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Women’s Column

Gabrielle Stewart



Welcome back, everyone! Today I have collated three feminist ‘sub-groups’ and their definitions, to provide you with some new facets to understand feminism and its leaders. Feminism takes a lot of hits through stereotypes and general misunderstandings that circulate amongst our popular culture. These misconceptions of women are damaging to equality and patronisingly simplistic. By labeling, I am cautious to steer clear of stereotypes myself, and to remind everyone that this is strictly an outsider’s view, to which some feminists themselves may not ascribe. Read on – what aspects ring true with your beliefs? What challenges you beyond your comfort zone?
Liberal Feminism
Liberal feminism asserts the equality of men and women through political and legal reform. It is an individualistic form of feminism and theory, which focuses on women’s ability to show and maintain their equality through their own actions and choices. Liberal feminism looks at the personal interactions of men and women as the starting ground from which to transform society into a more gender-equitable place. 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, voting, education, “equal pay for equal work”, affordable childcare, affordable health care, and bringing to light the frequency of sexual and domestic violence against women.
Black Feminism
Black feminism argues that sexism and racism are inextricable from one another. Forms of feminism that strive to overcome sexism and class oppression, but ignore race, can discriminate against many women through racial bias. Black feminists argue that the liberation of black women entails freedom for all people, since it would require the end of racism, sexism, and class oppression.
Well renowned black feminist Alice Walker developed the theory of ‘Womanism’. The term arose to identify coloured women in the early feminist movements (led specifically by white women), who advocated social change such as women’s suffrage. Angela Davis spoke earlier this year at the law school, where hundreds were turned away due to overpopularity. She was one of the first people who formed an argument centered on the intersection of race, gender and class in her book, Women, Race, and Class.
Separatist feminism
Separatist feminism is a form of feminism that does not support heterosexual relationships due to a belief that sexual disparities between men and women are unresolvable. Separatist feminists generally do not feel that men can make positive contributions to the feminist movement and that even well-intentioned men replicate the dynamics of patriarchy. Author Marilyn Frye describes separatist feminism as “separation of various sorts or modes from men and from institutions, relationships, roles and activities that are male-defined, male-dominated, and operating for the benefit of males and the maintenance of male privilege — this separation being initiated or maintained, at will, by women.”
This, clearly, is just the tip of the iceberg. Feminism is an evolving and multi faceted theory to which I cannot do full justice in one column. The library and internet provide a wealth of knowledge on these topics.
In two weeks we kick off our Womensfest, with heaps of great workshops (free or very close to), so get involved and be sure to sign up early for events, as places are limited.
Enjoy your week!
Lots of love,
Gabbie x