Definitions of feminism are hard to come by. It can mean so many things, not all of them positive. In fact, the main reason that more women don’t describe themselves as feminists is because of the negative definitions of feminism that have been promoted in the media. The radio personality Rush Limbaugh is a veritable fount of negativity towards feminists, as seen in the following quotes:
“Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.”
“Women still make up an average of only 13 percent of police officers…” They’re never happy. And I don’t mean women. I’m talking about the activists. Don’t lose your cookies out there. This is according to the National Center for Women and Policing, which is a division of the Feminist Majority Foundation of American, which is the feminazis.”
“Of course, a 5-foot woman could not play in the NFL; a 5-foot woman could not play in the NBA, but somehow she can be a police officer, a deputy, or a cop, and a lot of people think that this is a little crazy.”
Rush Limbaugh is an easy target because he’s so outrageous. But what about the media’s reporting that some people are calling female Hillary supporters racist because they’re not for Barack Obama? Or Time Magazine’s June 29, 1998 issue that raised the question, “Is Feminism Dead?” (Cover story here.) Granted, that issue is now ten years old. but the question has not gone away. Many people, including women, think that feminism is no longer an issue, because it has achieved its goals. And yet there is no dictionary in the world that calls feminism a defunct movement. Its reason for being is alive and well.
Sometimes in our quests for determining what something is, it is helpful to consider what it is not. Feminism is not about erasing men from the face of the earth, or rendering them impotent, in every sense of the word. It is not about abandoning our children or banning the institution of marriage. It is not about letting our body hair grow or our breasts hang freely. It is not about making the single, childless career woman the norm. And it is unequivocably not about taking over the world.
That’s not to say that there aren’t man-hating, power-hungry women out there who call themselves feminists. But are they really? Isn’t feminism really about finding fulfillment as a woman, without attaining it at the expense of others? (Because if we did, we’d be no better than those who put down women now.) Feminism means fighting against anything that makes women feel inferior. It’s about not having to apologize for being female. Or being restricted in your activities and your prospects because of your gender. It’s about fairness and justice for all members of the human race.
People like Rush Limbaugh are fighting to retain the status quo. They like things the way they are. Feminists are only saying that there is still room for improvement. If one woman is made to feel unnatural or undesirable because she doesn’t measure up to some societal standard of female behavior or beauty, then feminism is still needed. If one woman is held back from achieving her true potential, then feminism is still needed. If one woman loses her children because she can’t provide as good a standard of living for them as their father, then feminism is still needed. If one woman is paid or promoted less than a man doing the same job with the same proficiency, then feminism is still needed.
But what feminism fundamentally does for a woman is make her feel good about herself, her choices, her progress, her indispensability. Women are just as good as men. Not better–although individual women may be better than individual men–but as good as. Any woman who puts herself down in any way needs to explore what feminism can do for her. That’s what it’s there for.