Feminism: Tensions

Feminism: Tensions

Tensions within Feminism

Individual vs Collective

  • Individual versus Collective - This tension lies between the focus on personal autonomy, as seen in Liberal Feminism, versus the collectivist approach of Socialist and Radical Feminism.
  • Whereas liberal feminists focus on the rights of individual women, socialist and radical feminists prioritise the collective struggle against patriarchy and capitalism.

Essentialism vs Constructivism

  • Essentialism versus Constructivism - This debate centres on how gender is defined and understood.
  • Essentialists argue that there are inherent biological differences between men and women, often supported by some Radical Feminists.
  • In contrast, constructivists, prominent in Postmodern Feminism, believe gender is constructed by societal norms and not tied to biology.

Equality vs Difference

  • Equality versus Difference - While some feminists aim for equality with men (equality feminism), others celebrate the differences between genders (difference feminism).
  • The equality-difference debate poses a dilemma for feminists over whether to demand equal treatment or to celebrate women’s unique capacities.

Reform vs Revolution

  • The tension between Reform versus Revolution discusses the means feminists believe will bring about gender equality.
  • Liberal Feminists typically advocate gradual reform through legal or institutional changes.
  • Radical and some Socialist Feminists, however, argue for a complete revolution and restructuring of society.


  • Intersectionality refers to the recognition of other forms of oppression such as race, class, and sexuality, in addition to gender oppression.
  • This has been a source of tension as it challenges the earlier feminist notion that all women experience oppression in the same way.

Global Feminism vs Western Feminism

  • The tension between Global Feminism versus Western Feminism arises from criticism that Western feminism is not always relevant or inclusive of the experiences of women from different cultural and geographic backgrounds.
  • Global Feminism seeks to include a broader perspective and respect cultural differences in the feminist discourse.

Liberal vs Radical Approach to Sexuality

  • The tension between Liberal versus Radical Approach to Sexuality involves differing attitudes towards sexual liberation.
  • While some feminists see sexual liberation as a key part of gender equality, others view it as a system in which women are exploited.