Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction

By Rosemarie Putnam Tong | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TWO
Radical Feminism: Libertarian and Cultural Perspectives

AFTER THE RATIFICATION OF THE NINETEENTH AMENDMENT in 1920, U.S. feminists were relatively quiescent until the mid-1960s, when they became increasingly active either in so-called women's rights groups or women's liberation groups.1 Although it is somewhat simplistic to tag the former groups "liberal feminist" and the latter groups "radical feminist," it is not entirely inaccurate. Most of the 1960s and 1970s women (and men) who belonged to women's rights groups such as the National Organization for Women believed they could achieve gender equality by reforming the "system"--by working to eliminate discriminatory educational, legal, and economic policies. Achieving equal rights for women was the paramount goal of these reformers, and the fundamental tenets of liberal political philosophy were a comfortable fit for them. In contrast, most of the women who formed groups such as the Redstockings, the Feminists, and the New York Radical Feminists and who later kept the spirit of these groups alive in thousands of small consciousness-raising groups throughout the United States perceived themselves as revolutionaries rather than reformers. Unlike the feminists who joined the women's rights groups, these feminists did not become interested in women's issues as a result of working for government agencies, being appointed to commissions on the status of women, or joining women's business or professional groups. Instead, their desire to improve women's condition emerged in the context of their participation in one or more of the radical social movements that swept across the United States in the early 1960s: the civil rights movement, new left politics, and the peace movement.2 None of these feminists wanted to preserve

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