The feminist critique of liberalism runs parallel to the Marxist critique of liberal equality and rights. In each case the objection is that a set of liberties and rights formally guaranteed for all does nothing to prevent unfair inequalities in substantive life prospects from burgeoning within this formally equal framework. Workers and capitalists are formally free to trade with each other on any mutually agreeable terms but the enormous disparities in ownership of property bring it about that workers are forced to sell their labor power for subsistence wages. Men and women are formally free to contract with each other and deal with each other on any mutually agreeable terms but social norms, the threat advantage that accrues to men in virtue of their being on the average physically larger and stronger, the social inheritance by men of greater property and political power initially gained in brutally misogynist regimes, and so on conspire to leave women worse off than men on the average in life prospects.
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