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The difference between liberal and radical feminism

(97 Posts)
EatsBrainsAndLeaves Thu 20-Sep-12 09:29:57

This short video explains the basic difference between liberal and radical feminism.

EatsBrainsAndLeaves Thu 20-Sep-12 09:30:49

Part 2 in the same series of videos.

EatsBrainsAndLeaves Thu 20-Sep-12 09:39:45

Part 3 in the same series of videos.

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 20-Sep-12 09:59:57

Hi, sorry eats, it took me a moment to find where you'd linked as I assumed it'd be on another thread for some reason. Yes, it's not a feminist group primarily, it's an environmental movement, but their wiki page says they are aligned with radical feminism as well.

(Btw, to do links you need to put square brackets at the beginning and end, twice each).

I do sort of have an issue with presenting this as an explanation of radical/liberal feminism, because although I think she speaks very well, she's not primarily talking about feminism (aside from the Marx thing which is pretty anti-feminist to be honest).

Given that radical feminism (as I understand it) identifies misogyny as the root problem, I don't see how you could be primarily an environmentalist and a really hard-line rad fem. Surely it'd be the other way around? I'm not sure, though, and I certainly think environmentalism and radical feminism have a lot of natural (snurk) common ground.

EatsBrainsAndLeaves Thu 20-Sep-12 10:10:46

I dont know much about Lierre Keith, but here she talks about being a radical feminist first.

Some radical feminists see environmentalism as crucial to their radical feminism, others disagree with this. But yes to be a radical feminist you do have to identify misogyny as the root problem.

But I dont know personally much about radical feminists views who see environmentalism as key to their beliefs. But there are differences between radical feminists.

EatsBrainsAndLeaves Thu 20-Sep-12 10:11:21

Thanks for tip about links by the way

margerykemp Thu 20-Sep-12 10:13:29

Can you re-do the links please?

IMO up to about 10/15 years ago liberal feminism was the belief that women could be liberated if amendments were made within existing systems eg the legal system. eg the right to vote, equal pay legislsation

radical feminism was the belief that to liberate women we need to dismantle the patriarchal structures themselves ie a completely new type of legal/justice system- the need for this being evidenced by the lack of anticipated success of liberal feminism's demands such as vote, education, employment rights

However, since the explosion of internet porn and lapdancing clubs in the UK in the last 10/15 years liberal feminism has come to be defined as people (usually men and women)who self define as feminists but who support porn, prostitution and lapdancing and who often call themselves 'sex-positive' feminists

so now radical feminism tends to mean women-only organising in opposition to porn et al ( so in a sense this has become what liberal feminism used to be)

does that make sense?

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 20-Sep-12 10:17:18

Ok, I'm getting too confused having this discussion on both threads, but I agree margery, I think 'sex positive' feminism is huge and very disturbing.

I don't think radical feminism is just women-only opposition to porn, though? I can think of at least one other issue where rad and liberal feminists quite often disagree strongly (and that's over transsexuality). And reproductive rights is a big issue, isn't it? Not so much on MN really, but in some places lots of people identify as liberal feminist and anti-abortion.

EatsBrainsAndLeaves Thu 20-Sep-12 10:18:21

Okay sorry, redone

EatsBrainsAndLeaves Thu 20-Sep-12 10:21:20

Margery I agree with the current general confusion about the difference between liberal and radical feminism. The reality is those differences havent changed. But because there are so few liberal feminists now taking an antio porn and prostitution stance, this stance is often seen as purely a radical feminist stance. It is not. There used to be many liberal feminists who took the same stance and I hope there will be again in the future.

margerykemp Thu 20-Sep-12 11:32:56

See, I dont see the pro porn and prostitution/lapdancing lot as feminists at all- to me they are uber neo-liberal equalists, I dont think their arguents have any root in feminism at all

LRD-are there any men who identify as radical feminist?

I dont think radfem is just about porn et al but atm it is the biggest single issue for many activists

I see the trans debate as a subdivision of the porn debate. I've yet to come across a transactivist who is anti-porn.

