I think this paradox is both beautiful and confusing. After all, I am a woman and I believe women should be equal; isn't that enough? Isn't that the entire conversation - the beginning and the end - about feminism? Actually, it isn't. Like any other movement (civil rights, gay rights, politics in general), feminism is much more complicated, with a fairly extensive and thorny history. People have differing opinions, differing approaches and the result are differing types of feminism. So, as I start a conversation about feminism on this blog, I thought it most appropriate to begin with a discussion on four of the main types of feminism most people would be familiar with, even if people don't know they know about feminism. Granted, this post is not going to be an exhausting description, nor am I intending to delve into a debate about what's right and what's wrong in feminism - at least, not yet. Simply consider this a primer on feminist labels...
What is Feminism?
So let's start with what's simple: What is feminism?
Celebrities have commented on the definition of feminism, authors have written entire books about what it means to be a feminist, Tumblr blogs are dedicated to explaining what it means to be a feminist. Everyone has an idea on what feminism is, but I believe it can be summed up quickly:
Feminism is the belief that women and men are equal.
Or, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie more eloquently put it in her famous TED Talk,
"Feminist: A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes."
Okay. Done, right? You either believe that or you don't, as Aziz Anasari pointed out on David Letterman, and that either makes you a feminist or not.
So now that you know whether or not you're a feminist, let's look at how it gets a little more complex from here.
Sometimes known as "Difference Feminism" because this is the idea that women are different from men. A cultural feminist believes that women are naturally made different from men - that women's bodies are structurally weaker than men, that women are naturally more nurturing than men, and naturally calmer and less inclined to violence and more inclined to good morals.
Did you know that there's a third-wave of feminism? And we are currently in it? The first wave of feminism was during the fight for women's suffrage (pre-Civil War through 1920 because the United States is cool like that), the second wave came and went from the 1960s through the mid-1980s, and the third wave began in the mid-1990s. The third wave of feminism has been characterized as more man-friendly, more accepting of the different varieties of feminism and encourages political activism, while the second wave is generally characterized as the angry women who burned their bras.
Also known as "Lipstick Feminism", because that's not insulting at all. (I'd roll my eyes but I'm afraid they'd get stuck up there.) Essentially girlie feminism is exactly what it sounds like - that women who believe in the equality of the sexes can also be very accepting of their femininity. That feminists can wear dresses and wear make-up, and crafts and "womanly activities"are acceptable, while sexual experimentation is an acceptable part of femininity as well.
I bring this one up because it's been a bit of a controversial topic (in popular media and in the school lunch room with my co-workers). This one was also called "Do-Me Feminism" by Esquire in 1994 (ugh, my eyes almost got stuck mid-roll on that one). While the Pro-Sex Feminism came out as a response to anti-porn feminism in the 1980s (I see ya, Reagan) and while it isn't necessarily pro-porn it is the idea that women should have sexual freedom in their choices. Including, I'm guessing, having access to free birth control.
Clearly, this is just a surface level description of different types of feminism. These varieties of feminism can't, and probably shouldn't, be described in one paragraph, not to mention all the other different types of feminism that I didn't even mention. I don't necessarily believe that we should be applying specific labels and categories on what kind of feminist we all are, because I think that separates us rather than unites us. But it is a place to start thinking about the role of feminism in society, and how you personally function in the discussion about feminism.