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Individualist Feminism Versus Collectivist Feminism

• https://fee.org, Dan Sanchez

Feminism is often considered a single homogenous ideology to either endorse or oppose. However, from the beginning, the movement has had two sides.

As libertarian and feminist scholar Wendy McElroy wrote in her 1998 Freeman article "Individualist Feminism: The Lost Tradition," in the nineteenth century:

"The two basic traditions of feminism that fundamentally questioned the political system were socialist feminism, from which contemporary radical feminism draws, and individualist feminism, which is sometimes called libertarian feminism."

In another Freeman article published in 1997, McElroy adopted Christina Hoff Summer's term for contemporary radical feminism: "gender feminism."

Thus the two sides of the movement could be called individualist feminism and collectivist feminism, with the latter encompassing both "socialist feminism" and its successor, today's "gender feminism."

The Meaning of Equality

One of the chief differences between individualist feminism and collectivist feminism is what each tradition means by "equality." As McElroy wrote:

"The differing ideologies of the two traditions were reflected in divergent approaches to equality. To socialist feminists, 'equality' was a socio-economic term. Women could be equal only after private property and the economic relationships it encouraged—that is, capitalism—were eliminated."


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