The Feminism Portal

International Women's Day, Bangladesh (2005)

Feminism is a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes. Feminism incorporates the position that societies prioritize the male point of view, and that women are treated unfairly within those societies. Efforts to change that include fighting gender stereotypes and seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.

Feminist movements have campaigned and continue to campaign for women's rights, including the right to vote, to hold public office, to work, to earn fair wages or equal pay, to own property, to receive education, to enter contracts, to have equal rights within marriage, and to have maternity leave. Feminists have also worked to ensure access to legal abortions and social integration, and to protect women and girls from rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence. Changes in dress and acceptable physical activity have often been part of feminist movements.

Some scholars consider feminist campaigns to be a main force behind major historical societal changes for women's rights, particularly in the West, where they are near-universally credited with achieving women's suffrage, gender-neutral language, reproductive rights for women (including access to contraceptives and abortion), and the right to enter into contracts and own property. Although feminist advocacy is, and has been, mainly focused on women's rights, some feminists, including bell hooks, argue for the inclusion of men's liberation within its aims because they believe that men are also harmed by traditional gender roles. Feminist theory, which emerged from feminist movements, aims to understand the nature of gender inequality by examining women's social roles and lived experience; it has developed theories in a variety of disciplines in order to respond to issues concerning gender.

Numerous feminist movements and ideologies have developed over the years and represent different viewpoints and aims. Some forms of feminism have been criticized for taking into account only white, middle class, and college-educated perspectives. This criticism led to the creation of ethnically specific or multicultural forms of feminism, including black feminism and intersectional feminism.

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A common scold gets her comeuppance in the cucking stool
Under English common law, a common scold was a species of public nuisance—a troublesome and angry woman who broke the public peace by habitually arguing and quarrelling with her neighbours. The Latin name for the offender, communis rixatrix, appears in the feminine gender, and makes it clear that only women could commit this crime. The prescribed penalty for this offence involved dunking the convicted offender in water in an instrument called the cucking stool, which by folk etymology became ducking stool. The stool consisted of a chair attached to a lever, suspended over a body of water; the prisoner was strapped into the chair and dunked into the water for her punishment.

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Hélène Dutrieu
Credit: Bain News Service

Hélène Dutrieu in her airplane in 1911. Dutrieu was the fourth woman in the world to earn a pilot's license and possibly the first to carry passengers. She was the first woman to earn the French Legion of Honor for aviation. She was also world cycling champion, a stunt motorcyclist, an automobile racer, a wartime ambulance driver, and director of a military hospital.

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Marble herm in the Vatican Museums inscribed with Aspasia's name
Aspasia was a renowned woman of ancient Greece, famous for her romantic involvement with the Athenian statesman Pericles. She was born in the city of Miletus in Asia Minor, but at some point she travelled to Athens, where she spent the rest of her life. After Pericles' death, she was allegedly involved with Lysicles, another Athenian statesman and general. She had a son with Pericles, Pericles the Younger, who was elected general and was executed after the Battle of Arginusae. Aspasia appears in the philosophical writings of Plato and other philosophers and is regarded by modern scholars as an exceptional person who distinguished herself due to her political influence and intellectual charisma. However, almost nothing is certain about her life. While ancient writers report that Aspasia was a brothel keeper and a harlot, many of these were comic poets who intended to ridicule Pericles and the war rather than document anything factual about Aspasia, and their accounts are disputed. Some researchers question even the assessment that she was a hetaera, or courtesan.

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Louisa Lawson



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Suzanne Vega
To me, a feminist belongs in the same category as a humanist or an advocate for human rights. I don't see why someone who's a feminist should be thought of differently.

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