Talk

Advanced search

Can someone please explain...

(31 Posts)
TheWordOfBagheera Fri 27-May-16 12:26:00

...the difference between feminism and radical feminism?

I've been lurking with interest on the feminism boards for a couple of months now (so apologies if this is a done to death subject, I couldn't find a definitive answer with an advanced search).

As far as I can see everyone who identifies as feminist is actually a radical feminist (perhaps I'm wrong though). Is this because the definition has shifted or because it's actually the same thing? Or has feminism become watered down at some point so that everyone now has to call them self a radfem, and 'feminist' has almost become a redundant term. Or is there no real official definition for either, and it's up to each individual to decide what to identify themselves as?

Very confused! Thanks to anyone who can enlighten me smile

VulcanWoman Fri 27-May-16 12:35:36

One uses common sense and reason, the other doesn't.

VestalVirgin Fri 27-May-16 12:56:18

As far as I can see everyone who identifies as feminist is actually a radical feminist (perhaps I'm wrong though).

You got that the wrong way round - though on mumsnet, there may be some radfems around, the vast majority of women who call themselves feminists are liberal feminists.

Or has feminism become watered down at some point so that everyone now has to call them self a radfem, and 'feminist' has almost become a redundant term.

This is also true. So-called liberal feminism tends to consider all choices a woman makes feminist because a woman makes them. And believe that men can be women, and that there's such a thing as a female penis.
Many women feel that that's not real feminism.

Some women who just do regular mainstream feminism (or what used to be regular feminism) are now branded radical feminists by their opponents.

Or is there no real official definition for either, and it's up to each individual to decide what to identify themselves as?

That, too. Makes it all very complicated because some people nowadays think it's cool to call themselves feminist, but don't actually hold many, or any, feminist opinions.

SomeDyke Fri 27-May-16 12:56:20

Feminism and radical feminism aren't the same thing. And 'radical' here doesn't mean 'extreme' or 'violent' or other things that people sometimes seem to think it means.

For me, I understand it as radical meaning 'at the root'. That patriarchal structures have been around since (probably) the agricultural revolution (when we stopped being hunter-gatherers), if not earlier. Hence all existing social structures have developed in that context. For the past six thousand years, as a conservative estimate.

Which would be all nice and interesting historically, except the issue then arises of what you think we need to do (if anything) to improve matters for women. (If you think we need to do something, then that probably makes you a feminist in the loosest sense of the term (i.e. agreeing that women are human beings and deserve equal rights and opportunities to men.)). Whether all we need to do is stick in some legislation and keep telling men to be nice and share, or whether all social structures need to re-imagined and re-created.

Actually, the Wikipedia pages on radical feminism and liberal feminism are quite good!

SomeDyke Fri 27-May-16 13:03:33

BTW, I would argue that I'm a radical feminist given the definition above. Trending towards a radical lesbian.

I'd never identify as anything -- academic training, what is the definition of X, and then what evidence do you have for your statement that something is X? Which is why poor ole Pluto (not the dog!), has been demoted to the status of a dwarf planet (and nothing to do with conifers, honest! smile).

LurcioAgain Fri 27-May-16 13:11:14

One of the key differences is whether we should work towards equality of opportunity within the current social structures (liberal feminism) or recognise that existing social structures are built round the idea that men's lives are the norm, and women should only be able to participate fully in the public sphere by behaving like men, i.e. pretending that they don't bear and rear children - and argue from that that it is only possible to gain true equality if we reorganise social structures completely.

For example, it is difficult for working mothers to get ahead in a workplace with a culture of presenteeism, and also, often family units do the sums in a straightforward "wife earns X, childcare costs X+d, therefore it is obviously more cost effective for the wife to give up work and become a SAHM." A liberal feminist might look at this situation and say "the solution is to campaign for workplace creches", a radical feminist might look at this situation and say "we need to value properly the enormous and invisible amount of unpaid work women do in the economy, then you see the hidden assumptions not taken into account in the X+d>X calculation." (Note that this latter solution doesn't immediately reach for the conclusion that finding strategies for women to be in the workplace is the right one - it places equal value on SAHM, instead insisting that their unseen economic contribution be valued properly.)

I have a number of friends who talk of "being radicalised by motherhood" - it is relatively easy to think liberal feminism will supply all the answers if you are a young, white, middle class career woman. It becomes much harder as a mother, carer, older, ethnic minority woman.

TheWordOfBagheera Fri 27-May-16 13:35:54

That clears that up that then wink

Thanks for the replies everyone, some interesting reading. It's all beginning to make more sense whilst simultaneously opening up an even more confusing world!

