Feminism: The Basic Foundations

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.”
– Rebecca West, feminist journalist


To Begin

Feminism means many different things to many different people. Calling oneself a feminist comes with a plethora of stigmas including that one is man-hating, militant, a lesbian, and etc.

Learning more about what feminism is and what it means to be a feminist often dispels these ideas and that is what I endeavor to do here. At its base, feminism is the belief that all people should be treated equally in legal, economic, and social arenas – regardless of gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and other similar predominant identifying traits. Feminism includes the idea that a person’s gender does not define who they are or their worth; that being a woman [or a man] should not put a person at an overall – and especially institutionalized – disadvantage.

Feminism as a theory is incredibly fragmented, and covering all these factions would be nearly impossible – especially within a reasonable amount of space. Instead, it seems most beneficial to address those things that many (if not all) of the divisions of feminism have in common. Nearly all who would consider themselves under the feminist umbrella would agree that the core of feminism revolves around a belief in equality.

What it means to be successful in the endeavor to make this so, and how best to go about it, is where most factions of feminism disagree. What follows in regards to defining feminism is incomplete, and speaks only to generalities that may be applied to most of those who consider them feminists, and to what may be considered “mainstream feminism”.

It cannot be stressed enough that feminism is an exceptionally broad, deep, ingratiating, and diverse theoretical group.


You Might Be A Feminist If.....

The San Diego State University chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) has a flier entitled “You Might Be A Feminist If…” that includes the following attributes that allows men and women to see what it means, essentially, to be a feminist:

  • …you are a woman or man that believes in ending sexism.

  • …you believe in equal pay for equal work.

  • …you support choice and reproductive freedom.

  • …you believe that women should not fear for their safety at night.

  • …you believe that rape victims should be treated with respect, not suspicion.

  • …you believe that women should not be defined by their bodies.

  • …you want to see more female representation in elected office.

  • …you know that equal rights are not “special rights”.

  • …you believe that no opportunity should be closed to a woman because of her gender, race, class, or sexuality.

  • …you believe that religion is not an excuse for sexism.

  • …you want your daughter, mother, friend, sister, girlfriend, or wife to be safe from violence.

  • …you believe in speaking up and taking action to end sexism.

  • …you believe that women, women’s work, and women’s opinions matter.

Feminism means all of these things.

If you agree with all or many of these statements, you might just be a feminist.

Many people who read this list, and previously had not considered themselves to be feminists, reconsider their position. NOW has a multitude of resources like this, and many can be found at NOW's website.

Core Concepts

Feminism is not an extreme point of view…but it was once. This concept is outstandingly addressed, in "The Art of Protest:Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle," an incredible book about the interaction of art and activism. Below is one of my favorite excerpts:

“The tremendous impact of feminism in everyday life includes, but extends far beyond, changes in laws, legislation, and political institutions. The texture of the life of every single person living in the United States was changed by the new feminism. Here is a short list of ideas about women that were unimaginably radical for more American men and women to think, let alone endorse, up to the 1960s, which are now viewed largely as common-sense statements:

  • Women as a group have a right to earn as much as men.

  • Traditionally defined women’s jobs…should be paid at a rate comparable to similar work done by men.

  • There are few, if any, jobs that women can’t do.

  • Women should have equal access to higher education, including fields traditionally reserved for men.

  • Female writers, artists, and musicians should have respect, support, and opportunities equal to those given males in these cultural fields.

  • Women are entitled to sexual pleasure as much as men are.

  • Women should not be confined to housework but should be respected for it when they choose it.

  • Women and men should share household and parenting work.

  • Women don’t need to be in a relationship with a man to be happy.

  • Treating women as mere sex object is wrong.

  • Women should not be subject to sexual harassment in the workplace or in school.

  • Girls and women should be encouraged to engage in sport.

  • Women should have equal power in interpersonal relationships with men.

  • Women have a role in the military.

  • Women have a right to feel safe from the threat of rape.

  • Battering women is a political issue, not a personal matter.

  • Women have a right to be part of the decision if and when to have children.

  • Women have as much of a place in the business world and the political world as men do.

