"What is feminism?"
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said:“We should all be feminists.”
But, in a field that is so diverse with varied approaches, we can’t help but ask ourselves:
What exactly is feminism?
Unfortunately, a textbook definition is not enough to encapsulate an ideology as broad as feminism.
Therefore, we decided to go straight to the source and ask feminists what feminism means to them.
A teenage girl, Nadia
“Feminism to me is about being treated equally, no matter what gender you identify with. It’s about having the same opportunities. Like at my school, for many years, there was no girls’ rugby team because it was considered a boys’ sport and was too violent for girls. But we started to complain, and we demanded that they create a girls’ rugby team. When it was finally created, our rules were different to the boys and we didn’t even get to go to tournaments, because very few schools had a girls’ rugby team.”
“I want the girls’ and boys’ rugby teams to be equal, to have the same opportunities, not to demand and fight just to get somewhere close to their level.”
A University student, Noah
“Feminism is a complicated one, especially because I’m a man. But I consider myself a feminist, I really do. I believe that my female, black and LGBTQ+ friends should have the same opportunities as a straight white man. I want us to be able to go out for drinks without them being judged or stereotyped. It’s about celebrating all the amazing things they have and will accomplish rather than all the obstacles in their way because of who they are.”
“So being a feminist, for me also makes you a supporter of Black Lives Matter, a supporter of LGBTQ+, because they are all fighting to be seen, to be equal. I mean, it’s all related.”
A mother, Helen
“As a mother, all I could ever wish for is for my children to have the best possible life. That is why I am a feminist, because I cannot bear the thought of my children’s dreams being crushed by something which they cannot control: their gender. I want them to have hopes and dreams, and I want to them go out into the world and pursue them. I want them to be able to make their own decisions and their own path in life. Lastly, I want them to feel safe in their own bodies, to have the right to make their own sexual and reproductive decisions.”
“This is the world I want my children growing up in, so I have to be a feminist.”
A businessman, Andrea
“It is quite obvious that we still live in a patriarchal society, one which benefits us men. It is harder for women to find employment and, when they do, they are still paid less than men for doing the same work. Equity in the workplace is a necessity, employees should be assessed based on their performance, rather than their gender."
"This is why I am a supporter of feminism; the glass ceiling needs to be broken, the gender pay gap closed and the gender bias ended.”
A law student, Sara
“Feminism as a definition is the equality of both genders in every aspect of life. A definition that in recent years has been moulded and tampered with, redefining it to devalue men, and by doing so have provided those, who are against the original movement an image to criticise, attack and vilify. However, this extreme view is not feminism.”
“With recent political revolutions and events, I have to come to realise that to reach a state of equality, as feminists require, we need equity. To have equal opportunities as a white man you must give both a white woman and a woman of colour a ladder. However, to reach the white man, the woman of colour would need a much longer ladder than a white woman. We are taught in school that the suffragette movement was the birth of feminism, that it granted women the right to vote, the roaring 20s was the pivotal age for women’s rebellion."
"However, I feel that to really understand feminism we must stop teaching its history through only the white woman’s eyes.”
An athlete, Jo
“Sports continues to be a male-dominated area and, as a professional volleyball player, I can attest to that. Female sports are not marketed as effectively as male sports; we receive less attention and less recognition for our hard work. The wage gap between female and male athletes is huge despite the equal strain, work ethic and dedication required by athletes of any gender. For us female athletes, being under-appreciated and underpaid is the sad reality.”
“Feminism to me means the chance to procure equal rights for women and men and to end discrimination, so that the younger generation of girls can be whatever they want to be and will be recognised and appreciated for it.”
"To me, feminism means independence in all spheres of my life, it means choosing my own path and not abiding to the stereotypes which rule the lives of thousands of women. It means being able to express myself in every way possible without having to worry about gender norms. It means being in control of my own body and my own destiny."
"Maybe this means growing up to be a working mother without being judged for trying to juggle work and raising children. Or maybe it means choosing not to have children and not being criticised for neglecting my so called ‘duty’."
"Ultimately, it means the availability of choices."
A writer and activist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?" Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group...”
"My own definition of a feminist is a man or a woman who says, 'Yes, there's a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better'."
There is no straightforward definition of feminism, at its core feminism is about equality.
However, it is also a deeply personal philosophy, one which allows its advocates to draw from their own experiences and come to their own conclusions.
So, the real question is not what feminism means, but what does feminism mean to you?