(Slightly off the topic of my orignial question, but personally I struggle to get my head around the notion of liberal feminism as explained by Vestal Virgin. Surely women and men are equally sucked in by the misogynistic nonsense that society pushes on us, so you can't automatically hold a feminist viewpoint by virtue of just being a woman?

The need for feminism in the modern day is only just becoming apparent to me. I've been very much (ashamedly) of the school of thought that feminism has done it's work and that men and women are now equal (at least in The West). But of course that's nonsense, and I don't even know how that idea got it (my mum doesn't think like that for instance). But if I can change my mind, then isn't the liberal feminist point of view essentially saying that I was a feminist both before and after?! Which I really don't think I was)

TheWordOfBagheera Fri 27-May-16 13:40:56

Vestal Just to be clear, I don't mean I struggle with your explanation. More that I guess I agree it can't really be feminism.

museumum Fri 27-May-16 13:50:27

I struggle with the idea that each of us has to choose to "be" an X feminist or y feminist.

I guess that if I were writing an academic essay in changing the world for the better id propose radical feminism ideas.

But in my everyday (admittedly privileged) life I tend to more "step by step" changes like paternity leave and equality legislation.

I feel I'm too pragmatic and realistic to propose radfem solutions but I reject the ideas around porn and sex work that liberal feminists are accused of.
And I don't believe in inherent "gender" feelings so I have big issues around transsexualism.

So I guess I'm saying it's quite possible to be a feminist without fully subscribing to one school of feminist thinking.

Grimarse Fri 27-May-16 13:58:17

it is relatively easy to think liberal feminism will supply all the answers if you are a young, white, middle class career woman. It becomes much harder as a mother, carer, older, ethnic minority woman.

That is a key point as to why radical feminism struggles in the UK. Girls out-perform boys throughout education. Women massively outnumber men as graduates. So during their most energetic, productive years they steam ahead in their careers. The current system suits them to a tee. It's very hard to convince anyone who occupies a system that gives them such advantages, that the system needs to be dismantled.

LurcioAgain Fri 27-May-16 14:12:10

Good point about pragmatic approaches, Museumum. I tend to think that radical feminism is great for diagnosing the structural problems, and helping you think about the issues in new ways, but (given that what we do is constrained by living in a capitalist system with entrenched, gendered power structures), a liberal feminist approach of chipping away at the actual inequalities a bit at a time is more likely to bring results. (But like you, I reject their ideas around porn, sex work and the reification of gender).

quencher Fri 27-May-16 14:57:37

*it is relatively easy to think liberal feminism will supply all the answers if you are a young, white, middle class career woman. It becomes much harder as a mother, carer, older, ethnic minority woman.*
I could not agree more with that statement.

I would call myself a feminist. I don't agree with some of the liberal views, for example the making of porn, the acceptance of transgender based on having the similar brain to women (is undermines the whole basis of radical feminism that we are all the same, it also undermines the race because the theory that different races and women have different brains. This has been used to oppress both groups). The coercion of women into prostitution. However, I don't see the problem if a female asked to be paid for sex. However, I do feel that most of the women's situation can be avoided if society has been more fairer. The police should be able to listen to rape victims and all rape victims should be treated with equal measure regales of race and sex.

I do believe that patriarchy needs to be dismantled and there should be equality of the sexes and races on all walks of life. The liberal view seems to be all kumbaya about feminism.

I love radical feminism but I have a problem with some feminist who are self centred. Those that don't look beyond the lives of the White middle classes and think that every one has similar issues to deal with. The first group of radical feminist undermine a lot of other feminist groups that were a long side them. They had a platform to shout louder, they used the platform and ignored everything around them or didn't understand it. Even today they still don't. Their poster children still don't and yet they get more praise.

A few of the feminist incidences I can think of that is a bit of double standard is when it comes to clothing and how they patronise other races.

I also believe that for society to change both sexes have to see themselves as feminist. This will give women opportunity for equality and at the same time ease of the pressure on men who are unable to free themselves from the patriarchal system and feel that they can't cope but have to man up.

I also think that there are two types of liberals. The first feminist who wanted liberation for women and the extreme end you have now where every thing goes but is more geared towards the support of patriarchy in disguise in the name of feminism.

