Wyatt Fisher

Dr. Clare Bright, Honors 394 A

February 11, 2014

Response Paper 4

Liberal feminists are those feminists who believe that the lower position of

women as a group in society is due to long held societal beliefs, expectations, and legal

constraints, and that in order to gain equality women must focus on gaining equal

opportunity through their own actions. Three common goals among liberal feminists are

reproductive rights, economic equality, and protection against discrimination. Each of

these goals, liberal feminists argue, is entirely feasible to be accomplished, and extremely

important in the pursuit of complete sexual equality. In many ways, these three goals are

highly interrelated, each advancing the others’ causes.

Reproductive rights include access to sex education, contraception, and abortion.

More broadly reproductive rights can be viewed as a subset of sexual rights, also

including gay rights and the right to personal safety from rape or sexual harassment.

Liberal feminists argue that reproductive rights are important to the attainment of equality

by women because unwanted pregnancy disproportionately affects the life of a woman—

the child bearer—than a man, because a woman is ultimately held responsible by society

for the wellbeing of her fetus/child, because a woman has to take maternity leave (often

unpaid in the United States), and because a woman is expected by societal norms to be

the caretaker of her child. Furthermore, the fear of rape can limit a woman’s freedom to

travel safely alone, thus denying her equal access to other opportunities in public life.
The opportunities in public life that are usually available to women showcase the

informal discrimination ingrained in society. Traditional sexual division of labor provides

for women to work less well-paying jobs with little conventional prestige, often requiring

little intellectual or supervisory skills. Due to the low pay of typical “women’s work”,

liberal feminists argue women are further denied their right to travel because they cannot

afford the fares, in addition to being denied the right to run for office because they cannot

afford to fund a campaign. The effects of this division of labor also manifest in media and

legislative bias, because if there are no women leading these industries, woman’s voice

cannot be heard. In the past, women have also been discriminated against in education,

housing, and credit granting, among other areas.

The January 2014 legislative priorities of the Washington State National

Organization for Women (NOW) reflect the importance of these goals to the liberal

feminist movement. The Basics outlined by the Washington State NOW include

economic equity, health care, reproductive rights, and equal protection under the law.

These four issues are what the Washington State NOW believes are most fundamental to

reaching equality for women.

Liberal feminists believe economic equity can be achieved through access to

affordable childcare, paid family leave, equal pay for equal work, and safety net services.

The feasibility of these goals is demonstrated by concrete support for a budget funding

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Working Connections Child Care, and basic

needs programs. Liberal feminists believe reproductive rights can be maintained through

support for access for all women to full range reproductive services, such as sexual and

domestic violence support programs, family planning programs, and access to birth
control and abortion. The feasibility of these goals is demonstrated by support for a

budget funding these programs, in addition to a Reproductive Parity Act, mandating

health insurance carriers provide abortion coverage alongside maternity care coverage.

Liberal feminists also believe protection against discrimination can be maintained in

concert with other efforts and with continued support for nondiscriminatory policies. The

feasibility can largely be seen in the progress achieved by women such as Hillary Clinton,

Christine Gregoire, Sheryl Sandberg, and many other women leaders.