I’m hoping people will say what it means to them, personally. And that they’ll be specific, for example: what are its goals? Or, how has it affected you? Is there a particular writer or blog or other source that was - or is - especially influential to you? In other words, I’m hoping for personal opinions, not an historic overview.
Also, this isn’t meant for feminists only, but for anybody who feels like commenting.
It’s a religion of sorts, a set of beliefs, or collection of similarly grouped beliefs, held by some who define themselves by that title, and the leadership of that title, of how things should be and what they should strive for to (in general) make the world a better, or at least more fair, place.
Feminism is the idea that people should be treated equally with respect to gender and a focus on identifying and resolving latent tensions from the historical and ongoing oppression and marginalization of women.
In my understanding and experience, feminists seek equal rights for everyone without regard for their sex. In practice that almost always means they seek to attain equality that women are currently lacking. Or put another way, feminists usually want to raise women up to the level men are already at, due to reality.
Every actual real life self-described feminist I’ve met has been sympathetic to the few cases where men are currently shortchanged, like being in favor of ending selective service.
Women who care enough about feminism to strongly identify as feminists usually don’t actively work on those areas men are short changed, but this isn’t hypocritical. There’s so many more areas where things need to improve for women, and nobody can actively work on or care about a particularly high number of causes. As a related example, I’m strongly in favor of ending racial and gay discrimination but realistically as a straight white man with a family and lots of work to do, I don’t plan on ever doing anything specific about it personally.
I know there’s a tiny handful of really extreme people behind any cause, but generally speaking the “worst” a feminist can do is care about something I consider really silly. A good recent example - anyone who was seriously upset about the new Jurassic Park movie. It’s not that running in heels from dinosaurs wasn’t stupid, it’s just that actually getting upset about it is even stupider.
Salon.com is a good example of a place where a lot of the time when I read an article about some women’s issue, I roll my eyes and wish they’d care about something important. But importantly, the vast majority of feminists I encounter manage to find issues to care about that don’t strike me as at all stupid and I’m almost always on the same side.
Feminism is why I have basically everything that I value in my life.
It’s why I was encouraged to study hard, work hard, and eventually have a rewarding career. It’s why I was able to chose a partner out of love rather than social and economic pressure. It’s why I was able to pursue my favorite thing- traveling independently. It’s why I was able to choose when to have a child. It’s why I am confident my family will be able to handle most problems that come our way.
I am a feminist, and have been for almost my entire life, and my mother was a feminist before me. For me, the three most important feminist issues are:
[li]Equality of opportunity - The right of qualified women to be firemen, or astronauts, or professional wrestlers, or whatever else they would like to be, and also to have equal educational opportunities and financial support to get there.[/li]
[li]Freedom from harassment - The right to go about our daily lives, and especially our work lives, without being subject to sexual comments, inappropriate touching, or sexual assault.[/li]
[li]Autonomy over our own bodies - The right to make decisions about when and whether to have children, and to obtain treatments of our choice for our sexual and reproductive issues.[/li][/ul]
Nationally, the struggle to promote awareness of feminism and all the insidious gendered bias remaining in society when so many are complacently satisfied with where previous generations have fought to bring us.
Internationally, the issues that generally overlap with human rights and rule of law.
ETA: And both nationally and internationally my most important influences have been female capital S skeptics.
I am a feminist. Without feminism, I would not have gone to college, I would not have been able to marry a man with a significant disability, I would not have had my career that enabled us to eat, I would not have been able to go to graduate school, and I would not have my current career.
I’m respected, loved, and fulfilled. I don’t wear dresses or heels. I pursue academic subjects of interest to me. I watch baseball and talk stats. I am not a nurse or a teacher. I am not a homemaker. I don’t have children. All of these things are possible because of feminism.
My big issues are reducing gender bias in all areas, increasing opportunity for all, and promoting equality of all sexes, races, genders, ethnicities, and orientations.
