In the article on types of feminism, we have already seen that it is quite complicated to speak of feminism as an ideological or political current with common objectives and ideology; after all, for something that speaks of feminisms, with an emphasis on their plurality.
However, the fact that in this set of movements there are many very different tendencies does not mean that they all carry the same weight. Radical feminism, also known for its short form “radfem”, For example, is one of the most widespread and popular. Let’s see what it is.
The emergence of radical feminism
The current radfem appeared in the context of the second wave of feminism, Launched in the 1970s in Western countries. Until then, feminist movements belonging to the first wave have focused on denouncing gender discrimination expressed directly in laws and institutional rules; However, this new generation of feminists understood that the oppression of women is not limited to formal, rules-based sexism, but permeates all aspects of life.
In other words, while the early feminists recognized institutionalized sexism as a fundamental problem, the second wave of feminism noted that the problem was of a much more complex and deep nature than that. Sexism was not only in the laws, but also in power relations, informal treatment and, moreover, in the material disadvantages that women faced due to centuries of submission to men.
The problem was therefore strongly rooted both in the material conditions of survival (men with many more properties and more capacity to hire, for example) and in people’s minds (popularization of the idea that women should please men). . . To end this system of oppression, called patriarchyRadical feminism was born: what aimed to get to the root of sexism.
The characteristics of ideology
Now … what is radical feminism? Essentially, it is a broad stream of feminism that contains other smaller variations, and its basic characteristics are as follows.
The liberal feminism that defined the early members of feminisms understands that issues of discrimination that affect women do so individually: a particular situation affects a particular woman, Who seeks those who have lived the same thing to, together, exert a pressure of their individualism.
In radical feminism, however, gender inequality is a collective problem that must be addressed collectively. In this case, great importance is given to the need to weave networks of solidarity that go beyond oneself. This is a feature born from the influence of Marxism and this is noticeable, for example, in the way in which the emphasis is not placed on the problems of concrete people, but on social phenomena which are thought to perpetuate certain actions and attitudes.
For example, in the case of the appearance of women with little clothing in television products, it is very common to blame the actress, singer or presenter in question.
However, in radical feminism the need to ask is emphasized why it is constantly exploited in a woman’s body as if it were just one more audience tool, which happens less often with men. Although women who show up with little clothing receive the money, the people who benefit most from this transaction are the chain’s senior officials, among whom female representation is rare.
In short, there is constant talk not of individual decisions, but of what creates pronounced patterns of inequality: men do not need to use their appearance to gain notoriety, but in women it is more difficult. and, in any case, never to have any real power over what is happening.
2. What is private is political
From the perspective of liberal feminism, oppression is coercive, that is, it is expressed only through direct imposition and violence. For example, the fact that by law many women cannot start working without their husbands’ permission if they do not want to commit a crime is a sign of what has been rejected by this movement.
For radical feminism, however, sexism is not expressed only through clear impositions and directly expressed as such, but is also in customs, ideals of beauty, etc. This is why in this current the private sector is analyzed as a political fact, since it is understood that in this field also reproduce the dynamics of relations which oppress women.
For example, if all the big Hollywood blockbusters make films in which the women still have the same psychological profile and the same role in the plot as the “troubled ladies” who need the hero’s help, that will be considered. as a political type problem for radical feminism. , although it is expressed from the private ownership of large companies offering their products.
3. A historical approach based on patriarchy
In radical feminism, patriarchy, theoretically formulated as the root of sexism, is not only made up of laws, but also of the cultural and material heritage bequeathed by previous generations.
Unlike liberal feminism, which ignores historical precedents and only points out injustices in the here and now, radical feminism analyzes the problem by understanding it as the product of a system of domination (patriarchy). which recurs century after century. This is another of the influences that Marxism exerted on this current, although the psychoanalysis used to study the anthropological foundations of oppression was also an element which favored this view.
4. Towards an identity policy
In radical feminism, we consider that being male or female conditions inevitably the role it plays in the political debate. This is why this current insists on the need to form single-sex groups composed only of women in order to work on feminist consciousness and find ways to analyze issues that are not affected by the male point of view.
The idea of finding new ones ways of expressing femininity that do not start from the male point of view it is strongly underlined in particular by the feminism of difference, one of the main variants included in the radfem.