What does it mean to be a feminist?
Feminism and Identity
What does it mean to be a feminist? This question is important in many peoples lives and it often times can shape the identity of a person. The definition of Feminism in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Although feminism is defined by many different people in different ways, this is the general meaning of feminism and equality is the ultimate goal. There a many different types of people who identify as a feminist, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, or age, and you shouldn't feel excluded because the name sounds very gender specific. Feminism is about female equality but it's also about gender equality, sexual equality, economic equality, racial equality and so many other things. Feminism can be a very defining thing in someones life and may have a huge role in shaping who they are.
History of Feminism in the U.S.
Depending on historical moment, culture and country, feminists around the world have had different causes and goals. In the U.S., feminist movements are divided into three waves. The first wave was mostly focused on women's suffrage in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, promoting women's right to vote, some feminists were active in campaigning for women's sexual, reproductive, and economic rights as well. First wave feminist focused on promoting equal contract, marriage, parenting,and property rights for women.
The second wave was the ideas and actions of the women's liberation movement beginning in the 1960s, these people continued to campaign for the reformation of laws that gave husbands control over their wives.The second wave campaigned for legal and social equality for women, its about issues of inequality like ending discrimination.
The third wave is mostly a continuation of the second wave to bring back the issues that aren't quite solved, this started in the 1990s and continues today into the 21st century. Its similar to the second wave but it distinguished itself from it because its a lot about issues of sexuality, and celebrating their sexuality as a means of female empowerment.
Feminism in the 21st Century
The ideals of third-wave feminism claim that it allows women to define feminism for themselves by expressing their own identities into the belief system of what feminism is and what it can become through one's own perspective. Third-wave feminism regards many issues on race, social class, transgender rights, and sexual liberation as central issues. It also pays attention to workplace matters such as sexual harassment, unfair maternity-leave policies, motherhood – support for single mothers by means of welfare and child care and respect for working mothers and for mothers who decide to leave their career to raise their children full-time.
Although there are many supporters, a major challenge to third wave feminism is the huge lack of support for the importance of feminism in what some claim is the "post-feminist" era. The claims are made that gender equality has been reached in the first two waves, attempting to continue to push for women's rights is unnecessary, and leads to women being superior to men by exaggerating women's rights in modern society. An example of opposition to third wave feminism is In this blog, written by Kayleigh McEnany, a conservative commentator. She states "In direct opposition to the courage, heart, and fortitude our foremothers exhibited, the 21st century feminists have proven cowardly, petulant, and weak as they attempt to continue a battle that has already been won." Along with her, some women are against the third wave, they claim to be against feminism and sometimes refer to them selves as "anti-feminists."
The hashtag #womenagainstfeminism is a trend on different social media sites and has a variety of people against feminism. I think that these women are misguided in their thoughts, even though you have the right to believe what you want, I think they interpret feminism the wrong way. Feminism is what you want it to be, although some may feel it's about feminine superiority, hating men and destroying the family unit, but to me its about fairness and everyone having equal opportunities and equality as a whole, for everyone of any gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation. I think feminism is for everyone and that they should be educated on feminism; anti-feminism often occurs I feel due to the lack of knowledge on the topic. The women and men against the feminist movement sound ridiculous a lot of the time because they'll claim they not feminists and then spew feminist ideals. those people who believe in male superiority... Well, there's nothing we can do to help them...
Minorities in Feminism
"One of the major problems with minority women entering the feminist movements of the past arose because many people within the movement wanted them to forget that they were African-American, Chicana, etc. This was impossible for them to do and many chose not to participate in various feminist organizations and groups due to this." says Monica Jean Alaniz, as she feels that herself and other women of color are excluded from feminism due to past issues. This is a reoccurring issue that often times "white feminists" ignore, and in this article Reilly Weiland addresses this.
"Meanwhile, women’s-rights activists of color preferred culturally organic versions: womanist among African Americans, mujerista among Latinas. I began using feminisms to more accurately depict and affirm such a richness of constituencies. Furthermore, those of us working in the global women’s movement found it fitting to celebrate what I termed a 'multiplicity of feminisms.'" said Robin Morgan, an author, activist and feminist, who wrote this in a TIME Article titled 'Feminist Is a 21st Century Word'. In this she talked about the names different ethnic groups adopted, but then states that "Women of color have started to embraced the words feminism and feminist as their own, along with women all over the world..."
Black feminists and other women of color have joined together to broaden the scope of feminism beyond a white middle-class perspective and to explore the intersections of ethnicity, race, class, and gender. There are many articles describing the racial differences in feminism like an article by Anthea Butler, stating that often times minorities are ignored and not treated the same in the feminist community but in the end she says "Most importantly, all sides must work together to address current setbacks in the fight for women’s rights, especially reproductive rights." Meaning that no matter their differences, white feminists and feminists of color have the same goals and must work together to achieve them.
How do you feel about feminism? How do you interpret feminism and allow the movement to show in your every day life? What does being a feminist mean to you? How do you think people in general should go about feminism? Do you agree with the anti-feminists in thinking that Third-wave feminism isn't relevant? How does the tag #womenagainstfeminism make you feel? How do you think the minorities that feel left out of the feminism movement should be included? Answer some or all of these in the comments, or leave any questions and feedback you have about my project. Thank you! You're awesome! :D