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Author Topic: F E M I N I S M  (Read 1825 times)
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« on: May 18, 2008, 09:28:23 am »

International Women's Day rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh,

organized by the

National Women Workers Trade Union Centre

on March 8, 2005
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« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2008, 09:41:55 am »

                                                         F E M I N I S M

Feminism comprises a number of movements, theories and philosophies that are concerned with issues of gender difference, that advocate equality for women, and that campaign for women's rights and interests.

According to some, the history of feminism can be divided into three waves.

The first wave was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, spurred on by the Age of
Enlightenment.  See here:,9560.msg81960.html

The second was in the 1960s and 1970s and the third extends from the 1990s to the present.
Feminist Theory developed from the feminist movement.  It takes a number of forms in a variety
of disciplines such as

feminist geography,

feminist history and

feminist literary criticism.

Feminism has altered aspects of Western society, ranging from culture to law.

Feminist political activists have been concerned with issues such as a

woman's right of contract and property,

a woman's right to bodily integrity and autonomy (especially on matters such as reproductive rights, including the right to choose whether to have an abortion, access to contraception and quality prenatal care);

for protection from domestic violence;

against sexual harassment and ****;

for workplace rights, including maternity leave and equal pay; and

against other forms of discrimination.

Throughout much of its history, most of the leaders of feminist social and political movements, as well as many feminist theorists, have been predominantly middle-class white women from western Europe and North America.

However, at least since Sojourner Truth's 1851 speech to US Feminists, women of other races have proposed alternative feminisms.

This trend accelerated in the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement in the United States and the collapse of European colonialism in Africa, the Caribbean, parts of Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Since that time, women in former European colonies and the Third World have proposed alternative "post-colonial" and "Third World" feminisms as well. Some Postcolonial feminists, such as Chandra Talpade Mohanty, are critical of Western feminism for being ethnocentric. Black feminists, such as Angela Davis and Alice Walker, share this view.

Since the 1980s some feminists (including the standpoint feminists) have argued that the feminist movement should address global issues (such as ****, incest, and prostitution) and culturally specific issues (such as female genital mutilation in some parts of Africa and the Middle East and glass ceiling practices that impede women's advancement in developed economies) in order to understand how gender inequality interacts with racism, homophobia, classism and colonization in a "matrix of domination."

Other feminists have argued that gender roles are social rather than biological phenomena.
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« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2008, 09:43:50 am »

A 1932 Soviet poster for

International Women's Day.

Feminists and scholars have divided the movement's history into three "waves".

The first wave refers mainly to women's suffrage movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (concerned with women's right to vote).

The second wave refers to the ideas and actions associated with the women's liberation movement beginning in the 1960s (which campaigned for legal and cultural equality for women).

The third wave refers to a continuation of, and a reaction to the perceived failures of, second-wave feminism, beginning in the 1990s.
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« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2008, 09:51:21 am »

First-wave feminism

First-wave feminism refers to a period of feminist activity during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the United Kingdom and the United States. *

Originally it focused on the promotion of equal contract and property rights for women and the opposition to chattel marriage and ownership of married women (and their children) by their husbands.

However, by the end of the nineteenth century, activism focused primarily on gaining political power, particularly the right of women's suffrage.

Yet, feminists such as Voltairine de Cleyre and Margaret Sanger were still active in campaigning for women's sexual, reproductive, and economic rights at this time.

In Britain the Suffragettes campaigned for the women's vote.

In 1918 the Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed granting the vote to women over the age of 30 who owned houses. In 1928 this was extended to all women over eighteen.

In the United States leaders of this movement included Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who each campaigned for the abolition of slavery prior to championing women's right to vote.

Other important leaders include Lucy Stone, Olympia Brown, and Helen Pitts.

Please see:


American first-wave feminism involved a wide range of women, some belonging to conservative Christian groups (such as Frances Willard and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union), others resembling the diversity and radicalism of much of second-wave feminism (such as Matilda Joslyn Gage and the National Woman Suffrage Association).

