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Liberal Feminism – A Brief View

The major expression of gender inequality theory is the liberal feminism that argues that women may claim equality with men on the basis of an essential human capacity for reasoned moral agency. Gender inequality is the result of patriarchal and sexist patterns in the division of labor. The gender equality can be produced by transforming the division of labor through the patterning of key institutions like law, work and family etc. The liberal feminists believe that

  • All human beings have certain essential capacities for reason, moral agency and self-actualization.
  • The existence of these capacities can be secured through legal recognition of universal rights.
  • The inequalities between men and women assigned by sex are social constructs and do not have any basis in nature.
  • The social change for equality can be produced by an organized appeal to a reasonable public and use of the state.

Contemporary feminist discourse has expanded these arguments with the introduction of the concept of gender as a way of understanding all the socially constructed features that are around the idea of sex identity and used to produce inequality between persons considered male and female respectively. Liberal feminist agenda is consistent with their analysis of the basis for claiming equality and the causes of inequality; they wish to eliminate gender as an organizing principle. They are willing to invoke universal principles in their pursuit of equality.

For liberal feminists the ideal gender arrangement is one in which each individual acting as a free and responsible moral agent chooses the lifestyle most suitable to him or her and has that choice accepted and respected. Liberal feminists see this ideal as one that enhances the practice of freedom and equality. They believe in democracy and capitalism, its reformist orientation and believe in values of individualism, choice, responsibility and equality of opportunity.