There is no such thing as ‘feminism’; on the

There is no such thing as ‘feminism ‘ ; on the contrary, there are merely ‘feminisms ‘ .


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In this essay, I shall analyze the assorted strands of ‘feminist theory’ which have been promoted and developed throughout the 20th century, and beyond. I shall try to place a common yarn between these theories which might be described as ‘feminism’ , a yarn which, if can non be found, suggests strongly that, prima facie, the statement above is right in its averment that “there is no such thing as ‘feminism ‘ ; on the contrary, … merely ‘feminisms’.”

It should be noted that this paper does non purport to supply a critical analysis of either feminism in general, or its many-sided constitutional strands ; instead this paper shall supply descriptive analysis refering to their cardinal characteristics and, as stated above, will try to place those characteristics common to each separate strand of feminist theory.

It is of import to observe at the beginning that non every common characteristic should be considered sufficiently capable of fulfilling the general definition of ‘feminism’ ; after all, each strand of feminism will doubtless concentrate on the function of adult females in society, for illustration, but few would postulate that every theory which discussed this societal concept should be classed as feminism! Rather, we must seek for a definition of feminism which is wide plenty to include many [ 1 ] of the current strands of such theory, but narrow plenty to retain a grade of utile specificity. As stated above, if no equal definition can be found, so we must profess, in understanding with the above statement, that there is no such thing as feminism, but instead feminisms.

The cardinal jobs with this attack:

In many respects, there is a cardinal defect in the attack of this paper: we are trying to reap a utile and across-the-board definition of ‘feminism’ through scrutiny of merely those theories which have been self-labelled as such. The procedure is hence slightly round in its attack ; it is like trying to build a new definition of penalty, by looking at all the different available ‘theories of punishment’ in the market, and placing their common-features: how could we be certain that we have non failed to analyze theories which do non label themselves as ‘theories of punishment’ but which should however have within any equal definition of the construct?

One might counter-argue that the definition of feminism is non a inactive one and therefore the most accurate definition of the construct is dictated non by cardinal characteristics of theory, but instead by common-usage of the word. For an independent illustration, there is no uncertainty that ‘democracy’ has a significance which is grounded in theory, viz. that authorities should be elected by the people [ ‘demos’ in Greek ] , but the modern use of the word is simply descriptive ; there are many different signifiers of democracy which have arisen, particularly in visible radiation of globalization and the origin of supra-national manners of authorities, such as the EC, and these new signifiers of democracy should non be valued based upon their coherency with the theoretical construct behind the word, but instead by mention to the significance of the word which has been normally adopted within each specific context.

The replies to these unfavorable judgments are non straight-forward. Sing the descriptive nature of ‘feminism’ as a word: this suggests that the attack offered by this paper is a valid one- the definition of feminism should be gleaned through analysis of all of the strands of theory which have been so described. Such an attack does non keep great promise of intending nevertheless ; this attack suggests that a definition of ‘feminism’ should integrate each and every theory which has labelled itself as such, a definition which will make little more than make a loose and general trial for whether a theory is ‘feminism’ or non, and a definition which must be changed each clip a new ‘feminist theory’ is introduced which does non suit forthrightly within our pre-formed construct.

Sing the disk shape of the attack: there is no uncertainty that any definition of ‘feminism’ which is gleaned through scrutiny of self-labelled ‘feminist theories’ will be limited ; whether or non such a restriction makes the very definition shut-in is a much deeper philosophical inquiry. Possibly such a restriction renders the really task meaningless, but on the other manus, possibly such a restriction reflects the really impossibleness of nonsubjective definition in general?

The writer of this paper is left hence with a riddle ; either he declares the really undertaking at manus to be nonmeaningful, and immediately takes the easy option, viz. to declare that there is no such thing as ‘feminism’ merely ‘feminisms’ , a decision which would be valid, at least to the extent that he has defined its context, or, he continues with the proposed methodological analysis, despite the cardinal defects in its design, and efforts to somehow extenuate these inevitable defects to make a limited, but potentially utile decision in response to the inquiry at manus.

This writer has chosen to be brave and prosecute the latter option. The writer hopes that, by pulling on as many ‘feminist theories’ as possible [ 2 ] , i.e. any theory which has described itself as feminism, and besides through scrutiny of the historical beginnings of the word, it will be someway possible to distinguish between those theories which should be classed as feminism and those which, with the extreme regard to their promulgators, should non.

