Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction

By Rosemarie Putnam Tong | Go to book overview

Introduction: The Diversity of Feminist Thinking

SINCE WRITING MY FIRST INTRODUCTION to feminist thought nearly a decade ago, I have become increasingly convinced that much of feminist thought resists categorization, especially categorization based on the "fathers'" labels. Believe me, it would be a tragedy if these labels persuaded readers that liberal feminism is only a variation on John Stuart Mill's thoughts, Marxist-socialist feminism only an improvement on Karl Marx's and Friedrich Engels's writings, psychoanalytic feminism only an addendum to Sigmund Freud's speculations, existentialist feminism only a further articulation of Jean-Paul Sartre's ideas, postmodern feminism only a recapitulation of Jacques Lacan's and Jacques Derrida's musings. It would also be a misfortune if these labels detracted from the efforts of radical feminists or ecofeminists, for example, to do philosophy de novo without relying on any patriarch's thought--a daunting, even perilous task, but one that has much to recommend it.

Yet despite the very real problems that come with categorizing thinkers as "x" or "y" or "z," feminist thought is old enough to have a history complete with its own set of labels: "liberal," "radical (libertarian or cultural)," "Marxist-socialist," "Psychoanalytic," "existentialist," "postmodern," "multicultural and global," and "ecological." No doubt feminist thought will eventually shed these labels for others that better express its intellectual and political commitments to women. For now, however, feminist thought's old labels remain useful. They signal to the broader public that feminism is not a monolithic ideology, that all feminists do not think alike, and that, like all other time-honored modes of thinking, feminist thought has a past as well as a present and a future. Feminist thought's old labels also serve as useful teaching tools. They help mark the range of different approaches, perspectives, and frameworks a variety of feminists have

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