in category Falsafa (Philosophy)

What is a Feminist?

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What is a Feminist?

The Oxford dictionary defines a feminist as follows: "...a person who supports feminism. The advocacy of women rights on the ground of equality of the sexes." (Oxford dictionary)

Estelle Freedman(2003), who is a highly acknowledged historian and has been involved with feminism and women's history since her college days in the 1970s, defines feminism as the belief that both women and men are innately of equal worth. Due to most people favouring men as a group, it is essential to have social movements achieving equality between women and men, understanding that gender always interconnects with other social orders. However, all feminists do not think the same way, nor do they talk about the same types of problems.

Feminism is not one absolute concept. It is rather a wide-range and diverse combination of concepts. Although many have tried to answer the question 'What is feminism?' with a group of ideas and notions crucial to all feminist concepts, it is really challenging to answer the question due to the fact that the diverse components of feminism appear to be not only differing but occasionally opposing too. Hence, it would not be wrong to say that the term 'feminism' cannot be unitarily defined. Yes, shared characteristics of all the numerous diverse forms of 'feminism' can be taken into consideration. Consequently, a standard description of a shared foundation of all forms of feminisms would be that feminisms focal point of concern is the women's lower status or inferior position in society and the discrimination women have to encounter due to their sex. In addition, feminists also arguably demand alterations in the educational, spiritual, social, cultural, economic, political, psychological and cultural order, to diminish this discrimination against women (Freedman 2001:1).

If it is clear from the above that in terms of a set of core concepts defining feminism is challenging or perhaps even impossible. However, with regards to feminism the question of historical origins and development arises? The term feminism is a somewhat modern one. There are differences with regards to where and when it was first used, but the term 'feminist' appears to have first been used in 1871 in a French medical text to explain a close in development of the sexual organs and characteristics in male patients, who were seemingly suffering from 'feminization' of their bodies. Then a French writer and anti-feminist called Alexandre Dumas fils, used the term in a booklet published in 1872 entitled l'homme-femme, on the topic of adultery, explaining women behaving in an apparently masculine way. Hence, as Fraisse indicates that in medical terms the use of feminism was to show a feminisation of men. And it was first used to describe a masculinisation of women in political terms. This kind of gender misunderstanding was feared in the nineteenth century and is somewhat arguably present in an altered form in this day and age where are at times feminists seemingly challenge the natural differences between men and women. Bear in mind that way before the term was coined there was existence of what could be called feminist thought and activity in this day and age. In America, there was the development of the women's rights movement in 1840's coupled with the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 and the subsequent Declaration of Sentiments, claiming the doctrines of liberty and equality for women, which was explained in the American Declaration of Independence. This was followed by the emergence of women's suffrage movements, even in Britain. However, women had been writing about the discriminations, injustices and inequalities in women's social condition and protested to alter it before the occurrence of organised suffrage movements. (Freedman 2001: 2)

...Feminists all apparently strive for equality and also gender justice for women. However, they do tend to differ in what entails justice and equality or the greatest ways of achieving them. (Hosseini 2006: 640)

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