By Manal Dao-Sabah
By Manal Dao-Sabah
Morocco World News
Fez, January 25, 2013
Feminism is a theory and a movement which was born in the West and which seeks to question the situations and the conditions under which “women” live. It seeks also to liberate women from the stretching patriarchal hegemony by challenging the deeply rooted traditions that unjustly regulate and dictate gender roles. In this respect, the online dictionary Webster defines feminism as “a doctrine that advocates equal rights for women”. The online dictionary Merriam Webster defines it as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”
These definitions might be too broad, superficial, or incomprehensive. However, one should note that no definition of feminism is comprehensive or inclusive of all the aspects of feminism and feminist varieties. There are many varieties of feminism and each of them links a certain ideology to the pursuit of achieving women’s emancipation. The following are some of these varieties:
Classical feminism: it focuses on the personhood of women and on proving that women are morally equal to men. It seeks to distinguish between biological differences and social construction. A better understanding of classical feminism entails understanding both egalitarian feminism and conservative feminism that it embodies. The first one focused on the fact that women are independent agents and should not only be seen in relation to the role of wives and mothers. It seeks to liberate women through universal rights and social justice (Mary Wollstonecraft is said to be one of the first pioneers of egalitarian feminism). The second, conservative feminism, is a family-centered approach. Rather than rejecting and refusing the roles that define what a woman is, it adopts these roles, redefines and strengthens them. That was its politics of promoting women’s rights.
Liberal feminism: it is the most moderate version of feminism. Sometimes, it is taken as the synonym of Feminism. The public space is a key concern in liberal feminism. Women are deprived from competing in the public sphere. Another key element is “the individual autonomy and freedom”. The reason why it is the most moderate is that first it calls for reforming the society rather than revolting against it and second, because there is no enmity between men and women. Liberal feminism stresses the sameness between men and women. Women should have access to the same rights of men. It calls for the redistribution of powers and opportunities. In its relation to sex, liberal feminism stresses that it is an obstacle to opportunities; therefore, it believes that women should not be exposed to injustice for their sex.
Marxist feminism: it creates an approach to women’s oppression through a critic on the capitalist system and economic oppression. As Deborah L. Madson defines it, “Marxist feminism is organized around the basic conflicts between capitalism versus patriarchy and class versus gender oppression”. The basics of Marxism is interfaced with the struggle over the determination of the reason(s) behind women’s oppression in society and which is, in this case, subsumed in the prevalence of capitalism that is based on social classes. For Marxist feminists, capitalism undervalues female labor even though it is needed.
Lesbian Feminism: it claims the autonomy and the self-sufficiency of women.The term “lesbian” objects heterosexuality that, as feminists believe, maintains patriarchy. Likewise, lesbian feminists challenge the superiority of men and the claim that women are ever dependent on men. For them, “lesbians literally do not need men”. This variety might be criticized as further reinforcing the idea that women always need men as there is a woman playing the role of men in a certain couple.
Third world feminism: According to Chandra L. Mohanty, Third World Feminism must address two objectives. The first, is a critique to the mainstream hegemonic Western feminism which is meant to deconstruct it. The second, is about reconstructing autonomous feminist concerns that consider particularities based on geography, culture, and history. Third World Feminism is a critic to the Eurocentric scope of feminism as it tries to shift attention to historical cultural and geographical differences engulfed by “Western feminism.” Mohanty believes that what unifies third world feminists is theorizing on the “intersection of sexism, colonialism, imperialism, race, ethnicity, class development, poverty, work and the corporatization of culture and health,” while simultaneously criticizing and resisting the western feminist discourse.
Post-Colonial feminism: it is a reaction to the post-colonial theory. Explaining the fundamentals of post-colonial feminism necessitates explaining the fundamentals of the post-colonial theory. In her essay Post-colonial Feminist Theory, Sara Mills traces back the development of post-colonialism to Edward Said, a colonial discourse theoretician, mainly in his two seminal works Orientalism (1978) and Culture and Imperialism (1993). Said argues that in the nineteenth century there were some cultures that were subject to its colonial project, as Other to the western culture. It did not only represent them as different but as negatively different. Post-colonial feminism is known for its double task: criticizing the lack of treating the problematic of gender in the postcolonial theory and criticizing the Universalist approach of western feminism. Therefore, post-colonial feminism forced feminism to relinquish its parochialism and post-colonialism to adopt and address the gender issue.
