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'There are liberal feminists, socialist feminists and radical feminists, but no conservative feminists.' Discuss.

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Introduction

'There are liberal feminists, socialist feminists and radical feminists, but no conservative feminists.' Discuss. Although the three main strains of feminism - liberal, socialist and radical - have taken priority in studies of feminism, it must not be forgotten that there are other, less well known strains of feminism which include not only conservative feminism, but also eco-feminism and post-modernist feminism. Liberal feminism is concerned, as liberalism itself is, with the individual: female emancipation, individualism and gender inequality can all be found within this strain. Socialist feminism argues that nothing short of a social revolution can bring about the necessary changes in society and offer women genuine emancipation. They also believe that patriarchy can only be understood in the light of social and economic factors. Radical feminists believe that the personal is the politics: the details of family life should be challenged by political changes. It is a reactionary movement that believes in revolutionary change in society and the raising of consciousness amongst individuals in society. Liberal feminism was deeply influenced by the ideas and values of liberalism. The first person to advocate equal rights of men and women was Mary Wollstonecraft in her 1792 book 'Vindication of the Rights of Women'. ...read more.

Middle

Engels also believed that female oppression operates through the institution of the family and especially in the 'bourgeois family' because men wish to ensure that their property will be passed on only to their sons. Most socialist feminists agree that the confinement of women to a domestic sphere of housework serves the economic interest of capitalism. Women are a 'reserve army of labour' which can be called into action when there is a need to increase production but can also be easily shed back into domestic life. However, women's domestic labour is essential to the efficiency of the economy: women produce labour power for the next generation through their children. They also educate children, making them more obedient workers. As housewives, women relieve men of the burden of housework, allowing them to concentrate on paid and productive employment. This promotes economic efficiency. Some feminists have argued that women's domestic work should be recognised by the giving of a wage. They argue that women would gain economic freedom and social status if their labour were recognised with a wage. Although the link between feminist thinking and social and economic life cannot be severed, socialist feminists are divided about the nature of that link. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, most see this as a reflection of misogyny that pervades society today. Instead, they believe that it is possible to establish harmony between the sexes in a non-sexist society. Although there are very few Conservative feminists, the strain does exist. Feminism has traditionally been associated with the Left, but Conservative feminists are the exception. Conservative feminists believe in a free market meritocracy, where there is equal competition between the sexes in public life. They also believe that discrimination against women is inefficient within the market if the woman can do the most effective and efficient job. Conservative feminism can be seen slightly in the 'Back to Basics' campaign launched in 1993 by John Major. It was not only a ploy to help re-launch the Conservative party after the horrors of Black Wednesday. It was meant to appeal to mothers, especially single mothers, as a morality campaign. However, it was ruined by the revelation of several instances of 'Tory Sleaze'. In conclusion, it can be seen that, whilst there are Conservative feminists, the strain is a very weak one compared to Liberal, social and radical feminism. The underlying ideology of Conservatism itself which seems to embrace the patriarchal nature of both the public and private life seems to suggest that the ideas are not compatible with feminism. Aileen Thomson U6DB ...read more.

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