Reclaiming the Mainstream: Individualist Feminism Rediscovered


At a time when some feminist critics are saying that the feminist movement has been too individualistic and too market oriented, Joan Kennedy Taylor contends that feminists should cherish and celebrate their tradition of individualism and equal rights. Reclaiming the Mainstream points out that the most enduring voices in the women's movement--the voices that each successive generation of feminists rediscovers with a shock of recognition--Mary Wollstonecraft, Margaret Fuller, John Stuart Mill, Charlotte Perkins Gilman--have spoken out against government privileges and special protection for women so that their individual differences might flourish. This book argues that modern feminism grew out of the nineteenth-century Woman Movement, which, like much late nineteenth-century thinking, became a battleground between individualist and collectivist ideas. When individualist ideals predominated in this movement--ideals of independence, social mobility, even sexual freedom--it gained wide adherence. But when the movement supported collectivist ideas of social reform, it became more marginal and sectarian. It was a focus on the individual woman's rights and happiness that reinvented feminist movements twice in our history, in the decades from 1910 to the New Deal, and then again in the late 1960s. The book examines this history, gives an overview of the contemporary scene, and analyzes the campaign to pass and ratify an equal rights amendment--and its failure. Reclaiming the Mainstream also discusses contemporary policy issues that affect women: affirmative action and comparable worth; rape, battering, sexual harassment, and incest; the many facets of sexual and reproductive choice; and theattempts to unify feminist and nonfeminist women against pornography or in support of social feminist issues. On all these topics, Taylor offers a new and surprising individualist feminist analysis that asks feminists to make

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Buffalo, NY
Publication year:
  • 1992