A lot. There are a number of schools of thought within feminism, some of them are better known than others. While there is a misconception that feminism is divided as a result of these various schools, the differences between the schools are differences in methodology and not differences in their end goal. All feminists want equality of the sexes. This has always been the main goal of feminism. But different types of feminism believe that female inequality is caused by different things. Few feminists fit in to only one school of thought.
The different schools are as follows:
Liberal Feminism: Liberal feminists accept the classical liberal notion that all people are inherently rational. Since women are people, women are rational. Liberal feminists believe that it is this rationality that makes women deserving of equal treatment.
Marxist Feminism: Marxist feminists believe that the inequality suffered by women is caused by capitalism. They believe that eliminating capitalism will bring about equality of the sexes.
Radical Feminism: Despite popular belief, radical feminism is not the idea that women are better than men. Radical feminists hold to the idea that female biology (our ability to get pregnant) is what causes the inequality we suffer. According to radical feminists, equality of the sexes won’t come until childbirth and child rearing aren’t only the duty of women. Radical feminists also believe that the patriarchy is responsible for this inequality. Patriarchy doesn’t mean that each individual man oppress all women. It means that there is a system of control whereby women and women’s bodies are controlled by men. It’s a systemic problem, not an individual problem.
Socialist Feminism: Socialist feminism mixes Marxist and Radical feminism. According to socialist feminists, both capitalism and the patriarchy cause the oppression of women. Some socialist feminists believe that capitalism and the patriarchy are one in the same thing. Others believe that they run parallel to each other, both oppressing women, but in different ways.
Cultural Feminism: Cultural feminists focus on gender, not sex. They believe that it is the behaviours and traits associated with women (nurturing, caring, emotional) that cause women to be oppressed. They tend to accept these traits as real and believe that women should be given equal rights because of these traits. Cultural feminists believe that the compassionate traits of women can only improve society, and can work with the rational traits of men.
Womanist (Intersectional) Feminism: Womanist theory was developed as an attempt to make feminism more inclusive. Traditionally, feminism focused on the issues faced by middle class white women. However, women of all classes, countries, and ethnicities, as well as women/females within the LGBT community, also suffered as a result of inequality of the sexes, so womanism was born. Womanist theory points out that there is no one cause of oppression, and different women/females have different experiences, so each case of oppression is unique. As such, we must look at the intersections (of various causes of oppression) where oppression occurs. Womanism tries to avoid privileging anyone.
Postmodern Feminism: Postmodern feminism is a collection of ideas. They avoid grand narratives of explaining oppression. Postmodernist feminists do not believe that there is any one cause of oppression. They also look at language and thought to see how it is masculine centered.
Third World Feminism: This form of feminism focuses on the problems faced by women in former colonies. Third wold feminists focus on the history of colonialism to determine the causes of women’s oppression.
Ecofeminism: Ecofeminism focuses on things like pollution that result from racism. For example, they point out how black and Latino communities are more affected by pollution than predominantly white communities. They then look at how women are affected by the racism and the pollution. They look at how women are hired to do certain jobs that are harmful because they can be paid less and are less likely to complain.
These are not the only feminist theories, but they are some of the best known theories. I hope this helps you understand the various types of feminism. If you would like more information, I would recommend reading Feminism by Sally J. Scholz.
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