Feminism is the rise to push social, economic and political equality between the sexes. Therefore feminism becomes compatible with two major ideologies, liberalism and socialism. Liberal feminism emphasises the core individualist values that present society as a collection of individuals rather than a collection of men and women, where success is based on individual hard work and gradual reform. On the other hand, Socialists view individuals as collective in nature and seek to remove capitalism to help womans social advancement. But radical feminists, have to come argue that feminism is like no other ideology and both socialism and liberalism are inadequate goals to gender equality, making feminism incompatible with other ideologies.
To establish the root of the perceived compatibility between liberalism and feminism one must understand core liberal values. Liberals argue that each individual has the right of ‘life liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ said John Locke. The statement in itself does not exclaim a specified gender that is entitled to those rights, but says that everyone is. Mary Wollstencraft argued that each women is like a man, both essentially rational beings and therefore are capable of selfdetermination and deserve liberty, rights and above all education. By caring out political reform, liberals like Mill and Harriet Taylor were able to change the status and power of women in society.
For example, the 1870 Womens property act where women were allowed to own property and in the 1928 act to give women the vote in equal terms to men in the UK. Therefore launching ‘first wave’ feminism and introducing a no discrimination policy against women in politics.
However Radicals argue that the concentration on reform by liberals does not prove to change the position of women in society and make them equal to men. For example, there are still only a small percentage of women MP in the house of commons, if half the UK population are women then there is clearly a great issues of equal representation that needs to be solved. Also liberals only acknowledge the public sphere, and seem to ignore the private sphere and the mans position above women in the family structure. In the private sphere, radical feminist Kate Millett argues, there is power relationship between what conservatives would call the ‘breadwinner’- the main economic contributor to the nuclear family- and the oppression that is forced upon the women to stay at home and take care of his wellbeing, in order that he can contribute to capitalism. Excluding women from the public sphere of work, and is therefore the root of sexual inequality. It is therefore the private sphere that needs to be reformed more harshly then the public sphere. For example, women are taught from a young age to accept ‘feminine’ roles such as doing there makeup and trying to please men in order to la the foundations of a family. Radicals oppose this idea and see it as the reason why inequality has lasted so long and progressed from generation to generation.
Liberals on the other hand feel that by suggesting that a woman should not be a housewife because it makes her ‘less’ than other women and that she presents a a subservient nature to patriarchy limits her freedom of choice and expression. Radicals should therefore come to terms with womanise individual desires rather than the collective nature of what is presumed to be what women want.
Although, liberals oppose reform, one ground that both socialists a feminist stand together in, is the need for a revolution. By defining the leading cause of the oppression of women to be economic factors, leading socialist Engels, suggested that in order to reach the feminist goal of gender equality, capitalism would have to be overthrown. As suggested by radicals, like Shula
Smith Firestone, patriarchy and the nuclear family structure confine women to depend on the man for there well being.