What Feminism is, and what it is not

Feminism is the movement for women’s full equality. It seeks to grant women the choices to do and be anything that they could wish to do or be that does not harm others.

Feminism is not any movement that seeks to control or limit women’s expressions, agencies, freedoms, or choices. It does not give them more than those that are not white or able-bodied, or socially beautiful or heterosexual or American ought to have, and it does not give them less than those than everything men have that they ought to have.

Feminism is not limiting a woman’s right to reproduce. It does not pressure women into choosing to abort with insurmountable economic hardship, public shame, manipulative and selfish partners, jobs that are hostile to mothers, and a lack of educational opportunities.

Feminism is not limiting a woman’s right to not reproduce. It does not throw her in jail for buying condoms, Plan B, or tying her tubes. It does not criminalize the performance or seeking of abortion. It does not shame and manipulate her with lies and dogma. It does not let legislative hurdles make the acquisition of anything for full reproductive agency impossible, too expensive, or unnecessarily complex. It does not sacrifice her opinions for the sake of her parent’s wishes, her community’s wishes, or her partner’s wishes.

Feminism is not silencing the suffering of the sex industry’s victims. It does not excuse the horrors of human trafficking and sexual slavery. It does not exclaim “boys will be boys”. It does not celebrate fairy tales and shame inconvenient truths. It does not celebrate the culture of the pimp. It does not blame the scorned woman for her partner’s lies. It does not pretend that women in pictures are not real. It does not excuse abuse and rape and hate and racism and pain with cries of “fantasy!” and “freedom of speech!” and “but I have a boner!”

Feminism is not limiting the economic agency of any woman. It does not take away or prevent her from having anything but her body, and then imprison her for selling that. It does not blame women for the continued wage gaps with empty excuses of market forces and women’s “natural uncompetitive nature”. It does not discriminate at hiring, firing, and promotion. It does not grope the asses of administrative assistants, and fire them for complaining.

Feminism is not judging a woman on her appearance before her character. It does not only love her if she hates her body, its nourishment, and its natural form. It does not tell her to buy chemicals manufactured by industrial slaves to put on her face and clog her pores before she can be worthy. It does not shame her for giving into forces set in motion before any of her known ancestors were born. It does not demand that she cut open her body and distort it, and then shame her for doing so.

Feminism is not limiting or distorting the sexual agency or pleasure of any woman. It does not pressure, manipulate, drug, or rape. It does not commodify children. It does not define sex only as penile penetration. It does not excuse the dalliances or selfishness of her partner. It does not shame her for loving one who is not a man. It does not demand that she ensure another’s pleasure before her own with her appearance, submissiveness, or silence. It does not keep from her knowledge of her own body.

Feminism is not the dismissal of the concerns of those who are not white, able-bodied, young, attractive, American, Christian, or heterosexual. It does not excuse the genocide and rape of millions of women with cries of “cultural tolerance”.  It does not demand that its followers ignore their perspectives for the “greater picture” of the suffering of those that already have more. It does not excuse racism, homophobia, ablism and other causes of its allies, and it apologize for its privilege when it accidentally does. It does not put aside its cause for an election or war. It does not prioritize the suffering of any person with an “Oppression Olympics”. It welcomes the perspectives of all and everyone without judgement.

Feminism is not censorship, ignorance, violence, racism, homophobia, insensitive jokes, ethnocentrism, imperialism, or unfettered capitalism. We can learn a lot about what feminism is by knowing what it is not.

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Posted on August 31, 2008, in 101, Feminism. Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Feminism is not controlling men.

  2. If I could complete that sentence, it’s holding them responsible for their crimes when they behave immorally or in a criminal fashion.

  3. rachelcervantes

    Excellent post!

  4. Women are not responsible for determining when men are moral or not. Women are not responsible for holding anyone else responsible. Men are already held accountable for crimes, by law, so there is no work for women to do there.

    The true feminism will encourage women to stop blaming their problems on men, to take responsibility for their own ambitions, and to quit trying to control others.

  5. The above post by manupmen reeks of victimhood. Grow up “man”.

  6. Right, manupmen, because the law is perfect and non-gendered in every way. W/e.

  7. I wish to summarize manupmen’s statement:

    1. Women cannot hold anyone responsible
    2. The law holds everyone responsible
    Therefore, women cannot interpret, enforce, or criticize the law, nor may they claim damages by law when they feel that their rights, as established by law, are violated.

    Sounds like a vision of society I’d like nothing to do with.

  8. I must confess that I find statements such as the one above (manupmen) not even worthy of response.

  9. I think you scared him with your post Jenn. Hee :) Amazing how just declaring what feminism is, and is not, can be so scary to a man. Sooo scary to think of women having more power. Soon, feminists will control you all, just like we’ve always planned! Mwahahaha.

  10. It’s amazing, really, how threatened some are by the thought that women might, one day, have just as much power as them in all walks of life. It begs the question, “what is so scary about that?” If the assumption is that women, once they have equal power, would retaliate against various men, perhaps those men had better examine their actions now lest we find that in the future their crimes are suddenly inexcusable by law.

  11. It is amazing how frightened women get when someone suggests they do not have any special right to be in charge. Men are not in charge either, at least they shouldn’t be. The law should not be administered by feminists, nor should it be administered by male activists.

  12. I think everyone can agree on that.

  13. Name calling will not change the fact that you are not in charge of anyone.

  14. Yeah, but asserting the fact that you’re in charge of things doesn’t mean you aren’t a stupid asshole.

  15. But of course I have not asserted that I am in charge of anything.

  16. And yet you’re still a stupid asshole.

  17. It is not clear to me that I am either stupid or an asshole. In fact, it seems that I am reasonably smart, and even nice.

  18. That you don’t see that you are a stupid asshole proves that you are, indeed, a stupid asshole.

    OK, enough with this. Sorry, Jenn.

  19. Perhaps you can define “asshole.?”

  20. I’ll catch that one, Deuce.

    Definition of asshole: “Manupmen.” That should be pretty clear.

  21. Since you have defined “asshole” as “manupmen,” I must assume it means, bright, articulate, considerate, and insightful.

  22. I would love your comments on this blog entry, “The Law Says You Must Fuck Your Wife.”
    Link: http://manupmen.wordpress.com/2008/09/08/the-law-says-you-must-fuck-your-wife/

  23. Ok, you made me laugh. I give you 1/2 point for that. But how long before you screw it up?

  24. Ah well, you blew it even before I posted.

  25. Rachel,

    So what do you think about the divorce laws that require you to sleep with your mate? Is that rape?

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