Before the women’s movement reemerged in the mid-1960s, not one of these ideas was widely held by men or by women; most would have considered them unacceptable…”

One of the best known slogans to emerge out of the new women’s movement was the phrase ‘the personal is political.’” In this way, the private sphere – the traditional woman’s terrain – became a more powerful place.

"Well behaved women rarely make history." - Laurel Ulrich

For Me

For me, feminism is an underlying theory on life and society. It informs the choices I make as a student, clinician, sister, partner, friend, and every other role I play in my life.

I am always baffled when young, strong women are afraid of identifying themselves as feminists. Especially educated women who hold some of the common misconceptions about feminism.

Feminism means that I believe in the equality of individuals as a starting point for everything. It provides me with support, with a reminder that women are still treated as second-class citizens -- yes, even in the United States! -- and pay equity is still elusive.

I bristle at assumptions based on gender and I see that the patriarchy is alive and well.

This does not mean that I "hate men," and I hate that I feel the need to prove that this is true (and I'm still resisting urges to do so).

Feminism is an integral part of who I am, and will always be.

See my hub that addresses how society - on a whole, decidedly not feminist - influences how we see domestic violence: Domestic Violence: NOT a "Woman's Problem"

"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels." - Faith Whittlesey

Resources

Reed, T. V. (2005), "The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle"

National Organization for Women: https:///www.now.org

More by this Author


Comments 38 comments

LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

fantastic hub, and I completely agree with every word you have written.

I am definintely a feminist. But I also wear a bra, have a lovely bloke, and a child, and don't wear sandals and socks together (much).


CarolynnMarie profile image

CarolynnMarie 7 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, CA Author

Thanks!

I love being a feminist, but not all the assumptions about me that go along with that identification.


Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

very good article


teresa 6 years ago

feminism sux


Ben 6 years ago

…you are a woman or man that believes in ending sexism.

MRA: You are a woman or a man that believes in ending sexism

…you believe in equal pay for equal work.

MRA: Are you aware that the wage gap is formulated by adding up all the women and men in the workforce and finding the disparity in income..and not for the same job? Did you know much of the wage gap is due to women's own choices? Did you know that men have financial liabilities to women in courtship, marriage and after divorce that women do not have?

…you support choice and reproductive freedom.

MRA: You support choice and reproductive freedom for men

…you believe that women should not fear for their safety at night.

MRA: You believe that men should not fear for their safety at night

…you believe that rape victims should be treated with respect, not suspicion.

MRA: You believe that those on trial for rape are entitled to due process and to be treated with respect and not suspicion. You believe that sex and conception is not something a man does to a woman and that women should have equal responsibility in the mutual act of sex and conception.

…you believe that women should not be defined by their bodies.

MRA:You believe that men should not be defined by their wallets and "success"

…you want to see more female representation in elected office.

MRA: You want to see the male minority interest and wellbeing accounted for and the equal rights of men protected by our female voting majority.

…you know that equal rights are not “special rights”.

MRA: You mean like Affirmative Action and Title IX "women frist" laws among others....those "special rights" How about the diversion of the Stimulus Package to women (Read: No Country For Burly Men by Christina Hoff Sommers)?

…you believe that no opportunity should be closed to a woman because of her gender, race, class, or sexuality.

MRA: You believe that no opportunity should be closed to a man because of his gender, race, class or sexuality. You believe in equal representation and protection under law and the revocation of all sexist "women first" laws and funding such as Title IX and Affirmative Action..

…you believe that religion is not an excuse for sexism.

MRA: You believe that religion is not an excuse for sexism

…you want your daughter, mother, friend, sister, girlfriend, or wife to be safe from violence.

MRA: You want your son, father, friend, brother, boyfriend or husband to be safe from violence and forced conscription to military service and or the equally obligation for women to serve their country in time of need by registration for Selective Service.

…you believe in speaking up and taking action to end sexism.

MRA: You believe in speaking up and taking action to end sexism

…you believe that women, women’s work, and women’s opinions matter.

MRA: You believe that men, men's work, and men's opinions matter.

