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This piece, which has become a classic text in feminist theory, attempts to tease out a number of possible understandings of a central contradiction in contemporary feminist thinking. This recurring feminist divide goes under a variety of names: equality versus difference, minimizers versus maximizers, radical feminists versus cultural feminists, social constructionists versus essentialists, feminists versus motherists, etc. Such tensions in feminism between emphasizing or de-emphasizing the identity “woman” are not considered here as universal or timeless, but, it is argued, such fundamental disagreements are common because they express some of the irresolvable dilemmas of feminist thought and action in our time. Do feminists want to elaborate and extend traditional female values, roles, and strengths, or are these marks of oppression, traits that need not or should not be considered as specifically the province of women?

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