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"Feminism" Defined: A Detailed Look at One of the Most Controversial Labels Today

According to the dictionary, feminism is defined as: 1). the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, 2). organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.

Many of the problems feminists face are due to a lack of understanding of what it “really means” to be a feminist. But there’s a problem in and of that statement alone, because just as in different religions, political beliefs and the like, each person who claims to be a feminist has their own definition of the word, what it means to them, and how it impacts their life.

Since definitions are not always so black and white as they are in the dictionary — and this is one complex term that I’m tackling — I’ll start off with some basics about feminism.

1. Feminists want both men and women to be treated equally on all fronts, in all aspects of society and in all parts of the world.

This is right about where the commonalities between people who call themselves feminists usually end.

Some feminists are lesbians, some are transgender. Some are happy, homemaking heterosexual females, and even further some feminists are men, as hard as that is for some to believe. A feminist is not ultimately defined as a man-hating dyke who sits alone with her cats all day.

Sure, there are a few man-haters in the group, but by and large feminists don’t hate the opposite sex. What they do hate are the vast inequalities that are ever so present between the males and females.

There are many variations within the definition of feminism. This can be said for every group label out there. For example, some Catholics are against abortion, others are not. Some Republicans think that marriage is between one man and one woman, others are more open to different definitions of the term marriage. Some people in the Middle East, who belong to various religious and political groups, feel that they are meant to strap bombs to their chest and get on a bus. Many others do not.

But, alas, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. The outliers, the extremists, the loudest and most attention getting of any group are what earn it its definition and reputation.

The exact same can and is being said for feminism.

As a straight, female feminist I can tell you that when in a relationship I’ve been known to get in the kitchen and whip up a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies for my man. I wear makeup almost daily and I shave my underarms on a regular basis. And guess what? I LOVE IT. Being a feminist does not mean that I am not allowed to partake in certain beauty rituals or that I’m not allowed to be submissive when I want to be.

This is my own definition of feminism, and how I let it interplay with my daily life and actions. I know there are some feminists who would slaughter me for what I’m saying, but hey, that’s just how the cookie crumbles. 

And so, to answer, how do we define feminism? Beyond “equal rights for men and women,” no one really knows — it’s different for everyone, just like what being a Catholic means or what being moderate in political beliefs means is different depending on whom you ask. The bottom line? Equality. That’s all we (feminists) are really fighting for.

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