The Equal Rights Amendment

    Section 1. Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.
    Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
    Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

Written in 1921 by suffragist Alice Paul, the Equal Rights Amendment has been introduced to the United States Congress every session since 1923. It was approved in 1972 but failed to be ratified by the deadline in July 1982. To become a constitutional amendment it would have required thirty-eight states, only thirty-five states would endorse it.

And God created woman

Historically and traditionally women have been considered inferior to men both physically and academically. Since antiquity, laws and religions have controlled their subjugation. Women could not own assets in their own names, keep a business, or be in control of their children or even of their own persons. Although Mary Astell and others had appealed previously for better opportunities for women, the first feminist manuscript appeared in 1792 titled A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft. Women's republican clubs demanded that liberty, equality, and fraternity be applied regardless of sex during the French Revolution, but the Code Napoléon extinguished the movement.

Lady Finger

    In 1872 I received a request like this and I did register and vote, for which I was arrested, convicted and fined $100. Excuse me if I decline to repeat the experience.
    Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), U.S. suffragist, Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, (1908).

Three decades earlier suffragist Anthony had been fined $100 fine for voting. Because she did not recognize her action as properly illegal she refused to pay it. Susan penned her reply to a political committee in 1902 after she received a post card reminding her to register to vote. It had been addressed to S. B. Anthony under the mistaken assumption that, as head of household, "S. B." ought to be a man. Newspapers, one headlining its front-page story, broadly reprinted her letter: "Susan B. Anthony Scores One."

The feminist movement actually began around 1848 in North America with Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren when both advocated for the inclusion of women's emancipation in the US Constitution. By the 1847 Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Brownell Anthony and Coffin Mott were leading a women's convention at Seneca Falls, New York. It was there The Seneca Falls Declaration on Woman's Right was issued that stipulated, 'full legal equality, full educational and commercial opportunity, equal compensation, the right to collect wages, and the right to vote." Soon after the convention the movement spread rapidly across America and quickly extended into Europe.

Eventually the demands of the women's suffrage for higher education, entrance into trades and professions, married women's rights to property, and the right to vote for women were conceded. Following the victory of 1920 women's suffrage in the United States, women still remained at odds on the issues of equal standing with men in opposition to a number of protective legislation that had been enacted in the 19th century. For example limiting the number of hours women could work a week and prohibiting women from certain high-risk careers. The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women was established in 1946 to protect equal political, economic, and educational rights for women throughout the world. In the 1960’s feminism experienced a renaissance, principally in the United States. The National Organization for Women (NOW) was established in 1966 and by the early 70's over 400 local chapters had been formed. As a result, a large number of women moved into the workplace with 59.8% of civilian women over age 16 employed in 1997, compared to 37.7% in 1960.

Oh, pretty women

    Feminism was recognized by the average man as a conflict in which it was impossible for a man, as a chivalrous gentleman, as a respecter of the rights of little nations (like little Belgium), as a highly evolved citizen of a highly civilized community, to refuse the claim of this better half to self-determination.
    Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), The Family and Feminism, The Art of Being Ruled (1926).

Women's rights issues vary from "access to employment, education, child care, contraception, and abortion, to equality in the workplace, changing family roles, redress for sexual harassment in the workplace, and the need for equal political representation." This faction for the political, social, and educational equality of women with men has occurred mainly in Europe and the United States with its heredity in the humanism of the 18th century and in the Industrial Revolution. Through the ages feminism has been a doctrine based on the view that women should be given the rights, opportunities and treatment accorded to men.

The noun feminism is derived from the Latin word femina meaning 'woman' and dates back to 1895 as "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes." Today it may mean something as simple as “an organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests." Many seem to think that the acquired rights and privileges of men are being threatened by the demand for equal rights and privileges for women and men, feminism is perceived by a number of women and men as going further than equality and claiming superiority for women. Depending on the context it is used in it can mean a great variety of ideals since the definitions have changed over the years; feminism has been converted by differing concepts that derive from what the group objectives may be.

Two researchers, Baumgardner & Richards, recently detailed the existence of seventeen kinds of feminism based on identity, including womanism. Other terms are post-feminism, neo feminism, liberal feminism, socialist feminism, materialist feminism, cultural feminism, and postmodernist feminism. Lately girl is being redefined in the framework of feminism. Girlie feminists say that feminism and girlishness can coexist under the same roof. By reclaiming the long ago fashion of girl culture they cultivate the pinks, the knitting and the makeup classifying these as their hallmarks of their feminism.

