Idiot’s Guide to Modern Feminism

So you think you’re a feminist? You believe women should vote and rights are important –– Feminism! Good for you! But what type of feminist are you? You might wonder isn’t it enough to support the simple notion that women should have equal rights and say?



–– No.

Because this is politics and no one agrees on anything.

So here are the basics of feminism:

Liberal Feminism

I start with Liberal Feminism as it is the predominant approach I, at least, have observed. When thinking of liberal feminism, think Hillary Clinton. The implementation of a female candidacy in a male-dominated (and thus far, female exclusive) position: the presidency, stands as a commonly used example of Liberal Feminism.

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The belief is simple: the differences between men and women are limited if not nonexistent. Therefore, a woman can do whatever a man can do; the only hindrances of this would be that of the social spectrum.

I.e. Hillary Clinton should be able to run for presidency, obtain presidency, and implement policy with the same level of power, intelligence, etc, like any man, as the differences between sex/gender are minimal/do not exist.

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Difference Feminism

Difference Feminism argues that differences between the sexes do exist and are fundamental to the characteristics of what it means to be a man or woman.

(A critique: Difference Feminism in its original form falls short when explaining the variance of gender, especially in regards to the LGBTQ community.)

By this definition, there are characteristics assigned to the very psychology of men and women, though the spectrum may vary from person to person. This theory stands to explain, for example, why teaching is a female-dominated field. While some argue it is because of social conformity, Difference Feminism argues that it is because traits associated with teaching (nurture, patience, caring) are female characteristics, and thus woman strive here.

The system of the world has been created by men, for men. And the extremist view of this is that women, then, should not adhere to this man-made system like a liberal feminist would, but create a whole new system built around the strength of femininity.

Difference Feminism says differences between the sexes exist and empower each in their own way. This does not mean women should all be teachers and let men handle the male-dominated system of government, policy, and the sciences. Rather, it means, that by having women in positions we have seen dominated by men, we will see differences. Policymaking may change, the government may change, and the way scientific discoveries are nurtured may change.

What this means is that, if you take a male-dominated career field and throw a bunch of females in there, you will see a difference in how that field behaves. Which, as more and more women enter politics, suggests that even our own system of government may be in a stage of great change real soon.

Because women are not men and vice versa. And this is not a bad thing. Equal, but different.

Postmodern Feminism

Postmodern Feminism is different from the above as it doesn't set out to say how feminists should behave or why women should have equality. Rather, it explores more of why there is an inequality in the institution-based society we live in.

Postmodern Feminism is set on the differences between Sex and Gender.

Sex is biological (oversimplified explanation).

Gender is identity (another oversimplified explanation).

Postmodern Feminism embodies the behavior of postmodernism, which entails that: there is no single narrative to life. Beliefs are almost fluid here.

What this means in regard to Feminism is the belief that institutions, positions, or even behaviors can be considered masculine or feminine. For an example of this, I will again refer to the presidency. The fact alone that this position has never been filled by a woman stands to reveal that being the President of the United States is considered a masculine job.

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Thus any woman who wants to try for this position will be faced with significantly greater hurdles to overcome than a man as they try to either a) show that they can fulfill the role by being a masculine, authoritative leader (Hillary Clinton), or b) show that the position about to be filled doesn’t need to be masculine.

On the social level, we see this in behaviors. Think articles of clothing, hairstyles, hobbies –– some have been perceived as inherently feminine and others as masculine. By crossing lines and going against, either side must do what the respective gender does not: explain themselves.

Black Feminism

Black Feminism brings to light an issue in feminist representation, claiming that feminism, in the format of Liberal or Difference feminism, fails to represent females of poorer economic standing and women of racial diversity. If you’ve ever heard the term “white feminism,” this is the critique of black feminism. Feminism, in its popular format, hinders to the white, middle-to-upper class, and excludes women of lower conditions. How can a woman worry about equal pay and equal representation in media when she is working two jobs and worrying about providing for her kids, her family, herself?


Black Feminism challenges other feminists of being self-righteous, seeking equality without being willing to share it with the whole group.

Respectful, equal female representation may be growing in media, but how much of that consists of African Americans? Of Latinas? Of Native Americans? Of others? And when that representation does show itself, how often is it sexualized to the degree that feminism was supposed to have stomped out years ago? You don’t see that with a white female lead. So why is it okay when they’re not? And how much is this representation “whitewashed”?

The general claim is that sexism, racism, class oppression, and gender identity are all irreversibly bound together. To address one and ignore the others is an insult to the movement and an insult to “equality.”

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And there you have it, some basics to add to your feminist arsenal.

The importance of understanding both the arguments and the counter-arguments for any opinion cannot be exaggerated. The simplicity of the base acknowledgment of equality is valid and true, but, to argue that it is necessary, why and even how must be a part of your argument.

I wrote this piece to inspire feminist thought –– to inspire an understanding and reveal the next steps or approaches.

The glorious part of all of this is that we live in the postmodern world. There’s no singular narrative. So you don’t have to pick. I think each has its high marks and faults. Make a hybrid of the above, or, better yet, look deeper. There are certainly more opinions than these. The political aspect of feminism means that there will always be a critique of any theory, sub-theories, countering theories ––

There is always room to build.

And the possibilities are as endless as our room to grow.

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