In the United States first-wave feminism is considered to have ended with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1919), granting women the right to vote in all states.

The term first wave, was coined retrospectively after the term second-wave feminism began to be used to describe a newer feminist movement that focused as much on fighting social and cultural inequalities as political inequalities.

*The most important feminist writer of the time was Mary Wollstonecraft, often described as the first feminist philosopher.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792).
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« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2008, 09:52:35 am »

Second-wave feminism

Second-wave feminism refers to a period of feminist activity beginning in the early 1960s and lasting through the late 1980s.

The scholar Imelda Whelehan suggests that the second wave was a continuation of the earlier phase
of feminism involving the suffragettes in the UK and USA.

Second-wave feminism has existed continuously since that time and coexists with what is termed third-wave feminism. Second-wave feminists saw cultural and political inequalities as inextricably linked and encouraged women to understand aspects of their personal lives as deeply politicized as well as reflective of a sexist structure of power.

With her essay "The Personal is Political," Carol Hanisch coined a slogan that became synonymous with the second wave.

If first-wave feminism focused on rights such as suffrage, second-wave feminism was largely concerned with other issues of equality, such as the end to discrimination.

Women's Liberation in the USA

The phrase "Women’s Liberation" was first used in the United States in 1964 and first appeared in print in 1966.

By 1968, although the term Women’s Liberation Front appeared in the magazine Ramparts, it was starting to refer to the whole women’s movement.

Bra-burning also became associated with the movement.

One of the most vocal critics of the women's liberation movement has been the African American feminist and intellectual Bell Hooks, who argues that the movement's glossing over of race and class was part of its failure to address "the issues that divided women". She has highlighted the lack of minority voices in the women's movement.
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« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2008, 10:03:22 am »

Original paperback cover from Betty Friedan's

The Feminine Mystique

The Feminine Mystique

Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963) criticized the idea that women could only find fulfillment through childrearing and homemaking.

According to Friedan's obituary in the The New York Times, The Feminine Mystique

“ignited the contemporary women's movement in 1963 and as a result permanently transformed the social fabric

of the United States and countries around the world” and “is widely regarded as one of the most influential

nonfiction books of the 20th century.”

In the book Friedan hypothesizes that women are victims of a false belief system that requires them to find identity and meaning in their lives through their husbands and children.

Such a system causes women to completely lose their identity in that of their family.

Friedan specifically locates this system among post-World War II middle-class suburban communities. At the same time, America's post-war economic boom had led to the development of new technologies that were supposed to make household work less difficult, but that often had the result of making women's work less meaningful and valuable.
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« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2008, 10:14:17 am »

Third-wave feminism

Third-wave feminism began in the early 1990s, arising as a response to perceived failures of the second wave and also as a response to the backlash against initiatives and movements created by
the second wave.

Third-wave feminism seeks to challenge or avoid what it deems the second wave's essentialist definitions of femininity, which (according to them) over-emphasize the experiences of upper middle-class white women.

A post-structuralist interpretation of gender and sexuality is central to much of the third wave's ideology.

Third-wave feminists often focus on "micro-politics" and challenge the second wave's paradigm as to what is, or is not, good for females.

The third wave has its origins in the mid-1980s. Feminist leaders rooted in the second wave like Gloria Anzaldua, bell hooks, Chela Sandoval, Cherrie Moraga, Audre Lorde, Maxine Hong Kingston, and many other black feminists, sought to negotiate a space within feminist thought for consideration of race-related subjectivities.

Third-wave feminism also consists of debates between difference feminists, such as the psychologist Carol Gilligan, who believe that there are important differences between the sexes, and those who believe that there are no inherent differences between the sexes and contend that gender roles are due to social conditioning.


Post-feminism describes a range of viewpoints reacting to feminism.

The term was first used in the 1980s to describe a backlash against second-wave feminism. It is now a label for a wide range of theories that take critical approaches to previous feminist discourses and includes challenges to the second wave's ideas.

Other post-feminists say that feminism is no longer relevant to today's society.