The assorted strands of ‘feminist theory’ :

This paper shall analyze 13 different strands of self-labelled women’s rightist theory ; viz. Extremist Feminism, Radical-Libertarian Feminism, Radical-Cultural Feminism, Liberal Feminism, Socialist Feminism, Marxist Feminism, Cultural Feminism, Eco-feminism, Psychoanalytical Feminism, Materialist Feminism, Gallic Feminism, Chicana Feminism and Academic ‘Feminism’ . Whilst this list is surely non-exhaustive, the writer feels that, in visible radiation of the limited resources available for this research, it represents a sufficiently wide cross-section, a cross-section which includes all of the most well-known theories every bit good as a choice of the more obscure/ less well-known 1s.

Extremist Feminism:

Extremist feminism argues that we live in a patriarchate, a system in which adult females are dominated by the superior power of work forces ( Millett, 1969 ) . By and large, this strand of feminism argues that there is no proved biological footing for the thought that adult females should be considered sub-ordinate to their male counter-parts, and as such that it is simply a societal concept which should be non simply abolished, but reversed ; extremist feminism frequently [ 3 ] advocates the origin and development of a matriarchate ( Delphy, 1970 ) .

Extremist feminism by and large argues that the relationship between patriarchate and capitalist economy is non inextricable, patriarchy being the more cardinal societal concept, although capitalist economy can frequently be seen to back up the patriarchate. Many extremist women’s rightists hence portion Marxist positions on the demand to reform the construction of Western society ( MacKinnon, 1989 ) , if on small else ( Echols, 1989 ) .

Sing sex and harlotry: extremist feminism argues that work forces by and large have a self-perception of sexual laterality ; work forces have a greater sexual appetency, and it is the woman’s function to carry through these demands. As Weisberg ( 1995 ) writes, “According to the extremist women’s rightist position, work forces are socialized to hold sexual desires and to experience entitled to hold those desires met, whereas adult females are socialized to run into those desires and to internalise recognized definitions of muliebrity and sexual objectification.” Pornography and harlotry serve to consolidate, or even beef up these socialisations, and are therefore outlawed as immoral by the extremist women’s rightist ; as Weisberg ( 1995 ) argues, “Prostitution is non a harmless private dealing but a powerful agencies of making, reinforcing, and perpetuating the objectification of adult females through sexuality.” Militant groups ignore consent in both of these contexts ; consent can non be given by a adult female who has been successfully oppressed by patriarchy- she may experience that she is moving of her ain free will, but free will is non possible under such a system, unless that consent is expressed, i.e. if the adult female initiates the sexual brush. As Morgan ( 1989 ) writes, “ I claim that colza exists any clip sexual intercourse occurs when it has non been initiated by the adult female, out of her ain echt fondness and desire. ”

Radical-Libertarian Feminism:

Radical-libertarian feminism empowers adult females to take charge of their gender, promoting them to hold sexual intercourse every bit frequently as they like and in ways which do non needfully conform to the sexual norms refering to the function of adult females by and large. This strand of feminism suggests that sexual intercourse should be enjoyed for diversion, and non reproduction: adult females should non blow their valuable clip [ 4 ] on generative reproduction ( Mandel, 2003 ) . This trade name of feminism therefore encourages the usage of contraceptive method, birth control, and even, should it turn out necessary, abortion/termination ( Firestone, 1970 ) .

Radical-Cultural Feminism:

Radical-cultural feminism empowers adult females to encompass their muliebrity and their values traditionally associated with their function in society. This strand of feminist theory argues that the ultimate power of adult females resides in their ability to reproduce, and that adult females should therefore reproduce of course, where possible, instead than prosecuting in unreal reproductive techniques, such as IVF, which are still engineerings dominated by work forces [ 5 ] .

Some radical-cultural women’s rightists argue that it is man’s green-eyed monster of women’s ability to give birth which has given rise to the oppressive patriarchate under which we all live ( Stanworth, 1989 )

Broad Feminism:

Broad feminism has developed in the tradition of writers such as John Stewart Mill, who argued that the province should non step in in the private lives of persons. In this vain, broad feminism does non portion the positions of extremist feminism sing harlotry ; cocottes enter their private concern contracts with free will and self-government ( Pateman, 1995 ) .

