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What is radical feminism?

What is radical feminism?

July 13, 2024

In the article on the types of feminism we already saw that it is quite complicated to talk about feminism as an ideological or political current with common goals and ideology; after all, for something that speaks of feminisms, highlighting their plurality.

However, that within this set of movements there are many very different trends among themselves does not mean that all of them have the same weight. Radical feminism, also known for its shortened form "radfem" , for example, is one of the most widespread and popularized. Let's see what it consists of.

  • Related article: "Types of feminism and its different currents of thought"

The emergence of radical feminism

The current radfem appeared in the context of the second wave of feminism , started in the 70s in Western countries. Until then, feminist movements belonging to the first wave had focused on denouncing sexist discrimination expressed directly in laws and institutional rules; However, this new generation of feminists understood that oppression towards women was not limited to formal sexism and embodied in rules, but that it impregnated all aspects of life.


That is, while the first feminists recognized as a fundamental problem institutionalized sexism, the second wave of feminism pointed out that the problem was of a much more complex and profound nature than that. Sexism was not only in the laws, but also in the relations of power, in the informal treatment and, in addition, in the material disadvantages faced by women as a consequence of centuries of submission to man.

The problem, then, was strongly rooted both in the material conditions of survival (men with many more properties and more ability to contract, for example) and in the minds (popularization of the idea that women should please men, etc.). ). To put an end to this system of oppression, called patriarchy , radical feminism was born: the one that had as objective to go to the root of sexism.


The characteristics of ideology

Now ... what exactly is radical feminism? Fundamentally, it is a broad current of feminism that contains other smaller variants, and its basic characteristics are as follows.

1. Collectivism

The liberal feminism that defined the first members of feminisms understands that the problems of discrimination that affect women do so on an individual basis: a specific situation affects a specific woman , that looks for those others that have gone through the same to, together, exert pressure from their individualism.

In radical feminism, however, inequality by sex and gender is a collective problem that must be addressed collectively. This means that great importance is given to the need to weave networks of solidarity that go beyond oneself. It is a characteristic born of the influence of Marxism and that it is evident, for example, in the way in which the accent of the problems is not put on the concrete people, but in the social phenomena that are believed to perpetuate certain actions and attitudes.


For example, in the case of the appearance of women with little clothes in television products, it is very common to blame the actress, singer or presenter in question.

However, radical feminism underscores the need to ask why is the woman's body constantly exploited as if it were a tool of hearing more, something that occurs less frequently with men. Even if the women who appear with little clothes get money for it, the people who come out most benefited from this transaction are the high positions of the chain, among which the female representation is scarce.

In short, there is constant talk of individual decisions, but of what creates pronounced patterns of inequality: man does not need to use his appearance to have notoriety, but in women it is more difficult and, in any case, never will have true power over what happens.

2. The private is political

From the perspective of liberal feminism oppression is of a coercive type, that is, it is expressed only through direct imposition and violence. For example, the fact that by law many women could not start working without their husband's permission if they did not want to commit a crime was a sign of what was rejected from this movement.

For radical feminism, however, Sexism is not only expressed through clear impositions and directly expressed as such, but it is also in the customs, the ideals of beauty, etc.That is why in this current the private is analyzed as a political fact, since it is understood that in this area the dynamics of relations that oppress women are also reproduced.

For example, if all the great Hollywood superproducers make films in which women always have the same psychological profile and the same plot role as "damsels in distress" in love who need the help of the hero, that will be seen as a problem of political type by the radical feminism, although it is expressed from the private property of the large companies that offer their products.

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3. A historical approach based on patriarchy

In radical feminism, patriarchy, which is formulated theoretically as the root of sexism, is not only composed of laws, but also by the cultural and material heritage that has been handed down by previous generations.

Unlike liberal feminism, which does not take into account historical precedents and limits itself to pointing out injustices in the here and now, radical feminism analyzes the problem by understanding it as the product of a system of domination (patriarchy) that is reproducing century after century . This is another of the influences that Marxism has had on this current, although the psychoanalysis used to study the anthropological foundations of oppression has also been an element that has favored this perspective.

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4. Turning towards identity politics

In radical feminism it is considered that the fact of being a man or a woman conditions irremediably the role you have in the political debate. That is why this current emphasizes the need to form non-mixed groups composed only of women to work on feminist consciousness and find ways to analyze problems that are not affected by the male point of view.

The idea of ​​finding new ways of expressing femininity that do not start from the male point of view it is very emphasized especially by the feminism of difference, one of the main variants included within the radfem.


Liberal Feminism, Radical Feminism (July 2024).


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