Amelia Jones has written that the post-feminist texts which emerged in the 1980s and 1990s portrayed second-wave feminism as a monolithic entity and criticized it using generalizations.

One of the earliest uses of the term was in Susan Bolotin's 1982 article "Voices of the Post-Feminist Generation," published in New York Times Magazine. This article was based on a number of interviews with women who largely agreed with the goals of feminism, but did not identify as feminists.

Some contemporary feminists, such as Katha Pollitt or Nadine Strossen, consider feminism to hold simply that "women are people". Views that separate the sexes rather than unite them are considered by these writers to be sexist rather than feminist.

In her 1994 book Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women, Christina Hoff Sommers considers much of modern academic feminist theory and the feminist movement to be gynocentric and misandrist. She labels this "Gender feminism" and proposes "Equity feminism"—an ideology that aims for full civil and legal equality. She argues that while the feminists she designates as gender feminists advocate preferential treatment and portray women as victims, equity feminism provides a viable alternative form of feminism.  These descriptions and her other work have caused Hoff Sommers to be described as an antifeminist by other feminists.

Susan Faludi in her book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, argues that a backlash against second wave feminism in the 1980s has successfully re-defined feminism through its terms. She argues that it constructed the women's liberation movement as the source of many of the problems alleged to be plaguing women in the late 1980s. She also argues that many of these problems are illusory, constructed by the media without reliable evidence. According to her, this type of backlash is an historical trend, recurring when it appears that women have made substantial gains in their efforts to obtain equal rights.
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« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2008, 10:20:42 am »

French feminism

French feminism usually refers to a branch of feminist thinking from a group of feminists in France from the 1970s to the 1990s.

French feminism, compared to Anglophone feminism, is distinguished by an approach which is at once more philosophical and more literary. Its writings tend to be effusive and metaphorical, rather than pragmatic.

It is less concerned with immediate political doctrine, or "materialism", and generally focuses on theories of "the body".

Simone de Beauvoir

The French author and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir wrote novels; monographs on philosophy, politics, and social issues; essays, biographies, and an autobiography.

She is now best known for her metaphysical novels, including She Came to Stay and The Mandarins, and for her 1949 treatise The Second Sex, a detailed analysis of women's oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism.

It sets out a feminist existentialism which prescribes a moral revolution. As an existentialist, de Beauvoir accepts Jean-Paul Sartre's precept that existence precedes essence; hence "one is not born a woman, but becomes one".

Her analysis focuses on the concept of The Other; that is, is the social construction of Woman as the quintessential Other that Beauvoir identifies as fundamental to women's oppression.  She argues that women have historically been considered deviant and abnormal. She submits that even Mary Wollstonecraft considered men to be the ideal toward which women should aspire.

Beauvoir says that this attitude has limited women's success by maintaining the perception that they are a deviation from the normal—outsiders attempting to emulate "normality". For feminism to move forward, this assumption must be set aside.


French feminists approach feminism with a the concept of écriture féminine (which translates as female, or feminine, writing).

Helene Cixous argues that writing and philosophy are phallocentric and along with other French feminists such as Luce Irigaray emphasize "writing from the body" as a subversive exercise.

The work of the feminist psychoanalyst and philosopher, Julia Kristeva, has influenced feminist theory in general and feminist literary criticism in particular. However, as the scholar Elizabeth Wright points out, "none of these French feminists align themselves with the feminist movement as it appeared in the Anglophone world".

Bracha L. Ettinger, an artist, theorist and psychoanalyst, contends that the specificity of the female body allows it to articulate a "matrixial trans-subjectivity" which has specific aesthetic and ethical implications.
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« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2008, 10:23:41 am »

Feminist theory

Feminist theory is an extension of feminism into theoretical or philosophical fields.

It encompasses work in a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, economics, women's studies, literary criticism, art history, psychoanalysis and philosophy.

Feminist theory aims to understand gender inequality and focuses on gender politics, power relations, and sexuality.

