Feminism is best described as a structured movement that endorses the idea of equality for women and minorities in the economic, social and political arenas. No one would question that women have historically been subjugated to second-class citizen status and oppressive tactics simply due to their gender in the dominant patriarchal society.
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Feminists believe this subjugation continues today even after the gains made by the feminist movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The outcome of eradicating the concept of a patriarchy can only result in the liberation of women, gays, minorities and men as well. Women, minorities and gays are oppressed and do not enjoy equal opportunities in a patriarchal society as evidenced throughout history. Liberal feminism is the type most identified with the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. The focal point of their viewpoint is that all people, including men, are entitled to equal rights and considerations. Liberal feminists believe the oppression of women begins the way both genders are socialized.
Aggressiveness by boys are encouraged by society but girls are generally taught to be ‘ladylike’ which promotes the patriarchal system allowing men to retain their power and control over women. Liberal feminists have been instrumental in producing and supporting laws which eradicate social barriers women have historically endured. These laws have sought equal rights and opportunities for women in the workplace, educational system and through social and health programs. By legislating equality for all, the traditional patriarchal ideologies are challenged and broken down while liberating women at the same time. Liberal feminists have been criticized for concentrating only on the legal aspects in the struggle against the patriarchal system but not the social aspects of the inequality problem. In addition, liberal feminists generally discount class and racial concerns. The goal of realizing equal rights and opportunities are shared by both radical and liberal feminists; however, the methods are dissimilar. Radical feminists advocate social changes while liberal feminists look more to individual rights.
Liberal feminists believe it wrong to enact ‘morality laws’ designed to restrict the free will of women, which only serves to further oppress women. Liberal feminism believes women should be free agents, allowed to choose any vocation they wish. Women have historically been restricted in their choice of profession such as in areas of education, politics and business [often referred to as the ‘glass ceiling’] and their right to choose should not be limited by legislation or condemnation by those who are unwilling to modify their point of view. Liberal feminists do not consider prostitutes to be victims and realize the reasons to choose the sex profession as a multi-layered, complex and individualized decision. Liberal feminists submit that decriminalizing prostitution would permit women the chance to pursue their career choice without being punished, choice should be a fundamental right for all. Liberal feminists argue that legalization would make the profession safer and would allow for them to collect governmental benefits such as social welfare and could unionize instead of fearing punitive actions based solely on moral grounds.
Knuttila, Murray “Introducing Sociology: A Critical Perspective” The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology.