongly related to African feminism and postcolonial feminism. Its development is also associated with black feminism, womanism,[25][43][44] "Africana womanism",[45] "motherism",[46] "Stiwanism",[47] "negofeminism",[48] chicana feminism, and "femalism".


Postcolonial feminism is closely related to transnational feminism. The former has strong overlaps and ties with Black feminism because both respond to racism and seek recognition by men in their own cultures and by Western feminists.[33]

[41] Postcolonial feminists today struggle to fight gender oppression within their own cultural models of society rather than through those imposed by the Western colonizers.[40] That oppression may result in the glorification of pre-colonial culture, which, in cultures with traditions of power stratification along gender lines, could mean the acceptance of, or refusal to deal with, issues of gender inequality.[39] Colonialism has a gendered history. Colonial powers often imposed

Western feminists universalize women's issues, thereby excluding social classes and ethnic identities,[34] reinforcing homophobia,[35] and ignoring the activity and voices of non-White non-Western women,[35][36][37] as under one application of Orientalism. Some postcolonial feminists criticize radical and liberal feminism and some, such as Chandra Talpade Mohanty, are critical of Western feminism for being ethnocentric.[35] Black feminists, such as Angela Davis and Alice Walker, share this view.[25] Another critic of Western perspectives is Sarojini Sahoo. Postcolonial feminists can be described as feminists who have reacted against both universalizing tendencies in Western feminist thought and a lack of attention to gender issues in mainstream postcolonial thought.[38]

Postcolonial feminism, sometimes also known as Third World feminism, partly draws on postcolonialism, which discusses experiences endured during colonialism, including "migration, slavery, suppression, resistance, representation, difference, race, gender, place and responses to the influential discourses of imperial Europe."[32] Postcolonial feminism centers on racism, ethnic issues, and the long-lasting economic, political, and cultural effects of colonialism, inextricably bound up with the unique gendered realities of non-White non-Western women.[33] It sees the parallels between recently decolonized nations and the state of women within patriarchy—both postcolonialism and postcolonial feminism take the "perspective of a socially marginalized subgroup in their relationship to the dominant culture."[32]


Though often ignored in the history of the Second Wave of feminism, Multiracial Feminists were organizing at the same time as white feminists. During the Second Wave of feminism stretching from the late 1960s /early 1970s until the 1990s Multiracial Feminists not only worked alongside other women of color and white feminists, but also organized themselves outside of women only spaces. In the 1970s women of color worked mainly on three fronts, “working with white dominated feminist groups; forming women’s caucuses in existing mixed-gender organizations; and forming autonomous Black, Latina, Native American, and Asian feminist organizations”[23] The perspective of Multiracial Feminism attempts to go beyond a mere recognition of diversity and difference among women, to examine structures of domination, specifically the importance of race in understanding the social construction of gender.[31]

Multiracial feminism (also known as "women of color" feminism) offers a standpoint theory and analysis of the lives and experiences of women of color.[29] The theory emerged in the 1990s and was developed by Dr. Maxine Baca Zinn, a Chicana feminist, and Dr. Bonnie Thornton Dill, a sociology expert on African American women and family.[29][30]


Anishinabe activist.[23]

WARN as well as other Native American women's organizations, grew out of—and often worked with—mixed-gender nationalist organizations. [23] in South Dakota in 1973, on the Pine Ridge reservation (1973–76), and elsewhere.Wounded Knee WARN reflected a whole generation of Native American women activists who had been leaders in the takeover of [23]

Native American

[23] The first wave of Asian women's organizing formed out of the

Asian American


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