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Definition: Feminism is a complex set of political ideologies used by the women’s movement to advance the cause of women’s equality and to end the sexist theory and practice of social oppression. There are three main perspectives in feminist thinking and research.

1. Like other liberal thinkers, liberal feminism is based on the idea that a just society results from the free choices of educated and aware people. They argue that social problems arise primarily from ignorance and social constraints on freedom of choice. Gender inequality, then, results primarily from socialization that forces people to grow up with distorted and harmful ideas about males and females and from cultural ideas that restrict people’s freedom to freely choose how to live their lives. Liberal solutions typically focus on changing ideas and cultural practices, such as rewriting textbooks or reforming legal codes.

2. Marxist feminism makes a direct causal connection between capitalism and the subordination of women. This perspective believes that women are an exploited class in the capitalist mode of production, both by their husbands within families and by employers in the paid labor market. The strongest criticism of this thinking is the fact that patriarchy predates capitalism by several thousand years and therefore cannot be understood as a product of capitalism. This perspective also ignores the fact that male dominance continues in non-capitalist countries such as China.

3. Radical feminists believe that gender inequality is a result of the collective efforts of men to dominate, control, and exploit women. Violence against women, compulsory heterosexuality, and the organization of the traditional family are all viewed as ways to ensure male dominance through female subordination to and dependence upon men.

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