My biggest hate is feminist who refer to as others as "feminist lite". Shitbugs.

singingsixpence82 Fri 27-May-16 18:42:25

You sound like someone with some interesting opinions quencher. What specific issues do you think white middle class feminists tend to miss? I think a lot of people are wary about speaking on behalf of groups they don't themselves belong to as it can feel like you're not qualified to do so. But white middles class feminists obviously need to listen to other groups as well as their suggestions on what we can do.

Also, can you expand on what you mean by patronising other races when it comes to clothing?

scallopsrgreat Fri 27-May-16 20:22:35

Liberal feminism never used to involve being pro-porn, pro-prostitution and has always traditionally been gender critical. It's only relatively recently pleasing men has become a thing associated with liberal feminism. Many liberal feminists would be offended at the association.

Also a great deal of the in roads we've made have come from radical thought. Making rape within marriage illegal for example. It is only because radical thinkers have shifted the Overton window that it has become unthinkable to many women that they should accept rape within a marriage.

Felascloak Fri 27-May-16 20:59:55

Maybe you would like this quiz bagheera

Bumbledumb Fri 27-May-16 22:44:36

Part of the appeal for me in radical feminism is that it seeks to make life fairer for everyone. Liberal feminism does not want to change how society is structured, but promotes equality within that structure. The trouble with this approach is that it does not benefit all women (or men for that matter). Making sure that 50% of all CEOs are women, does nothing to improve the lives of those struggling to keep a roof over their head on minimum wage. Rich, well-educated women marry rich well-educated men and have rich well-educated children and the divide between those who have, and those who do not continues to expand. For those at the bottom, it makes little difference that they are oppressed equally by both men and women, or that the opportunities available to them are just as shit as those available to their male peers.

quencher Sat 28-May-16 01:26:40

What specific issues do you think white middle class feminists tend to miss? The fact that they think they have taken the lion share of campaigns for women around the world. The thought that without them feminism would not have happened. Most women of other races and of lower social economic backgrounds weren't sitting around being housewives or doing nothing about their rights. They just didn't and still don't have the same platform to stand on. The media reports still dictates who is listen to.
Poor white and black women would have been involved in some sort of poorly paid jobs. Most black women after the abolition of slavery became white women's hired help. When they went to campaign matches black women stayed in their house looking after their homes and children. Those that could joined the civil rights movement did this in order to get similar jobs like their female counterpart, to be able to attend the same schools, to be accepted in the same universities.

The other issue that white middle class feminist tend to miss is that if a black woman or woman of colour is to talk about feminism they will have to include race. Not just racism but the different types of sexism that exist within the patriarchal hierarchy. For a woman of colour they would have to fight sexism from their own race on how they are viewed which won't apply to white men, sexism from white men and racism in general including white women.
Another example where racism comes into play. Women of colour campaigning for equal pay is not only to be equal to men but also their white women counterpart.

White middle class women tend to ignore the double standard that white male sexism has over other races. In a America a lot of women of colour where sterilised without their consent or under the disguise of other procedures. The eugenics method was to control the population of blacks, Latinos and native Americans. This was discontinued in 1977. While white women where fighting for quality of the sexes, these other groups of women where fighting for women to treated fairly. White women fighting for contraceptives while other races fought for their reproductive system not to be controlled.

White feminist using black women's bodies to make feminist statements. Proving their point by putting another group of women down. Amy schemer, Lilly Allen, Taylor swift the list goes on.

Emma Watson standing tall and making feminist speech to the world. (Which by the way, another black woman had done months before. what she said was nothing new from the feminist stand point too). One was critiqued for their approach, slut shamed and called uneducated, criticised for being married while asking for equality and the biggest one of all was not being lady like.
The media applauded Emma Watson's wonderful effort while a cosmetic company displayed her image on billboards in Africa, South America and Asia advertising body lighting cream to women of colour. Her skin tone used as used for other women of colour to aspire to.

So here is a quote form Patricia arquette asking help for white women.
To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, _*we have fought for everybody’s equal rights,_ it is our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”*

So the truth is, even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface there are huge issues that are at play that really do affect women. _*And it’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color_ that we’ve all fought for** **to fight for us now!”*
How can she ask for other people to fight for equal pay for her feminism when other groups already include this on their campaigns.

How can they slat shame the black body (it's not like you can hide a black bum ) while creating slat walk campaigns and supporting miley Cyrus's twerking.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TeiTetua Sat 28-May-16 12:23:10

Accusations that white feminists aren't representing women from minority groups have been made for decades. White feminists have tried to respond, but the tension never seems to go away. I have the feeling that nether side entirely understands the other, and maybe they never can.

