Describe any two Western Schools of thought about feminism in detail.


CSS Solved Gender Studies 2022 Past Paper | Describe any two Western Schools of thought about feminism in detail

The following question of Gender Studies is attempted on the same pattern, taught by Sir to his students, scoring the highest marks in compulsory subjects for years. This solved past paper question is uploaded to help aspirants understand how to crack a topic or question, how to write relevantly, what coherence is, and how to include and connect ideas, opinions, and suggestions to score the maximum.

Question Breakdown

The examiner wants to ask about any two prominent western schools of thought about feminism. In gender studies, there are basically four major Western schools of thought – Liberal feminism, Radical feminism, Socialist feminism, and Marxist Feminism. So, this question requires explaining in detail any two schools of thoughts of feminism that impacted major changes in society. Thus, what you are supposed to do is to write down in detail about the two of them as solved in the paper given below.  



2- Two western schools of thought about feminism

  • ✓Liberal feminism
    • Blames institutional constraints for gender inequality
  • ✓Radical feminism
    • Blames patriarchy for gender inequality

3-Liberal feminism

  • ✓Historical background
    • Draws its roots from the 1st wave of feminism, the 1920
  • ✓Key principles of liberal feminism
    • Liberty, autonomy, and rights for women in both public and private spheres
  • ✓Goals and issues
    • Aims at legal changes and implementation of women-related laws to protect their rights
  • ✓Famous liberal feminists and organizations
  • ✓Criticism of other schools of thought on liberal feminism
    • Lacks focus on patriarchy- Radical feminism
    • No mention of power or economic Relations-Marxist feminism
    • Criticism of legal and political approach

4-Radical feminism

  • ✓Historical background
    • Draws its roots from the 2nd wave of feminism
  • ✓Key principles of radical feminism
    • Separatism of women from patriarchy
  • ✓Goals and issues
    • Women are capable enough of making decisions, men are oppressors and women, oppressed
  • ✓Famous radical feminists and organizations
  • ✓Success stories
  • ✓Criticism of other schools of thought on radical feminism
    • Offers rigid and uncompromising Solutions-Men’s feminism
    • Ignores economic inequality caused by Patriarchy-Marxist feminism



Answer to the Question


Feminism is a range of socio-political movements and ideologies that share a similar goal to achieve social, legal and political equality of sexes, especially women. Likewise, various theories emerged to support the stance of feminism, particularly after the publication of landmark feminist writings. Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of Rights of Woman, Ain’t I a woman by Sojourner Truth, and Susan B Anthony’s speech after her arrest for illegal voting truly laid the foundation of numerous schools of thought. Owing to that, Alison Jaggar contributed in making the roots of theories strong by defining them into form forms. Jaggar’s Feminist Politics and Human Nature categorized the schools of thought as liberal feminism, Marxism, radical feminism and social feminism. These are several schools of thought which tend to give their types of perspectives about feminism. The following answer discusses two prominent western schools of thought about feminism, namely Liberal and Radical feminism, followed by their historical perspectives, main principles, goals and issues they deal with, major personalities and organizations associated with that particular school of thought and lastly, the criticism made by other types of feminism.

Two western schools of thought about feminism

Two main schools of thought about feminism discussed below in detail, are

  • Liberal feminism

“Focuses on the principle of liberty, autonomy and individualistic character of women and blames institutional constraints for gender inequality.”

Historical background
Liberal feminism draws its roots from 1st wave of feminism back in 1920 when Mary Wollstonecraft wrote the first feminist masterpiece, “A Vindication of Rights of Woman’ (1792), and insisted women make independent decisions other than those made by the patriarchal society for them. Liberal feminism and its concept then impacted the Civil Rights movement of 1960 and drew parallels between systematic race and gender discrimination.

Key principles of liberal feminism
Liberal feminists, better known as egalitarian feminists, believe that women are intellectually capable enough to maintain equality through their actions and choices. Moreover, this school of thought focuses on the individuality of women based on the principles of autonomy. It asserts that patriarchal society holds the false belief that women are, by nature, intellectually and physically less capable than men. Also, it considers norms and legal constraints as hurdles towards success in the public realm. Therefore, on the whole, egalitarian feminists stressed upon

  • ✓The principle of individualism
  • ✓Equal possession of reason and rationality by men and women
  • ✓No discrimination on the basis of sex
  • ✓Institutional Constraints as the root cause of inequality
  • ✓Liberty-the core concern of egalitarian feminists

Goals and issues
The goal of liberal feminism is to achieve gender equality in the public sphere through legal changes. Moreover, this school of thought also focuses on private sphere issues such as reproductive rights etc. liberalist school of thought wanted the government to interfere in the private sphere. It was necessary as the negligence on the part of the government influenced or impede equality in both private and public realms. Another goal of liberal feminism is to achieve equality through affirmative action policies such as equal rights amendments, including reproductive rights to equal wages, the right to affordable education and healthcare, and protection against workplace harassment and domestic violence.

“Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less”

(Susan B. Anthony)

Famous liberal feminists and organizations

Following personalities wrote tremendous pieces and demanded liberty and equal rights to women as well as organizations that promoted this concept

Liberal FeministsOrganizations
Susan B Anthony (The trial of Susan B Anthony)National Organization for Women
Stuart Mill (Subjugation of Women)National Women’s Political Caucus (related to political participation of women)
Naomi Wolf (Vagina: A New Biography)Women’s Equity Action League
Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of Rights of Woman)All Pakistan Women Association (APWA)

Criticism of other schools of thought on liberal feminism
Liberal feminism does not come without criticism from other feminist schools of thought. Radical feminism believes that liberal feminists want autonomy and liberty, but they acknowledge the fact of a patriarchal society. They demand the right to vote or reproduce but from a patriarchal state. Whereas, as per Radical feminists, patriarchy is the main issue causing gender inequality, and they want liberation from such a patriarchal mindset, Further Liberal feminism was called as white feminism. It lacks the debate on the rights of coloured women. Owing to this, a theory of intersectionality is proved as a great hindrance on the way to the liberalist school of thought.

Similarly, Marxist feminism criticizes liberal feminists for not considering power relations and failing to term men as oppressors.

Next is the criticism from legal and political perspective where liberal feminists blame institutional and legal constraints as one cause of gender inequality. But the truth is that institutional or legal reforms regarding women are only limited to papers and lack proper implementation in true spirit. There are various women-related laws in Pakistan such as Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace 2010 which have failed to provide protection to women despite of being a strict and detailed legal authority.

  • Radical feminism

“Gender Inequality is rooted in sexuality and patriarchal gender relations”

Historical background
Radical schools of thought arose during the second wave of feminism in the 1960s. Moreover, this school of thought also draw its roots back to women who participated in anti-war and New Left movements. They found themselves excluded from equal power by men, thus splitting in various feminist groups.

Key principles of radical feminism
Radical feminism revolves around the concept that gender inequality is caused by patriarchal gender relations. Women are oppressed because men are the oppressors. This school of thought talks about liberation from men and not equality like liberal thought believes. It also talks about other aspects of patriarchy which force women into various sexual activities just to oppress them, such as prostitution, pornography and maintaining beauty standards.

  • ✓Radical feminists believe that men force women in prostitution and they do not choose that profession by choice. They also said that men want women in prostitution just for their own sexual pleasure, thus oppressing them to the maximum level.

“If prostitution is a free choice, why are women with the fewest choices the ones mostly found doing it.”

(Catherine Mackinnon)
  • ✓Similarly, radicals believed that pornography is one way of objecting of women by men. It is a form of slavery and highly abusive in nature. Women are also brutalized in the process of reproduction through such acts. Such kind of acts lead to increase sexual violence offering new ways to treat women as sexual instruments.

“Pornography and Women’s equality are incompatible.”

(Andrea Dworkin)
  • ✓Third, the radicals said that the standards of beauty for a woman are defined by patriarchal notions of attractiveness. The advertisement and media industry led by men presents women as beautification objects and commodities to the world. This has caused immense oppression for women.

“What would prince Charming have for occupation if he had not awake Sleeping Beauty.”

(Simon De Beauvoir)

Goals and issues
One of the major goals of radical feminism is the restructuring of the patriarchal society to eliminate male supremacy. Moreover, this school of thought aims at acquiring women’s supremacy or separatism of women from male dominance.

Famous radical feminists and organizations

Radical feministsOrganizations
Simon de Beauvoir (The Second Sex)Redstockings
Kate Millet (Sexual Politics)New York Radical feminists
Catherine Mackinnon (Towards a Feminists Theory of State)Radical Women
Andrea Dworkin 

Success stories

  • ✓ Successful in breaking down barriers in public and private affairs and helped women to enjoy equality in socio, economic and political spheres, particularly in USA
  • ✓ Legalization of abortion and reproductive rights through the efforts of radical feminists
  • ✓ Overcoming the belief that men are superior to women

Criticism of other schools of thought on radical feminism
One of the biggest criticisms of radical feminism is its uncompromising nature made by men’s feminism. They believe that both men and women collectively can overcome patriarchy-related issues rather than adopting the separatism of women. Secondly, Marxist feminism ignores economic inequalities that sometimes urge women to engage in businesses such as pornography and prostitution. However, the sole focus of radical feminism is patriarchy, causing oppression and inequality.


Liberal and radical feminism are similar and different at the same time. One demands equal rights from the patriarchal state by overcoming institutional constraints, while the other blames patriarchy for causing gender inequality. The latest Aurat March episode prevalent in Pakistan is an epic example of radical feminism where slogans such as ‘Apna Khana KhudGaramKaro’ could be heard pointing towards the exclusion of the patriarchal mindset. Similarly, the Women in Development Model (WID) could be considered one example of liberal feminism in which equal economic rights for women are being demanded and worked on. Similarly, the outrage against the turning down of Roe V Wade’s judgement against abortion rights is also an example of liberal feminism where women from different parts of the world were seen demanding the right to abortion/ reproduction.


Discussed are two prominent western schools of thought about feminism. The first is liberal feminism which focuses on liberty and autonomy while demanding the public and private sphere rights from patriarchal society and state. The second one is radical feminism which considers patriarchy as the main cause of gender inequality followed by oppression. It also calls out men as oppressors. However, both schools of thought are subject to the criticism mentioned above.

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