What is Feminism?
Feminism has several different interpretations and means different things to different people. But in short, feminism is a movement/ideology that recognises that there is a gender imbalance within our society which negatively affects all genders, not just women.
But if feminism wants to help more than just women, why is it called “feminism” not “humanism”?
With any social movement, there has to be some kind of focus otherwise the goal becomes too ambiguous. By calling yourself a “humanist”, you can deny the importance of marginalised groups needing their own specific movement—feminism being one of them. A range of inequalities such as sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, classism, ableism, xenophobia, fatphobia and many forms of bigotry and disempowerment simply exist, and they have not gone away because of people declaring themselves “humanists”. Calling yourself a humanist is not an alternative to calling yourself a feminist, basically.
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What is this “Patriarchy” feminists keep talking about?
Unfortunately, there is no secret patriarchy headquarters inside an isolated mountain range for us to overthrow. It is a system made of a bunch of social constructs and attitudes which are insidiously ingrained in the way we, as a society, think and act—which makes it a whole lot more difficult to get rid of. It is a social construct that values a certain form of masculinity over femininity. Patriarchal ideals are imposed on women—from promoting men as the “head of the household” to centring society around men’s needs. But patriarchal ideals can also work against men, who are expected to be physically strong, emotionally stoic, and dominant. It does not benefit everyone as a collective to live in a patriarchal society.
What is “privilege”?
White people, men, heterosexual people, able-bodied people, cis people (people who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth) hold what we call “privilege”. This is not to say that people that hold privilege do not have an immunity from hardship, but they do systemically benefit from the way our society is organised. For example, men in general may not worry about walking home alone at night, a cis person would not worry about which bathroom to use, and an able-bodied person would not worry about accessibility in their day-to-day routine. People that hold privilege may not think about these everyday things compared to those who don’t hold certain privileges, and it is important to recognise that privileges exist and to challenge them.
What is “intersectionality” and why is it so important to the feminist movement?
Intersectionality is about recognising the overlapping issues of oppression and injustice that affect minority groups. Being an intersectional feminist is important because often the inequalities facing women are not based solely on gender, but are also affected by class, race, and sexuality, among other factors. A lack of focus on intersectionality within the feminist movement leads to forms of feminism that are very white, middle class, and heteronormative, and therefore exclusionary to other minorities groups.