Feminism is a movement that has constantly evolved. The first wave of feminism simply asserts equal political rights with men. This movement began in the 1830's and started grappling with issues such as the abolition of slavery and women rights.
The first wave of Feminism ended with the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. The second wave of feminism assumes form and deals with concerns regarding the origins of women's oppression, the nature of gender, and the role of the family, and the lack of women asserting power in economic and political domains.
The second wave of Feminism is associated with legislation such as Roe V Wade. This wave of Feminism ends with the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982. The third and current wave of feminism is by and large a disseminated movement without a central goal or philosophy, and no legislation defines it.
The Third Wave of feminism is characterized by a variety of elements and philosophies such as: fighting against workplace harassment, working to increase the number of women in positions of power, self expression, intersectionality and the #MeToo movement.
Feminism has often clashed with western liberalism. Liberalism assumes that, for political purposes, a plurality of reasonable yet incompatible comprehensive doctrines is the normal result of the exercise of human reason within the framework of the free institutions of a constitutional democratic regime. Political liberalism also supposes that a reasonable comprehensive doctrine does not reject the essentials of a democratic regime.
The most notable philosopher in feminist theory is second wave feminist Simone De Beauvoir. Her magnum opus, the Second Sex, highlights both the problem of Women's subordination and her proposed remedies for them.
In De Beauvior's view, women under the traditional models of liberalism are disadvantaged vis-à-vis rampant legal and social inequalities. From De Beauvior's perspective, women are also constrained by the concept of the "eternal feminine" — a term that is often evoked to refer to the cultural interpretations of and expectations for women's lives.
De Beauvior postulates that women are often not able to live as free, autonomous, and transcendent beings. Instead, women are condemned to live life as immanent, relative being — or as the other. The idea of the "other" refers to all that men are not. This category is defined by men seeing women as less capable, mysterious and dangerous.
De Beauvior emphasizes that they have often been denied the opportunity to define themselves under western liberalism. Under western liberalism, De Beauvior claims that women have often accepted constructed images, therefore, they fail to fight for themselves.
In the traditional society based on western liberal principles, De Beauvior sees women as invisible and dispersed throughout society, thus lacking the potential of uniting as a class for change.
This is true of current day patriarchal societies and of the days of the first and second wave of feminism in the West, but now, western liberalism seems to be giving women new opportunities to participate in the free-market.
Susan Okin also makes feminist critiques of Western Liberalism. Specifically, Okin criticizes the public/private dichotomy. Okin claims that liberals tend to focus primarily on the public world.
Okin claims that by focusing on the public world, liberals are suggesting that the demands of justice only apply to things like the constitution or the free market, and this marginalizes the role of women and the family.
Feminists often challenge this public/private dichotomy as they see it as enhancing inequalities between men and women. Okin reiterates that a humanistic view of justice must be inclusive and acknowledge that gender is a social construct, meaning that differences between men and women are socially imposed.
Okin claims that although biological differences between men and women do exist, these biological differences do not justify the other ways in which women are different from men.
This means that if we take the approach of liberalism and claim that family is part of the private realm, that liberalism characterizes as beyond the concerns of justice, we will ignore the oppression of women.
I agree with the liberal feminist school of thought, as it embraces enlightenment values and individualism. It also demands female incorporation into society and demands for them to be treated equally.
I do believe that this view should address class divisions. The liberal feminist school of thought should also acknowledge basic biological differences while carefully studying and acknowledging how these differences impact the status of women in society.
In regards to biology, liberal feminists should take the view that gender roles are socially constructed but basic scientific differences between the sexes do in fact exist.
The radical approach to feminism that manifests in the third wave of feminism is often unfocused and ineffective because it is not animated by central goals or beliefs, therefore, the original intent of empowering women is often muzzled and an intersectional approach assumes form instead.