The fragmentation of the women’s movement over issues such as agency and resistance, consent and non-consent, separatism and sexual radicalism was only a small part of a broadening critique of the universalising tendencies of radical feminism. From its inception radical feminism had self-consciously promoted the ideal of sisterhood in an attempt to build up a sense of solidarity amongst women, focusing on their commonalities of experience and their shared oppression. Discussion of ‘difference’ formed part of the rhetoric of radical feminism. However, in this context difference signified gender difference, or the social meanings attributed to biological difference by patriarchal discourses. Although radical feminists were aware that class, race, age and sexual preference created differences among women, such differences were frequently overlooked. As radical feminism evolved into cultural feminism issues of class, race and age difference came to be regarded as divisive. Cultural feminism reverted to an earlier feminist stance that sought to create an alternate discourse centred on ‘female uniqueness’.1 In its essentialisation of female experience, cultural feminism found little space to consider ‘difference’ other than differences created by sex.
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