Emerging first in the 19th century, Feminist jurisprudence has evolved much over its lifetime. Whilst originally well within the ideals of a liberal democracy, feminist jurisprudence has since splintered into numerous forms, no doubt with a large degree of influence from the school of Critical Legal Studies. From its liberal roots feminism has since found a relationship with concepts such as Marxism and postmodernism, and has evolved into forms such as cultural and radical feminism.
In its first instance in the 19th century classical or liberal feminism (as it is now often called) established itself as the fight for equal rights regarding voting, property, marriage, divorce and child custody. This ‘first wave’ of feminism insisted on the fair and equal treatment of every person without discrimination.
Perhaps the father, or maybe more appropriately, the mother of Radical Feminism bears its origin in the Marxist ideology. For this idea to work one would substitute ‘class’ with ‘gender’. The bourgeois becomes the male, and the oppressed proletariat the female. It would equate a traditional or ‘nuclear’ family as the state that oppresses women and elevates men.
With a foundation in Marxist thought, Postmodernism is the next evolutionary step in the road of feminist jurisprudence. Perhaps the most notable aspect of this ideology is that reality as we know it is a mere ‘social construct’ built to keep those in high positions in power. It is of the opinion that there is no predisposition to certain behaviours and roles of men and women, and that these roles are social constructs and are not natural. It considers those to be in ‘normal gender roles’ to be victims of a false reality.
Postmodernism takes the view that knowledge is simply beliefs socially constructed to justify existing relationships of power, that there is no objective truth. Because concepts like logic, reason, and evidence are considered to be a tool of ‘white male oppression’ the preferred method of the Postmodern Feminist is ‘storytelling’ which may be manipulated more easily so as to protect women and minority groups.
Much like Postmodern Feminism, Cultural Feminism aims to protect women and ethnic minorities from the alleged oppression of the white male. However, there are some key differences.
Cultural Feminism aims to remedy ‘past injustices’ against women and minorities by elevating and protecting these groups by means of ‘affirmative action’ in workplace and education, as well as numerous other areas.
However the white male is where cultural feminism ends. It views the white male as the ultimate enemy and ignores any injustice inflicted on women by other groups – Some may say shrugging it off as a product of their culture, one which they would strangely consider less oppressive than Western culture. This concept is otherwise known as cultural relativism.
First coming to light in the 1960’s, Radical feminism is perhaps the end-result of the evolution of feminist ideas. It is the child postmodernism and Marxism viewing values of objectivity and neutrality as the basis for inequality. Radical Feminism ‘result orientated’, it considered that equality as enshrined in the law failed to take into account the experiences and perspectives of women. It thought the law is used to maintain ‘structures and practices’ which it claims disadvantage women.
Liberal Feminism: John Stuart Mill
Marxist Feminism: Betty Friedan Simone DeBovoir
Postmodern Feminism: Sandra Harding
Radical Feminism: Andrea Dworkin Catherine McKinnon