Two modes of argumentation have been used on behalf of women’s emancipation in Western societies. Arguments in what could be called the “relational” feminist tradition maintain the doctrine of “equality in difference,” or equity as distinct for equality. They posit that biological distinctions between the sexes result in a necessary sexual division of labor in the family and throughout society and that women’s procreative labor is currently undervalued by society, to the disadvantage of women. By contrast, the individualist feminist tradition emphasizes individual human rights and celebrates women’s quest for personal autonomy, while downplaying the importance of gender roles and minimizing discussion of childbearing and its attendant responsibilities.
Before the late nineteenth century, these views coexisted within the feminist movement, often within the writings of the same individual. Between 1890 and 1920, however, relational feminism, which had been the dominant strain in feminist thought, and which still predominates among European and non-Western feminists, lost ground in England and the United States. Because the concept of individual rights was already well established in the Anglo-Saxon legal and political tradition, individualist feminism came to predominate in English-speaking countries. At the same time, the goals of the two approaches began to seem increasingly irreconcilable. Individualist feminists began to advocate a totally gender-blind system with equal rights for all. Relational feminists, while agreeing that equal educational and economic opportunities outside the home should be available for all women, continued to emphasize women’s special contributions to society as homemakers and mothers; they demanded special treatment including protective legislation for women workers, state-sponsored maternity benefits, and paid compensation for housework.
Relational arguments have a major pitfall: because they underline women’s physiological and psychological distinctiveness, they are often appropriated by political adversaries and used to endorse male privilege. But the individualist approach, by attacking gender roles, denying the significance of physiological difference, and condemning existing familial institutions as hopelessly patriarchal, has often simply treated as irrelevant the family roles important to many women. If the individualist framework, with its claim for women’s autonomy, could be harmonized with the family-oriented concerns of relational feminists, a more fruitful model for contemporary feminist politics could emerge.
Question: The author of the passage alludes to the well-established nature of the concept of individual rights in the Anglo-Saxon legal and political tradition in order to
- illustrate the influence of individualist feminist thought on more general intellectual trends in English history
- argue that feminism was already a part of the larger Anglo-Saxon intellectual tradition, even though this has often gone unnoticed by critics of women’s emancipation
- explain the decline in individualist thinking among feminists in non-English-speaking countries
- help account for an increasing shift toward individualist feminism among feminists in English-speaking countries
- account for the philosophical differences between individualist and relational feminists in English-speaking countries
Question: The passage suggests that the author of the passage believes which of the following?
- The predominance of individualist feminism in English-speaking countries is a historical phenomenon, the causes of which have not yet been investigated.
- The individualist and relational feminist views are irreconcilable, given their theoretical differences concerning the foundations of society.
- A consensus concerning the direction of future feminist politics will probably soon emerge, given the awareness among feminists of the need for cooperation among women.
- Political adversaries of feminism often misuse arguments predicated on differences between the sexes to argue that the existing social system should be maintained.
- Relational feminism provides the best theoretical framework for contemporary feminist politics, but individualist feminism could contribute much toward refining and strengthening modern feminist thought.
Question: It can be inferred from the passage that the individualist feminist tradition denies the validity of which of the following causal statements?
- A division of labor in a social group can result in increased efficiency with regard to the performance of group tasks.
- A division of labor in a social group causes inequities in the distribution of opportunities and benefits among group members.
- A division of labor on the basis of gender in a social group is necessitated by the existence of sex-linked biological differences between male and female members of the group.
- Culturally determined distinctions based on gender in a social group foster the existence of differing attitudes and opinions among group members.
- Educational programs aimed at reducing inequalities based on gender among members of a social group can result in a sense of greater well-being for all members of the group.
Question: According to the passage, relational feminists and individualist feminists agree that
- individual human rights take precedence over most other social claims
- the gender-based division of labor in society should be eliminated
- laws guaranteeing equal treatment for all citizens regardless of gender should be passed
- a greater degree of social awareness concerning the importance of motherhood would be beneficial to society
- the same educational and economic opportunities should be available to both sexes
Question: According to the author, which of the following was true of feminist thought in Western societies before 1890?
- Individualist feminist arguments were not found in the thought or writing of non-English-speaking feminists.
- Individualist feminism was a strain in feminist thought, but another strain, relational feminism, predominated.
- Relational and individualist approaches were equally prevalent in feminist thought and writing.
- The predominant view among feminists held that the welfare of women was ultimately less important than the welfare of children.
- The predominant view among feminists held that the sexes should receive equal treatment under the law.
Question: The author implies that which of the following was true of most feminist thinkers in England and the United States after 1920?
- They were less concerned with politics than with intellectual issues.
- They began to reach a broader audience and their programs began to be adopted by mainstream political parties.
- They called repeatedly for international cooperation among women’s groups to achieve their goals.
- They moderated their initial criticism of the economic systems that characterized their societies.
- They did not attempt to unite the two different feminist approaches in their thought.
Previous PassageNext Passage