To What Extent Is Feminism a Single Doctrine?

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The core traditions of feminism each contain rival tendencies and have spawned ‘dual-system’ feminism and new feminist traditions have emerged, particularly since the 1980s such as Black feminism, cultural feminism and psychoanalytical feminism. It is easy, therefore, to dismiss feminism as too fragmented to form a single doctrine. Also the fact that these traditions are characterised more by disagreement than agreement suggests that they cannot form a unified ideology and are sub-sections of opposing ideologies that are likely to disagree. Nevertheless a range of common ground themes can be identified such as patriarchy, the public/private divide, equality and difference and sex and gender, so feminism is unified to a certain extent. It can also be argued that there are rival traditions within all conventional ideologues. Classic and modern liberalism have contrasting ideas in economic versus social liberalism and positive versus negative freedom while socialists are at odds over the goal of socialism and the road to achieve that goal. In this sense feminism is completely typical of conventional ideologies. The first wave of feminism was deeply influenced by the ideas and values of liberalism. The philosophical basis of liberal feminism lies in the principle of individualism. Individuals are entitled to equal treatment regardless of sex and so any form of discrimination against women should be prohibited. Liberal feminists also do not wish to abolish the distinction between the public and private spheres and accept that women’s leaning towards family and domestic life is influenced by natural impulses and so reflects a willing choice. The focus in liberal feminism therefore seems to be more on the liberal aspect than the feminist as they see no need to push for the sexless personhood goal of feminism but prefer the equality principle of liberalism. This means

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