display | more...

Contrary to some of the writeups within this node, feminism goes far beyond equal rights for the sexes. Feminism, has, infact, diverged into so many different sects that it goes far beyond the scope of this writeup to even give a quick one sentence abstract of each one.

Feminism has several main tenets. The first of these is the, "patriarchy." This is the current state that feminists believe the world is in; we are dominated by men and men use the state to oppress women and retain power. Depending on the feminist you talk to, you'll get a slew of different possible alternatives. The weakest of these (note that when I say weakest I refer not to strength but of least action) is that women should have equal rights, and that measures currently imposed by the state that discriminate against women should be removed. Keep in mind though that this is feminism only in its most mild form.

Delve a little farther into feminist literature and you'll find not only radical ways of opposing the patriarchy (such as women boycotting heterosexual relationships), but even more radical ideas for what to do after they've gotten rid of it. You'll find everything from imposing an equal amount of women/men in state positions, to all out matriarchy, a world in which we are ruled by women and instead men are oppressed (although this would clearly be the entire other side of the spectrum and thus the strongest position).

The second tenet of Feminism is ways in which men oppress women -- two of the forerunners of this debate being rape and pornography, in addition to how they relate to each other (MacKinnon is probably the most outspoken person in this debate if you're interested in reading up on it). Many feminists not only believe that rape is a method men use to oppress women and put them in the inferior, but that pornography propogates rape. Opponents to this position are quick to point out that pornography sales and the number of rapes don't always coincide; feminists are quick to point out that the vast majority of rapes in the US are never reported (they also claim that this is because the state is a patriarchy oppressing women -- some reports say that only 2% of reported rapes are convicted) and that even so, there are a small number of men at the least who use pornography as a way to see their fantasies acted out before performing them in real life. Some feminists go even farther than this in the ethical debate, and claim that masturbating to pornography is, infact, sex just as much as two people copulating in the real world is -- they define sex in patriarchy as when a woman is used to acheive ejaculation.

Now, one might ask why the weakest form of feminism at the very least isn't flourishing, why women aren't paid to be stay-at-home moms taking care of children, why equal rights laws aren't more stern, etc. One forgets that with adopting certain feminist issues you also attach oneself to a plethora of other issues, each one more controversial than the one before it -- take for example, abortion. Many feminists will argue that controlling reproduction is one of the many ways the state is trying to oppress them, and some will say this is grounds for giving women full rights over their reproductives processes regardless of any other ethics involved. This on itself is not too big a deal you say? Well then you have the problem of abortion connecting you to womanism, and I haven't even touched on other issues in seperationalism yet.

On the note of Womanism, many black feminists are quick to point that the vast majority of feminists out their are middle-class American white women. They will further claim that there is a cultural divide here, and as a result the feminist movement isn't taking the issues and concerns of black women into account. The most radical of these is the idea of ethnic genocide, in which they claim that white women (the black feminists I speak of for the most part grant that this is not the white women's intent but a side effect), by promoting abortion rights, are going to diminish the number of black babies, and thus, slowly exterminate the black presence in America and other parts of the world. I'll leave you to judge.

(BTW: This debate is often referred to as intersectionality)

Besides race/ethnic issues, many homosexuals feel that that their views aren't being taken into account either -- welcome to gender identity theory. There is a rather large feminist debate over what classifies what your gender actually is, and many think that your "gender" (mental gender) shouldn't be dependent on your "sex" (biological gender). They further claim that the state is oppressing them even moreso because current legislation not only has gender bias but homo vs. hetero bias as well.

Furthermore, you'll find a large percentage of feminist Marxists. Many feminists believe that the capitalist ideals are flawed or dependent on characteristics only found in patriarchy. Furthermore, feminists claim that Marxism can only possibly work if it is combined with feminism. Thus, many feminists also fall under socialist and more specifically marxists criticisms. There's an overwhelming amount of literature on this, by feminists and anti-feminists alike, and in any case the common point made by feminists of either side is that there's no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater -- just because you disagree with some of the socialist ideals in feminism you shouldn't be against women having equal rights.

Out of all of this though, the feminist mindset is probably the most important thing I can emphasize. Many (although not all) feminists agree that men can be feminists too, and that even if a man had every state position, if they all had a feminist mindset it would not be an issue.

So remember noders, feminism means A LOT of different things, and it touches on a ton of different topics. It's stirring with controversy, radicals, civil rights activists, and people varying from completely sane to completely crackers.