Women as a group have a right to earn as much as men.

MRA: Men as a group have the right to earn as much as women and the equal opportunity to acquire education and job hirings to meet this end.

Traditionally defined women’s jobs…should be paid at a rate comparable to similar work done by men.

MRA: I'm sorry, but you can not adjust the principals of an economic system that are not inherent to the functions of economics and the free market.

There are few, if any, jobs that women can’t do.

MRA: There are many jobs that women won't or do not want to do...Many of them high paying male jobs that involve high risk to life and limb, dedication at an expense to ones personal life, natural talent and interest

Women should have equal access to higher education, including fields traditionally reserved for men.

MRA: Men should have equal access to higher education including fields that are traditionally of interest to men.

Female writers, artists, and musicians should have respect, support, and opportunities equal to those given males in these cultural fields.

MRA: Male writers, artists, and musicians should have respect, support and opportunities equal to those given others, including women in these cultural fields.

Women are entitled to sexual pleasure as much as men are.

MRA: Men are entitled to sexual pleasure as much as women are

Women should not be confined to housework but should be respected for it when they choose it.

MRA: Men should not be confined to public sphere work but should be respected for it when they choose it.

Women and men should share household and parenting work.

MRA: Women and men should share household and parenting work. Primarily women must eliminate their hypergamous mating behavior for monetarily successful males in order to accomplish this..They must free men from their provider role.

Women don’t need to be in a relationship with a man to be happy.

MRA: Men don't need to be in a relationship with a woman to be happy.

Treating women as mere sex object is wrong.

MRA: Treating men and mere success objects and "isolated resource producing males" after divorce is just wrong

Women should not be subject to sexual harassment in the workplace or in school.

MRA: Men should not be subject to sexual harassment in the workplace or in school.

Girls and women should be encouraged to engage in sport.

MRA: Boys and Men should have programs that encourage support and provide for them as well particularly programs that address "The Boy Crisis" in education.

Women should have equal power in interpersonal relationships with men.

MRA: Men should have equal power in interpersonal relationships with women.

Women have a role in the military.

MRA: Yes they most certainly do but most importantly women have an obligation to be drafted to military service.

Women have a right to feel safe from the threat of rape.

MRA: Men have the right to feel safe from the treat of false rape accusations, domestic violence and deserve due process and equal protection under law for matters of assault.

Battering women is a political issue, not a personal matter.

MRA: Battered men and abusive women is a political issue and not a personal matter.

Women have a right to be part of the decision if and when to have children.

MRA: Men have the right to be a part of the decision if and when to have children.

Women have as much of a place in the business world and the political world as men do.

MRA: Men have as much of a place in the domestic sphere and caring for children as women do.


zoe lowe 5 years ago

good basic explanation, most appriciated x]


anandjith 4 years ago

there is no need for feminism in modern day.modern day feminism advocates female supremacy, not equallity . feminism is evil and must be brought down


WhydThatHappen profile image

WhydThatHappen 4 years ago from California

Best feminism article I could find on Hubpages- all of the others are critiques of it with no explanation of its concepts!


Darkproxy profile image

Darkproxy 4 years ago from Ohio

@Ben couldn't be more correct. Can I ask why Valerie Solonas is a hero after calling for the extermination of men and trying to kill Andy Warhol for no reason?


CR Rookwood profile image

CR Rookwood 4 years ago from Moonlight Maine

Great article. It is hard to believe these things are still controversial but some of the comments show that they are. It gets better, slowly but surely, but most slowly...


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vaishali saran 4 years ago

its very good. I want to meet to all.


Richa agrawal 4 years ago

very good article and I meet him. thanks for u and i agree it


Darkproxy profile image

Darkproxy 4 years ago from Ohio

http://hubpages.com/politics/Feminisms-exterminati... the side of feminism they don't want you to know about


Lola 4 years ago

I am studying political theory at the moment and to all people who believe feminism promotes superiority of women above men, you are incorrect. It fights for equality between the (socially constructed) 'genders' as there is no gender-equal society. The wage difference between men and women is still prominent in all societies.

