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”.