Navigating Feminist Frontiers: Dissecting the Separatist Perspective on Gender Equality


Feminism is a movement that ideally aimed to mould political, economic, and social paradigm to accommodate equality based on sex by define, establish, ad incorporating the female perspective rather than just male. The ideology argue that female, in a given society, have, over the year, received unfair treatment compared to their male counterparts. According to Nicholson (2013), feminism ideally, as a holistic concept, questions the basic assumption held by a society on gender, gender difference, and sexuality. Hirsch and Keller (2015) pointed that this should be different with those segments that are only interested by the male/female binary offering the idea of gender multiplicity and those who offer concept of ‘woman’. In modern society, as stated before, the concept of feminism has taken many views ranging from radical, post-modern, socialist, transfeminism, separatist, and libertarian (Zinn, and Dill, 2016; Fuss, 2013; King, 2015). This essay discusses the separatist point of view of feminism taking into account the beliefs and arguments held as well as controversies and criticism against.

Feminism concept


Notably, feminism concept is not embodied into single ideology. Based on Fuss (2013) argument, although the concept emerged as a wave to fight for women rights such as owning property, education, and participating in social and public forums, with time, the concept morphed to address such aspect considered mistreatment to women. For instance, in 19th century, women in France were compelled to cover their heads while in public while in German society, it was acceptable for a man to sell his wife, in fact, he had a right to do so. In 20th century, women were not allowed to vote or hold elective position in both the United Stated and European. In some societies, women were not allowed to conduct any business or, those married with children, not allowed to control over their own children without the presence of male or husband. The rise of feminism was rooted on fighting for freedom and equality in both social and political spheres through challenging socially held-norms and rules and laws (Broude, 2018; Pinto, 2010; Cherry, 2012).

The 1960s and 1970s wave of feminism widely regarded as a second wave of feminism was largely driven by push for equality in education, employment, workplace, pay, and legal inequality (Nicholson, 2013; Newton, 2013). This phase gave birth to women’s right movement characterised by campaigns, sit-ins, and marches. The result was wide change in discriminatory laws and introduction of protective laws against female workers, women being employed in male long-time dominated field such as military, aviation, banking, and construction. However, as argued by David & Clegg (2008) and Evans (2008), the biggest contribution of the second feminism wave was questioning and theoretical discussion into the role of women, nature of gender, origin of women oppression, and view of women in a wider social perspective. Such discussion as power-structured relationships perceiving that love in a male-female relationship bound women oppression disadvantaging them through intimate shackles was accompanied by several controversy. Greer and McLaughlin (2015), in their book argued that sexual repression of women led to be less creative and hence, for them to reach full personal potential, need to free self and be independent for self-fulfilment. As pointed by Grant (2013) and Bulbeck (2010), the effort to harmonise the concepts and argument on core foundations of feminism failed because of the difference on the views on role of women in a relationship, gender distinction, and roots of sexual violence. The aftermath of this was emergence of difference factions feminism such as libertarians driven by emancipation of women from shackles of oppression.

Some liberators such as Emma Goldman perceived that women liberations would not be attained without first dismantling and making way with such institutions as family, state power, and private property (Fogg, 2010; Hemmings, 2018). However, the individualist feminism held that government intervention of problems and challenges facing women at a socio-economic and political level would be solved by incorporating the assistance and intervention of the government. Others groups such as separatist feminist strongly argued that for women liberation, they need to first separate themselves from men, at least for some period (Browne, 2011; Browne, 2009). Whereas, ‘Amazon feminist’ viewed mythical physical strength as the only way the women would fight against discrimination and injustices faced (Billings, 2012). During this period, second feminism, three segments of thoughts was emerged: liberals, cultural ‘difference’, and radical feminism each holding difference perspective of change or fighting against women discrimination and injustices.

In mid-1990s, the third wave of feminism emerged mostly arguing on limitation of the first and second phases of women liberation. The wave was accompanied by number of criticism ranging from noting adding anything substantial to the issues raised and fought for before (Snyder, 2008; Snyder-Hall, 2010; Harris, 2012.). Nevertheless, biggest issues came from behaviour that include dressing and pole dancing by ‘liberated women’ giving rise to question of true sexual liberation and gender equality.

