Liberal feminism

From Academic Kids

Liberal feminism is a form of feminism that argues that equality for women can be achieved through legal means and social reform, and that men as a group need not be challenged.

Liberal feminism is a somewhat conservative form of feminism by today’s standards, although it is rooted classically in liberalism. Liberal feminism leans towards an equality of sameness with men (not a difference feminism).

Liberal feminism conceives of politics in individualistic terms and looks to reform present "liberal" practices in society, rather than advocating for a wholesale revolutionary change. Feminist writers associated with this tradition are amongst others Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill and second wave feminist Betty Friedan.


Views of liberal feminists

Liberal feminists tend to support legalizing gay marriage, as well as polygamy (which includes polygyny and polyandry) and polyamory. It is their opinion that the government has no place defining what sort of consensual relationships individuals may engage in.

Liberal feminists also tend to be pro-choice when it comes to debates concerning abortion. A common argument given for this position is that every individual should have control over his or her own body, and that this also affords them the right to make medical decisions.

Because of this approach to self-ownership, liberal feminists also tend to support legalizing or decriminalizing prostitution, a position often challenged by radical feminists and by the religious right. Liberal feminists tend to view the criminalization of prostitution to be a legislative act rooted in patriarchal control over the personal and business affairs of women, and thus repressive.

Sources of gender inequality

Liberal feminists see the following as sources of gender inequality:

Criticisms of liberal feminism

Radical feminists often feel that the approach of their liberal counter parts, of simply working for more equality in society, fails to get to the roots of patriarchy. They feel that male domination very deeply seeded in western society and that drastic, thorough going changes are needed to wipe it out.

Gender egalitarians, on the other hand, feel that while liberal feminists are closer to their philosophy than radical feminists are, they are still, at least subtly, gynocentric ( Gender egalitarians believe that true equality can only be reached with a totally egalitarian approach – one that is neither feminist nor masculist.


The goal of liberal feminism in the United States was embodied in the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was never ratified. It said, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” – Judith Lorber Gender Inequality: Feminist Theories and Politics, Second Edition (

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