Much to my dismay, the Justice League’s task this week calls us to assume a Eurocentric mindset (which is highly positivistic in nature) in order to determine what exactly feminism is, and how one should define it. My immediate contention is to attribute a fluid rather ambiguous definition to feminism, for like many ideologies/movements there are various strains and or levels on a vast continuum. Luckily for you all, Minority X, happens to be a world renowned etymologist among other things, as such this task will be nothing but a walk in the park so to speak, and I like walks in the park. But I digress; let us see where this walk takes us. Various sources suggest the term itself is of French origin stemming from word: “feminisme” in the 1800s. In everyday language many individuals not familiar with the social sciences tend to equate feminism with anti-male sentiments (I would like to note that this observation is solely a personal one thus not a representative sample and not generalizable to the general population) which is ignorant and often in poor taste. Moving right along. I would first like to take a look at what our good friends at Merriam-Webster suggest that feminism is:” the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes & organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests”. I find this definition to be very limited and not at all holistic.
Being that feminism is a pragmatic movement more so than a stagnant-armchair ideology (such as Christianity, ha only kidding -_-) different countries have had their movements at different times respective to their social climate. One could argue that any female-led social movement, especially one that rises to challenge the status quo, could be considered a feminist movement. Especially considering that the vast majority of societies, western industrialized in particular, are for whatever reason at the very least pseudo-misogynistic, and fully patriarchal. If then, one accepts the premise that feminism movements are for the socio-economic and political advancements of people namely females, than any civil rights movement should also be considered feminist right?
Further one could argue, that the term feminism in itself, is sexist. How you ask? Simple. When referring to various advancements of minority groups in the 1960s we automatically revert to the phrase “Civil Rights”. Why then, are female led movements dubbed feminist? Are they not advocating for the same rights blacks and Latinos were? Pay wages, education, job attainment? Is the fact that women aided in the civil rights struggle overlooked? As if women are not black and Latino. The effort to gender-ize contemporary civil rights movements sheds light on the omnipresent sex-power dynamic. I suppose however one could argue the opposite, and claim that naming a civil rights movement feminist is empowering as opposed to degrading. In any case, it is a shame that male, white male in particular is the standard. Regardless where one stands on that I argue that feminism is an extension of civil rights and is the unique combination of conflict theory and practice under a larger paradigm, with several branches in and of itself. So next time someone asks you what feminism is, take a deep breath and say: Feminism is a civil rights-social movement, an ideology deeply rooted in action and equality, and that like any other ideology has strains and variations within itself.