Modern feminism (fourth wave feminism)

The fourth wave conceded with the emergence and growth of social media leading to focus and raising awareness on sexual harassment, rape culture, body shaming, and women stereotyping (Harris, 2012). The core values of the wave were informed by gender equality, identity, language, body positivity (embracing sizeism and anti-fat bias), fighting against women-based violence, sex positivity, changing the ‘weaker sex’ perspective, and fixing image of women. Its holds the thought that there is no universal identity of women but rather construed on social and cultural settings. Although most views of feminism still hold the view of complete and spontaneous participation of women for true social progress, ways of achieving such inclusivity and shunning oppression and discrimination in social, political, and workplace spheres bring up debates. However, some critics argue that modern feminism has either become over strict ideology particular on male-female and workplace interrelationship or soften its stands to the point of being useless (Di Stefano, 2019; Stimpson, 2016). Jessa Crispin asserted that pushing feminism to be universal accommodating women from different backgrounds (religious, social, beliefs, economic, regions, and race) negate the large meaning of the ideology (Cooke, 2017; Tolentino, 2017).

The radical, also considerably separatist, view that modern feminism has been coined by corporate world (businesses) to become self-serving to popularise business and brands rather than fighting for women rights and equally. Daly (2016) holds similar perspective that modern feminism is a political argument taking the form of business merchandise by profiteers. Hence, the poor and marginalised women remain oppressed, discriminated, and denied fundamental rights. Crispin argues that she is not a feminist because the feminism by itself, especially in modern society, has lost its sight becoming more mainstream and fashionable (Tolentino, 2017). She argues that remodelling the feminism ideology to become universally acceptable in attempt to be more effective made it ‘banal, non-threatening, and ineffective’. Hart and Daughton (2015) critiqued modern feminism by holding that earlier feminism demanded for equality at all level in a society but current movements lacks constructs.

Moreover, Donovan (2015) perceived that demand for overhaul of social, economic, and political aspects particularly abolition of gender. For instance, to recently, most radical feminism have cited pornography industry as an example to women objectification and oppression by society but critics view this as misidentifying the root. Rosenfelt & Newton (2013) and Smith & Attwood (2014) question whether all women in pornography industry or sexual workers are actual oppressed by men (society, at large) or pushed by economic difficulties. While other view that such action as relying on the government for censorship is going out of the way and making alliance with oppressors. Although, others take a view that women in these industries are grown women and in a position to make individual decision, outlawing such professional goes against one human right of choice and expression in addition to little regard of their immediate and material concerns.

Abolition of gender, seen as inherently hierarchal and oppressive towards women by radical feminism, has receive a sharp criticism as it is viewed as destruction of core aspects of society, human reproductive, and, from economist perspective, the campaign is seen as hindrance of economic growth (Jeffreys, 2014; Shola Orloff, and Shiff, 2016). Economists argue that person’s class should not be categorised in term of gender (sex) rather than productivity and performance and, as such, fairness and equity should be basis of measure in workplace.

Recently, a subsection of radical feminist widely referred to as trans-exclusionary radical feminist has emerged who holds that if men are and sources of women oppression if follows that, even after transitioning, such oppressive power remains. According to Schweizer (2017) and Jones (2014), socializations of gender (transitioning from men-to-women or women-to-men) render them agents of oppression. Despite the ideological stand of the radical feminism against sexual and physical violence and mistreatment of women, the disproportionately high violence rate suffered by transwomen negates their views.

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In Britain, the liberal (separatist) feminism have been accused of being sexist, anti- women individualistic choice, destroying fundamental aspect of a society (nuclear family), and making workplace ‘one-sided’ tipping to satisfy women sense of equality rather than going with competence, performance, commitment, talent, and productivity. Some argue aggression of feminism in both workplace and political sector disregards the organizational and social culture. Some sections of radical women push for rejecting family planning and reproductive health and rolling back welfare meagre established. Some critics argue that although society held norm of men engaging with capitalist, women role in social reproduction and taking care of the family has a critical role in social growth and functioning.


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