Goals of Women's Liberation Movement

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Goals of Women's Liberation Movement

The Women´s Liberation Movement (WLM) exploded into existence in the late 1960´s in America after a period of relative inactivity in feminism during the 1950´s and quickly spread to Europe, soon holding annual demonstrations in London. It was a ‘movement´, not an organisation and consisted of numerous women´s groups, all campaigning for different feminist goals. This analysis aims to discuss and debate whether ‘equal access to the same goals as men´, a liberal feminist statement, adequately embodies the goals of the WLM during the 1960´s/70´s. It will examine the British WLM, the 7 demands they made in the 1970´s and how these demands relate to this statement. Various groups within the American WLM will also be examined with reference to how their demands compare with the statement. The analysis attempts to show how WLM demands, in the U.S. and Britain, are a reflection of the goals of a multifaceted movement and are inadequately represented by the statement.

The three main trends within the WLM were socialist feminism, liberal feminism and radical feminism; each saw women´s problems in a different light and stressed different solutions. The American WLM´s origins in the civil rights movement meant that, in the early days, there was a leaning towards the pursuit of equality. The British WLM´s origins were more influenced by the working-class struggle. This meant liberal feminist goals were not by any means the only goals of the WLM. Initially, socialist feminists predominated in the British WLM as it grew out of the social protests of the 1960´s, but by the end of the 1970´s radical feminism became more influential (Watkins et. al. 1992).

Liberal feminists concentrated on equal rights and attempted to bring about change in legislation and government policy. For example, London Women´s Liberation Campaign For Legal and Financial Independence campaigned for equality in the social security system; women, on marriage (and cohabiting couples), were assumed to be dependants of their husbands and were prevented from claiming benefits in their own right (1979).

Radical feminists saw the system of male dominance over women (patriarchy) as women´s problem. They saw separatism and campaigns against pornography and male violence towards women as the way forward. For instance, in 1977 women began to ‘Reclaim the Night´ by marching through Soho in protest against male intimidation and violence (Soho Sixteen Support Sisterhood, 1978).

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Socialist feminists saw women´s problem as being a combination of male domination and class exploitation and saw the end of capitalism as being instrumental to achieving gender equality. Rowbotham argues that the idea of patriarchy is inflexible, unlike the concept of Marxism, which is more fluid and results in a true abolition of hierarchy. For her it´s not sexual difference that is the problem but the inequalities of power given to the sexes within the capitalist structure of society (Rowbotham, 1979).

These different outlooks within the WLM are reflected in the 7 demands established during the 1970´s by the ...

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