What Is Liberal Feminism, What Does It Mean?June 29, 2021
Liberal feminism is a philosophical movement that argues that the struggle for women’s rights should be limited to the private sphere and that women should have the potential to develop themselves as individuals.
According to the liberal feminism understanding, since a woman cannot determine her gender at birth, she should be able to determine the position she will be in throughout her life. The liberal feminism view, which is based on the principle that governments cannot interfere with the rights that people accept as indispensable and natural, defended in the period called the age of enlightenment and rationalism after the French Revolution, has destroyed the hopes that men can have natural rights as citizens, and women can have them too.
The idea that the woman belongs to the family under the auspices of her husband is the common thought of all liberal male theorists. During the 17th and 18th centuries – before and after – the assumption that women belonged to the home as wife and mother became almost universal. Since the middle of the 18th century and especially at the beginning of the 19th century, historical transformations, especially the industrial revolution, has isolated women in the private sphere and separated the workplace from the home.
“With the mechanized factories and the collapse of the home economy, the public world of business is more separated from the private world of the home than ever before. Trends like these have fostered enlightenment thinking, which equates rationality with the public sphere, irrationality and morality with the private sphere and woman.” Liberal feminist theory criticizes that women are given political representation, that they are taxpayers, and that married women are dead citizens.
Because at that time, if the woman was married, it was shown as if her citizenship had expired before the law. The man took all the rights over the woman’s property. In the marriage contract, the wife was compelled to be obedient to her husband. Mary Wollstonecraf is accepted as the classical advocate of liberal feminist theory. In her book “Vindication of the Rights of Women” she defends the thesis that “women are created by God as much as men, they should be educated more seriously and allowed to develop their moral and mental abilities”3.
In addition, this book mainly advocates equality with the bourgeois man in the fields of education, law and politics. At the same time, the concept of “femininity” is criticized. “Wollstonecraf, as a rationalist and Stoic, believes that critical thinking will free the individual from mindless repetition of mere physical existence, and that an appropriate education will prevent women from submitting to the role of serving man.” Feminist writers such as Frances Wright and Sarrah Grimke also believed in the benefits of critical thinking. “Wright, as an atheist, saw religion as one of the most important forces hindering the maintenance of women’s independence. And he harbored a grudge against the institution of the “greedy clergy” that succeeded in keeping women’s “minds in bondage.”
Grimke; He criticizes religion based on his analysis of the texts of key passages in the scripture used to justify the oppression of women. According to her, she states that “women have to articulate and legitimize their own truths in order to collide with the weight of centuries of entrenched views and traditions.” Grimke opposes the idea that women belong to the private sphere and that it is inappropriate for them to think rationally about public issues, but still Grimke is frightened by the idea of women’s involvement in government because of Victorian values. In the purpose article of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which was established in 1966, the premise that women primarily have equal rights with men in society and that they have the chance to develop their human potential to the fullest has been adhered to.
It is believed that women can achieve such equality only by taking a decisive role in political, economic and social life and sharing responsibilities with other people in the society. As a result, there are some fundamental problems in the enlightened feminist theory. The first of these; liberal analysis has left the private sphere untouched. Many liberal feminists have shifted towards radical feminist stances, characterizing women as a class against their dependence on men, the patriarchal or male-serving educational system and social institutions.
A question left inconclusive by liberal feminists is whether there really is a difference in spiritual and moral abilities between men and women. Some liberals generally argue that the differences that exist are small and are the result of circumstances. Liberal feminists “wanted to ignore not only class differences but also gender differences, which may be more intransigent”. Other feminists have argued that women are different from men. Advocate cultural feminism that women are different from men