Brief Outlines of Liberation Movements

Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.
Sociologist • Advocacy Journalist • Historian

These categories are tentative and reflect only the views of the writer.” />

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Social Constructions of the Intersex Movement

All of the intersex organizations with which this writer is familiar appear to reflect versions of the social model of disability.

  1. Organisation Intersex International has argued, “There are more than two sexes. There is a third, a fourth, even a fifth sex, etc. within a continuum from very female to very male.… There is an infinite combination of possibilities on the spectrum of sex and gender.” On the main page of the site, they write, “Intersex and proud of it!”
  2. The Intersex Society of South Africa has explained, “Intersex people are an important part of human diversity, the birth of an intersex infant should be celebrated no less than the birth of any other infant, all diversity should be valued whether of race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, ability, geography and or socio-economic status.” And again, “Intersex activists advocate... waiting until the child goes through puberty so the intersexed person can determine whether her/himself will have genital surgery. Typically most intersexed people who are given the option to have genital surgery choose not to have the surgery performed.”
  3. Intersex Initiative expresses the position that “... to say that there are five sexes biologically would require a radical re-formulation of what ’sex' means in Biology as a discipline, and therefore it is premature, if not wrong.” As Emi Koyama, the director of the organization, wrote to me in private correspondence, “It [the model I advocate] is a model based on the hybrid queer/disability theories, which is in essence social constructivist.” She continued, “My view is that biology is not an absolute source of truth, but simply a set of assumptions and methodologies that articulate the world in a particular way, without which it would be useless as a science. That is, it is biology as a discipline, an ideology, that denies the existence of more than two sexes, and it is dishonest to claim otherwise.” Since biology is an ideology, not an absolute source of truth, and sex is on a continuum, the number of sexes would depend on where one draws the line.
  4. The Intersex Society of North America states that the “Patient-Centered Model is what ISNA recommends." More specifically, they say: “Intersexed genitals are not a medical problem. They may signal an underlying metabolic concern, but they themselves are not diseased; they just look different.… [T]he person with an intersex condition has the right to self determination where her or his body is concerned. Doing 'normalizing' surgeries early without the individual’s consent interferes with that right; many surgeries and hormone treatments are not reversible. The risks are substantial and should only be taken if the patient has consented. Social acceptance of human diversity and an end to the idea that difference equals disease [is our ideal].”
Social Constructions of Deaf Movements
  1. Deaf Culture Movement: This movement, associated with the social model of disability and identity politics, supports deafness as a way of life, advocates Deaf pride, and, generally speaking, favors sign language, which it regards as an important aspect of Deaf culture (comparable to the function of language in any culture), over lip reading and cochlear implants. Analogous to the neurodiversity movement (itself inspired by deaf culture), within which attempts to cure Autism are seen as dangers to their cultural and neurological integrity, many advocates in the Deaf culture movement consider cochlear implants to be a threat to the continuation of Deaf culture and Deaf community.
  2. Mainstreaming Movement: This movement, comparable to the Autism pro-cure movement, consists mostly, but not exclusively, of the parents of Deaf children. Many of its supporters favor cochlear implants and lip reading. It is associated with the medical model of disability.
Social Constructions of Anti-Racism and Anti-Ethnicism
  1. Consciencism: As developed by Kwame Nkrumah (1909–1972), it emphasizes a pan-Africanism based on common experiences, history, and culture. Colonialism and slavery are opposed by socialism. It is somewhat similar to Paulo Freire’s concept of conscientization.
  2. Black Liberation Theology: A perspective taken within many African American churches. It was started in the 1960s by James Cone, a Union Theological Seminary professor. The focus, grounded in Christianity, in on the common sufferings of Black people. A variation of this movement can be seen in the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan.
  3. Zionism: A movement with more than one variety, such as political and cultural, which has emphasized the importance of a Jewish homeland or culture. Political Zionism is, today, focused on Israel. However, cultural Zionists, like the late Martin Buber, favored cultural, but not necessarily political, unity.
Social Constructions of the Women’s Movement (Feminism)
  1. Suffragettes: This “first-wave feminism” advocated for women’s voting rights in the U.S. and the UK.
  2. Liberal Feminism: Grounded in Enlightenment rationality, and women’s rights (supported the Equal Rights Amendment or E.R.A.). It is sometimes called equity feminism, individualist feminism, moderate feminism, libertarian feminism, or second-wave feminism.
  3. Marxist Feminism: Capitalism is regarded as oppressing both genders, but especially women due to their lower occupational statuses.