While providing a critique of these social and political relations, much of feminist theory also focuses
on the promotion of women's rights and interests. Themes explored in feminist theory include discrimination, stereotyping, objectification (especially sexual objectification), oppression, and patriarchy.

The American literary critic and feminist Elaine Showalter describes the phased development of
feminist theory.

The first she calls "feminist critique", in which the feminist reader examines the ideologies behind literary phenomena.

The second Showalter calls "gynocriticism", in which the "woman is producer of textual meaning" including "the psychodynamics of female creativity; linguistics and the problem of a female language; the trajectory of the individual or collective female literary career [and] literary history".

The last phase she calls "gender theory", in which the "ideological inscription and the literary effects
of the sex/gender system" are explored".

This model has been criticized by Toril Moi who sees it as an essentialist and deterministic model for female subjectivity and for failing to account for the situation of women outside the West.
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« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2008, 10:28:42 am »

                                                     Feminism's many forms

Several subtypes of feminist ideology have developed over the years; some of the major subtypes

are listed below. These subtypes often overlap, and some feminists identify themselves with several

types of feminist thought.

Liberal feminism

Betty Friedan in 1960

Liberal feminism asserts the equality of men and women through political and legal reform.

It is an individualistic form of feminism, which focuses on women’s ability to show and maintain their equality through their own actions and choices. Liberal feminism uses the personal interactions between men and women as the place from which to transform society.

According to liberal feminists, all women are capable of asserting their ability to achieve equality, therefore it is possible for change to happen without altering the structure of society.

Issues important to liberal feminists include

reproductive and abortion rights,

sexual harassment,



"equal pay for equal work",

affordable childcare,

affordable health care and

bringing to light the frequency of sexual and domestic violence against women.

Radical feminism

Radical feminism considers the capitalist hierarchy, which it describes as sexist, as the defining feature of women’s oppression.

Radical feminists believe that women can free themselves only when they have done away with what they consider an inherently oppressive and dominating system.

Radical feminists feel that there is a male-based authority and power structure and that it is responsible for oppression and inequality, and that as long as the system and its values are in place, society will not be able to be reformed in any significant way.

Radical feminists see capitalism as one of the most important barriers to ending oppression.

Most radical feminists see no alternatives other than the total uprooting and reconstruction of society in order to achieve their goals.

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« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2008, 10:38:40 am »

                                                         Cultural feminism

Cultural feminism is the ideology of a female nature or female essence reappropriated by feminists themselves in an effort to revalidate undervalued female attributes.

It is the theory that there are fundamental personality and psychological differences between men and women, and that women's differences are not only unique, but superior.

This theory of feminism takes note of the biological differences between men and women - such as menstruation and childbirth - and extrapolates from this the idea of an inherent "women's culture."
For example, the belief that "women are kinder and gentler than men," prompts cultural feminists call for an infusion of women's culture into the male-dominated world, which would presumably result in less violence and fewer wars.

At its core, the theory ascribes to a form of gendered essentialism.

Cultural feminism seeks to improve the relationship between the sexes and often cultures at large by celebrating women's special qualities, ways, and experiences, often believing that the "woman's way"
is the better way, or that the culture discussed is overly masculine and requires balance from feminine perspectives. Cultural feminism is a form of difference feminism.


Theorists of Cultural Feminism

Cultural feminism commends the positive aspects of what is seen as the female character or feminine personality.

It is also a feminist theory of difference that praises the positive aspect of women. Early theorists like Jane Addams and Charlotte Perkins Gilman argued that in governing the state, cooperation, caring, and nonviolence in the settlement of conflicts society seem to be what was needed in women’s virtues. Cultural feminism was a basic theme in all of Addams' writings.

Traditions of settlements of conflicts of women has continued to the present day in several arguments: women’s distinctive standards for ethical judgement, caring attention as a mode of women’s consciousness, different achievement motivation patterns, a female style of communication, women’s capacity for openness to emotional experience, women’s fantasies of sexuality and intimacy, and women’s lower levels of aggressive behaviour and greater capacity for creating peaceful coexistence.

