Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Introduction to Feminism 101


I've been with FMF for about 2 months now, and I have to admit that while I've been cruising blogs, a lot of terms get thrown around that I have NO IDEA what they mean. Rather than sit around moping about my lack of feminist knowledge which I've discovered is boring by having done it for the last two months anyway I thought I'd compile a definition list of the terms that were new to me--and as fellow intern Cori in teacher-mode said, "if you have a question, someone else probably has one too."

Disclaimer: This being an attempt for me to understand previously unknown terms, its very likely I will screw up (Especially since Wikipedia is not necessarily a fool-proof source of information). If you see any mistakes or want to add anything, feel free to correct me in the comment section and I'll adjust the post and give you credit.

First-Wave Feminism: First-wave feminism refers to the feminist movement during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Feminists during this time period focused on "de jure" (legally proscribed or "official") inequalities such as gaining the right to vote and marital rape. Some of its famous leaders: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (US), Susan B. Anthony (US), Marie Carmichael Stopes (Scottland), Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells(US). [Note: Wikipedia forgot to mention Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells. Could it be because they were women of color? Not knowing who the editor was, its hard to say, but it reminded me of a thoughtful, well-written post at Womanist Musings]

Second-Wave Feminism: also known as the Women's Liberation Movement, refers to US feminism in the 1960's and 1970s. Focused not just on de jure inequalities, but also "de facto" (not legally perscribed or official, but real or true conditions), such as inequalities in family, the workplace, sexuality, legal inequalities and reproductive rights. Some of the victories in the movement included the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII, the Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court ruling, Titles IX and X, Reed v. Reed, Roe v. Wade, the criminalization of marital rape, and legalization of no-fault divorce. (PS: I highly recommend checking out all those links--I definitely learned something from them.)

Third-Wave Feminism: Feminist philosophy that origninated in the 1990s that focuses more on individual empowerment as an agent in societal change rather than political activism (though doesn't reject political activism.) It places importance on diversity, encourages traditionally "unfeminine" emotions and activities (such as anger and playing extreme sports), and reclaims traditionally insulting words such as "slut" and "bitch." Also celebrates women's sexuality and choices in forming their own identity. Some prominent third-wavers include the Guerrilla Girls and the Riot Grrrl movement

Post-Feminism:Post-Feminism is basically the idea that there is no need for feminism because women are already equal to men. According to Alternet, Post-feminism is "invention promoted most vigorously by the right, and aided and abetted all along the way by the corporate media." It argues that because women got equal pay with the Equal Pay Act of 1963 [which we here at FMF know is a completely bogus premise], are happier than they used to be (also not true, and live longer anyway (but igoring that they may live sicker), that there is no need for feminism anymore--women won! (Obviously it was difficult to keep a neutral tone on this definition.) Post-feminism also asserts that women should view the world and align themselves as human, because any exclusion of the sexes would be sexist.

Eco-Feminism:According to the Green Fuse, coming up with a precise definition of Eco-feminism is complicated because many eco-feminists disagree on the exact details. One of the main tenets is that subjugation of women and subjugation of nature are directly related. Through much of the development of human societies, women were considered closer to nature due to their ability to give birth and their monthly period that seemed to be tied to the phases of the moon; but in western ideology, humans are seen to have been "pitted against nature," or have needed to "tame nature"--and because women were considered more in tune with nature, their subjugation was also seen as important for survival. (A part of this ideology includes the concept that humans are separate from and superior to nature, rather than part of nature.) Ecofeminists argue that traditional "women's activities" have been devalued because they have been done by women--but that they are in fact, valuable to society and should be extolled and valued.

Intersectionality:[direct quote from wikipedia:]"theory which seeks to examine the ways in which various socially and culturally constructed categories interact on multiple levels to manifest themselves as inequality in society. Intersectionality holds that the classical models of oppression within society, such as those based on race/ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, class, or disability do not act independently of one another; instead, these forms of oppression interrelate creating a system of oppression that reflects the "intersection" of multiple forms of discrimination."

Womanism: is a term coined by the fantastic writer Alice Walker. Its a reaction to the denial of non-white voices within the feminist movement, (i.e. feminist racism.) Womanism fights classism and racism within the feminist movement, as well as separatist ideologies (which I'm guessing means either splintering of movements or movements that are non-inclusive). It includes the word "man" to recognize that men of color have an important part in womanists' lives. Womanism supports intersectionality and is does not directly relate to a specific political party/system/point. It values women of color's sexuality and recognizes the centuries of sexual violence directed against them. [p.s. this is an abbreviated definition; the link connected to the word "Womanism" has a much more comprehensive definition that mine. I also urge checking out the original definition because as a white woman, I probably don't have the best perspective regarding which points are most pertinent to include. I also think its really important to read this blog post regarding whether or not white women can be womanists.

Post-Colonial Feminism/Third World Feminism: Post-Colonial Feminism asserts that traditional (i.e. "Western") feminism, while claiming to be universal, actually ignores the factors of racism, colonialism, and the long-term consequences of colonialism on women's rights worldwide--in other words, that western feminists--though perhaps inadvertenty--take part in the continuation of a form of colonialism through enjoying their relative privelege. Some prominent post-colonial feminists include: Gayartri Chakravorty Spivak, Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Gloria Anzaldua.

Liberal Feminism:Liberal Feminism focuses on safeguarding the freedoms of women through political and societal reform. There are various types of Liberal feminisms:
  • Classical/Libertarian Liberal Feminism [which is split into the further subcategories of equity feminism and cultural libertarian feminism]: "conceives of freedom as freedom from coercive interference. It holds that women, as well as men, have a right to such freedom due to their status as self-owners. It holds that coercive state power is justified only to the extent necessary to protect the right to freedom from coercive interference."
  • Egalitarian Liberal Feminism: "conceives of freedom as personal autonomy — living a life of one's own choosing — and political autonomy — being co-author of the conditions under which one lives. Egalitarian liberal feminists hold that the exercise of personal autonomy depends on certain enabling conditions that are insufficiently present in women's lives, or that social arrangements often fail to respect women's personal autonomy and other elements of women's flourishing."

    Radical Feminism: Radical feminism asserts that the most fundamental form of oppression is oppression against women. It proposes that patriarchy is "a system of power that organizes society into a complex of relationships based on an assumption of "male "supremacy" used to oppress women. Radical feminism aims to challenge and to overthrow patriarchy by opposing standard gender roles and what they see as male oppression of women, and calls for a radical reordering of society."

    Post-Modern Feminism: asserts that gender is constructed through language

    Did I leave anything out? Are there any terms you think feminists should look into and be aware of?

    Photo Credit: Oberazzi on flickr.com
  • 3 comments:

    Tangoing with Evita said...

    Radical feminism doesn't sound terribly radical to me. I mean, it's pretty...standard?

    Cori said...

    SCORE! MY RANDOM TEACHER OUTBURSTS MADE THE BLOG! (note to any feminists looking to intern at FMF: not only are the specialists great, but so are the other interns! we DO actually enjoy each others company!)

    Lastly, never be nervous to ask questions. If you're confused about something, almost always someone else is (and will be thankful you asked.) It's cliche, but cliches exist for a reason!

    Kat said...

    @Tangoing w/ Evita--That's what I thought when I actually looked up the definition of radical feminism, too. My guess is that the word "radical" immediately makes things sound scary, so people who prefer patriarchy employ it to divide up potential allies. Sort of like how they call all feminists Man-haters and Feminazis even though studies have shown that self-identified feminists are less likely to have hostile feelings towards men than non-feminists: http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2009/07/non-feminist_mo