The abortion debate is also complicated. Anti- abortion and pro-choice are not necessarily mutually exclusive for example there are radical and liberal feminists who see abortion as a form of violence against women.

AliceHurled Thu 20-Sep-12 11:44:40

I think that liberal feminism is being done a total disservice if it's being linked to the pro porn etc feminism. It's way more than that. I agree with margery that the pro porn type of feminism is driven by neoliberalism (and I'd also throw post structuralism in there too).

Liberal feminism is making changes to the system to lead to equality. Fawcet society are, object are with their changes to the law. Rad fem is about changing the structure itself. And there might be cross over. Postulating about identity politics, which is a big part if the pro porn type feminism, is neither. I don't know how they would label themselves. In fact they may well reject labels as being too old skool and not post structuralist enough. Seriously. Part of that kind of philosophy is about rejecting structures/labels/categories. So I would wager there's a self defining element to that type of feminism rather than a collective term.

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 20-Sep-12 12:02:43

margery - I agree, I don't see how it's feminist, but it's something we can all argue about, isn't it? Lots of things are like that.

I don't personally know any men who identify as radical feminists but I will be there's some out there. hmm

I think all of this is hugely complicated, which is why I dislike turning it into a 'liberal is this and radical is that' debate, beyond the very basic thing about change to the roots of the system vs. change within the system.

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 20-Sep-12 12:03:08

*I will bet there's some out there.

EatsBrainsAndLeaves Thu 20-Sep-12 12:32:23

Men cant be radical feminists. They can be allies of radical feminism and there are a few.

WomanlyWoman Thu 20-Sep-12 12:51:43

Weren't those links talking about greens, not feminists? (I only watched the first couple of minutes).

Radical feminists are not the only anti-porn feminists.

Also 'sex-positive' feminists are not necessarily pro-porn. It's possible to be be a feminist and enjoy some porn. Porn is not homogenous, some would say that 'feminist porn', or erotica differ hugely from other kinds in terms of being misogynistic.

Where do socialist feminists fit into this?
The biggest difference between radical and socialist feminism is seperatism.

24Hours Thu 20-Sep-12 12:52:27

Broadly, radfems see women as being treated as the sex class, and the correct t response is to reject that placing. Libfems don't recognise a sex class per se.
Radfems believe sex CAN be (not is) detrimental to women more than men, physically, psychologically and emotionally, its a Big Thing and needs handling with care. Lindens don't particularly they view it as a bodily function fun and neccessary but essentially harmless.
The radfem view chimes quite well with old fashioned values, the libfem view is the prevalent one in today's society. Of course the radfem views while superficially quite similar to religious views have very different foundations and concerns.
The libfem view of sex is very male identified, of course 40 years of reliable contraception and a more relaxed sexual morality and less stigma have removed a lot of women's justifisble recitence around sex. But the consequences are not borne equally, so I don't the view of it can be equal either.
I think I may be conflating my sex pox with my libfem there, but there is a lot of crossover
Sorry for bad phrasing crapphone

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 20-Sep-12 12:57:06

Mmm. I dunno that rad fem views chime with old fashioned values. My experience is that radical feminists are very pro single mothers and women being independent with control over their own bodies, which is about as far from what I'd see as 'old fashioned values' as you can get.

24Hours Thu 20-Sep-12 13:15:23

That's true. I guess I'm basing it on their positions on the sex industry, where they home, but for different reasons.
And the notion that sex is quite a serious hing, with the potential for harm. Totally different basis (bases? ) for that belief of course, but similar in that they are wildly out of step with current notions of sex, desire, mate choice, its just a shag etc. Both old fashioned religious people and radfems are accused of being repressed frigid prudes. The parallels are interesting.

vezzie Thu 20-Sep-12 13:16:20

(LRD, just responding to your post upthread, which includes:

"Given that radical feminism (as I understand it) identifies misogyny as the root problem, I don't see how you could be primarily an environmentalist and a really hard-line rad fem"

