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The F Word: Feminism

Updated on April 27, 2012

A closer look at a stigmatized word

This morning I awoke at the crack of dawn to attend my mother’s Friday morning Yoga class with her. As the calming ‘om' evoked me in my cramped downward dog, I caught a glimpse of my mother and couldn’t help but smile. There’s nothing like that mother-daughter connection. So in tribute to all us women, I thought I’d indulge in the “F” word, feminism that is!

Swearing of being a ‘feminist’ is a popular tactic; swiftly adapted to avoid any association with the man-hating muscle chick with hairy armpits the media has portrayed as a feminist. But the word itself isn’t so sinister at all.

So are you a Feminist?

Q: Should women have the right to work?

a. No

b. Yes

Q: Should women be allowed to vote?

a. No

b. Yes

Q: Should women have the right to refuse sex from their husband?

a. No

b. Yes

If you find yourself answering ‘b’ to all of these questions than congratulations, you are a feminist! Most people really have no idea what exactly a feminist is. A feminist- in the most generic form is anyone who is for the equal rights of women.

So the next time someone bashes on a ‘feminist,’ educate your friend on what a ‘feminist’ really is! We should all want what is best for woman, considering a woman’s womb was our collective first home.

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      Rusty 4 years ago

      @Becky. If you personally want to stipulate that the word “feminist” means answering “yes” to the three questions you list, that is legitimate. But you go too far when you imply, as I think that you do, that the word “feminist” has one and only one meaning which is adequately captured by the limited set of conditions you list. There many kinds of feminists and I think that finding criteria that is common to all would be difficult. Here is a site that lists the many kinds of feminism: http://sparkcharts.sparknotes.com/womens/womens/se...

      In place of your list, I like better your defining a “feminist in the most generic form” as “anyone who is for the equal rights of women.” This does not define “feminist” but instead stipulates a definition of “feminist in its most generic form.” The notion of feminism in its most generic form is more commonly called “equality feminism” according to the source cited above. I would describe myself as an equality feminist. Regarding your three questions, I would answer: Yes, Yes, Depends. The third question is ambiguous. Do you mean sometimes or always or something else? Marriage is a social contract between man and woman and each has rights and obligations toward one another. Getting sex from one’s partner is a recognized right within a marriage. Each partner has a right to refuse on occasion, but if it is always, then the refusing partner is not fulfilling the contract. The laws and/or customs of the particular culture determine what is to be done in that case. Had your question been: “Does a husband have a right to rape his wife if she refuses sex?”, I would say no. The time factor – occasionally or always—is not a factor. If she refuses always, he should divorce her.

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      Becky Bruce 4 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Rusty, I wrote this brief hub to simply give a basic outline of the word feminism. You are so right, there are MANY types of feminists and so many things I left out. Simply because I wanted to give people who know nothing about what 'feminism' is a very simple explanation.

      If a woman refuses sex all the time and her husband wishes to divorce her for it, so be it. But she has the right to refuse it... even if she ends up all alone for it. Thanks for reading and really taking the time to understand what I'm trying to get across!

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      Rusty 4 years ago

      Becky. I wonder why you used the expression “The F word”. An expression like that conveys, I think, that there is something taboo about mentioning the spelled out word that is indicated by its initial. I wonder what group of persons you are thinking of, since I have read other authors using the expression “The F word,” referring to feminism. Maybe I have missed something here. I know of no acquaintances of mine who consider the word “feminism” taboo and the word seems to be mentioned so often that I have to think that only a few consider it taboo. So, I wonder why you used the expression and what group of persons you were thinking of. And I wonder what meaning of the word “feminism” is taboo (I think we agree that the word has a confusing variety of meanings.). I would be surprised that a significant number of people consider something wrong with the feminism that aims for equality between the sexes—what you called “feminism in its most generic form” and I called “equality feminism.”

      In my earlier comment, I identified myself as an equality feminist. That needs clarification. I am an equal opportunity feminist. I believe that girls and boys and women and men should have equal opportunities to education, sports, and occupations (to name perhaps the three most talked about).

      I do have issues with feminism. Well, to be more accurate about it—I have issues with some aspects, forms, practices, and/or developments of feminism.

      One issue that I have with the feminist movement is that it involved affirmative action. I am retired now, so I don’t know if this is still an issue, but it was in the 70s through the 90s. While working, I saw women promoted to positions beyond their education, training, and experience. It may be said that there were times when men were promoted over better qualified women, but two wrongs don’t make a right. Now that women are outperforming men in college education, I see no need for affirmative action for women and it may not be practiced. However, it was practiced and I suggest that perhaps for some, feminism has become “the F word” because of affirmative action.

