Feminism & Human Nature

Areas of agreement

Feminists consider sex and gender to be the primary concern when it comes to human nature. They believe that biological distinctions are unimportant in determining how women should be treated by the state, society, or in the economy. Gender is viewed as a cultural construct, not a biological one, shaped by the artificial concepts of 'masculine' and 'feminine'. In essence, feminists argue that humans are generally androgynous and most reject the idea of fixed, inherited gender roles.

Areas of tension

Liberal feminists

 Mary Wollstonecraft and Charlotte Perkins Gilman emphasized the similarity of human nature between men and women. Wollstonecraft viewed humans as rational, self-interested, independent individuals who desire autonomy and the ability to pursue their own interpretation of a fulfilling life. Liberal feminists, known as equality feminists, perceive all individuals as having equal moral worth and, therefore, deserving of both formal equality and equal opportunities. 

Marxist/socialist feminists

Engels viewed gender roles as a component of capitalism designed to guarantee that women carry out the crucial task of reproductive labor necessary for the operation of capitalism. Marxist feminists emphasize economic parity between genders. Sheila Rowbotham combined Marxist and radical gender critiques, contending that gender is a creation of both capitalism and patriarchy to maintain the subordination of women. This necessitates equality economically, as well as in familial and personal spheres.

Radical feminists

Simone de Beauvoir and Kate Millett believed that gender roles and traits are socially constructed and enforced on women to maintain male dominance through patriarchy. Women are taught to view gender roles as inherent when they are actually not. Radical feminists generally oppose difference feminism, contending that equality in family and personal relationships is crucial for gender equality. Nevertheless, some radical feminists (known as difference feminists) view biological distinctions as crucial in comprehending the disparities between men and women. They assert that striving for equality is perilous as it entails striving to emulate men.

Postmodern feminists

Postmodern feminists believe that society imposes gender roles on women. However, gender is not the sole factor shaping identity; it intersects with class and race to generate diverse experiences for women. Postmodernists, as equality feminists, view the varied experiences of women as a means to comprehend how all women are oppressed within patriarchy.