To me that means I believe - firmly - in equal opportunity for and treatment of all people regardless of their gender. In practice, largely due to overwhelming historic societal mores and rules, this almost always means working to increase opportunities available for women. It does not - not - mean working to decrease opportunities available to men.
As it happens, my profession is a traditionally female one so I can’t really say that feminism has contributed to my ability to pursue my chosen profession - but it has most certainly made it considerably more free from the unpleasantness of sexual harassment.
I can and do directly credit feminism for my ability to pursue the advanced degrees I possess - and for the happiness and stability of my marriage, which I was able to choose for myself based on what I wanted in a mate, rather than having a mate selected for me by my father based on what he wanted for me in a mate.
Interestingly, to me the most important feminist priorities are the same as SpoilerVirgin’s - only in reverse order
Autonomy over my own body and agency to make my own medical decisions
Freedom from harassment
Equality of opportunity regardless of gender
To my knowledge - and in discussions I have had with other feminists I personally know, the list of what feminism is about virtually always boils down to some form of these three factors. The order differs from person to person (many of the feminists I know are male, incidentally), but these three things are the core.
That’s a good one.
Feminism is why my daughters have been able to do everything they wanted to do and were able to do, in exactly the same way I as a man was able to do it 30 years before they did.
I don’t know if anyone has ever tried to stand in their way with old assumptions. They’ve never told be about any such. If someone did, they might never have even noticed, the idea that they couldn’t do something being so absurd.
In my life feminism has meant that I went to a school that held to me to the highest educational standards available in the country, told me I could pursue any career I cared to and gave me the tools to do so. It meant that I attended the top-ranked university in the country following high school, and have a well-compensated career today.
I live in a country where I can vote.
I live in a country where i chose my own husband and my daughter will choose her own spouse (or none if that is what she wants).
I decide what to wear.
I decide what to do with my income. (Granted my husband and I have made certain joint decisions about income, but I made a decision. He is NOT entitled to every cent I make.)
My husband is not entitled to beat me.
My husband is not entitled to rape me.
NO ONE is entitled to rape me just because I was in the wrong place, wrong time, wrong sex.
I am more than a vessel that performs labor and housekeeping.
Feminism means that I have far more choices than my mother did, her mother did, and her mother before her. My daughter will have more choices than I did. I have seen tremendous progress in my lifetime.
It’s the radical notion that women are equal to men.
And like any other idea, some jerks use it as a justification to insult other people. (Whether it is insults about “man-hating women who can’t get laid” or “anyone who doesn’t spell it ‘womyn’ is part of the oppressive white male capitalist patriarchy.” Same thing.)
Women who have scientific skepticism as part of their world view and are or have been vocal in international organised Skepticism.
I think the most insidious biases are the various perceived inherent differences in interests and abilities between male and female children from infancy to prepubescence. People a) generalise from the examples that fit their preconceptions, and b) wrongly believe the differences are inherent rather than cultural, despite strong evidence to the contrary, such as this study showing how mothers of babies as young as 11 months are biased towards underestimating girl babies relative to boy babies, despite there being no significant differences. Gender bias in Mother’s Expectations about Infant Crawling
Of course there are physical differences once puberty sets in, but before then the insane gender bias of society is what moulds little boys and girls, creating a much stronger division than physical reality dictates.
Feminism for me is the idea that societal gender roles should not significantly inhibit a person’s life. Therefore, the goal of feminism is equal opportunity for men and women, which can (and in my opinion, must) be achieved in part by actively re-evaluating cultural and historical attitudes and practices.
Feminism in practice is not without its problems, being a movement led by people. The critiques by Womanist and Mujerista writers (writing from African-American and Latina perspectives, respectively) of white western middle-class feminism have been quite transformative for me, and Saba Mahmood is a contemporary academic and writer who has written persuasively on the way western feminism has been used to serve colonialism.
Still, I identify as a feminist and I attribute to the feminist movement great contributions to the societal embrace of greater individual autonomy and dignity - which as a man I am very grateful for and advocate for.