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Feminism: Liberal vs. Radical

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A lot of people don't know the difference between these two major subsets of feminism, so I've decided to summarize each one and evaluate where my own beliefs stand. Feel free to respond and discuss below.

 

Liberal Feminism

  • the most mainstream brand of feminism.
  • commonly associated with the third wave.
  • popularized in the media by corporations (H+M), celebrities (ex. Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Emma Watson) and social media (ex. Buzzfeed, Tumblr).
  • largely focused on individuality and choice.
  • strives to create equal opportunities between men and women (ex. equal pay, maternity leave laws) by reforming and reclaiming current social systems and structures (ex. government, religion, gender).
  • believes that gender inequality is damaging to both women and men (ex. toxic masculinity).
  • places an emphasis on sex positivity (ex. pro-sex work, pro-porn, pro-BDSM, anti-slut shaming, anti-kink shaming).
  • considers men who believe in the equality of the sexes to be feminists.
  • defines women by their self-proclaimed identity.
  • sees gender as a fluid identity and is supportive of transgender activism.
  • believes that trans women are entitled to female-only spaces.
  • criticized for failing to recognize and combat misogyny on a systemic level, 'reducing womanhood to a feeling and/or stereotypes' and 'dumbing down' feminist ideas to appeal to men (ex. rebranding female objectification in porn and prostitution as an empowering choice of a woman embracing her sexuality).

 

Radical Feminism

  • more underground; less socially accepted. Often mischaracterized as "extremist" feminism due to containing the word radical.
  • commonly associated with the second wave.
  • generally not embraced by corporations, celebrities, and social media.
  • argues that men maintain power and privilege over women through a class hierarchy called patriarchy.
  • strives to eliminate the patriarchy, and even bring about political separatism from men (ex. women-only communes) by overthrowing current social systems and structures.
  • believes that patriarchy is solely harmful to women, and that men only benefit from such an institution.
  • places an emphasis on fighting violence against women (ex. anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-BDSM).
  • considers men who believe in the equality of the sexes to be merely feminist allies.
  • defines women by their biology.
  • sees gender as an oppressive social structure, is critical of transgender activism and supports gender abolitionism and gender-nonconformity.
  • believes that women are entitled to female-only spaces free of all males including trans women.
  • criticized for excluding men and trans women from the movement, 'reducing womanhood to a vagina' and promoting separatism of the sexes which has widely been deemed unrealistic.

 

I used to be one of the biggest libfems on this site, but now I'm realizing how hollow some of the talking points I used to parrot were and I'm slowly moving to the radical side. They have sufficient answers to all of the things I used to be confused about, and was told to just brush over and not question. I don't agree with all aspects of either the liberal or radical school of feminism, but right now I'm on the fence between both. Shame on me for not realizing earlier how harmful some of my former ideas (mostly relating to the sex-positive movement) actually are to women. I feel like I got so wrapped up in being accepting of everything that I ended up letting some things slide that were actually detrimental to the cause I'm passionate about in the first place. Liberal feminism was great for me to discover as a beginner to social issues but it's not really doing anything to improve the well-being of women on a larger scale like radical feminism is, and one could even argue that it's harming women in the long run. I'm guessing that this opinion won't be very popular on this forum because people see the word radical and immediately grab their pitchforks, but here goes anyway. rip4



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I'm kinda like you tbh, I have attributes that are from both sides. I don't agree 100% with either side but both sides have great points made while both also have their faults. Ngl I myself didn't really know about how there was two different kinds so I learned something new from this! You're still my favorite raging SJW libfem here though! jj5 

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Going through this list I'd say I'm mostly lib-fem. jay1 I find radical-feminism to be a little bit close-minded, ngl.

But I do agree about the patriarchy thing. I mean, misogyny is largely systematic therefore it's socio-culturally ingrained into people's minds.

But I didn't know that lib-fems supposedly don't fight against the patriarchy? (at least according to this) I thought that was one thing at least all branches of feminism agreed upon. um2

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10 hours ago, Hannah said:

I'm kinda like you tbh, I have attributes that are from both sides. I don't agree 100% with either side but both sides have great points made while both also have their faults. Ngl I myself didn't really know about how there was two different kinds so I learned something new from this! You're still my favorite raging SJW libfem here though! jj5 

Always happy to help bb!

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46 minutes ago, Kirjava said:

Going through this list I'd say I'm mostly lib-fem. jay1 I find radical-feminism to be a little bit close-minded, ngl.

But I do agree about the patriarchy thing. I mean, misogyny is largely systematic therefore it's socio-culturally ingrained into people's minds.

