The “F” Word
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The “F” Word

An exploration of feminism: the term, the practice, and the supporters

The “F” Word

Feminism has developed a mystique built off of decades of growth and change. The word carries power with it and when spoken, there is often a visible reaction due to the conceptions that have been built around its modern use. Some turn their back while others use it as a rally cry, and in a world of severe polarization, based off labels of beliefs and ideologies, the lines that define feminism have been blurred.

Feminism in its root is French, from féminisme, a term developed by Charles Fourier to described his utopian future of emancipated women during the 19th century. This word then came to America in the early 1900's from an article on French suffragist Madeleine Pelltier. Pelltier dressed as a man to distance herself from pre-conceived notions of femininity, was an anthropologist and psychologist, spoke out about the suffrage movement, and supported abortion rights and birth control. In addition, she was quoted discussing her cross-dressing, stating “[she] will show off [her breasts] when men adopt a special sort of trouser to show off their…” Safe to say we can fill in the blank.

Moving forward into the American movement. Féminisme wasn’t adopted into feminism and made popular in the states until the 1970's-1980's when their original term “women’s liberationist” began to get a bad name (sound familiar?) Through the 19th and into the early 20th century was first wave feminism, something that was not clearly defined but demonstrated a variety of ideas as to what it means to be a feminist, from equality of the sexes (like modern feminism) to the right to vote, to recognition of a moral standards of interests for children.

The second wave of feminism refined feminism a bit during the 1950s to 1990; feminists began to largely confront issues of gender, sexuality, and reproductive rights. The novel “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir is credited for sparking many to join the cause in the 1960s, the text explored the thoughts of how women were oppressed through being categorized as an ‘other.’ World War II showed how women could enter the workforce and the work of Beauvoir further questioned why this was considered abnormal.

We then entered third wave feminism which takes place today (however it is disputed that a fourth wave is occurring). This wave focuses on the gender binary and including other minorities in the feminist movement. The modern definition of feminism is defined by Meriam-Webster as “the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” This encompases ideas of some past movements while also fighting for new causes to benefit a large variety of groups including women but also looking to assist men, transgender people, and others within the LGBTAQ+ spectrum.

The current opposition to the word feminist is that it excludes others, however feminists who embrace the full weight of the word are a champion for all to have equal rights to express themselves. Those who fight against the term haven’t looked into the history of the movement and looked into what it has become. Though feminists want equal pay and opportunity for leadership within corporations and the government, they want a woman to be able to claim her womanhood and what comes with that despite her previous sex. Feminists want men to be able to freely express emotions and fears without it being a sign of weakness.

We must stop fighting against the term and start fighting for it.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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