According to Jane Addams' on Cultural Feminism article, Addams frequently used women as the source of her ideas and topics of analysis. She wanted to expand the scope of women's activities, therefore changing the basic structure of values and relations throughout society. In addition to this generalized approach, Addams specifically studied prostitutes, women in the marketplace, especially working-class women, and pacifism. An intellectual stream feeding Addam’s cultural feminism was radical feminism.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915) gives fictional expression to cultural feminism in her account of a society of strong women guided by female concerns of pacifism and cooperation.

Margaret Fuller, a journalist, critic and women's rights activist, was another who contributed to cultural feminism. Fuller’s Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845) initiated the cultural feminist tradition. It stresses the emotional, intuitive side of knowledge and expresses an organic world view that is quite different from the mechanistic view of Enlightenment rationalists.

The contradiction of cultural feminism, the same as for such other utopian movements as Marxism, is that, despite its intention, the women it has liberated and infused into the public world of production are women exactly like men, who are termed "The Mass Women".

Cultural feminists believe that there are fundamental, biological differences between men and women, and that women should celebrate these differences.

Women are inherently more kind and gentle. Cultural feminists believe that because of these differences, if women ruled the world there would be fewer wars and it would be a more just place. Western society values male thought and the ideas of independence, hierarchy, competition and domination.

Females value ideas such as interdependence, cooperation, relationships, community, sharing, joy, trust and peace. Unfortunately, says the cultural feminist, these ideas are not valued in contemporary western societies.
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« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2008, 10:44:09 am »

                                                   Problems with cultural feminism

According to Linda Alcoff,

“Man has said that woman can be defined, delineated, captured,

understood, explained, and diagnosed to a level of determination never accorded to man himself,

who is conceived as a rational animal with free will”.

Where men's behaviour is underdetermined, free to construct its own future along the course of its rational choice, the nature of women has overdetermined her behaviour, the limits of her intellectual endeavours, and the inevitabilities of her emotional journey through life.

Cultural feminists today believe that the traditional realm of women provides the bases for the articulation of a humane world view, one which can operate to change the destructive masculine ideologies that govern the public world.

However, contemporary feminists do not believe that this transformation will happen automatically
they do not believe that the differences between women and men are principally biological.
(Donovan, 2000).

Thus cultural feminists argue that the problem of male supremacist culture is the problem of a process in which women are defined by men, that is, by a group who has a contrasting point of view and set of interest from women, not to mention a possible fear and hatred of women.

The result of this has been a distortion and devaluation of feminine characteristics, which now can be corrected by a more accurate feminist description and appraisal.

“Thus the cultural feminist reappraisal construes woman’s passivity as her peacefulness, her

sentimentality as her proclivity to nurture, her subjectiveness as her advanced self-awareness”.

Cultural feminists have not challenged the defining of woman but only that definition given by men.

Critics of cultural feminism, particularly those of the men's rights groups, assert that cultural feminism is misandric in nature, and also claim that there is no evidence to support that a woman's way is any better than a man's.

Because cultural feminism is based on an essentialist view of the differences between women and men and advocates independence and institution building, it has, say its critics, led feminists to retreat from politics to “life-style”.

Alice Echols, the most prominent critic of cultural feminism, credits Redstockings member Brooke Williams with introducing the term cultural feminism in 1975 to describe the depoliticisation of radical feminism.
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« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2008, 10:50:04 am »

Angela Davis

speaking at the

University of Alberta on
28 March 2006

                                                                   Black feminism


Black feminism argues that sexism, class oppression, and racism are inextricably bound together.

Forms of feminism that strive to overcome sexism and class oppression but ignore race can discriminate
against many people, including women, through racial bias.

The Combahee River Collective argued in 1974 that the liberation of black women entails freedom for all people, since it would require the end of racism, sexism, and class oppression.

