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Feminism Types and Definitions: Liberal, Socialist, Culture & Radical

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  • 0:05 Defining Feminism
  • 1:34 Radical Feminism
  • 2:37 Socialist Feminism
  • 3:40 Cultural Feminism
  • 5:21 Liberal Feminism
  • 6:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Wind Goodfriend
This lesson first provides a general definition of feminism. Then, four specific types of feminism are discussed and defined, including liberal feminism, socialist feminism, cultural feminism, and radical feminism. For each type, examples of social changes preferred by that type of feminism are also provided.

Defining Feminism

Imagine you get a new job. On the first day of work, you're getting a tour of the office building, and you notice something strange: only men work here! You wonder where the women are, and you ask your new boss. He looks surprised at the question and says, 'What are you, some kind of feminist?' If this happened to you, what would you think? Would you be offended by the implication that you're a feminist? What exactly is feminism, anyway?

First, let's define feminism in general. The global idea of feminism refers to the belief that men and women deserve equality in all opportunities, treatment, respect, and social rights. In general, feminists are people who try to acknowledge social inequality based on gender and stop it from continuing. Feminists point out that in most cultures throughout history men have received more opportunities than women.

While this basic idea of feminism seems simple enough, there are many people who misunderstand what the goal of feminism is. Some people imagine that all feminists are angry, bitter women who only want to subjugate men! Of course, this stereotype offends actual feminists. Why is there such a big difference between stereotype and reality when it comes to feminists? One of the reasons for this discrepancy might be because there are, in fact, lots of different, specific types of feminism. Let's cover four of those types now - radical feminism, socialist feminism, cultural feminism, and liberal feminism. Maybe you are a feminist, and you didn't even know it!

Radical feminism believes in eliminating the concept of gender entirely
Radical Feminism Illustration

Radical Feminism

Perhaps the stereotype of feminists that we discussed before is most closely associated with our first type of feminism, called radical feminism. Radical feminism is a movement that believes sexism is so deeply rooted in society that the only cure is to eliminate the concept of gender completely. How would this be possible?

Radical feminists suggest changes, such as finding technology that will allow babies to be grown outside of a woman's body, to promote more equality between men and women. This will allow women to avoid missing work for maternity leave, which radical feminists argue is one reason women aren't promoted as quickly as men. In fact, radical feminists would argue that the entire traditional family system is sexist. Men are expected to work outside the home while women are expected to care for children and clean the house. Radical feminists note that this traditional dichotomy maintains men as economically in power over women, and therefore, the traditional family structure should be rejected.

Socialist Feminism

Socialist feminism calls for an end to capitalism
Socialist Feminism Illustration

Radical feminism is the most extreme form. The second type of feminism, called socialist feminism, is slightly less extreme but still calls for major social change. Socialist feminism is a movement that calls for an end to capitalism through a socialist reformation of our economy. Basically, socialist feminism argues that capitalism strengthens and supports the sexist status quo because men are the ones who currently have power and money. Those men are more willing to share their power and money with other men, which means that women are continually given fewer opportunities and resources. This keeps women under the control of men.

In short, socialist feminism focuses on economics and politics. They might point out the fact that in the United States women are typically paid only $0.70 for the exact same job that a man would be paid a dollar for. Why are women paid less than men for the same work? Socialist feminists point out that this difference is based on a capitalist system.

Cultural Feminism

The third type of feminism we'll discuss in this lecture is cultural feminism. Cultural feminism is a movement that points out how modern society is hurt by encouraging masculine behavior, but society would benefit by encouraging feminine behavior instead.

Cultural feminism believes in encouraging feminine behavior rather than masculine behavior
Cultural Feminism Illustration

Let's think about a couple of examples of this idea. First, we need to identify what traditional masculine behaviors might be. These might be traits like being aggressive and competitive. So, how does modern society encourage people to be aggressive and competitive? We can see this in the business world for sure; people who own companies, are CEOs, and are successful in business are certainly likely to be aggressive, competitive people. This is also likely to be true in high-powered politicians, such as senators and presidents. While competition and aggression are useful in certain contexts, cultural feminists point out that by encouraging these behaviors, we are also encouraging the negative aspects of competition and aggression, such as the suppression of feelings, crimes like assault and murder, and even social issues, such as domestic violence.

Cultural feminists argue that our society would be better off if we encouraged traditional feminine behaviors instead. What would those characteristics be? They would be traits such as being kind, nurturing, and cooperative. Do you think that politics and the business world would be different if those were the traits that were rewarded? How would family life be different? How would schools be different? Would problems, like bullying, be decreased if we encouraged everyone to be more kind and nurturing instead of competitive and aggressive? Cultural feminists would argue that the world would be better if we valued feminine qualities more.

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