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Feminism: Liberal, Black, Radical, and Lesbian Essay

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Updated: Aug 1st, 2021

Feminism is a term that refers to a range of ideologies and movements aimed at reducing inequalities between the sexes in different aspects of life. In the past, the feminist movement’s victories often led to the recognition of new characteristics impacting women’s life. This essay compares and contrasts four forms of the movement, such as liberal feminism, black feminism, radical feminism, and lesbian feminism.

Liberal feminism utilized the achievements of the civil rights movement to improve the position of all-female citizens. That form of feminism was aimed at making women more protected legally and solving the problems of inequality by adopting laws that would ban any discrimination in education, at work, and in political life.1 Concerning the proposed methods to eliminate the problem, liberal feminists of the twentieth century were close to labor movement activists.2 In the 1960s and the 1970s, liberal feminism focused on working women’s issues and the impact of experiences that females of any race could have.3 It included the consequences of pregnancy and the need to keep the work-life balance.

The extent of discrimination remained dependent on race in many aspects of life. For instance, race differences existed in women’s access to abortions.4 Minority women often felt that their problems were not discussed in an adequate manner, and their growing discontent led to the emergence of black feminism even though women of color actively participated in liberal activism.5 Unlike the representatives of other movements, black feminists relied on the combination of being a woman and belonging to racial minorities as the key predictor of facing discrimination.6 The issue of race was critical in this form of feminism, and black activists could refuse to collaborate with white groups that did not stress that problem.7 Black feminism was close to other forms in its willingness to provide women with the freedom to make reproductive decisions and access birth control options.8 However, attempts to find connections between race- and sex-based discrimination and make women’s goals culture-specific acted as the critical difference between it and other forms of feminism.

Radical feminism was aimed at analyzing women’s social position at the systems level and understanding the universal cause of discrimination. Just like other ideologies stressing women’s rights, it emphasized the need for liberation and recognized sex-specific problems. However, among its unique characteristics was theorists’ willingness to apply systems thinking to the relationships between men and women. Radical feminists of the twentieth century criticized heterosexuality and the very idea of the traditional family as the sources of oppression.9 The unique traits also included activists’ opinions on the way to liberate women – unlike the representatives of non-radical movements, they believed that protecting women by the law would not be enough to change their unfavorable position.10 Instead, they saw true liberation in destroying the system and eliminating practices that taught women to get used to their subservient role in society and accept it.

Lesbian feminism expanded radical feminists’ ideas about heterosexual relationships and stressed the role of lesbianism in women’s liberation. It was drastically different from the liberal and racial minority movements, but it shared multiple similarities with radical feminism due to being based on the rejection of the traditional family.11 Just like radical feminists, lesbian activists insisted on the need to make women devote all their energy to helping their sisters instead of engaging in relationships with men.12 However, the movement was unique since it offered a new understanding of lesbianism (sexual orientation as a philosophical choice) and transformed same-sex relationships between women into a political statement.

Finally, the forms of feminism were aimed at expressing smaller groups’ perspectives on women’s liberation. The major differences between the four movements included the use of cultural traits in analysis, opinions on the need for heterosexual relationships, and the best strategy to stop discrimination against women. At the same time, the similarities included the recognition of sex-specific problems and discontent with women’s position in society.

Bibliography

Buhle, Mari Jo, Teresa Murphy, and Jane Gerhard. A Concise Women’s History. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2015.

Footnotes

  1. Mari Jo Buhle, Teresa Murphy, and Jane Gerhard, A Concise Women’s History (Boston, MA: Pearson, 2015): 502.
  2. Buhle et al., A Concise Women’s, 554.
  3. Buhle et al., 503.
  4. Ibid., 489.
  5. Ibid., 506.
  6. Ibid., 528.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., 529.
  9. Ibid., 531.
  10. Ibid., 531.
  11. Ibid., 532.
  12. Ibid.
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IvyPanda. "Feminism: Liberal, Black, Radical, and Lesbian." August 1, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/feminism-liberal-black-radical-and-lesbian/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Feminism: Liberal, Black, Radical, and Lesbian." August 1, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/feminism-liberal-black-radical-and-lesbian/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Feminism: Liberal, Black, Radical, and Lesbian'. 1 August.

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