  4. Radical Feminism: The objective is to eliminate patriarchy. It has been associated with Shulamith Firestone (The Dialectic of Sex). The diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic Valerie Solanas (author of the SCUM Manifesto, arguably an acronym for the “Society for Cutting Up Men”) wrote that all men should be killed. Some anti-feminists have taken her words, clearly not representative of the views held by most radical feminists, as evidence for the supposed danger of radical feminism.
  5. Socialist Feminism: It is a blend of Marxist and radical feminisms, sometimes called dual-systems theory, was developed by Donna Haraway and Sylvia Walby. The emancipation of women must challenge both capitalism and patriarchy (the dual systems).
  6. Material Feminism: This form of feminism focuses on the oppression of the physical bodies of women living in the natural world.
  7. Anarcha-Feminism: This anarchist approach to feminism advocates the elimination of hierarchies, including patriarchy and capitalism (similar to the more Marxian socialist feminism).
  8. Ecofeminism: As it sounds, this perspective is oriented toward both the environment/ecology and women. Just as women possess the wombs of humanity, the earth is the womb to all of us, and both are oppressed by male-dominated capitalism. It is a Marxian perspective.
  9. Third-Wave Feminism: This more recent approach is also called revisionary feminism, poststructural, and postfeminism, It developed as a critique of radical feminism. Third-wave feminism includes numerous anti-essentialist, constructionist, critical, poststructural, and postmodern approaches which, like the one utilized by Donna Haraway, challenge essentialist views of gender, such as Judith Butler’s approach to queer theory, with “queer" referring to “different" (partly inspired by Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida). Some advocates regard gender (and perhaps even sex) as principally social or psychological, but not biological. As such, they arecategories which are susceptible to deconstruction.
  10. Postcolonial Feminism: This perspective focuses on women in societies which have been colonized (for instance, by European countries).
  11. Standpoint Feminism: This approach, an outgrowth of third-wave feminism, questioned the view that gender, manifested as the patriarchal system, was the principal cause of the domination of women. That is to say, in order to understand oppression, the scholar must analyze particular women, or groups of women, through various intersections of race, class, gender, ability/disability, and so forth. Standpoint theory and intersectional theory are applications of standpoint feminism.
  12. Intersectionality: According to this framework, gender needs to be considered in relation to other structures, such as race, ethnicity, sexual identity (sexual orientation), nationality, and disability.
  13. Fourth-Wave Feminism: As defined by Kira Cochrane, this type of feminism is based upon intersectionality, which was originally proposed by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw. Intersectionality was introduced into sociology by a former president of the American Sociological Association, Patricia Hill Collins. Other writers define the fourth wave differently, including cross-gender alliances (Melissa Benn), social media (Ruth Phillips and Viviene E. Cree), blogs (Jennifer Baumgardner), psychotherapy (Diana Diamond), or a blend of spirituality and social justice (Pythia Peay).
  14. Psychological Androgyny: This approach was proposed, in 1974, by Sandra L. Bem. The basic idea is to raise boys and girls the same, without reference to gender.
  15. Sex-Positive Feminism: This is a social constructionist (postmodern) approach which regards sexual freedom, in the manner in which it has been constructed, to be an important component of feminism. Some individuals defend prostitution.
  16. Lipstick Feminism: This type of feminism considers the sexual power of women.
  17. Cross-Cultural Feminism: Here are classified various approaches (including transnational feminism, post-colonial feminism, and third-world feminism) which focus on the importance of contextualizing feminism in diverse societies. It can be seen as specialized types of constructionist, or sometimes Marxist, feminism.
  18. Feminist-Realist Ontology: Applies critical realism to feminist theory. Sexual difference is independent from our personal conceptions (Lena Gunnarsson).
  19. Critical Race Feminism: This type of feminism consists of legal scholars who study the legal considerations or worries of women of color.
  20. Lesbian Feminism: Lesbianism is seen as a feminist criticism of male-dominated sexuality and as a means for women to bond with one another.
  21. Transfeminism: This is a specialized type of constructionist feminism (focusing on gender as socially constructed) with special reference to transgendered persons.
  22. Existential Feminism: These feminists consider the problems of women as stemming from a lack of meaning due to domestic activities, which are seen as a type of “confinement.”
  23. Womanism or Womynism: This term refers to distinctively African-American perspectives on feminism. Many proponents have argued that dominant modes of feminism have been geared to middle class white women.
  24. Cultural Feminism: It is a type of “difference feminism” and accepts the existence of a feminine essence (essentialism or ontological realism) which differs from the masculine essence. It includese “new feminism" (emphasizing equality with men as well as difference), which is a common perspective within the Roman Catholic Church. An important book related to cultural feminism was Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963).
