Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Women's Equality, Demography & Public Policies // Review

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Women's Equality, Demography & Public Policies // Review

Article excerpt

Heitlinger's book brings a message of cheer to those liberal feminists who became somewhat discouraged at Alison Jaggar's 1983 characterization of our position:

It was thought that, in the absence of legal constraints, women would quickly achieve substantive equality with men; lingering prejudice would be dispelled by rational arguments appealing both to justice and efficiency.(f.1)

We were being told by Jaggar that, in effect, no progress had been made in liberal feminism since John Stuart Mill wrote On Liberty and The Subjection of Women.

Heitlinger describes a more plausible version of liberal feminism, which she calls "state feminism." State feminism adds two important components to Mill's position: (1) the state not only does not interfere with women's rights in the workplace, it also takes substantial measures to protect these rights, along with meritocracy, from interference on the part of employers and corporate decision making; (2) child-bearing and child-rearing are presented as services individuals render to the state: parents produce new generations for the labour force. So parents are, accordingly, owed services by state and employer to assist them with these labours. Examples of appropriate state-extended services are maternity and parental leave, financial assistance such as child allowances and tax exemptions, and child care provided by the state, either directly, or through the employer.

Heitlinger is very careful to not conflate state feminism with socialist feminism. Socialist feminism advocates state benefits as welfare measures both for women in the workplace and for those who bear and rear children. State feminism, by contrast, bases women's rights in the workplace on the wrongness of gender discrimination. …

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