The Definition of Feminism

Hey readers! I hope you’re all having a wonderful start to your summer and are enjoying this beautiful weather!

As those of you who follow our comments may have seen, I recently had a very lively and interesting debate with a reader about the very use of the word “feminism.” There are some people who argue that the term is outdated and should be tossed out because it does not encompass everyone. Because the word so blatantly focuses on women, some argue, it ignores the needs of others for equality.

But as this fantastic article from The F Word, a UK feminist blog, points out, like language, feminism has evolved to encompass all human rights. While this was not always the case, since the 1990s, feminism has evolved in a major way to focus more and more on how patriarchy impacts everyone in a given society, not just women. The author writes,

For me feminism’s aim is to see the destruction of a patriarchal system which does not just imprison women but all of humanity. Men are not the culprits here- patriarchy is, and men are just as entrapped by patriarchy as women are, just as the Wall Street Banker is as much entrapped by capitalism as the anti-capitalist activist. We are not rallying against individual people, individual genders, individual classes; we are rallying against a dominant belief system – one which has all of humanity by the throat.

She also notes that we have to stop thinking of feminism in terms of binaries. Because our society encourages this idea of “binary,” we tend to think of everything in terms of opposition. Because feminism is obviously pro-woman, it must be anti-man, right? Wrong. Feminism seeks to liberate men from patriarchy too, because it hurts everyone.

As another F Word article points out, patriarchy hurts men by taking away their agency as well. The author points out the way rapists are depicted in the media, as poor stupid men who just “couldn’t help themselves.”

they [feminists] don’t imply that such behaviour is acceptable because its genetic or ‘natural’ for men to behave that way, like those arguments defending rapists which imply that men are really all just stupid cavemen who can’t be blamed when they rape because, hey, men just can’t help it when they see someone in a mini skirt.

So where am I going with this? What I’m trying to say is that feminism, the word AND the movement, are still relevant. If we stop identifying with our beliefs, then we’re continuing to give in to this restrictive, binary system created by patriarchy. If you don’t like the way the word is being depicted in the media, then get out there and do something about it. Start a blog, discuss politics with your friends and family, post links on your facebook. Show people that the definition of feminism is a belief in equality for everyone.

8 thoughts on “The Definition of Feminism

  1. Well done. I have always found it odd that some people look down on women who choose to be housewives as if they are furthering an inequality. But, those same people would respect a man’s choice to be a househusband. One could argue that people on the other side of the spectrum would be confused by the latter, but not confused at all by the former. People should be free to have the family structure that is best for them.

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    1. I completely agree! My personal definition of feminism has always been about choice at it’s root, and I don’t think anyone should be admonished for the choices they make. As long as a woman or man is doing something because it makes them happy and not because of societal expectations, there’s nothing wrong with that.

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  2. Feminism to me has always meant liberation, tolerance and equity. I follow Feminista too, and often otherwise feel ‘out of circulation’, but yet have an adolescent son and daughter, who have to be equipped to go out into an evolving world. I just hope they will play a part in its evolution

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    1. Were you referencing UK Feminista? I did a google search and a BUNCH of blogs turned up, but I’d love to read whatever you recommend!

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  3. Right, right…and same for what G says. I recently told my very conservative, old fashioned and elderly mother that she was a feminist because she was such a ground breaker for women in her chosen profession. When she began, there were only 6 women in the entire country doing what she was doing. She didn’t want to hear it, but she eventually agreed that her life and choices helped make the world a better place for women who came behind her (like my sister and I).

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    1. I think it’s great that you could help relate feminism to your mother. To me, that’s such an important step in making the movement more accessible to those who wouldn’t otherwise be interested in feminism.

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