Radical feminism: radical feminists claim that the women’s problem is not only the result of gender but also of sex. As the feminist historian Alice Jaggar states, radical feminists call for the abolishment of gender and of other forms of hierarchy especially in intimate relations. While women in the patriarchal ideology are seen as natural mothers and sexual objects, radical feminism sees them as forced mothers and sexual slaves. The reason why women are forced mothers is that patriarchy prevents them from the suitable contraceptive information or it makes contraceptives “inconvenient, unreliable, expensive and dangerous” as it makes abortion limited. Radical feminists state clearly that motherhood is a forced labor. Men determine everything about child birth and rearing and women only give small daily details.
Besides, the patriarchal discourse of motherhood is one of the main indicators of male dominance and women’s oppression. Concerning the feature of sexual slaves, radical feminists see that forced motherhood is the outcome of sexual coercion. Accordingly, since women are sexual objects, men want to possess them using economic, legal, ideological and even physical weapons so as to maintain this possession. As a consequence, Women’s sexual relation with men is a relation of rape and a relation of the Master (men) versus the slave (women) even when it is based on consent.
The equality debate within feminism is underpinned by two trends: equity feminism and difference feminism:
Equity feminism: it claims that there is sameness between men and women. Men and women can have the same jobs like: schoolteacher, nurse, secretary, etc. Equally women can have jobs that are thought to be for males like: management, construction, medicine, etc. According to this concept, it is patriarchy that prevents women from having access to jobs of high status and high income and rather limits them to low-paying jobs. But are women and men really the same? Should they enjoy equal rights? This is what different feminisms oppose.
Difference feminism: it says that there is no samenesssince what is man’s right is man’s right and what is woman’s right is woman’s right. This is what difference feminism is about. If equity feminism talks about women’s need to enjoy the same rights as men’s, difference feminism contends this belief. Calling for the same rights is denying women their specificities and denying basic differences between the two sexes (and genders). For instance, women need to have pregnancy leave or maternity leave while men do not have to call for this right. This is the difference. It advocates the restructuring of the values associated with women like childrearing, sexuality and caretaking, etc. These values should be given the priority over other demands like the values of distributive justice or competitive economics, etc.
These varieties of feminism were illustrated for the purpose of vindicating the fact that feminism is not one. It is true that the common point is the issue of women’s subordination, but this is not enough to make it stand for all the trends and all the visions and approaches that feminists use to address the causes behind this subordination. Here, the means and the ends are both not identical. As a case in point, while radical feminism considers sexual intercourse as an agent of patriarchy and “rape” even if it is based on the approval of women, difference feminism aspires to valorize women’s sexuality. Feminist trends both share common points and mark points of divergence.
In this sense, feminism, as Stevi Jackson and Jackie Jones argue, “is not, and has never been, a static phenomenon”. At first there was no trend called postcolonial or third world feminism. Those who do not feel represented by Feminism as a universal approach create their own criticism to the situation of women taking into account the particularities ignored by Western feminism as an approach led by hegemonic and affluent Westerners who speak on behalf of “women”, not all women. Jackson and Jones add that change and diversity are intertwined in the feminist theory. With the emerging voices and trends, it is impossible to provide a thorough view on feminism.
 Beasley, Chris. What is Feminism : an Introduction to FeministTheory. (Australia: Allen & Unwin), p. 52
 Maclaren, Margaret, Feminism, Foucault and Embodied Subjectivity. (New York: State University of New York, 2002), p. 10
 Greene, Roberta, Human Behavior Theory and Social Practice, (New Jersey: Transaction Aldine, 2009), p. 363
 Mohanty, Chandra. Feminism Without Borders : Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity, (USA: Duke University Press, 2003), p. 255
 McHugh, Nancy, Feminist Philosophies A-Z, (Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2007), p. 148
 Jackson Stevi & Jackie Jones, Contemporary Feminist theories, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), p. 2
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