  25. Dianic Wicca: This is a specialized, mythopoeic form of essentialism, sometimes called spiritual feminism, which centers on the worship of the Goddess (sometimes called “Diana”). All women may be seen as manifesting the Goddess.
  26. Warrior Feminism: Here is another essentialist approach, sometimes called Amazon feminism, which focuses on the strong and powerful woman as liberated. Some advocates have been inspired by the syndicated television show, Xena (1995–2001). Women may engage in story-telling and mythopoeia, sometimes using Native American themes. One version of this movement is exemplified by Woman Within International, which is affiliated with The Mankind Project.
  27. Theaolgy: This is a feminized neologism based on theology, i.e., God talk. Its focus is on developing a feminist approach to theology which may be concerned with the sacred feminine, with women’s theological perspectives, with the statuses occupied by women in a religious tradition, or with re-imagining religious texts from a feminist perspective.
  28. Psychoanalytic Feminism: This perspective regards the oppression of women as a result of psychological and sexual development in early childhood.
Social Constructions of the Men’s Movement (Masculism)
  1. Pro-Feminist Men: It refers to men who support one or more species of feminism, and often included an advocacy for the Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.) in the 1970s.
  2. Non-Feminist Men: This term encompasses approaches to masculism which focus on men’s rights and which tend to adopt a more confrontational, sometimes legal, approach to issues such as fathers’ rights. In its most extreme form, it is misogynistic and bashing, as in the man who used to appear on daytime talk shows wearing a dress in order to mock women. It also includes Steven Dixon’s Masculinism®.
  3. Free Men: This is a moderate, egalitarian perspective on masculism, sometimes called progressive masculism, which supports one or more types of feminism and advocates men’s rights, as well.
  4. Men’s Liberation: This is a social constructionist approach which emphasizes the deconstruction of gender roles. It appears to be close to psychological androgyny. Herb Goldberg’s The New Male and his references to "macho-psychotic behavior" would come under this rubric.
  5. Marxist Masculism: According to this perspective, capitalism encourages men to be oppressors and must be replaced by socialism or communism.
  6. Warrior Masculism: This model of masculism adopts essentialist views while revisioning men as warriors. It often adopts Native American themes. Men may put on minimal clothing (i.e., loin cloth), or perhaps no clothing at all, while they beat drums, and engage in mythopoeia (myth-making and story-telling). It is the counterpart in the men’s movement to amazon feminism. The Mankind Project’s New Warrior Training would come under this heading. It is influenced by Carl Jung’s and Joseph Campbell’s ideas, as well as by the mythical masculinity described in Robert Bly’s, Iron John: A Book About Men.
  7. Sacred Masculinism: Often considered as being a counterpart to the divine feminine, Forrest Boden discusses the sacred masculine in this fashion: “There are many men trying to find their way through the fog of war, domination, violence, exploitation, control, privilege and servitude… to find their hearts, their authentic power, their vulnerability, their embodiment, their response-ability, their courage and their healing… to get REAL and act accordingly.”
  8. Promise Keepers: Here is an essentialist and traditionalist evangelical Christian perspective which emphasizes moral and ethical purity and responsibility.
  9. Radical Faeries: The radical faeries are a Gay men’s movement and may be associated with neopaganism, radical politics, mythopoeia, and drumming. One focus may be on the development of queer identities as distinguished from dominant heterocentric ones.
Social Constructions of Mental and Emotional Health Movements
  1. Mad Liberation Movement: This movement, which uses such terms as mad pride and mind freedom, seeks greater social acceptance of the psychologically different, advocates for a humanization of the mental health establishment, and opposes psychological/psychiatric normalism. Some advocates call for a “nonviolent revolution in mental health care.” Relevant websites are MindFreedom International, The Icarus Project, and the Mad Liberation Yahoo! Group. This movement, a branch of the disability rights movement, is similar to the neurodiversity movement in the Autistic community.
  2. Antipsychiatry Movement: This movement, influenced by the ideas of Thomas Szasz, M.D. (The Myth of Mental Illness and other works), opposes psychiatry and psychiatric labeling. Relevant websites are The Antipsychiatry Coalition, International Association Against Psychiatric Assault (IAAPA), Citizens Commission on Human Rights, and The Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (PsychRights). See also this video interview of Seth Farber, Ph.D. (who seems to advocate for aspects of both this movement and the mad liberation movement).
  3. Hearing Voices Movement: This movement, reflected in the Intervoice and the Hearing Voices Network USA websites, argues for a more affirming view of hearing voices. They recommend a five-fold process, i.e., accepting the experience, defining the experience on one’s own terms, interpreting the experience on one’s own terms, working with the experience on one’s own terms, and finding a way to work toward one’s dreams.
