"The mystery of our time is the inability of decent people to get angry."
(c)Lisa Regna, A Write to Heal
-- Eric Hoffer
I'm going to ask you a question right now, and you can feel free to answer honestly. Do you consider yourself a feminist?
After reading the responses to _lina_'s link
, I decided to remind everyone here, particularly women in the western world, what feminism today is really
Modern women in Europe and North America enjoy a multitude of freedom that often goes underappreciated. Women today are afraid to call themselves feminists because of the negative stereotypes associated with that word. Before I talk about the present, let me talk about the past and let you know what a feminist really is.
In her pick, lina defined feminism as "a) the principle that women should have political, economic, and social rights equal to those of men b) the movement to win such rights for women" which is from the Webster's New World dictionary. Atari (rightfully) pointed out that it was more than that. That feminism is everything, the positive and negative associated with that term. The problem is, no one remembers the positive, or how feminism in the past is responsible for the freedoms we have today.
If you went up to an average black man, and asked him if he believed in the Martin Luther King movement and civil rights, he would in all likelihood say that yes, most definitely, he did. But if you went up to a women and asked if she believed in the Susan B Anthony movement and feminism, she might hesitate on feminism before saying "Well, I appreciate what Susan B Anthony did, but I wouldn't say I'm a feminist
." But essentially, the two questions are identical, because they are both about civil and human rights.
Even in the pick linked above, plenty of people still state that they believe in "the freedom of women and our rights to vote and have a say in everything" (actual quote from a user) but that they don't consider themselves a feminist. Most people do not even know that there are different schools of feminist thought, just as there are different sects of major religions. There is cultural feminism, material feminism, liberal feminism, ecofeminism, and radical feminism. In brief, cultural feminism focusses on the essential differences between men and women, and celebrating those differences in women that allows them to bond. The famous "Vagina Monologues" is a form of cultural feminism, which celebrates the idea of womanhood and pride in our own sexuality. Material feminism, also known as Marxist feminism, recognizes the plight of the oppressed women and sees capitalism as its fault, believing capitalism to be a means of exploiting not just workers, but women. Liberal feminists believe in the essential freedom of women. Their focus is to ensure that freedom, mostly from the state (who they see as the main oppressor of women) and to allow every woman the right to self-govern. It focuses on the power of the individual, and asserts that if a woman wants to be treated as equal, she has to present herself as an equal and believe in herself. Ecofeminism believes that the oppression of nature and the oppression of women are interconnected, and that nature is mainly a feminine force being dominated by a masculin patriarchal culture. Radical feminism, often the stereotyped feminism, believes that it is the flaw in our patriarchal society that oppresses us. It is often deduced that radical feminists hate men, which is not true. They hate the patriarchy, which puts men in power, not the men themselves.
An example of the differences between the feminisms:
"In liberal feminism, prostitution is conceived of in the contractrarian sense of being a private business transaction. Radical feminists, on the other hand, view a prostitute as a human being who has been reduced to a piece of merchandise. The liberal contends that a woman is free to enter into contracts. However, the radical feminist does not believe that a prostitute’s desire to enter into such a “contract” is done of her own free will." [link
Now that you know what feminism really
is, let me just briefly try to remind you what it has gotten women in the modern world.
Causes and successes of the feminist movement in the western world include:
Reproductive rights, which includes birth control and abortion rights
Equal Pay for Equal Work Laws
Diminishment of mandatory gender roles
Sexual assault and harassment laws
Many feminists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony, also latched on to the Black Sufferage movement in the past, seeing it as similar in their ideals. Today, some feminists, particularly liberal feminists, also fight for the LGBT cause of equal rights and marriage. But it's not just about obtaining
these rights, my friends. It's about keeping
So where would you be today without feminism? Without the right to vote, reproductive rights, educational rights, vocational rights, and sexual rights? Do you still believe you aren't a feminist?
Now let's get to the heart of the matter, what this article is really about: People who don't
have all those rights that we have won. Women in the western world take their cozy position for granted. Apologies if I offend, but those who say that the feminist fight is over is gravely mistaken.
Right now, in our so-called "enlightened" world of equality, women are still the most common victim of link
, followed by homosexual men. Most often, honor killings occur in predominately Muslim cultures, though there is no support for this in Islam at all
. But in India, more than five thousand
brides are killed annually because their dowries are considered insufficient. In Iraq, "honor killings are conducted by armed insurgent groups on politically active women and those who did not follow a strict dress code, and women who are perceived as human rights defenders." (from the link above).
If that doesn't make you, as a woman (or friend of women) angry, then let me tell you this. 99% of women in Guinea of reproductive age (15-49) and 97% of Egyptian women in the same age bracket have gone through link
. In the entire world, between 100 and 140 million
women have been circumcized and every year, two million girls are at risk. The World Health Organization classifies FGM as "all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons." In most instances, this includes partial or complete removal of the clitoris. Other than initial shock and pain, FGM can also cause bleeding, infection, infertility and death. It has also been linked to complications during childbirth, which can harm the mother and
If that isn't personal enough, let me leave you with one last statistic, this time closer to home. In the United States, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, one in six women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. 17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape. And if that
doesn't make you angry, only six percent of rapists will serve one day in jail.
According to a United Nations report, one in three women-- 33% of our sisters-- around the world "has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some way, most often by someone she knows." [link
] Ladies (and friends of ladies), if you thought that the feminist struggle was just about bra-burning and refusing to shave, if you thought that the feminist movement was more or less over and done with, if you thought that feminism was all about man hating and protesting maleness, what do you think now? When a depressingly large amount of our sisters still suffer
in the world? When Saudi Arabian women are denied the right to drive, or to leave their homes without a male escort? When a woman can be stoned to death simply for making eye contact with a man?
So I want to ask those of you who answered the question at the begining of this article as "no."
Do you still not consider yourself a feminist?
"It is very easy to hate a Nazi, a guardian in a Gulag. But the real danger is not them. It is the decent people who compromise with evil."
-- Jacobo Timerman.