Although the bulk of dominant Western political philosophy has been focused on the realization and conditions of equal citizenship, justice, and the ideal society, most of these conversations historically have focused on abstract concerns relating to the rights and freedoms of the individual or the primacy of the community. Much of the classic literature remained silent on or inadequately dealt with the kinds of exclusions that pertain to the diverse complexities of differences constitutive of a given bodypolitik, be they related to conceptions of sex/gender, heterosexuality, race/ethnocultural identity, indigeneity, nationality, age or physical/mental ability, to name just a few. Over the past three hundred years, critical feminist theorists have explored and theorized the boundaries of equality and difference, with increasing attention being given to the multiple contexts, meanings and influences complicating their conceptual and practical relationships as well as their intersection with issues of identity, subjectivity, representation, and democratic citizenship as a concept and as a practice that plays out through democratic institutions and other public bodies.
In this chapter, I will trace a typology of the different variants of critical feminist theories of emancipation, feminisms plural, or what I understand to be the pivotal expression and intellectual contributions throughout history of women’s democratic thought leadership. I begin by introducing Squires’ (1999) typology of feminist thought and then build upon this framework to offer an extended typology that augments our conceptualization to take into account a more nuanced differentiation of key variants of contemporary feminisms. Distinct from post-modern forms of diversity feminism that reject and abandon political and legal categories as oppressive, I add a fourth variant of what I call “intersectional feminisms” that aim to displace outdated status-based categories through the reconstruction of new emancipatory legal norms and democratic practices.. Further, a fifth variant of civil republican intersectional feminism aim at a displacement of liberal individualism itself and the impoverished framing of “liberty” in late modern times. Rather, this last variant aims for a holistic reconstruction of the interdependence of public and personal liberty through the emancipatory promise of self-government and radically representative democratic politics. These latter, intersectional feminisms bring a renewed faith in the ethical promise of self-government, the rule of law and self-government as a system of government, as well as representative democratic citizenship as an emancipatory system of freedom and intersectionally diverse self-determination capable of sustaining democratic equality for all components parts of the political community