Sunday, December 9, 2007

What is feminism?

"I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute..."

–Rebecca West, 11/14/1913

Since I stared writing here, I’ve had a number of requests to define feminism. It took a while because this is tough to do. Like any social/political movement, there is much variance on the definition based on who you ask. Lots of feminisms exist, here are some I’ll define and then include a rundown of what my feminism looks like:

Amazon Feminism: Amazon feminism is dedicated to the image of the female hero in fiction and in fact, as it is expressed in art and literature, in the physiques and feats of female athletes, and in sexual values and practices.

Cultural Feminism: believes that there are fundamental, biological differences between men and women, and that women should celebrate these differences. Western society values male thought and the ideas of independence, hierarchy, competition and domination. Females values ideas such as interdependence, cooperation, relationships, community, sharing, joy, trust and peace. Unfortunately, says the cultural feminist, these ideas are not valued in contemporary western societies. Cultural feminists are usually non-political, instead focusing on individual change and influencing or transforming society through this individual change. They usually advocate separate female counter-cultures as a way to change society but not completely disconnect.

Eco-Feminism: This branch of feminism is much more spiritual than political or theoretical in nature. It may or may not be wrapped up with Goddess worship and vegetarianism. Its basic tenet is that a patriarchical society will exploit its resources without regard to long term consequences as a direct result of the attitudes fostered in a patriarchical/hierarchical society. Parallels are often drawn between society's treatment of the environment, animals, or resources and its treatment of women.

Feminazi: Not a real movement, this term was created by the media, specifically invented by Rush Limbaugh.

Libertarian Feminism: based upon individualist or libertarian (minimum government) philosophies, i.e. philosophies whose primary focus is individual autonomy, rights, liberty, independence and diversity.

Liberal Feminism: works within the structure of mainstream society to integrate women into that structure. Its roots stretch back to the social contract theory of government instituted by the American Revolution.

Marxist and Socialist Feminism: Marxism recognizes that women are oppressed, and attributes the oppression to the capitalist/private property system. They insist that the only way to end the oppression of women is to challenge the capitalist system. Socialist feminists believe that there is a direct link between class structure and the oppression of women.

Radical Feminism: Provides the theoretical framework to feminism. Radical feminism was the cutting edge of feminist theory from approximately 1967-1975. It is no longer as universally accepted as it was then, nor does it provide a foundation for certain feminism such as cultural feminism. Radical feminism focuses on patriarchy as a system of power that organizes society into a complex of relationships producing a male dominance that oppresses women. Radical feminism seeks to challenge patriarchy by opposing standard gender roles and male oppression of women, and calls for a radical reordering of society.

So, because all these movements differ on many issues, feminists often have different opinions and beliefs on a variety of topics. There is much variance within the movement but our goal is to work together for the common good of equality (or at least this is what i hope and strive for).

My feminism:
I identify with feminism because of its commitment to social, political and economic equality for all people. Regarding women specifically, my feminism allows me to: be independent, while depending on those I love; be flirty and “girly” whenever I want, without it compromising how people view my intelligence or sexual freedom; exercise, for me, for my body, for my health and strength, not to fit a status quo standard of beauty; stand firm for what I believe in, and not be called too masculine or a bitch. My feminism does not discount the differences between men and women, but strongly believes that this difference is either a product of, or exaggerated by, socialization. My feminism values men because it values equality. It seeks to end the discrimination of people on the terms of sex, age, race, social class, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Through my feminism i strongly believe that women deserve the same rights and responsibilities as men. Oh and my feminism is always changing, because like the waves of change flow through society and politics, feminism needs to be fluid to reflect the needs of the world.

thanks soc.feminism terminology for lots of these definitions.
If you identify with any of these and would like to change/update the definition, please feel free to comment and i'll see what i can do :)


Vesper said...

thanks for posting these! very informative! :)

ProFeministMale said...

Nice to see someone actually posting this - because it seems the misconception that all feminists share the same beliefs.

On that - I always tell people that don't let the name fool them - radical feminists are anything but ...they are, in fact, passive, apolitical and ineffective. Unfortunately, they seem to be the spokespersons for the feminist movement, and because of that, has done feminism (3rd-wave feminism) a disservice.

If anything,they've done well at providing ammunition for the enemies and anti-feminists.

Thanks for stopping by the blog. :)