I want to unpick a few issues I have with this:

- you might be primarily concerned with environmentalism as an urgent problem which is affecting the world, while at the same time holding the philosophical view that the practices which are damaging the planet originate from phallocentric, wrong headed attitudes which also encompass misogyny (so you are philosophically a rad fem first but practically an environmentalist first); you might think that misogynistic attitudes caused this mess but the most urgent issue is to work on the planet, while there is still time

- however, as a radical feminist is it absolutely necessary to rank misogyny as THE primary philosophical issue? I would say it is necessary to recognise misogyny as A problem, that is, that patriarchy enslaves and damages women as an essential part of its nature and processes, as opposed to by accident, an unfortunate by-product. but you might think that anti-racism for instance is a more primary battle

- also "a really hard line rad fem" - I think this turn of phrase promotes the mistaken view that radical feminism is the most extreme, tough kind along a continuum which also contains less feminist versions of feminism. It is a qualitative philosophical difference, not that some are hard line and some are by implication soft

24Hours Thu 20-Sep-12 13:25:50

I think as well that classical, if I may call it that, liberal feminism had had it's day. After all, the laws have been changed and the system tweaked. We are all thrilled about that and there's no denying we've come along way. But inequality hasn't ended. So what's next?
The sex industry in various guises is the flashpoint now as its the main area where there's still room for dialogue between the legislation approach and attitudinal approach.

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 20-Sep-12 14:51:17

24 - yes, see what you mean about the parallels.

vezzie - I can see why you could hold both points of view, that's fine (and I thin it's logical). I don't think you could be the definitive radical feminist and also claim to be primary an environmentalist, though? I think it is necessary to recognize the patriarchy as the basic problem.

We can disagree here, obviously, I'm not laying the law down, just clarifying which way around I think it is: you could be both environmentalist and radical feminist, but if you are primarily an environmentalism and think misogyny/the patriarchy are not the root problem, IMO that isn't radical feminism.

I admit, I was thinking of it from a sort of idealistic 'what's would the definitive radical feminist be' position, so it's not very helpful in terms of actual people and what we all do.

I take your point about 'hard line', absolutely. It winds me up that 'radical' and 'extreme' are equated and I wouldn't want anyone to misread and think that's what I was doing. You could be a 'hard line' liberal feminist, too. So, I'd think of myself as being a very un-hard-line, not especially practised radical feminist who is still exploring ideas and changing my mind about individual issues - but I find the radical ideology convincing as a whole.

I think at this stage someone who is a less wishy-washy radical feminist probably needs to step in on the environmentalism thing! grin

madwomanintheattic Thu 20-Sep-12 23:57:44

It's very confusing. Apparently as a liberal I am supposed to be sex positive and pro-porn.

That wasn't explained to me when feminism dawned, nor to the other women who identified as feminists at that point. We all used to be in one gang, fighting the patriarchy. grin Not Good Enough now.

I am loving the strong hard line v soft stuff, by the way. grin are we reclaiming masculine stereotyped attributes and characteristics, or are we celebrating the nurturing difference of womanhood? Denigrating ourselves by attempting to don those male characteristics? Or saying it's all bollocks and there's no difference (except when we want a conference with no penes).

Funny that 'hard and strong' is seen as more positive, anyway. grin <small feminist joke>

<writes in purple ink with no caps and no punctuation in an ever increasing circle to denote burgeoning female growth and nurture>

More wine anyone?

EatsBrainsAndLeaves Fri 21-Sep-12 00:15:09

No as a liberal feminist you dont need to be sex positive and pro porn. It wasnt that long ago that amongst liberal feminists some were pro porn for example and somewerent. It is a very recent development that anti porn liberal feminists appear to have become a tiny minority or certainly invisible.

madwomanintheattic Fri 21-Sep-12 00:16:57

Yeah, I think we've all just got bored with people making assumptions and can't be bothered to argue any more.

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