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Spencer Carden

March 7, 2009


A widespread definition of feminism is the “advocacy of social equality for the sexes in

opposition to patriarchy and sexism.” Basic feminist ideas include the importance of change, the

expansion of human choice (not only women), elimination of gender stratification, sexual

autonomy, and an end to sexual violence. Many shows that I have seen on television and many

people I have talked to associate feminism with women who think they are better and more

capable than men, which is not the case. In High school I took a women studies course in which

I learned that not just women are feminist, but men can be too. Feminism is sometimes looked at

by men as being negative, however it is simply the belief that both men and women are equal in

this world. As the lesson on Gender and Stereotypes states, “equality can be better understood if

we frame it in terms of equal worth which moves us away from the values associated with the

hierarchy of gender stratification and allows us to assess people as individuals” After taking that

class and reading that lesson, I have become enlightened on what feminism actually means and

have concluded that I am myself a feminist who is an advocate of social equality for the sexes.

The History of Feminism is divided into movements called “waves”. There were three

main waves, each with different objectives. The first wave refers mostly to women’s suffrage

movements of the twentieth century’s, mainly concerning women’s right to vote. The second

wave was aimed more towards the women’s liberation movement starting in the 1960’s in which

women fought for legal and social equality. The third and final wave mostly concerns the

failures of the second-wave. The first wave began in the United States in 1919 with the
nineteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. What the amendment did was grant

women the right to vote, which was a huge step for women. Some main activists of the first

movement were Voltairine de Cleyre and Margaret Sanger whooriginally focused on promoting

equal contract and property rights for women along with opposing ownership of married women

and their children, towards the end of the nineteenth century the focus shifted towards gaining

political power. There were many key actoviststhroughout the many waves of fighting for

equality. Without women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Olympia

Brown, and Helen Pitts women may have never gained the status that they have now.As I have

not heard of or read many writing concerning feminism, I would have to say that the Bible is one

of the seminal works within feminism. Even though not everything in the Old Testament about

women is positive, there are a number of strong women in the New Testament for instance Ruth

and Esther. This book is important for women because the book itself is so widespread and

many different races and religions read it. Women’s contribution in scholarly areas of feminism

were underrepresented until the discovery of Dale Spender’s Mothers of the novel and Jane

Spencer’s The Rise of the Woman Novelist, both were ground-breaking, and proved that women

have always been writing important literature.

Feminism has such a negative image mostly due to the extreme feminists. Many people

feel that the feminist movement has achieved its aims and now seeks a higher status for women

than men. The image that comes to mind for many people when they think of the word feminist

is a radical lesbian women who dresses trashy and hates men. It all started with the church and

its being predominantly male, and the thought of women being equal and taking over. This

leaves many people with a negative image of feminists. There are many objections that are

voiced against feminism. In this article by Paul Gottfried he describes his antifeminist position,

“the change of women’s role, from being primarily mothers to self-defined professionals, has
been a social disaster that continues to take its toll on the family. Rather than being the

culminating point of Western Christian gentility, the movement of women into commerce and

politics may be seen as exactly the opposite, the descent by increasingly disconnected individuals

into social chaos.” Other arguments include an increase in family breakdown; crime, teenage

pregnancy, and drug abuse are higher in fatherless homes.

Feminism is simply a movement intending to enlighten people with a goal of improving

the quality of life for women and their society. However, many people possess images of

feminism that fit into the previously mentioned destructive patterns. The confusion about

feminism is a result of many factors. Women have been oppressed for as long as history. This

oppression is a very similar tragedy to the oppression that occurs daily towards all kinds of

minority groups, but women are not a minority group. There are actually more women on Earth

than there are men. Women are not defined by skin color, by spoken language, or by class. Since

women are not a minority group, their unequal treatment has gone unnoticed by many. Once talk

of feminism is uttered people easily may interpret it as just another reason to complain, due to

their blindness to the inequality. It is difficult to publicize an issue and expect change when that

issue does not appear to exist. Another factor that interferes with the appropriate publicity for a

controversial cause is the press. In the mid-twentieth century, when mass communication

boomed with the invention of the television, the media designed the public’s image of feminism.

The way that people learned about this movement was through the filter of journalism.

Unfortunately the media’s motives are not solely based on clear, unbiased reports of news. The

influences of ratings, public interest, and the government’s economical goals caused the portrayal

of feminism on television to focus on scenes that were not the feminist norm. Images of mean,

angry and violent women flashed before television viewers and they attracted attention. The

general public witnessed feminism as a negative force while watching the evening news.
A concluding point, which is very powerful, is that women are not always actively

oppressed, and for the most part women are part of a lot of the actual oppression. The unequal

treatment of women in society originates not in men, but from underneath the obvious surface,

where social structure dwells. It is difficult to determine exactly where female oppression began;

so many people interpret feminism as a movement that blames men. This interpretation of

feminism is incorrect, yet popular. It is important to know that feminism is about equality, not

anger. To involve oneself in the feminist movement is to search for a higher quality of life for all

people. The misconceptions that commonly arise out of the lack of understanding of feminism

can be and must be easily cleared away in order for the truth about feminism to surface.

• Standford encyclopedia of philosophy. 7, Feb 2003. Topics in Feminism.<>
• Youth Central. 2008. The F word-Feminism today.
• Smith, Dayle. Women at Work. New Jersey:2000
• 2000. What Is Feminism?

History of Feminism

Spencer Carden