One of the theories that evolved out of this movement was Alice Walker's Womanism. It emerged after the early feminist movements that were led specifically by white women who advocated social changes such as woman’s suffrage. These movements were largely white middle-class movements and ignored oppression based on racism and classism. Alice Walker and other Womanists pointed out that black women experienced a different and more intense kind of oppression from that of white women.

Angela Davis was one of the first people who articulated an argument centered around the intersection of race, gender, and class in her book, Women, Race, and Class.

Kimberle Crenshaw, a prominent feminist law theorist, gave the idea the name Intersectionality while discussing identity politics in her essay, "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence Against Women of Color".

Multiracial feminism

Multiracial feminism (also known as “women of color” feminism) offers a standpoint theory and analysis
of the lives and experiences of women of color.

The theory emerged in the 1990s and was developed by Dr. Maxine Baca Zinn, a Chicana feminist and
Dr. Bonnie Thornton Dill, a sociology expert on African American women and family.
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« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2008, 10:59:59 am »

Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg,

Socialist and Marxist feminisms

Socialist feminism connects the oppression of women to Marxist ideas about exploitation, oppression
and labor.

Socialist feminists see women as being held down as a result of their unequal standing in both the workplace and the domestic sphere.


domestic work,

childcare and


are all seen as ways in which women are exploited by a patriarchal system which devalues women and
the substantial work that they do.

Socialist feminists focus their energies on broad change that affects society as a whole, and not just on an individual basis. They see the need to work alongside not just men, but all other groups, as they see the oppression of women as a part of a larger pattern that affects everyone involved in the capitalist system.

Marx felt that when class oppression was overcome, gender oppression would vanish as well.

According to socialist feminists, this view of gender oppression as a sub-class of class oppression is naive and much of the work of socialist feminists has gone towards separating gender phenomena from class phenomena.

Some contributors to socialist feminism have criticized these traditional Marxist ideas for being largely silent on gender oppression except to subsume it underneath broader class oppression.

Other socialist feminists, notably two long-lived American organizations Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party, point to the classic Marxist writings of Frederick Engels and August Bebel as a powerful explanation of the link between gender oppression and class exploitation.

In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century both Clara Zetkin and Eleanor Marx were against the demonization of men and supported a proletarian revolution that would overcome as many male-female inequalities as possible.

See also: Gender roles in Eastern Europe after Communism
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« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2008, 11:08:21 am »

Wendy McElroy:

Canadian individualist anarchist feminist


Another offshoot of radical feminism is anarcha-feminism (also called anarchist feminism or anarcho-feminism),
an ideology which combines feminist and anarchist beliefs.

Anarcha-feminists view patriarchy as a manifestation of hierarchy, believing that the fight against patriarchy is an essential part of the class struggle and the anarchist struggle against the state. Anarcha-feminists such as Susan Brown see the anarchist struggle as a necessary component of the feminist struggle. In Brown's words, "anarchism is a political philosophy that opposes all relationships of power, it is inherently feminist".

Recently, Wendy McElroy has defined a position (she describes it as "ifeminism" or "individualist feminism") that combines feminism with anarcho-capitalism or libertarianism, arguing that a pro-capitalist, anti-state position is compatible with an emphasis on equal rights and empowerment for women.

Individualist anarchist-feminism has grown from the US-based individualist anarchism movement.

Individualist feminism

Individualist feminism is defined in opposition to, what writers such as Wendy McElroy and Christina Hoff Sommers term, political or gender feminism. 

Some individualist feminists trace the movement's roots to the classical liberal tradition. It is closely linked to the libertarian ideas of individuality and personal responsibility for both women and men.

Some other feminists believe that it reinforces patriarchal systems because it does not view the rights or political interests of men and women as being in conflict nor does it rest upon class or gender analysis.  Individualist feminists attempt to change legal systems in order to eliminate class privileges and gender privileges and to ensure that individuals have equal rights, including an equal claim under the law to their own persons and property.

Individualist feminism encourages women to take full responsibility for their own lives. It also opposes any government interference into the choices adults make with their own bodies, because it contends such interference creates a coercive hierarchy (such as patriarchy).
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