Cultural feminism

Cultural feminism developed from radical feminism. It is an ideology of a "female nature" or "female essence" that attempts to revalidate what cultural feminists consider undervalued female attributes. It is also a theory that commends the difference of women from men. Its critics assert that because it is based on an essentialist view of the differences between women and men and advocates independence and institution building, it has led feminists to retreat from politics to “life-style.” Alice Echols (a feminist historian and cultural theorist), credits Redstockings member Brooke Williams with introducing the term cultural feminism in 1975 to describe the depoliticisation of radical feminism

Cultural feminist ideas

Cultural feminism commends the positive aspects of what is seen as the female character or feminine personality. It is also a feminist theory of difference that praises the positive aspect of women. Early theorists like Jane Addams and Charlotte Perkins Gilman argued that in governing the state, cooperation, caring, and nonviolence in the settlement of conflicts society seem to be what was needed from women’s virtues.

Josefine Donovan argues that the nineteenth century journalist, critic and women's rights activist, Margaret Fuller, contributed to cultural feminism. She says that Fuller’s Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845) initiated the cultural feminist tradition. It stresses the emotional, intuitive side of knowledge and expresses an organic world view that is quite different from the mechanistic view of Enlightenment rationalists.

Linda Alcoff argues that women are overdetermined by what she sees as patriarchal systems. She contends that:

“Man has said that woman can be defined, delineated, captured, understood, explained, and diagnosed to a level of determination never accorded to man himself, who is conceived as a rational animal with free will”.
While cultural feminists argue that the traditional role of women provides a basis for the articulation of a more humane world view, other contemporary feminists do not believe that this transformation will happen automatically. They do not believe that the differences between women and men are principally biological. Alcoff makes the point that “the cultural feminist reappraisal construes woman’s passivity as her peacefulness, her sentimentality as her proclivity to nurture, her subjectiveness as her advanced self-awareness”.

Critics of cultural feminism, particularly those belonging to men's rights groups, assert that cultural feminism is misandric in nature, and also claim that there is no evidence to support that a woman's way is any better than a man's. Because cultural feminism is based on an essentialist view of the differences between women and men and advocates independence and institution building, it has, say its critics, led feminists to retreat from politics to “life-style”.

See also


Further reading

  • Balbert, Peter. D.H. Lawrence and the Phallic Imagination. Hong Kong: The Macmillan P, 1989. ISBN 0-333-43964-3
  • Verta Taylor, Leila J. Rupp "Women's Culture and Lesbian Feminist Activism: A Reconsideration of Cultural Feminism" Signs, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 32-61
  • "Jane Addams on Cultural Feminism." About. 1892. Oct.-Nov. 2006
  • ""I'm Not a Feminist, But..."" Two Peas, No Pods. 24 Oct. 2005. Oct.-Nov. 2006
  • Roseneil, Sasha. "The Coming of Age of Feminist Sociology: Some Issues Of." Jstor. 1995. Oct.-Nov. 2006

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