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Study Notes

Feminism: Equality Feminism and Difference Feminism

AQA, Edexcel

Last updated 6 Nov 2018

Equality feminists and difference feminists both desire a better world. Unlike most other strands of thought, the distinction between them centres not on the means but on the end goal.

In simple terms, equality feminism is firmly associated with the ‘politics of sameness.’ As the name implies, their goal is an androgynous ideal in which men and women are equal partners. In terms of a relationship, this could manifest itself in the symmetrical division of domestic labour.

Difference feminists, on the other hand, claim that men and women are fundamentally different. Men and women therefore bring different values and qualities to a relationship. This is a particularly significant point with regard to raising children and is commonly referred to as the ‘politics of difference.’ Difference feminism is therefore associated with the view that women are superior to men, whereas equality feminists adopt the objective of gender equality.

Equality feminists derive from the left of the political spectrum. It should also be noted that equality feminism is closely associated with the strand of thought known as socialist feminism.

In contrast, difference feminists are harder to properly locate within the conventional left-right setting. Regardless of such concerns, the distinction between the two goes to the very heart of what the women’s movement is all about – ‘should feminists adopt the politics of difference, or the politics of sameness? It is a question that continues to provoke heated debate within feminist circles.

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