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Radical Feminism

Eve Shapiro

Subject Gender Studies
Sociology » Sociology of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

Key-Topics feminism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Radical feminism arose in the US, Canada, and Britain out of young women's experiences within the civil rights, New Left, and anti-war movements of the 1960s. Drawing on De Beauvoir's concept of “sex-class” from The Second Sex (1952), radical feminism – emerging from what was known in the late 1960s as the women's liberation movement – developed an analysis of women's inequality at the social structural level and was a revolutionary (as opposed to reformist) movement that called for fundamental institutional and cultural changes in society. There were three key beliefs guiding radical feminist analysis and activism. First and foremost, radical feminism argued that gender was the primary oppression all women face in society. Second, it asserted that women were, either essentially or due to social construction, fundamentally different from men. Third, it held that social institutions and norms rely on women's subordination, and consequently are constructed to maintain and perpetuate gender inequality in all aspects of life, including around deeply personal facets like sexuality and reproduction. Radical feminism was distinct from the surge in liberal feminist activism committed to fostering change within existing institutions that also emerged in the late 1960s. As Sara Evans documented in Personal Politics (1980), during the 1960s women gained experience as activists and were ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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