Difference between Radical Feminism and Liberal Feminism

Key Difference: Liberal Feminists argue against the fact that society tends to have the false belief that women, by nature, less intellectually and physically capable than men. Radical Feminism believes that society is rule by patriarchy, one that has built it by oppressing women.

The core belief of feminism is that men and women should be treated as equal, in all regards. No matter what one believes, they cannot deny that in society women tend to have less rights and powers than men. In some countries, women still don’t have the right to vote or right to drive for that matter. Whereas in others, even developed countries, women do not have equal representation in government or even equal pay. Hence, the feminist movement is still around.

While the feminist movement has been around since the beginning of time, in some form or another, the modern feminist movement can be traced back to late 19th century and has since been defined by waves. The first wave dealt with the Suffragette Movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to dealing with women’s rights to vote, they also focused on the promotion of equal contract, marriage, parenting, and property rights for women.

The second wave is attributed to starting in the 1960s, and was primarily associated with the ideas and actions of the women's liberation movement beginning in the 1960s. They also champions women’s rights to vote in some countries, as well as their right to work, and for equal pay. They also fought for changes in marital law that gave men power over their wives, and to repeal the exception of marital rape. The third wave started in the early 1990s and deal primarily with the failure of the second wave.

While most people think that feminism is a ‘for the women, by the women’ kind of movement, that isn’t exactly true. Anyone can be feminist, and is if they believe in equal right for men and women, even if they don’t call themselves that. Many people treat feminism as a bad word, claiming that feminists want to put men down, or rule men, however that is not the case. Feminism at its core just asks for equal rights for women.

Feminism is divided into many different movements and ideologies, each having their own ideas and ways to combat the system for equal rights for women. However, two movements often stand out from the rest due to their popularity and the media attention they get. These are Radical Feminism and Liberal Feminism, and these are often compared together as their ideas are often in contrast.

Liberal Feminism focuses on the individual’s right to fight for their own rights rather than fight as a collective of women. According to Liberal Feminism, each woman is an individual and each has the right and ability to fight for her own equal rights via her own actions and choices.

Liberal Feminists argue against the fact that society tends to have the false belief that women, by nature, less intellectually and physically capable than men. Hence, they discriminate against women on the basis that she cannot so as much as her male counterpart, which is why she is discouraged from playing sports, from working in certain fields, such as policemen, firemen, and construction. This is also the reason why she is paid less in the same company, working in the same position, and doing the same thing.  

Liberal Feminism wants women to fight for their social rights by demanding change thorough legal and political channels. They should fight for bills to be passed and laws to be made that would provide equal rights to women.

A Radical Feminist also believes and wants the same things, however, they tend to take it a step further. Radical Feminism believes that society is rule by patriarchy, one that has built it by oppressing women. They feel that the only way for women to get equal rights is to defeat the oppressing patriarchy and rebuild the system from the ground up. They also believe that patriarchy is not only oppressing women, but men as well, as they are restricted in traditional masculine roles and deviating from those roles leads to social stigma.

Some radical feminists may also believe that it would be better if women ruled the world, not literally, but rather that there were more women as leaders, as heads of state, as CEOs and upper management, etc.  They feel that women may do a better job than men traditionally have, which is also one of the reasons why men have oppressed women, because they are scared of them. Though radical feminism opposes patriarchy, and not men, some women may take their anger against the patriarchy out on average men. Though this is just a small, i.e. a very small percentage of women’s thoughts, these are the ones that get the most attention in the media, hence, incorrectly making most people believe that this is what feminism is all about. Thus giving feminism a bad name, which is also why many people hesitate to label themselves as feminists.

Comparison between Radical Feminism and Liberal Feminism:


Radical Feminism

Liberal Feminism

Subset of




Equal Rights for Men and Women

Equal Rights for Women

Core Beliefs

Patriarchy oppresses women.

Men benefit from Patriarchy.

Domination of women is the oldest and worst kind of oppression in the world

All people are created equal and deserve equal rights. Both men and women are tied down by patriarchy


Patriarchy for holding women back

Society and legal constructs for holding women back

Beliefs towards Patriarchy

Angry against the system and patriarchy

Accepts the system and patriarchy but believes that it needs to change

Beliefs towards men

Men are part of the Patriarchy and benefit from it.

Like women, men are also oppressed by the system

Tools of Change

Total social, political, and societal overhaul as all are tied to patriarchy

Change through the means of legal, political, and social organizations

Reference: Wikipedia (Feminism, Radical Feminism and Liberal Feminism), 
A Pakistani Notebook, TFC, Caragillis
Image Courtesy: radfemcol.tumblr.com, study.com

Most Searched in Business and Finance Most Searched in Computers and Internets
Most Searched in Health Most Searched in Home and Garden
Headache vs Migraine
Stickball vs Cricket
Rubber Wood vs Hardwood
Brahmin vs Pundit


This person was not qualified to write this. Why did they use loaded phrases like "believe women should rule the world," just to then go on to explain that they want fair representation in government? If you're not going to put the effort into describing something accurately, don't do it at all. Liberal Feminism: a system of thought that suggests that equality for women means pursuing success within the established system. This requires one to work within systems of oppression, and ignore how the system hurts others as long as it is working for them. Radical Feminism: A system of thought built on the belief that capitalism is structured like a pyramid, where most of humanity (global south) is exploited for the benefit of the oppressor class (western middle and upper classes). The belief that women (and other marginalized people) should have more representation and power over matters that affect them, and be able to work out fair trade agreements and deals (something that the current system prevents, keeping much of the world in poverty). The idea is: "equality" doesn't have to be based off the current system. Your conception of what you should want out of life doesn't have to be informed by the current system. It's more centered on existing as a fulfilled human being, than on being a "successful woman" within the global economy. The American economy wouldn't function if we paid other nations fairly for what we get from them: we depend on extremely cheap exports from sweatshops in impoverished communities. All that money is siphoning upward to the wealthiest class. Liberal feminism is false feminism. It is what the media wants you to be. They want you to believe that radical feminism is too extreme, but ultimately, liberal feminism is being complacent. It is ignoring oppressive power structures because they don't affect you, while wearing a progressive mask. What it really is, is just doing what our forefathers have done, and then saying it's progressive because you're a woman. We don't have to do what our forefathers have done. How can you even call liberal feminism progressive, when there is no intention to change anything? The whole idea is to work within the current system and then turn a blind eye to things that individuals can't fix, like imperialism, and the exploitation of the global south. It has nothing to do with thinking women should rule the world, or hating men. It's about caring for all humans no matter where you were born or what body you are in. Whoever wrote this article has clearly never read any feminist theory.

Add new comment

Plain text

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.