      Another issue that I have is that the feminist movement has included many man-hating women. I believe that these women have been and still are very few in number; however, as the saying goes “a few rotten apples spoil the bunch.” I suggest that perhaps for some, feminism has become “the F word” because the feminist movement included radical feminists whose attitude toward men ranges between hot anger and cold hatred. Example: the radical feminist hub http://radicalhub.com/. If interested, I suggest you start with the primer http://radicalhub.com/2012/07/17/radfem-101-a-radi... Speaking personally, in the 1980s, I felt that the core feminist view of men was that we were by nature oppressors of women. By “core feminist view” I mean the view of its leaders and theoreticians, not the millions of women who called themselves feminist. These millions of women were not theorists but simply women who saw that in many areas they did not have the same opportunities as men and believed rightly that they should have them. Unfortunately, movements are defined by the few leaders, not the many followers.

      I think that there is still misandry in the feminist movement, although it has taken a different form from the crude “all men are rapists.” Some recent books on this include the following: (1) “Save the Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care,” [2010], by Kathleen Parker; (2) “The Manipulated Man,” [2009], Esther Vilar; (3) “Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture”, [2006], by Paul Nathansson and Katherin Young; and (4) “The War Against Men,” [2004], by Richard T. Hise. [Note: I haven’t time to read all these books, but I read the many reviews of each of them on amazon.com.]

      I think that the two issues above go a long way in explaining why some might regard feminism as “the F word.” However, I don’t think that they are today the most important issues about feminism.

      A third issue I have is that feminism as practiced in the main is one-sided and consequently hypocritical. The principle “Women should have the same rights as men” is one-half of the broader principle “The two sexes should have equal rights.” It is understandable how this one-sided emphasis developed historically. Still, there is a danger in focusing so exclusively on one part of a broader principle. The danger is not recognizing the broader principle and blindly going too far. One area – an extremely important one – where I think the one-sidedness of feminism has gone too far is K-12 education. Assuming that K-12 schools were girl-unfriendly, one cannot fault a movement to make them more girl-friendly. However, the one-sidedness of the movement – clearly a successful one -- arguably has created boy-unfriendly schools. Perhaps the best know book on this subject is “The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men,” [2001], by Christina Hoff Sommers. However, there are many others: (1) “The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life” [2007] by Michael Gurian and Kathy Steven; (2) “The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do,” [2009], by Peg Tyre; (3) “Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System That's Leaving Them Behind,’ [2011] by Richard Whitmire; (4) “Helping Boys Succeed in School,” [2006] by Terry W. New and Rich Weinfield, and (5) “Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men,” [2009], by Lenard Sax.

      The one-sidedness of feminism leads to hypocrisy (at least among its leaders). The field of education once again furnishes numerous examples of it. Here is one. In June, 2012, there was an article in my hometown newspaper that had this title in bold print: “40 years after Title IX, women lag in areas.” In the article there was one paragraph that did note that “On the academic side, women earn the majority of degrees at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level.” There was also a sidebar that gave the percentages by which women outperform men in college education. However, the bulk of the article argued that women lagged behind in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). The article said, “The STEM issue is to some of us, a national crisis.” So, it is a national crisis if there are more men than women in the STEM fields, but apparently there is no problem worth mentioning, much less a crisis, in the fact that in all other fields (humanities, social sciences, biology) there are more women than men, nor is there apparently a problem with the inequality of degrees earned. Here is the link to the article which originally appeared in USA Today: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/stor... The principle seems to be: If women lag behind men, there is a problem to be corrected, but if men lag behind women, there is no problem.

      Here are two related examples of both misandry and hypocrisy concerning both standards of sexism : (1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrvDhSB7GHk&fea... and (2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rkl_oLSKQc&fea... The misandry in the examples can lead to misogyny.

      Nothing I have said above devalues the principle that the sexes are fundamentally equal and so should fundamentally be treated equally. Women and men are equally human and so have equal human rights.

      What I have tried to show is that the feminist movement is not all sugar and spice and everything nice.

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      Rusty 4 years ago

      Sorry, a few changes are in order.

      (1) In the third paragraph from the bottom, change the phrase "concerning both standards of sexism" to "concerning standards of of sexism" (delete the word "both"in that phrase).

      (2) Add to the last paragraph, "Thus, one can support the fundamental principle of generic feminism that women should have the same rights of men, but be unhappy about a number of developments within the movement. Some may be unhappy enough to want to disassociate themselves from the movement; for them 'feminism' might become 'the F word.'

      "

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