Feminism and the State

Areas of consensus: - All feminists acknowledge the state's potential to benefit women. - The majority of feminists concur that, at some point in history or presently, the state has played a role in women's subordination to men. - Feminists contend that the state has the potential to further improve women's status in society.

Areas of tension Liberal feminism 

Wollstonecraft and Friedan highlighted the state's failure to address discrimination against women, perpetuating their subordinate status. The state plays a crucial role in ending this discrimination by ensuring formal equality for women, as advocated by Wollstonecraft and Taylor. Through legislation, the state can facilitate women's access to education and employment for economic autonomy, as proposed by Perkins. Legislation can be enacted by the state to uphold women's equality by prohibiting discrimination, as seen in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, promoting gender equality in the public domain, as demonstrated by the Equality Act 2010 in the UK, ensuring equal pay through laws like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 in the USA or the Equal Pay Act of 1970 in the UK (now succeeded by the Equality Act 2010), and implementing measures to address domestic violence and marital rape, such as the 'Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls' strategy introduced by the Coalition government in 2010 and renewed by the Conservative government in 2016. Friedan further suggested that affirmative action policies should be utilized by the state to rectify past injustices and promote equality.

Radical feminism and socialist feminism believe that while measures and laws aimed at addressing the oppression of women may be helpful, they are insufficient in combating the systemic oppression women face. Kate Millett viewed the state as complicit in perpetuating patriarchy, while Sheila Rowbotham argued that it supports both patriarchy and capitalism in oppressing women. Millett suggested that the state could utilize legislation more effectively to combat oppression, such as by prohibiting pornography, which she associated with masculine power, cruelty, and dominance and feminine victimhood. Rowbotham contended that while equal pay is a step forward, true gender equality is unattainable under capitalism, given the inherent disparities in labor division both in the workplace and at home. bell hooks identified the state as a key player in a complex network of oppressive systems, including 'imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy', which perpetuates injustice, exploitation, and oppression.