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Equity and gender feminism

Equity feminism and gender feminism are two kinds of feminism that were first defined by scholar Christina Hoff Sommers in her 1994 book Who Stole Feminism?[1] She describes equity feminism as having the ideological objective of equal legal rights for men and women and gender feminism as having the objective of counteracting sexism and patriarchic social structures in everyday social and cultural practice. Sommers is herself a strong advocate of what she calls equity feminism and a critic of what she calls gender feminism.

Equity feminism

Sommers describes equity feminism as an ideology rooted in classical liberalism that aims for full civil and legal equality for women. Experimental psychologist Steven Pinker expands on Sommers to write, "Equity feminism is a moral doctrine about equal treatment that makes no commitments regarding open empirical issues in psychology or biology."[2]

Sommers contends that "Most American women subscribe philosophically to the older 'First Wave' kind of feminism whose main goal is equity, especially in politics and education".[1] However, Sommers also argues that equity feminism is a minority position in academia, formalized feminist theory, and the organized feminist movement as a whole, who tend to embrace gender feminism.

Feminists who identify themselves with equity feminism include Jean Bethke Elshtain, Christina Hoff Sommers, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Noretta Koertge, Donna Laframboise, Mary Lefkowitz, Carrie Lukas, Wendy McElroy, Camille Paglia, Daphne Patai, Virginia Postrel, Alice Rossi, Nadine Strossen, Joan Kennedy Taylor, Cathy Young, and evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker.[3]

Varieties of equity feminism include classical liberal feminism and individualist feminism.

Criticism of equity feminism

Some scholars and feminists have criticized equity feminism for failing to achieve true equality for women. Londa Schiebinger, in her book Has Feminism Changed Science, argues that legal equality has not erased the gender disparity in the public sphere, especially in high-paying fields like medicine, engineering, and chemistry.[4] She states that perhaps the solution is “reforming the individuals—giving girls the benefits of boy’s socialization.”[5]

Gender feminism

In contrast to equity feminism, Sommers coined the term "Gender feminism" to describe what she contends is a gynocentric branch of feminism. Gender feminists typically criticize contemporary gender roles and aim to eliminate them altogether.[1]

Sommers argues that gender feminism characterizes most of the body of modern feminist theory, and is the prevailing ideology in academia. She argues that while the feminists she designates as gender feminists advocate preferential treatment and portray "all women as victims", equity feminism provides a viable alternative form of feminism to those who object to elements of gender feminist ideology.

Spread of terminology

The online Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy has adopted the terminology of Sommers in its article on Liberal Feminism[6] as has Victor Conde's A handbook of international human rights terminology[7] and the Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women.[8] Both these reference works have a single article on "equity vs. gender feminism", though Routledge refers to the latter as "difference feminism".

In a 1995 interview in Mother Jones magazine (about a year after the publication of Sommers' book), Gloria Steinem declared she found it hard to take the classification entirely seriously, and that she did not believe there were really two camps.[9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Hoff Sommers, Christina, Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 1995), p. 22
  2. ^ Pinker, Steven, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Viking, 2002), p. 341
  3. ^ Pinker, Steven, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Viking, 2002)
  4. ^ Has Feminism Changed Science, Chapter 2, page 34.
  5. ^ Has Feminism Changed Science, Chapter 3.
  6. ^ Liberal Feminism
  7. ^ Conde, Victor (2004). A handbook of international human rights terminology. University of Nebraska Press. p. 96. ISBN 9780803215344. 
  8. ^ Kramarae, Cheris; Dale Spender (2000). Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women: Education: Health to Hypertension. Taylor & Francis. p. 612. ISBN 9780415920889. 
  9. ^ Gorney, Cynthia (1995). "Gloria". Mother Jones (Mother Jones) 20 (6): 22. 

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