Same Goal, Different Strategies: Radical vs Liberal Feminism

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With the beginning of the women’s rights movement between the mid-1800s and the 1920s, various feminist ideologies began to take shape. The two main strands of feminist thought have become liberal and radical feminism.  Liberal feminism’s main goal has been the continual push for equality before the law between men and women. Liberal feminism surpasses the traditional concept of “feminism” by advocating the equality of all citizens. It just happens to advocate on the side of women because women are more oppressed than men around the globe.  A liberal feminist would not necessarily push for liberation on behalf of women specifically, but instead would push towards giving women equal standing before the law. In essence, a liberal feminist does not want to propel women above men, as that would result in the same injustice (except in reverse) that they are fighting, but instead want men and women to be seen as equals.

Radical feminism, as the name entails, has a more radical stance. A radical feminist would argue that the favoring of men over women in modern society can not be quickly fixed due to the long rooted mindset of male superiority that has plagued the human race since the beginning of time. With that said, and in contrast to liberal feminism, a radical feminist would argue for a widespread social revolution on behalf of women.  To accomplish this, a fundamental change in values is needed. Women will need to be given equal respect and credit for their traditional role in the home as men are given for their role in the public realm as government officials and professionals of society, or else that tradiional role somehow needs to be abolished. Women should not need to change their traditional role to that of a man’s, however,  but should instead be valued equally for the roles that they do traditionally hold.

In conclusion, the main difference between the two competing views on feminism is the method of which the equality of women is accomplished. For liberal feminists, equality is achieved by simply advocating the equality of men and women in society.  Radical feminism, on the other hand, seems to aim at changing the negative connotation of a woman’s role in society into a more positive and accepting connotation, thus making the roles of men and women equal. Both methods will result in a similar end product, the difference being the paths taken to get to that final goal of equality among the sexes.