Over the last two decades the diversification of feminist theories has rendered the rather convenient tripartite division into Marxist [socialist] feminism, liberal feminism and radical feminism virtually useless.
In the last chapter I introduced the four forms of feminism that are the key players in the alleged gulf between modernist/traditional and postmodernist/contemporary feminisms. In this chapter I shall go into more theoretical detail about the nature of some of the differences between these feminisms, organising the discussion around three key areas of difference, namely the subject, epistemology and politics. Many contemporary feminists have claimed that there are sufficient and significant commonalities between liberal, radical and socialist feminisms to class them together as modernist and, perhaps more significantly, that there is a large and important gulf between modernist and postmodernist feminisms. Michelle Barrett and Anne Phillips have referred to this as a 'gulf' and a 'paradigm shift' (1992:2); Linda Alcoff has called it a 'theoretical shift' (1997:5); Ann Brooks also writes of a 'paradigm shift' (1997:8); Annamarie Jagose refers to 'an anxious moment within feminism' (1997:126); while Patricia Ticineto Clough highlights the profoundly troubled nature of feminist thought brought about by and reinforcing the differences among feminist theorists (1994:4).
These scholars generally write about a gulf in terms of the theoretical differences. At first these presumed theoretical differences between the feminisms may appear to be unimportant. They may seem to have nothing to do with our everyday lives. But are theoretical disagreements only academic differences of opinion? Or are they also about