What womyn want

Clearly the usage of the words feminism and feminist are precarious. Specialized terms like womyn and feminazi do lead many to assume that equality does not, in many ways, exist. The resulting perception inescapably engages a struggle-whether to reach it, to stop it, or to paraphrase George Orwell make women "more equal than men". Even though the majority of advocates for feminism display beliefs in the interest of equality of the sexes, nevertheless the wide variety of agendas projected under the banner of feminism, along with so many extreme champions and adversaries of the movement today both terms feminism and feminist have become pejoratives to the point that oftentimes they become stigmatizing and are no longer useful in many coherent discussions.

Intermittently some feminists agree or disagree on a given usage's fairness or utility, but in many instances bring editorial protests until no one will dare to define what anyone else means by feminism. Given the passion of the emotions the issues presently attract and because these terms are unusable in many contexts, including several euphemisms, it's not surprising to hear many saying:
"I favor the equality of the sexes on all issues, but I'm no feminist."

Sources:

Equal Rights Amendment Alice Paul, 1921:
eserver.org/feminism/history/era.txt

Ling-&-feminism:
www.indiana.edu/~lggender/ling-&-feminism.html

feminism:
http://www.bartleby.com/65/fe/feminism.html

feminism (n.), feminist (adj., n.):
http://www.bartleby.com/68/92/2492.html

There seems to be this widespread notion that feminism is a stance held by man-hating dykes who are against motherhood, femininity, and - gasp! - stay-at-home moms. While there are a few of these in existence, most feminists hold a different point of view.

For me, as for many feminists, feminism grows out of a more comprehensive belief that all people are equal - regardless of sex, race, political or religious belief, sexual preference, etc. Along with this belief comes the idea that everyone is entitled to the freedom of self-determination. Thus, everyone has the right to be a CEO, an athlete, or a stay-at-home parent (note that "right" does not imply "ability"). I, as a feminist, do not discriminate against other women who have decided to have a litter of kids and stay at home. If that is what they want to do, more power to them. If feminists choose to belittle the choices of other women, they defeat the purpose of feminism: giving every woman the right to control her own destiny.
Feminism is a sphere, not a continium, of beliefs, the core of which is that women are oppressed, one way or another, and something must be done about. You have various shades of lesbian sepratists like Janice Raymond and Mary Daly, fundamentalist feminists like Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon, pro-sex feminists like Pat Califia and Jill Nagle, your various NOW types, people who combine feminism with other concepts of oppression, like bell hooks, and everything in between and overlapping, and pretty much whatever else you can think of. Critics of feminism all to often percieve feminism as one thing, or as simply a collection of 'reasonable' fminists and radical militant loonies who call for the destruction of all men.

Far be it from me, as a man, (or anyone else for that matter, I guess,) to define feminism once and for all, but this is the definition I use, and it seems to work the best.

I asked a friend of mine, who was uncertain if she is a feminist or not, these questions:
  1. Do you believe women are equal to men?
  2. Do you believe that women should receive equal pay for work of equal value to men?
  3. Do you believe in a woman's right to choose?

She said yes to all. So I declared her a feminist.

I believe, too.

Contrary to some of the writeups within this node, feminism goes far beyond equal rights for the sexes. Feminism, has, infact, diverged into so many different sects that it goes far beyond the scope of this writeup to even give a quick one sentence abstract of each one.

Feminism has several main tenets. The first of these is the, "patriarchy." This is the current state that feminists believe the world is in; we are dominated by men and men use the state to oppress women and retain power. Depending on the feminist you talk to, you'll get a slew of different possible alternatives. The weakest of these (note that when I say weakest I refer not to strength but of least action) is that women should have equal rights, and that measures currently imposed by the state that discriminate against women should be removed. Keep in mind though that this is feminism only in its most mild form.

Delve a little farther into feminist literature and you'll find not only radical ways of opposing the patriarchy (such as women boycotting heterosexual relationships), but even more radical ideas for what to do after they've gotten rid of it. You'll find everything from imposing an equal amount of women/men in state positions, to all out matriarchy, a world in which we are ruled by women and instead men are oppressed (although this would clearly be the entire other side of the spectrum and thus the strongest position).

