• Enter search term(s):

Radical Feminism

what radical feminism constructs as "radical"

Forum: transfeminist ML
Date: 03/22/2001

On 01.3.21 11:35 AM, "Toni Roome" wrote:

Emi wrote:

To me the only core element to Radical Feminism is the belief that Patriarchy is systematic and a pervasive influence in our society.

This definition is too loose, as it includes a huge portion of feminists who are not radical feminists.

in that case, perhaps you could be one too :-).

Scary enough, yes.

Radical feminists have engaged in the politics over the ownership to the word "radical." Originally, they argued that their feminism is more "radical" than others (mainly liberal and materialist feminisms) because it goes to the "root" of the issues. Well, the problem is that liberal and materialist feminisms also target what they perceive as the root; what they disagree is what exactly they define as the "root."

In the 80s, when "sex radicals" began criticizing radical feminism, many radical feminists refused to call them "sex radicals" and instead called them "sex liberals." Again, radical feminists defined the word "radical" in such way that it is not the intensity of the desired social change, but how "correct" their views are (as determined by radical feminists), as the measurement of radicalness.

That is why I insist that we need to understand the "radical" in "radical feminism" in a very historically and theoretically specific way.

One obvious problem in feminism (as in socialism) is its fissiparous nature. I tend to just want to separate out those who don't see the pervasive nature of patriarchy (liberal/conservative feminists) from those who do (radical feminists). This is why I object to the 'straw man' nature of much reference to RF here.

I think it's known as the "straw person" nowadays, but beside that I would maintain that, theoretically speaking, what distinguishes a radical feminist theory from other feminist theories is their view that the Patriarchy occupies the most fundamental and central place among various social institutions. This is the fundamental thread that unifies such diverse (in terms of their theoretical orientation) theorists as Kate Millett, Shulamith Firestone, Susan Brownmiller, Mary Daly, Radicalesbians, and Catharine MacKinnon - and this is clear if you follow the series of debates between radical feminists and their critics: mostly materialists who believed in the centrality of class/capital, and women of color, who argued that racism was as central as sexism.

Of course, not every person who ever participated in radical feminism had a theoretical understanding of the difference between radical feminism and materialism, for example, and therefore some non-theorist radical feminists do not follow the party line. This does not negate any of my arguments any more than the existence of my ex-girlfriend's liberal grandmother who is a member of the Republican Party because her two greatest heroes were Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt negates the fact that the Republican Party is conservative.

Emi K.

-- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.