Bell hooks is great. She says "I'm black. I'm a feminist" and tries to reconcile the two, but the problem is still around.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sat 28-May-16 12:44:52

To be fair to Emma Watson I think she may be guilty of naivety bordering on stupidity and/or a lack of good manager /agent rather than deliberately promoting skin whitener.

The Lancôme video for the product is completely generic with no voice over or shots of her using any particular product. I expect Lancôme has an oily/problem skin range or sunscreen range or sensitive skin range and the video would equally fit them.

It looks as if she signed a generic deal to allow the company to use her image without restriction.

Whether she and her agent should have read the contract and tightened it up and whether it is ethical for any famous person to endorse or advertise any product is a topic worth discussing but separate to this.

SenecaFalls Sat 28-May-16 16:31:05

Liberal feminism never used to involve being pro-porn, pro-prostitution and has always traditionally been gender critical. It's only relatively recently pleasing men has become a thing associated with liberal feminism. Many liberal feminists would be offended at the association.

Thank you scallops for pointing this out. I am a second wave feminist who back in the day would be called a liberal feminist because I have devoted much of my life to working within existing systems to advance women's rights. Second wave liberal feminism is certainly not "anything goes if a women does it or likes it" feminism.

quencher Sat 28-May-16 16:58:16

I think a lot of people are wary about speaking on behalf of groups they don't themselves belong to as it can feel like you're not qualified to do so.
They are ok campaigning race matters sometimes but not ok when it comes to women of colour issues specifically. I think the shutting down of conversations and sometimes undermining the it's verity needs to stop. You don't have to be qualified to offer support. *
*
Also, can you expand on what you mean by patronising other races when it comes to clothing?
This was two points that got muddled up. Feminist criticism on clothing seems to be confusing at the moment. There is no middle grounds on what is right type of clothing or how people should go about it. Their criticism also undermines the different usage of clothing for women.
You have the slut shammers, the ones that criticise Muslims women for what they wear. There seems to be criticism for women who wear less and those that cover up to some a degree. I think for young women and men who do not understand feminism and how the Media uses sexist imagery to market products. It's not also comfortable being in the middle ground. It's sends out a wrong message that anyone who does not subscribe as lady-like is not a feminist or is feminist-lite
The problem with this way of thinking determines now
1- whether a woman is deemed worthy to be listened to.
2- it is used as victimisation for women who are raped by saying it's their fault for the way they dressed. Rape should be rape. no woman should be made to feel it's their fault a man could not keep their hands to themselves.

It's only relatively recently pleasing men has become a thing associated with liberal feminism
I think the current liberal feminist should be called post -liberal feminist or neo-liberal feminist. Unless there is already a name out there for them. I think have seen it mentioned on Mn.
I think you have always had women who are ok with pleasing men. Which is OK by them if they want to because that is a choice. What I don't like is trying to impose that on other people who are willing to move forward.

Accusations that white feminists aren't representing women from minority groups have been made for decades. White feminists have tried to respond, but the tension never seems to go away. I have the feeling that nether side entirely understands the other, and maybe they never can.
I agree with this too. I think it's easy to see race as colour but beyond that it's difficult to understand what goes on within those races. The same way I understand very little about Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Arab women as examples. The difference between someone like myself and other people is that if a Chinese woman tells me her issue or issues, Am willing to believe her. If I had a platform I would be willing to share it. Not from my point of view but express it as something that happens to them.

To be fair to Emma Watson I think she may be guilty of naivety bordering on stupidity and/or a lack of good manager /agent rather than deliberately promoting skin whitener.
That's the difference though. What you have said here is the excuse that is always given to white women. Everyone else can't afford the same mistake. They would have refused to listen to her feminist view and would have been called a hypocrite or whatever name appropriate based on the appearance.
The same mistake Miley Cyrus can afford to make by twerking but anyone else it's deemed part of their culture the whole race is stripped of respect. Looked through the lens of the few. *
*

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sat 28-May-16 17:04:58

It's sends out a wrong message that anyone who does not subscribe as lady-like is not a feminist or is feminist-lite

Who or what is sending out this message? Sorry, I'm not following this.

PalmerViolet Sat 28-May-16 17:12:43

It might be possible that post-modernist feminism is being confused with liberal feminism, the roots of which are exactly as scallops and seneca described.

Pomo-feminism seems to be all about making men happy (I paraphrase obviously).

SenecaFalls Sat 28-May-16 17:14:28

Regarding some of the issues for women of color and feminism, this thread has some very thoughtful posts:

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/womens_rights/2316090-Feminism-for-women-of-colour

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now