Liberal feminism is the approach that seeks to achieve equality of men and women in all aspects. Proponents of these theories argue that if subjected to the same conditions, female and male are equal in terms of intelligence, strength, and professionalism.
Early liberal feminist such as the late philosopher Auguste Comte has come out strongly arguing that women needed to be protected by men and not subjected as slaves. He further installed the adoration of women as the pillars of his ‘religion of humanity’, which he had explained in his school of thought. In his sentiments about women that were published in 1847, Comte stated that women were the introduced feeling to reason in thinking and morality over politics (Comte 28). His aim was to teach women to move away from Catholicism and become independent in their thinking. Comte did this for the mere reason that Catholicism did not support women empowerment and rather it subjected them into one particular school of thought that had nothing to do with liberalism. Additionally, he championed his priest’s views by urging women to express their potential by acting as redeemers of the western society and with that he says. In his book, he writes, “man ought to maintain a woman” (Comte 32).
Darwin also a classical theorist and feminist explained the difference in the power of the mind of the two genders. The ideology was inclined to the thinking that women’s thinking is different compared to that of men. The argument shows that scientifically, the mind of a man is inclined in competition, while that of women is inclined in imitation, rapid, however in the same book, perception, and instinct (Darwin 33). Paul Broca looks at the sizes of the skull and the in reference to their functions of both women and men in the society (Broca 35) and tries to explain their ability scientifically. According to Paul, the female skulls are much smaller than that of the males. For example, the male skull of the Hommes-Mort is bigger by 6.6% in total capacity than that of their women. At the same time, when the skulls of the Parisian men and women are compared, the findings revealed that the male skull was 16.5% bigger in capacity than that of their female counterparts. Therefore, he concluded that the male skull size was the reason for the superiority. However, savages subject their women to the same duties as men when the same research was conducted to them it was found that the skull sizes were the same. Therefore, his conclusion was that men and women if subjected to the same functions, and their skull capacity measured, they are both equal in size thus the two sexes are intellectually equal (Broca 35).
Mill introduced a petition to the house of common seeking them to extend the right of voting for women. Mill stated that Britain had the capacity to be ruled by a female leader, church trustee, and guardian of the poor. Therefore, he did understand why the same woman would not be allowed to vote (Mill 97). However, his motion did not go through and was defeated by 196 to 73 votes. According to Mill, both sexes ought to have the same rights in education, profession, and legal matters. Further, he stated that the liberation of a woman promotes fairness, justice and increases the mental resource available to human beings (Mill 102). Oliphat champions mills sentiments, in her book, she writes that a woman is not inferior to a man, but rather just a woman (Oliphat 3). As a contemporary liberal feminist, she explains that, just because they (women and men) are different, take different roles in any given family, and that they are not rivals does not make them unequal but rather equal. She further states that marriage brings two people together and makes them one. It does not give anyone among them more freedom than the other (Oliphat 3).
More, another contemporary liberal feminist supports Mills sentiments about liberating women; she echoes her sentiments that the more a woman is empowered and not oppressed, the more happiness and contempt there is in the society (More 69). Further, she states that women’s happiness lies in their treatment as equals with the same rights as men and thus a woman is equal to any man and never an inferior being (More 69).
Marxist feminist a branch of feminism argues that women are oppressed through the social system of capitalism and in private property. According to Marxist feminists, the only way to change the unfair ideologies that oppress women is through a radical reconstruction of the capital mentality that underpays and undervalues women economically.
According to Marxist, a society exists in classes that are divided between the bourgeois and proletarians. These two groups are ever in constant conflict with each other. Feminist connects the ideologies of these bourgeois who are the owners of the means of production with their oppressive tendencies (Marxist 141). The bourgeois are capitalists by nature and thus, the feminists connect their behavior of exploitation to the oppression of females by males in the society. Classes in the society are defined by their status in the means of production, however, women were never meant to have any connection to the means of production. Benston in explaining Marxist ideology indicated that even though women are not supposed to be owners of production, a group of them had the advantage of owning the means of production (Benston 154). Which is an ideology equating a group of women to only one man. According to Benston, capitalist societies see women as a group of people who are not involved with the economics of money. In these societies, women’s work is seen as worthless and valueless thus seen as not real work. Therefore, even if a woman and a man work in the same position, the woman cannot be equated to the man simply because her work is worthless (Benston 156). Benston in her work states that a man who marries his housekeeper does not add value to the national economy because he is the one who pays his wife.
Bartky states that the feminists borrow a lot of their tact of information passing to the civil rights and students movements of the sixties. While the two (civil rights and the students movements) used other means to express oppression, the activist’s ways shows that they derived their ideas from them. To them, the societal operation faced then is the same operation that females face in the current world (Bartky 398). Therefore, the mind of feminists and their reaction is based on the victimization of women in the society (Baetky 403).
Lenin brings out the effects and the idea of capitalism by equating it to slavery, and feudalism. The world’s history bears testimony of the oppressed and exploited classes in the society. These two classes were compelled to give to their oppressors; first their unpaid labor and secondly their wives as concubines to the masters (Lenin 147). Looking at this, one can state that women were not equal to men, and rather they were men’s property. According to Lenin, women are placed in different classes depending with the country or government (Lenin 148). For example, in bourgeois ideological countries, in writings, these states promise equality and freedom of all humankind, but in practice, women, even in the most developed countries have half right of a man (Lenin 148). If a problem of the sexes arises, contemporary liberal feminists will be outraged thus move radically to protest against the ‘oppression’ act. However, their counterparts the Marxists will first want to inquire where the incidence happened, who is the victim and her class in the society then act.
Bartky Sandra L. Social theory and practice: towards a phenomenology of feminist consciousness 3 (1975): 425-439. Print.
Benston Margaret. Practice: the implication of theories: the politics economy of women’s liberation
Broca Paul. Evolution, education and economics
Comte, august. The Influence of Positive upon Women London: J. H. Bridges. Print.
Darwin, Charles. “Difference in the mental powers of the two sexes Descent” 2 (1871): 326 – 327. Print.
More Hanna: Women and Rights of Man: the practical use of female knowledge, with a sketch of the female character, and a comparative view of the sexes
Lenin, V. I Recent philosophical approaches: the emancipation of women
Marx Karl: The materialist concept of history
Mill John: Cries for freedom
Oliphant Margaret. Evolution, education, and economics