But I didn't know that lib-fems supposedly don't fight against the patriarchy? (at least according to this) I thought that was one thing at least all branches of feminism agreed upon. um2

Liberal feminism is more about individual empowerment. Rather than dismantling patriarchal institutions (a la radical feminism), its solution is to make reforms within them. Common goal, different approach!

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25 minutes ago, Hermione said:

Liberal feminism is more about individual empowerment. Rather than dismantling patriarchal institutions (a la radical feminism), its goal is to make reforms within them.

Ah I see. moo1 I presume lib-fem would be closer to 3rd wave and radical-fem would be closer to 2nd wave.

I did take a Gender Studies class one semester, but there only the 3 waves were mentioned as over-arching ideologies when we discussed the history of feminism. Afterward we went onto different aspects of feminism without categorizing them:

-black feminism/systematic oppression 

- feminism in relation to marriage, marital rape/domestic violence, being expected to have kids etc.

- the whole pro-sex/anti-sex discussion

- the othering of female bodies/normal bodily functions being considered taboo for women

- feminism for the disabled/mentally ill

- the male-gaze/ how women are presented in the media

- etc.

 

I loved that class. It was nice that it didn't try to tell you which "branch" of feminism was right or wrong, it just aimed to expose you to as many different aspects and perspectives of it as possible. oprah2

It opened my eyes to so many things. cry6 We don't even realise that how many blatantly sexist things we come across everyday until someone points it out for us. dead2

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I disagree with several points of radical feminism,but with parts I disagree the most with are trans-related issues:

-defines women by their biology.

-sees gender as an oppressive social structure, is critical of transgender activism and supports gender abolitionism and gender-nonconformity.

-believes that women are entitled to female-only spaces free of all males including trans women.

-criticized for excluding men and trans women from the movement, 'reducing womanhood to a vagina' and promoting separatism of the sexes which has widely been deemed unrealistic.

Those things are flat out transphobic. Feminism is not going to function if you exclude trans woman. "safe spaces free of all males including trans woman" Except that Trans woman are not male. 

 

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4 hours ago, Kirjava said:

Ah I see. moo1 I presume lib-fem would be closer to 3rd wave and radical-fem would be closer to 2nd wave.

I did take a Gender Studies class one semester, but there only the 3 waves were mentioned as over-arching ideologies when we discussed the history of feminism. Afterward we went onto different aspects of feminism without categorizing them:

-black feminism/systematic oppression 

- feminism in relation to marriage, marital rape/domestic violence, being expected to have kids etc.

- the whole pro-sex/anti-sex discussion

- the othering of female bodies/normal bodily functions being considered taboo for women

- feminism for the disabled/mentally ill

- the male-gaze/ how women are presented in the media

- etc.

 

I loved that class. It was nice that it didn't try to tell you which "branch" of feminism was right or wrong, it just aimed to expose you to as many different aspects and perspectives of it as possible. oprah2

It opened my eyes to so many things. cry6 We don't even realise that how many blatantly sexist things we come across everyday until someone points it out for us. dead2

That class sounds so interesting and I'm glad it was an eye-opening experience for you! It's great that they didn't tell you which way to think and approached each aspect through an objective lens. I've taken Sociology but never anything about women's history or feminism, so unfortunately my knowledge on those subjects is limited to what I've read in books and on the Internet. I would love to take a class like that as an elective someday, if the opportunity were ever to arise.

2 hours ago, Simón. said:

I disagree with several points of radical feminism,but with parts I disagree the most with are trans-related issues:

-defines women by their biology.

-sees gender as an oppressive social structure, is critical of transgender activism and supports gender abolitionism and gender-nonconformity.

-believes that women are entitled to female-only spaces free of all males including trans women.

-criticized for excluding men and trans women from the movement, 'reducing womanhood to a vagina' and promoting separatism of the sexes which has widely been deemed unrealistic.

Those things are flat out transphobic. Feminism is not going to function if you exclude trans woman. "safe spaces free of all males including trans woman" Except that Trans woman are not male. 

 

Fair enough, but apart from biology, isn't the rest all just sexist stereotypes of how a woman is expected to appear and behave?

And trans women are, in fact, male. Yes, they identify as women, but they still have XY chromosomes and as a result were socialized as male from all the way from birth to their transition which has granted them male privilege despite their gender identity. That is what makes them trans women as opposed to cis women. Cis women and trans women have been socialized differently due to sex-based oppression, and thus have different experiences. Acknowledging biology and material reality is not transphobic.

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6 hours ago, Hermione said:

 

Fair enough, but apart from biology, isn't the rest all just sexist stereotypes of how a woman is expected to appear and behave?

And trans women are, in fact, male. Yes, they identify as women, but they still have XY chromosomes and as a result were socialized as male from all the way from birth to their transition which has granted them male privilege despite their gender identity. That is what makes them trans women as opposed to cis women. Cis women and trans women have been socialized differently due to sex-based oppression, and thus have different experiences. Acknowledging biology and material reality is not transphobic.