  4. Support Services Movement: This movement, as seen in the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), advocates for support services and helping mentally ill persons recover.
  5. Abraham Low Movement: This network of support groups, operating under the name Recovery, Inc., utilizes a cognitive-behavioral approach to recovery from mental illnesses.
  6. Twelve-Step Recovery Movement: There are a few different Alcoholics-Anonymous-style twelve-step groups focusing on mental and emotional issues. The largest of those which are specifically defined as such is Emotions Anonymous. Others include Emotional Health Anonymous, Neurotics Anonymous, Obsessive Compulsive Anonymous, Rageaholics Anonymous, and, arguably, Schizophrenics Anonymous (which has modified the twelve steps into six). In some sense, all, or most, of the twelve-step groups can be related to alleged mental or emotional health issues.
  7. GROW: GROW (not an acronym) is, broadly defined, a hybrid of the twelve-step movement and the Abraham Low movement. It began as a twelve-step group, but it later supplemented this model with other elements, including from Low’s Recovery, Inc.
Social Constructions of Autism-Related Movements
  1. Neurodiversity Movement: This movement is a type of identity politics in which Autistic activists and others reject notions of “curing" Autism as a civil rights issue and as a rejection of Autistics themselves. Instead, they favor self-advocacy (Autistics advocating for themselves individually and collectively) and an appreciation of differences. Autistic activists also generally favor therapies which will help the Autistic person to adapt to society. Respecting and honoring neurodiversity is associated with the social model of disability. It is a branch of the disability rights movement.
  2. Supremacy Movement: This movement combines an intentionally mythopoeic approach with a quasi-evolutionary view to construct a model of superiority. It regards Autism, sometimes only Asperger’s Autism, as a naturally occurring mutation. For instance: “One in every three hundred people is born an Aspergian Mutant (AM). You may be one them, and you may not even know it!... AM children often develop some ’special powers' too. These are varied and sometime take years to discover. They may be far reaching memory skills (e.g. the ability to remember entire catalogues after one reading) [or] extraordinary 3d simulating skills (e.g. the ability to visualise a whole building’s infrastructural composition as a 3d computer program would do).” Also, “A land of sea-gazing people, Aspergians, who venture into the great waters for fishing, but never the great distances required to find others, although they fiercely believe they exist.... The Aspergian civilisation has all but disappeared, but its biological and genetic heritage is still very much with us. Their genes are strong and persistent, reminding us throughout our history, that there were other ways of being, and other possibilities.” Some people who hold to this perspective, or similar ones, will say that they are not Autistic. Instead, they will focus on a supposed superiority to neurotypicals. Neanderthal theory can be seen as one perspective within the supremacy movement. Finally, some supremacists have embraced a type of transhumanism, a view which wishes to see enhanced human intellectual abilities through technology. To the Autistic transhumanists (not all transhumanists), Autism is a model for the generalized improvement of humanity.
  3. New Age Movement: The body of literature frequently identified with the “New Age Movement” covers considerable ground. However, one of the issues which some have addressed is the Autism spectrum. People who subscribe to these ideas argue that Asperger’s Autistics are either “indigo children" or “crystal children.” For instance, Cynthia Berkeley contends that children diagnosed with ADHD “are most commonly misdiagnosed as having ADD or ADHD because they get bored very easily. These children have amazing mental abilities and they are very sensitive to the energies that surround them. They are known as the ‘system-busters.’” On the other hand, “Basically, the Indigo Children were born to pave the way, redesign old belief systems and make space for the Crystal Children, who will teach us some even more important lessons.… The Crystals are here to bring love. They are even more super sensitive to energies than the Indigos and are even more psychic. Some characteristics of a Crystal child are that they learn to speak at a much later age (often after 3, 4 or even 5 years old). They are most commonly misdiagnosed with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.” Similarly, Doreen Virtue writes, “The trouble comes about when the Crystals are judged by medical and educational personnel as having ‘abnormal’ speaking patterns. It’s no coincidence that as the number of Crystals are born, that the number of diagnoses for Autism is at a record high.”
  4. Pro-Cure Movement: This movement, which is somewhat pejoratively referred to as “curebies” by some neurodiversity self-advocates, favors a search for a cure to Autism. Basically a parent-led movement, the pro-cure movement accepts a type of the medical model of disability. However, many of its proponents utilize pseudoscientific treatments, such as chelation, which, as indicated in peer-reviewed journals, have no significant or demonstrated effectiveness on Autistic children.
  5. Support Services Movement: This movement, as seen in the Autism Society and GRASP, advocates for Autistic support services.

Copyright © 2001–2017 Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.