Besides in the vena of Mill, broad feminism seeks to right the instability and inequality of adult females by recommending a rights-based system under which both genders are entitled to equal entree to these rights and freedoms. This subdivision of broad feminism is known as the classical signifier ( Tong, 1998 ) .

Some broad women’s rightists do non believe that equal entree to rights and freedoms is adequate to right the instability. Rather, they suggest that the province must besides right the economic instability which exists between the genders, by concentration on the proviso of public assistance to adult females. This subdivision of broad feminism is known as public assistance broad feminism ( Tong, 1998 ) .

Socialistic Feminism:

Socialistic feminism identifies the category system as the primary beginning of female subjugation. In contrast to Marxism nevertheless, socialist feminism focuses on the psychological and societal roots of this category system instead than strictly economic concerns ( Tong, 1989 ) .

Socialistic feminism respects harlotry as development of a certain category of adult females, but does non propose that the jurisprudence should forbid such activity. Rather, socialist feminism argues that harlotry should be eliminated through a procedure of social restructuring ; category differentiations should be broken down both socially, and psychologically, to guarantee that freedom of pick can run beyond the limited boundaries of a pre-conceived category chance. In this manner, the socialist school of feminism is really similar to the Marxist school which we shall now discourse:

Marxist Feminism:

Marxist feminism is based preponderantly upon the theses of Karl Marx, in peculiar the thought that, in a capitalist society, category divisions are a natural effect of labour division, and certain political and societal actions serve to perpetuate these class-distinctions ensuing in the oppressive captivity of one category group and the economic release of the other. Marxist women’s rightists identify the gender instability which operates at the same time within this labour division, and point to the same sorts of societal and political actions as being responsible for such patriarchate. Therefore, instead than trusting on the content of Marxist philosophy, Marxist feminism relies upon the same description of the mechanisms of economic growing ( Weil, 1994 ) .

Sing harlotry, Marxism suggests that free-will of laden persons is non possible ; such consenting grownups are merely accepting is so far as they wish to win within the confines of the pre-conceived class-gender boundaries which have been dictated by society. Prostitution hence serves to reenforce the capitalistic development of lower category adult females, and should be prohibited, non through legal intercession, but through societal restructuring and class-enlightenment.

Cultural Feminism:

Cultural feminism argues that adult females are biologically different to work forces, and that these physical and psychological differences should be recognised and respected.

Cultural women’s rightists such as Addams ( 1892 ) have identified those personality traits which modern society recognises as being required for universe peace, interstate co-operation and the peaceable declaration of international struggles. They argue that these same traits are those which happen to be possessed to a greater extent by adult females than work forces, such as kindness, caring and compassion. Cultural women’s rightists therefore argue that gender rebalance is necessary for modern society if it wishes to run into its purposes in these respects ( Ritzer, 2007 ) .


Ecological feminism purports to place a connexion between the socialisation which leads to the subjugation of adult females, and the socialisation which leads to the maltreatment of the environment. For illustration, the same human behavior which has lead to animate beings and land being perceived as mere economic resources has at the same time perpetuated the patriarchate which treats adult females as belongings which can be used to carry through the demands of adult male [ in its actual sense ] . For another illustration, Thomas-Slayter and Rcheleau ( 1995 ) reason how the capitalist-driven economic system of export in Kenya has lead to the depredation of the country’s agricultural land ; Fieldss are used for merely one type of hard currency harvest, necessitating the same types of pesticide and fertilisers and by and large consuming the quality of the agricultural land. The former prevalence of subsistence agriculture in Kenya has therefore decreased, and those who do remain hold been forced into the less productive parts, such as the hillsides and the woods. Womans in peculiar are hence forced to work in these less optimum conditions, and perpetuate their ain debasement by damaging the really natural resources which they need to keep a certain degree of productiveness over clip.

Eco-feminism argues that the function of adult females and nature demand to be reconceptualised by society ; they are non simply inactive, but extremely active- merely because resources are untapped does non intend that they are unproductive. As Shiva ( 1988 ) writes, a natural wood can supply fuel, stuffs and nutrient for local villagers every bit good as protecting groundwater and supplying a home ground for many animate beings and workss ; these resources exist without needfully lending to economic productiveness in its commercial sense.