" isn't the rest all just sexist stereotypes of how a woman is expected to appear and behave?" Wait, so you think that being trans makes you sexist? ari1 You are totally dismissing the things trans woman go through and I'm actually quite shocked about this. 

There are trans woman who transition from a very young age who don't get socialized as male at all. Trans woman have one of the highest murder rate and y'all acting they are somewhat privileged. And yeah acknowledging is something different than excluding them. Terfs are truly something on their own. 

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12 hours ago, Simón. said:

" isn't the rest all just sexist stereotypes of how a woman is expected to appear and behave?" Wait, so you think that being trans makes you sexist? ari1 You are totally dismissing the things trans woman go through and I'm actually quite shocked about this. 

There are trans woman who transition from a very young age who don't get socialized as male at all. Trans woman have one of the highest murder rate and y'all acting they are somewhat privileged. And yeah acknowledging is something different than excluding them. Terfs are truly something on their own. 

I never said that, but once you omit female biology, there is not a single trait that one could argue applies to all women. What exactly does it mean to 'feel like a woman'? I have never seen anyone give a legitimate answer, because they usually resort to the brain sex argument (which has been debunked), or misogynistic gender stereotypes about femininity and fashion. This leads to gender-nonconforming people who are just different and don't have gender dysphoria being made to feel like failures as their birth sex because they don't have this innate feeling of gender identity (since it's a social construct) and get backlash from their families, their peers, and society for straying from gender roles, stereotypes, and expectations. I used to be one of them myself and thought there was something wrong with me because I didn't care about a lot of "manly" or "masculine" things, but nobody subscribes one hundred percent to every single gender role and it doesn't mean I'm any less of a man for not having some mystical innate male spirit. The majority of people don't.

I'm not dismissing or denying what trans women go through or speaking on behalf of them in any way either. I'm an ally and I'm totally sympathetic to their struggles, but it would be disingenuous to claim that they are the same exact ones that cis women go through. There is definitely some overlap like the high rates of violence committed against them, but until transition trans women are still very much perceived as male by society and thus are treated accordingly. Privilege isn't about what you are, it's about the way that the world sees you. For example, white-passing celebrities like Halsey and Nicole Richie have been afforded certain opportunities by society that they might not have gotten if they didn't pass. Wouldn't it be offensive to non-passing black women who haven't been given that same treatment to claim that those women didn't benefit from white privilege despite their race? Even though the experience of feeling trapped in the wrong body and constantly being misgendered is certainly a traumatic one, it only makes sense that the same would apply to gender.

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16 minutes ago, Hermione said:

I never said that, but once you omit female biology, there is not a single trait that one could argue applies to all women. What exactly does it mean to 'feel like a woman'? I have never seen anyone give a legitimate answer, because they usually resort to the brain sex argument (which has been debunked), or misogynistic gender stereotypes about femininity and fashion. This leads to gender-nonconforming people who are just different and don't have gender dysphoria being made to feel like failures as their birth sex because they don't have this innate feeling of gender identity (since it's a social construct) and get backlash from their families, their peers, and society for straying from gender roles, stereotypes, and expectations. I used to be one of them myself and thought there was something wrong with me because I didn't care about a lot of "manly" or "masculine" things, but nobody subscribes one hundred percent to every single gender role and it doesn't mean I'm any less of a man for not having some mystical innate male spirit. The majority of people don't.

I'm not dismissing or denying what trans women go through or speaking on behalf of them in any way either. I'm an ally and I'm totally sympathetic to their struggles, but it would be disingenuous to claim that they are the same exact ones that cis women go through. There is definitely some overlap like the high rates of violence committed against them, but until transition trans women are still very much perceived as male by society and thus are treated accordingly. Privilege isn't about what you are, it's about the way that the world sees you. For example, white-passing celebrities like Halsey and Nicole Richie have been afforded certain opportunities by society that they might not have gotten if they didn't pass. Wouldn't it be offensive to non-passing black women who haven't been given that same treatment to claim that those women didn't benefit from white privilege despite their race? Even though the experience of feeling trapped in the wrong body and constantly being misgendered is certainly a traumatic one, it only makes sense that the same would apply to gender.

I agree with your first paragraph! 

 

And of course it's not the same on some issues e.g abortion rights, but I do see how radfems are treating trans woman like shit and don't see them as woman. I have some trans friends and they feel like they don't have a place anywhere, because they don't get taken serious by anyone. 

I just don't like that some radfems see trans woman (even after transition) as someone who is opressing without actually thinking that them being cis could be also an oppression tool. I do agree that it's something different before trans woman decide to do transition. 

