Liberal feminism asserts the equality of men and women through political and legal reform. It is an individualistic form of feminism and theory, which focuses on women’s ability to show and maintain their equality through their own actions and choices. Liberal feminism looks at the personal interactions of men and women as the starting ground from which to transform society into a more gender-equitable place.
Issues important to liberal feminists include reproductive rights and abortion access, sexual harassment, voting, education, fair compensation for work, affordable childcare, affordable health care, and bringing to light the frequency of sexual and domestic violence against women. Susan Wendell, who is not a liberal feminist herself, proclaimed that contemporary liberal feminism is "committed to major economic re-organization and considerable redistribution of wealth, since one of the modern political goals most closely associated with liberal feminism is equality of opportunity which would undoubtedly require and lead to both."
Liberal feminists generally work for the eradication of institutional bias and the implementation of better laws. In the United States, liberal feminists have historically worked for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment or Constitutional Equity Amendment, in the hopes it will ensure that men and women are treated as equals under the democratic laws that also influence important spheres of women's lives, including reproduction, work and equal pay issues.
Feminist writers associated with this tradition are amongst others Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill; second-wave feminists Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem; and the Third Wave feminist Rebecca Walker.
Mary Wollstonecraft has been very influential in her writings as A Vindication of the Rights of Woman commented on society's view of the woman and encouraged women to use their voices in making decisions separate from decisions previously made for her. Wollstonecraft "denied that women are, by nature, more pleasure seeking and pleasure giving than men. She reasoned that if they were confined to the same cages that trap women, men would develop the same flawed characters. What Wollstonecraft most wanted for women was personhood."
John Stuart Mill believed that men are not intellectually above women and much of his research centered on the idea that women, in fact, are superior in knowledge than men. Mill frequently spoke of this imbalance and wondered if women were able to feel the same "genuine unselfishness" that men did in providing for their families. This unselfishness Mill advocated is the one "that motivates people to take into account the good of society as well as the good of the individual person or small family unit.
Source: "Liberal Feminism." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 18 Nov. 2010. Web. 20 Dec. 2010.