Psychoanalytical Feminism:

This strand of feminist theory bases its philosophy upon the work of Sigmund Freud and his thesis on the psycho-sexual development of kids. Psychoanalytical feminism argues that the differences in the psycho-sexual development of males and female, instead than being attributable to existent biological differences, is instead caused and perpetuated by societal perceptual experiences which force those babies with male sex variety meats into a masculine stereotype, and those babies with female sex variety meats into the female stereotype.

One proposed solution to this ‘problem’ of social-stereotyping was to forbid the co-education of male childs and misss in the same academic establishment ; such an environment is bound to consolidate and implement bing stereotypes to a greater grade.

One of the most influential authors in this country is Nancy Chodorow ( 1978, 1989, 1994, 1999 ) . Chodorow bases much of her statement upon the earlier plants of Melanie Klein: “Object relation theoreticians, emerging from and responding to the work of Melanie Klein, image a class of minutess between ego and others that help organize our first subjectiveness and sense of ego, and that throughout life are renegotiated to animate the sense of ego and others in term of connexion, separation and in between. These minutess give deepness and profusion of intending to see, by vibrating with the past and with buildings of the past.”

Materialist Feminism:

There are many feminist writers who use the descriptions of materialist and Marxist feminism interchangeably. There is some indicant nevertheless that these two strands of feminist theory are non one and the same ( Vogel, 1995 ) .

Similarly, there is much confusion on the differentiation between socialist and materialist feminism ( Moi and Radway, 1994 ) , and once more indicant that there is a difference between these two strands of feminist theory.

In visible radiation of the descriptions of both socialist and Marxist feminism, as provided above, materialist feminism is best understood as “ a feminism that insists on analyzing the stuff conditions under which societal agreements, including those of gender hierarchy, develop… materialist feminism avoids seeing this gender hierarchy as the consequence of a singular… .patriarchy and alternatively gauges the web of societal and psychic dealingss that make up a stuff, historical moment…material conditions of all kinds play a critical function in the societal production of gender and assays the different ways in which adult females collaborate and take part in these productions…There are countries of stuff involvement in the fact that adult females can bear kids, for example.” Wicke, 1994: 758-759 ) .

Feminisms inFranceand Gallic Feminism:

Feminism in France has its ain alone history. There are several strands of Gallic feminism, each of which originate from what has been later known as the 2nd moving ridge of feminism, a motion which can be traced back to the early 1970’s if non earlier. As with Anglo-American feminism, there are both the rational strands [ preponderantly rooting from the work of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan ] and the pragmatic-activist strands. It is the former of these classs which has become known as ‘French Feminism’ , although this is by no means the most influential women’s rightist authorship in the Country ; in fact, Delphy ( 1995 ) even inquiries whether Gallic Feminism is truly even feminism at all!

Sing the matter-of-fact and activist strands of feminism in France, there is La tendance Lutte de Classes, the equivalent of Marxist feminism and ; Les Feministes revolutionists, a assorted group of women’s rightist, sometimes known as the unaligned women’s rightists, each of whom argue that instead than capitalist economy, it is societal relationships which have caused all adult females to be perceived as busying a sub-ordinate category within the patriarchate.

One definition of feminism, in the context of France, has been offered [ and widely accepted ] by Remi ( 1990 ) : “Nous considerons comme feministe toute word, tout ecrit, tout mouvement relatif a la status diethylstilbestrols femmes dans la societe , s’il denonce cette status comme le resonance de domination d’un sexe ( masculin ) Sur l’autre ( feminine ) [ 6 ] ”

It will be interesting to see, in the latter subdivision of this essay, whether this definition provides a utile footing for categorizing all the signifiers of feminism which we have discussed throughout this paper so far.

