Radical Feminism

"In the 1970's, radical feminist discourse attempted to develop a universally valid and trans-historical account of women's oppression under global patriarchy which could be the basis for a universal sisterhood." (Weedon, p.49)

As Weedon states, the notion of a sisterhood is at the very heart of Radical feminism, which is what its appeal is for many women. The idea of a bond or a shared oppression formed between women irrespective of class, race or ethnic culture is the basis of Radical feminism, it gives women everywhere the focus to unite and fight against patriarchy. The differences of class and race and sexual preference were considered less significant and sometimes were invisible in early Radical feminist writing. Radical feminist thought made the personal political, it "breached the private/public divide, focusing on the personal as a key site for political action." (Weedon, p.27). The personal is a combination of the meaning, status and control of women's bodies by women. Radical feminism sees patriarchy as a set of power relations, which aim to keep men's control over women’s sexuality, labour and motherhood. Women's subordination stems from men's control of female sexuality and their domination in social institutions (Mandel, p.32). According to Nancy Mandel, "Only the elimination of patriarchy and the destruction of male control will liberate women." (Mandel, p.32). Issues of violence against women, sexuality and fertility have been at the forefront in Radical feminist texts of the late 1960's to the present. (Weedon, p.27) Discussion about technology centres around sexuality and fertility in this stream of feminism.

According to Rosemarie Putnam Tong in her book Feminist Thought, the main determinant for a feminist to be a part of the Radical camp is that, "a feminist must insist the sex/gender system is the fundamental cause of women's oppression." (Tong, p.46). In other words, you must subscribe to the belief that the reason women are oppressed is because we are women, regardless of our colour, class or culture. This is precisely where Radical feminism is critiqued by almost every other type of feminism.










Amy Saracino
Honours B.A. Women's Studies and Communications Studies
York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M3J 1P3