Feminism book review: Feminist politics and Human Nature

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In her book, Feminist Politics And Human Nature, published in 1988, Alison Jagger is simply trying to draw a clear picture of the four major theories and philosophies of feminism, with an intended attempt to relate them to politics.  Jagger is also concerned with analyzing the situation of feminist perspectives available today, namely liberal feminism, traditional Marxism, radical feminism and socialist feminism such that in the end she would prove that socialist feminism is superior to the other three perspectives. The author presents each of the four perspectives with a deep analytic style, acknowledging how each of these perspectives has contributed to the feminist cause in the twentieth century. She then pinpoints the major advantages and shortcomings of each perspectives with particular emphasis on human nature and political interaction. Her final analysis is presented in the last part of the book in which she tries to prove how socialist feminism is superior and more adequate than other perspectives with respect to feminists at the end of the twentieth century.

Alisoin is aware that feminism as a philosophy has come late without having real roots in contrast to the majority of ideologies hat have developed in the past three centuries. It is for this reason that feminist thinkers and philosophers today have resorted to linking feminism to older philosophical and political schools of thought, particularly liberalism and Marxism. This would not only justify feminism as a historical and popular movement, but it would also contribute to establishing the feminism as a fundamental human movement in the twentieth century.

The first perspective analyzed by Alisoin is the liberal feminist perspective which claims equality for all human beings. What has attracted a number of feminist thinkers to this perspective is the manner in which it values the mind and provides an opportunity for equality between men and women. Nevertheless, the author argues that liberal feminism is actually flawed by a number of problems that are inherent in the liberal perspective itself. First of all, liberalism eventually leads to skepticism, particularly as it justifies the establishment of political institutions for neutral purposes. Given the inferior position of women in societies, this would simply lead to negligence of feminism, rather than to the promotion of feminism. More importantly, liberalism is concerned and overwhelmed by abstract individualism. This means that the psychological differences that exist between men and women are not considered, but rather, simply ignored in an attempt to achieve equality. However, this in itself is a limitation against women since given the bias in society against women, abstract individualism is most likely going to assert men’s rather than women’s views, symbols and representations.

The Marxist perspective on the other hand, deals with a different set of questions and answers, mainly based on class division and conflict. According to Marxism, society is divided into two major classes, the working class and the upper class who own the means of production. Marxism argues that the working class, under the impact of social and economic oppression related to their status will struggle until they eventually abolish the upper class, the state and the entire system. Feminism in this respect is interpreted as a class struggle too. Marxism divides women into two categories, the bourgeois women and working women. Both groups are oppressed even when they develop a false sense of security and equality. Bourgeois women, Marxism argues, are oppressed by their being members of a male supreme class, thereby being limited by the domination of man of the means of production. Working women, on the other hand, are oppressed by the realities of their belonging to the working class and by the nature of their work, that is, mainly contributing to the household rather than working outside. Modern Marxism, and in contemplation on the fact that many lower class women are working outside their homes, argues that these women have become capitalist oriented by the false feeling of equality and independence that they are enjoying as a result of their working outside their homes. They are not aware of the fact that the means of production are not yet in their hands or in the hands of males who belong to the same class as they do. On the contrary, these women are serving capitalism by distorting social boundaries, thus weakening the social struggle that eventually abolishes the capitalist system. Marxism, in fact, argues that it is bourgeois women who are more capable of initiating class struggle since they do not suffer the false feeling of equality that working women have. A Marxism perspective on feminism, Alisoin argues, is mainly weak because it fails to deal with the biological differences between men and women. Even though Marxism argues that women enjoyed supremacy before the prevalence of capitalism, women today are oppressed due to the roles assigned to them (mainly doing domestic work). Marxism is described by Alisoin as gender-blind with a male bias. In other words, Marxism is based on a social struggle that view society as male. This is why a Marxist perspective on feminism is not adequate for feminism.

Alisoin then analyzes radical feminism which she considers to be different from the liberal and Marxist perspective in that it is mainly based on biological interpretation of the differences that exist between men and women. Radical feminists define biology as a science that has been developed by men. Accordingly, they interpret the biological domination of women by men as a natural consequence, since the science itself is male-dominated. More importantly, they argue that society itself is a male production. Radical feminists have consequently emphasized their works on trying to develop another form of biology where female biological traits are illuminated. The ability to give life, a trait that is lacking in men, is one of their powerful points. However, one deficiency in this argument is that neither men nor women are capable of giving life on their own without each other. Throughout their development in the 1960s and 1970s, radical feminists have tried to affiliate with new developments which give women more freedom, such as bottle-feeding. A number of major criticisms are attributed to radical feminism. First of all, this perspective is defined as a historical, since it does not affiliate itself with any historical developments. Another problem, which is even more serious, is that this perspective tends to universalize the oppression of women without taking into consideration the differences that may exist between one society and another. This universal attitude is justified by the belief shared by radical feminists and which claims that women are the first human group to be systematically dominated in the world.

The socialist feminist perspective, on the other hand, is a blending of traditional Marxism and radical feminism. Socialist feminists try to form a modernized version of feminism by uniting the biological perspective with the Marxist version of class struggle. Given the contradictions and the gaps that exist between the two versions, this is a very difficult task, but yet, if successful, it results in one of the most promising approaches to provide an understanding of women’s subordination, and consequently, it could provide for an effective ground through which feminism may operate towards the emancipation of women. Socialist feminism recognizes gender and sexual differences between men and women, but counts on distinguishing these differences while at the same time enabling women to achieve equality with men. At the same time, this perspective recognizes the fact that class struggle is the most appropriate dynamics of change for women, especially with the goal of improving their social status. Socialist feminism, as Alisoin argues, is more appropriate to lead to change for women than any other perspective because it capitalizes on improving the social, political and economic status of women in society. This perspective tries to provide a new interpretation for the biological attributes of women (eg. Pregnancy) and to replace their negative impact by a productive outcome for women in society.

Alison Jagger is certainly fully aware of the challenges faced by feminism, particularly the fact that not all women have come to acknowledge feminism as an approach to emancipation. She is also aware of the fact that the different approaches of feminism have not yet succeeded in mobilizing sufficient support or even conviction among women. Socialist feminism is the approach that Alisoin believes can achieve such results, even though not much has so far been attained. Alisoin believes that socialist feminism is now asserting itself as a political-economic movement, and thus, it would be able to become representative of modern women and their cause. Her final analysis is that the oppression and domination of women should be addressed in different manners all over the world, and that this flexibility is only achieved through socialist feminism, since this approach does not fail to recognize the differences between one society and another. Alisoin has succeeded in providing a clear argument, and whether one agree or not with her, one is actually impressed by the high organization of the book, the deep analysis of the arguments, and the capability of the author to present her ideas clearly and powerfully. Not lacking in reason or eloquence, Alisoin’s Feminist Politics and Human Nature is certainly an achievement that should be appreciated.


In addition, the book, African Voices: Things Fall Apart, sheds light on several other feminist issues. In this respect, the book sheds light on the feminist behavior of the women of Fada who are well-known for their beauty. In addition, the book tackles the traditional and cultural interaction of females in Fada with their surroundings. In addition, in the book, Caribbean Voices II, In a Free State, there is a sense of feminist in the structure of the content when the writer draws a relationship among the people inside the society. Females have different characteristics than males and people in the society look at females from a different perspective than they look to males. In this respect, feminism is apparent throughout the book by looking at females from a different perspective than males.






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