So, asking you, are you supporting for excluding her from feminist circles:

1.jpg

 

She passes as a cis woman, but still radfems think she shouldn't be allowed in their circles?

 

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20 hours ago, Simón. said:

I agree with your first paragraph! 

 

And of course it's not the same on some issues e.g abortion rights, but I do see how radfems are treating trans woman like shit and don't see them as woman. I have some trans friends and they feel like they don't have a place anywhere, because they don't get taken serious by anyone. 

I just don't like that some radfems see trans woman (even after transition) as someone who is opressing without actually thinking that them being cis could be also an oppression tool. I do agree that it's something different before trans woman decide to do transition. 

So, asking you, are you supporting for excluding her from feminist circles:

1.jpg

 

She passes as a cis woman, but still radfems think she shouldn't be allowed in their circles?

 

Okay, I'm glad we seem to be on the same page now, and that we're having a civil discussion without slinging around accusatory remarks of misogyny and transphobia. That happens far too often in these types of conversations elsewhere, and all it does is keep each side from listening to each other's valid arguments. dead1

As much as this answer seems like a cop-out, it's not up to me who is allowed in women's spaces. That's for women to decide, not me.

It's such a touchy subject lately, because it's far less black-and-white than it seems on the surface and I'm not even sure what I think about it honestly. Trans women want their gender identity to be respected by being allowed in women's spaces, and radical feminists are against it because trans women have still been socialized as male and studies have shown that they still have the same rate of perpetrating violence against women that cis men do. But then, if you force trans women into men's spaces, they'll become the victims of violence themselves. The reality is that it's a lose-lose situation either way, since nobody deserves violence. A few months ago I would have easily sided with the trans women on this issue, but now I think it's more complicated than that and both sides make a good case. There has to be some sort of solution or at least a compromise that will make both sides happy, but unfortunately it will probably be a while before we figure it out.

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Just now, Hermione said:

Okay, I'm glad we seem to be on the same page now, and that we're having a civil discussion without slinging around accusatory remarks of misogyny and transphobia. That happens far too often in these types of conversations elsewhere, and all it does is keep each side from listening to each other's valid arguments. dead1

As much as this answer seems like a cop-out, it's not up to me who is allowed in female-only spaces. That's for women to decide, not me.

It's such a touchy subject lately, because it's far less black-and-white than it seems on the surface and I'm not even sure what I think about it honestly. Trans women want their gender identity to be respected by being allowed in women's spaces, and radical feminists are against it because trans women have still been socialized as male and studies have shown that they still have the same rate of perpetrating violence against women that cis men do. But then, if you force trans women into men's spaces, they'll become the victims of violence. A few months ago I would have easily sided with the trans women on this issue, but now I think it's more complicated than that and both sides make a good case. There has to be some sort of solution or at least a compromise that will make both sides happy, but unfortunately it will probably be a while before we figure it out.

Can you show me the study cause i never heard about that. But I do know that socialization plays a role in the arguments and I do understand where it comes from. 

I think the most that bothers me with the discussion is that radfems aren't aware of their privilege of being cis. 

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8 minutes ago, Simón. said:

Can you show me the study cause i never heard about that. But I do know that socialization plays a role in the arguments and I do understand where it comes from. 

I think the most that bothers me with the discussion is that radfems aren't aware of their privilege of being cis. 

Here you go:

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0016885

Quote

Second, regarding any crime, male-to-females had a significantly increased risk for crime compared to female controls (aHR 6.6; 95% CI 4.1–10.8) but not compared to males (aHR 0.8; 95% CI 0.5–1.2). This indicates that they retained a male pattern regarding criminality. The same was true regarding violent crime. By contrast, female-to-males had higher crime rates than female controls (aHR 4.1; 95% CI 2.5–6.9) but did not differ from male controls. This indicates a shift to a male pattern regarding criminality and that sex reassignment is coupled to increased crime rate in female-to-males. The same was true regarding violent crime.

And yeah, like I said, each side needs to do a better job at listening and understanding where the other is coming from because they could learn a lot and discover that they might even agree with some of their views. There are definitely bad apples from both groups but I truly don't believe that trans women are sexist as a whole or that radical feminists are transphobic as a whole.

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I can understand where radical sexism's stance on transgendered women is coming from but it's not something I'll ever support, simple as that. I do like their idea of gender abolitionism though.

I'll always endorse diversity first and foremost, but if men/women/LGBT/POC want exclusive areas then that is cool. I don't however agree that it should be brought into the greater public (separation of politics for example).

Like people said above, each has its merits and faults. I'm definitely much more liberal feminist, but I think incorporating some of the radical's principals would help the cause further.

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