Feminism is a movement that is often misrepresented, misunderstood, and maligned. When a conversation about feminism arises in nearly any context, one will hear heated condemnations of it’s ideas as anti-social, anti-family, or anti-man. Reacting to these sweeping claims, many who do or may agree with feminist ideas are turned off from the movement. In light of these types of situations, it becomes essential to offer up a clear and concise definition of what exactly feminism is. Though there have been and are many types of feminism, an ideal feminist movement is one that undermines the interpersonal and institutionalized oppression of people based on their sex or gender identity while simultaneously empowering all people to critically examine the ways that we are oppressed as well as the ways that we oppress others. From here, we can begin to create a world that is safe and welcoming to everyone. When we begin to understand the movement in this way, it becomes more and more clear that we need feminism, especially today.
The dire need for an effective feminist movement is evidenced every day in the modern world. With open and perceptive eyes, we can see the shadow that patriarchy casts in our everyday lives. While people are still being raped, patriarchy is alive. As long as women are starving themselves in order to fit a narrow-minded beauty standard, patriarchy is alive. While men still feel confined to roles and attitudes that stunt their emotions and encourage them to hurt others, patriarchy is alive. While women are still being stoned for not obeying archaic religious dictates, patriarchy is alive. While people are still being queer-bashed and anyone who lives outside the standards of the white, heterosexist agenda is being treated as anything less than human, patriarchy is alive and it needs to be confronted. It is critical that we understand the fact that these and many other situations are the product of the forces and ideas that we oppose, and though our responses will differ greatly, it is the variation between them that will allow us to build a diverse and effective movement.
Within the feminist movement, there exist a multitude of ideas and approaches. Though it would be foolish to ignore the fact that racist and heterosexist ideas sometimes exist in the feminist movement, we should take this knowledge into account and work to build an understanding of the individual importance and intersecting nature of varying feminist ideas. Black Feminism gives a voice to women of color and is opening up feminism by highlighting the similarities between racist and sexist discrimination. Trans and Queer Feminism expands the movement to be inclusive of people within the Queer community and aids in the fight to end oppression of people with varying sexualities and gender identities. Eco Feminism works towards taking the ideas of feminism and expanding them to an underlying concept of equality for all living things. Rather than focusing on the differences between each of our individual ideas, we can and should realize that the struggle for liberation is not exclusive, and that as the connections between different factions strengthen, so will the movement as a whole.
In moving forward, we should create a movement where interconnectedness and unity take precedence over factionalism and infighting. As we strive to be more inclusive and understanding of one another’s experiences and ideas, we will create a stronger critique that adequately explains and addresses all incarnations of patriarchal oppression. In order to accomplish this, it is essential to realize the importance of feminist identification and participation. The identification of people of all gender identities, sexualities, racial backgrounds, and economic classes as feminists builds solidarity and increases the potency of the movement. As we consistently and constantly strive to create a better and more effective feminism, we will bring ourselves closer to a more egalitarian world that allows each of us to thrive and reach our full potential.