Thank you for this article, you set a lot of things straight for people because there is a stereotype against feminists as there is any other political theory.


wakocha Ethiopia 3 years ago

the idea you presented is good but more exaggerated


tuteramanda profile image

tuteramanda 3 years ago from beijing china

WHY FEMINIST DID NOT CARE ABOUT MEN'S ISSUE? SUCH AS LAG AT SCHOOL ,BAD HEALTH CONDITION


Futamarka 3 years ago

А на краю деревушки в ветхой хижине с почерневшей от дождей соломенной крышей живёт бедный рыбак с дочерью Лорой. Кто не знает красавицы Лоры? Лишь распустит она свои длинные волосы цвета чистого золота, и скроют они её убогую одежду: кажется, сама королева поселилась в нищем доме рыбака.


Anonymous 3 years ago

See, I'm trying to decide whether or not feminism is worth my time. I mean its all well and good protecting the rights of women and so on and so forth, but you said it yourself. Feminism is fragmented. In my opinion it's too fragmented to do anything of much note.

Feminism seems to work on the premise that men don't face many of the same problems.Ugh I'm getting off track.

What exactly are feminists trying to accomplish? Both genders are inferior t the other in some way. Guys are inherently stronger, girls are inherently more mature. I mean... Ugh.


HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Great Hub, CarolynnMarie. Feminism means to me that all women should have all the opportunities and benefits of society that men have. Also the same free choices which the the Far Conservative Right wants kept from them.


belleart profile image

belleart 2 years ago from Ireland

Really loved this, I have taken to write about sexist issues that have offended me personally and have been met with a lot of hard criticism by people who assume I am a man-hater and misandric. :(

I have always been honest about the fact that I dont agree with neo feminism and yet I am still perceived as someone who is a part of this group.

Its very sad that feminism is now being seen as something that is irrelevant, and dated though, it is quite the opposite. Voting this up, you have managed to stay very unbiased while still portraying the tradition of feminism.


heather 2 years ago

not all feminists believe in equality but nice article


limpet profile image

limpet 2 years ago from London England

Women should be given everything they want and that includes being in control of every situation. The last time a Woman approached me to tell me how a Woman achieved becoming a Head of State i thought that it was very good to advance the cause of Women as i have read Valerie Solonis advocating the S.C.U.M manifesto in which She seemed to have a point. So far only the visionary Aline d'Arbant has decided to further this cause.


guest 2 years ago

With no disrespect meant, and as a women confident in myself and my abilities, i just wonder, isn't feminism essentially putting the women down? I mean, the underlying feeling i seem to get from most open feminists i know is that as a woman, i am not complete until i can be exactly like a man.

Of course every single person is unique and has their own talents and interests, but isn't it kind of just denial to believe that men and women are capable of the exact same things? Yes, God created us all equally deserving of the same respect but we were also obviously all created with different jobs in this world and men and women are obviously very different. When women become body builders or politicians (i mean not because of their own desires but just to show that they are capable of it), all that is saying is 'look at me. i can do what men do. now i am complete.'

I don't know much about feminism, but according to the basic knowledge i have, when feminism started, it was a time when women had no choice but to go out and work for livings and they were being abused and mistreated and under-payed, etc. That, i agree, is unacceptable, but all that goes under the category of disrespect. And that is what i believe in-that we all deserve the same amount of respect. But to demand the same kind of work and the same kind of clothing, etc. many times just seems to be out of spite, trying to make a statement something like 'you pushed me out because i am a woman, so now i am going to push myself back in by doing the same things as you and wearing the same clothes as you and in that way, i will have proved to you that i am the same as you!'

So, please correct me if you think i am wrong because i think men and women are created differently and we were created for different jobs. Respect, i demand from men, but equality, i think not.


limpet profile image

limpet 2 years ago from London England

Valerie Solonas in the S.C.U.M. manifesto did suggest voluntary euthenasia for males but offered the altenative of creating a 'male auxilliary' serving under Women for the Woman's cause where no male could ever be in a position of power again.