Chicana Feminism:

Chicana feminism, besides known asXicanisma, is a aggregation of feminist theories refering to the function of Mexican and Spanish adult females in the United States of America. As with the feminism of France, there any many component strands, and it is beyond the resources available for this paper to discourse each strand at length ; what should be noted nevertheless is that much of the authorship in this specific field extends beyond mere gender subjugation into the subjugation which can besides be seen of those with hapless lingual accomplishments, those who are homosexual and besides of ethnicity in general. As Arredondo ( 2003 ) writes, “Chicana Feminisms represent a political stance that confronts and undermines patriarchate as it cross-cuts signifiers of disempowerment and silence such as racism, homophobia, category inequality, and patriotism. ” This same point is reiterated by Roth ( 2004 ) who writes, “ Chicana women’s rightists analyze their state of affairs every bit adult females as the consequence non merely of gender but of racial/ethnic, national, lingual, and category kineticss. ”

In this manner, we might reason that Chicana feminism is slightly broader than the Anglo-American feminisms which we have discussed in this essay so far. We should bear this in head when trying to specify ‘feminism’ in the following subdivision of this essay ; it may be that to include Chicana feminism into our definition will be to broaden our definition to an extent which will non accurately capture the precise significance of ‘feminism’ , if so there is one.

Academic ‘Feminism’ :

Academic feminism is a unusual strain of ‘feminist’ theory ; academic feminism is a post-modernist deconstruction of the other strands of feminism which were prevalent in the latter portion of the 20th century ( Laslet and Brenner, 2000 ) . Basically a review, academic feminism returns along the same lines of concluding adopted by other strands of feminism, but so seeks to deconstruct these theories from the interior out. As Laslett and Brenner ( 2000 ) write, academic feminism is strictly misanthropic, a trait which is non helpful to the post-modern women’s rightist cause. These writers suggest that this century should convey with it post-modern feminism which is matter-of-fact and can be the topic of activism ; merely in this manner will the boundaries of feminism be developed, and the cause furthered.

It is beyond the range of this essay to supply a personal sentiment on academic feminism, but the undermentioned points should be raised ; foremost, cynicism in rational authorship is non inherently a bad thing, and surely does non render such composing philistine ; secondly, merely because the bulk of academic women’s rightists are marginalised and conservative does non render their parts worthless or invalid, as some observers have suggested ; thirdly, deconstruction is a signifier of development: by deconstructing bing theory one can place which facets of that theory should be developed, and which should perchance be relinquished ; therefore academic feminism does assist to function the women’s rightist cause if merely to the extent that it might steer the feminist author on the best manner to use his or her resources to maximal consequence.

Decision: Identifying the common characteristics between the different strands of feminist theory.

From our near-comprehensive scrutiny of the assorted strands of popular feminism which have developed throughout the 20th century and beyond, what is instantly clear is the diverseness of statement within this wide subject.

Whilst a wide definition of ‘feminism’ , of the sort provided by Gallic women’s rightist Remi ( 1990 ) ,supra, might be possible, at least to the extent that all feminisms are concerned, literally, with the sub-ordinance of adult females in the current patriarchate which exists in society, we must truly inquire how utile such a definition truly is to the subject in general.

This research worker has personally experienced the confusion which can originate when speaking about ‘feminism’ with other ‘feminist’ minds: one heated conversation with a fellow pupil resulted in a decision that we were both speaking about wholly different facets of patriarchate and society. The fact is that whilst there are surely many feminisms, it is harder to warrant the contention, at least on any practical degree, that there is such a thing as ‘feminism’ in general.

This writer argues nevertheless that this trouble does non intend that ‘feminism’ does non really exist ; to return to the analogy of ‘punishment’ , there may good be many different theories, many of which are unreconcilable ( Faulkner, 2007 ) , but this does non intend that we are non working towards the ideal of there being one incorporate construct of penalty in general.

All feminism are concerned with righting the sub-ordinance of adult females in the most effectual manner, and are working towards reforms [ whether that be through matter-of-fact activism, or even, as I have argued, through rational deconstruction, i.e. academic feminism ] which can some how damages this instability which is so by and large perceived. In this manner, this writer argues that one should non lose sight of the fact that ‘feminism’ does stand for an ideal of kinds ; the ideal that one twenty-four hours no feminisms will be at all! The statement at the top of this paper is therefore right in asseverating that there is non such thing as ‘feminism’ , in a practical sense, merely ‘feminisms’ , but is wrong if that statement suggests that we should therefore disregard any talk of ‘feminism’ in its remarkable province: ‘feminism’ as an ideal does be, and should go on to make so until there is no such thing as ‘feminisms’ , at which point the ideal of feminism will no longer be ideal.

The writer wonders whether pupils of the hereafter will of all time be asked this same inquiry in the context of ‘masculinism’ and its constitutional strands of ‘masculinisms’ ?

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