The second tenet of Feminism is ways in which men oppress women -- two of the forerunners of this debate being rape and pornography, in addition to how they relate to each other (MacKinnon is probably the most outspoken person in this debate if you're interested in reading up on it). Many feminists not only believe that rape is a method men use to oppress women and put them in the inferior, but that pornography propogates rape. Opponents to this position are quick to point out that pornography sales and the number of rapes don't always coincide; feminists are quick to point out that the vast majority of rapes in the US are never reported (they also claim that this is because the state is a patriarchy oppressing women -- some reports say that only 2% of reported rapes are convicted) and that even so, there are a small number of men at the least who use pornography as a way to see their fantasies acted out before performing them in real life. Some feminists go even farther than this in the ethical debate, and claim that masturbating to pornography is, infact, sex just as much as two people copulating in the real world is -- they define sex in patriarchy as when a woman is used to acheive ejaculation.

Now, one might ask why the weakest form of feminism at the very least isn't flourishing, why women aren't paid to be stay-at-home moms taking care of children, why equal rights laws aren't more stern, etc. One forgets that with adopting certain feminist issues you also attach oneself to a plethora of other issues, each one more controversial than the one before it -- take for example, abortion. Many feminists will argue that controlling reproduction is one of the many ways the state is trying to oppress them, and some will say this is grounds for giving women full rights over their reproductives processes regardless of any other ethics involved. This on itself is not too big a deal you say? Well then you have the problem of abortion connecting you to womanism, and I haven't even touched on other issues in seperationalism yet.

On the note of Womanism, many black feminists are quick to point that the vast majority of feminists out their are middle-class American white women. They will further claim that there is a cultural divide here, and as a result the feminist movement isn't taking the issues and concerns of black women into account. The most radical of these is the idea of ethnic genocide, in which they claim that white women (the black feminists I speak of for the most part grant that this is not the white women's intent but a side effect), by promoting abortion rights, are going to diminish the number of black babies, and thus, slowly exterminate the black presence in America and other parts of the world. I'll leave you to judge.

(BTW: This debate is often referred to as intersectionality)

Besides race/ethnic issues, many homosexuals feel that that their views aren't being taken into account either -- welcome to gender identity theory. There is a rather large feminist debate over what classifies what your gender actually is, and many think that your "gender" (mental gender) shouldn't be dependent on your "sex" (biological gender). They further claim that the state is oppressing them even moreso because current legislation not only has gender bias but homo vs. hetero bias as well.

Furthermore, you'll find a large percentage of feminist Marxists. Many feminists believe that the capitalist ideals are flawed or dependent on characteristics only found in patriarchy. Furthermore, feminists claim that Marxism can only possibly work if it is combined with feminism. Thus, many feminists also fall under socialist and more specifically marxists criticisms. There's an overwhelming amount of literature on this, by feminists and anti-feminists alike, and in any case the common point made by feminists of either side is that there's no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater -- just because you disagree with some of the socialist ideals in feminism you shouldn't be against women having equal rights.

Out of all of this though, the feminist mindset is probably the most important thing I can emphasize. Many (although not all) feminists agree that men can be feminists too, and that even if a man had every state position, if they all had a feminist mindset it would not be an issue.

So remember noders, feminism means A LOT of different things, and it touches on a ton of different topics. It's stirring with controversy, radicals, civil rights activists, and people varying from completely sane to completely crackers.

The only thing you can know about someone who says “I am a feminist” is that they believe that women are oppressed in some way. Otherwise, people’s beliefs about any given subject that might be called feminist are all over the board (surprise surprise).

There are many topics that feminism covers:

Sexual violence, domestic violence, unequal pay, gender roles, general bullshity messages from everywhere that being beautiful to attract and satisfy a male mate is more important than developing your mind and other survival abilities, the right to a safe and legal abortion (and the list goes on for a very long time).

These are issues that affect women all over the world disproportionately to men all over the world, and the consequences for women can be and are not limited to:

Poverty, depression (or other psychological problems such as anorexia), death, or physical handicap (the list continues).

Men also suffer. They also have special issues. However, my take on feminism is that it exists (and has a name) because not that many people were doing much to change the situations that mainly affect women, so some people stepped up to advocate and fight for change, and voila: feminists.

The reason I feel compelled to write yet *another* node about what feminism is is because, although there stand many a fine node about feminism, I still notice a lot of hostility and confusion associated with the word; and I thought maybe if they read just one more clarifying node, suddenly people who were hissy about the subject would let go of their stereotypes and everything would just settle nicely into place.

Spelled out, what I want realized is that the label “feminist” doesn’t always equate the same thing for every person, and so isn’t synonymous with extremist, man hater or dogmatic; it would be useful if feminism was recognized as a general label describing a system of beliefs, similar to the labels “Jewish” or “Republican” or “Car Enthusiast” or whatever.

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