Feminism is deeply embeded in our world now, just look at the number of bookshops and libraries on that subject in our cities now!


limpet profile image

limpet 2 years ago from London England

Valerie Solonas in the S.C.U.M. manifesto did suggest voluntary euthenasia for males but offered the altenative of creating a 'male auxilliary' serving under Women for the Woman's cause where no male could ever be in a position of power again.

Feminism is deeply embeded in our world now, just look at the number of bookshops and libraries on that subject in our cities now!


Mango Muse profile image

Mango Muse 20 months ago

Thank you for this post! This issue always needs constant clarification! As a proud feminist, I know that many people are still confused as to what it means exactly. It baffles me that people still think feminism is bad or distasteful, a lesbian concept, or about man-hating! Then again, there ARE still the radical "feminists" who actually ARE man-haters, that do NOT help the cause. True feminists believe in equality for all, and in emphasizing the female experience without dismissing the male experience.


limpet profile image

limpet 20 months ago from London England

U.N. Ambassador for Goodwill Emma Watson already an aspiring actress had devised the 'heforshe' campaign which is gaining momentum since her appointment to office recently. If Ms Watson realises her mission then that will be a force to be reckoned with.


lawedsew 19 months ago

http://toval.ru Schedule sites in the program directory.


Lantokey 19 months ago from Olde London Towne

Gadfly here. In order to understand the basic foundations of Feminism it may be necessary to define Femininity first of all. Femininity may be the the collectiveness of all women as a gender regardless of role in society. Women make up obviously half of the global population. It is horrifying that women had to fight for their emancipation but they did so admirably gaining rights to vote, pursue a career and stand for public office. That in itself has leveled the balance some what. If a woman wants to hate males then although it is bad mannered to hate but it is her prerogative to do so. I can count the number of women who've hated me on the fingers of both hands. Life still goes on!


limpet profile image

limpet 14 months ago from London England

I was attracted back to this web site on going over my activity page with the intention of adding further comment however it seems that i have already contributed what i intended to put. More to follow.


limpet profile image

limpet 10 months ago from London England

The basic foundations for feminism have actually been established in the 'dim distant' past, they have been set out and made quite clear in our cultural norms. Recently there was a furore over a male colleague's sexist remark to a woman regarding her appearance. Not taken as an insult but construed as unwarranted the man was forced to apolagise but it is not known what his wife had to say about the occurrance. May have been a 'storm in a tea cup' but this incident has prompted large numbers of women to express their experiences with this sort of thing. Feminist author and radical film producer Chandra Venkatta (Venkatta chellum) states in her book the saying 'A wolf whistle is tantamount to rape!'


LordFrieza profile image

LordFrieza 6 months ago from Your Subconcious

do feminist create false problems to further their goal of awarness?

id like yalls opinions on a recent hub of mine check it out

http://hubpages.com/politics/Teacher-Modeling-Doub...


limpet profile image

limpet 5 months ago from London England

Chandra Venkatta quote 'males are masters of their destiny, yet slaves to their desires!


limpet profile image

limpet 4 weeks ago from London England

The hottest topic in the news media today is the gender pay gap in City business houses along with discriminatory practices against women who return to work after maternity leave. When i was working in the corporate realm we had what was then called an Equal Employment and Opportunity officer in every department. New starters were made aware of gender based issues as part of their induction procedure. If possibly this was done at an earlier age this could be beneficial to all. In my next posting i'll discuss the alarming rate of 'people trafficking' happening right under our very eyes.


limpet profile image

limpet 4 weeks ago from London England

As we venture into a newer changing society there will never have been a greater need for Feminism. With the advent of sporting prowess displayed by the women competitors at recent Olympics, achievement is what it is all about. As for the bribery and corruption that occured behind the scene, who was that? Right first time, gangsers, drug lords and dictators.


limpet profile image

limpet 10 days ago from London England

Basics of Feminism.

1. Never underestimate the power of Woman.

2. It is a Woman's prerogative to change her mind.


limpet profile image

limpet 6 days ago from London England

A woman needs to be twice as smart, twice as intuitive and twice as rational as a male.

Fortunately this is quite easy to achieve.

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