Differences in conceiving gender have affected most areas of human interactions and theoretical knowledge, and political theory is not an exception. In this sphere, the strive for gender equality is referred to as feminism. However, regardless of studying the perception of women and their role in society, there is no unified approach in feminist political theory that leads to the existence of the so-called feminist challenge. That said, there are two common feminist philosophies – liberal and difference feminism. Still, even though everyone’s opinions should be respected, the belief is that the two approaches can coexist in the modern-day society. However, they cannot be applied to governing similar areas of social interaction.
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To begin with, it is essential to point to the differences between the two feminist philosophies. The followers of liberal feminism believe in the overall equality between men and women. They state that due to the existing equality between the two sexes, there is the need for establishing a universalistic approach to governing social affairs – one that will help eliminate any kind of gender inequality. More than that, according to this theory, equal opportunity for all people regardless of their gender should become another foundation for developing society. On the other hand, different feminists deny the universalistic approach and point to moral and psychological differences between men and women. For this reason, managing social relations under the postulates of the universalistic approach mentioned above is unjust.
Based on the differences between the two approaches, it is evident that they can coexist in the modern world. Even though there are numerous points of criticism against the relevance of the two philosophies, the belief is that they can be helpful for coordinating varying areas of human interactions. For instance, difference feminism is a valuable theory because it points to the existence of significant moral and psychological differences between men and women. That is why this approach is helpful for understanding the specificities of particular political (voting and political ambitions) and social behaviors (violence or failing to follow generally accepted social norms). In this way, it can be applied to developing efficient policies that will address the specific needs of both men and women and help create a better society. However, it is true only for preventing undesirable developments in society, not regulating the existing or establishing new social norms.
More than that, the postulates of difference feminism foster inequality in society. Even though the overall objective is to increase the access of women to varying political and social institutions, the followers of this philosophy request changing these institutions and rules of their operation in order to meet the needs of women. Because of this requirement, the society can become even more male-ruled due to the natural unwillingness to embrace change and the potential creation of artificial barriers to the complete integration of women in social and political affairs. At the same time, the gap between men and women may increase.
On the other hand, liberal feminism is a more universal approach when it comes to governing social affairs. The foundation of this belief is that it promotes equality. To prove its relevance, think of any instance of social injustice – unequal pay, limited access to education, or discrimination in reviewing court cases based on a criminal’s gender. If the society operated under the postulates of difference feminism, the existence of this inequality would be just because it is directly connected to the differences between sexes. Nevertheless, according to the fundamental legal provisions governing social affairs, as well as the followers of liberal feminism, everyone is equal. This approach is more just and fair from the practical perspective because it does not recognize the difference between the two sexes and, as a result, does not limit one’s aspirations – political, educational, or economic-based on their gender. Instead, the very belief that everyone should be treated equally and guaranteed equal reward for equal talents or equal punishment for equal offenses is the basis for creating a just society.
That said, when there is the need to determine what is more critical – differences or similarities between men and women – the belief is that both are, but their dominance differs based on the perspective taken for addressing the problem. In this way, developing policies for minimizing risks of undesirable social developments should be made based on the differences between the two sexes (difference feminism) because they are helpful for determining one’s motivations for making a particular decision. Still, when it comes to governing society, the major stress should be laid on similarities (liberal feminism), as recognizing the equality of men and women in their desire to achieve personal objectives or live up their potential and granting them equal opportunities for doing it is the foundation of the modern approach to life in the social group. All in all, difference feminism is applicable to developing the area of theoretical knowledge and can become the basis of vital practical decisions, while liberal feminism is the only just foundation of practical policies and changes.