For the uninitiated: fifty shades of feminism

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Feminism is the collective term for a range of movements and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal, and social rights for women. Wikipedia

Anyone supporting the advocacy of equal rights between women and men can arguably be described as a feminist.  The term will also mean different things to different people at different times and can cut across the traditional spectrum of political ideology.

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Modern Western feminist history is traditionally split into three (arguably four) separate eras or waves: starting with the suffragette movement for votes; followed by women’s movements of the 60’s promoting a wider rights agenda, including employment and reproductive rights; in the 90’s third wave feminism diversified the agenda further and promoted a more inclusive / intersectional approach taking in race, sexual orientation, disability, class and transgender.

Most feminist theory is informed by the context of patriarchy which is broadly defined as a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.


Over time many different strands of feminism have developed, including:

anarcAnarchic feminisim (or anarchist feminism) align general feminist principles with the libertarian ideology of anarchism. Anarcha-feminists consider the patriarchy as a manifestation of involuntary coercive hierarchy that should be replaced by decentralized free association.

The struggle against patriarchy is viewed as essentially part of class struggle, and the anarchist struggle is therfore a necessary component of feminist struggle.



Atheist feminism oppose religion as a main source of female oppression and inequality, believing that the majority of the religions are sexist and oppressive to women.




Black feminism argues that sexism, class oppression, and racism are inextricably bound together. Advocates of Black Feminism argue that the liberation of black women entails freedom for all people, since it would require the end of racism, sexism, and class oppression.

cyberCyberfeminism is used to describe the philosophies of a contemporary feminist community whose interests are cyberspace, the Internet and technology. The term was coined in the early 1990s to describe the work of feminists interested in theorizing, critiquing and exploiting the Internet, cyberspace and new-media technologies in general. It is considered to be a precursor to networked feminism.



Difference feminism:  Emphasize the differences between men and women and argue that identicality or sameness are not necessary in order for men and women, and masculine and feminine values, to be treated equally.

Difference feminism argue that gender-neutrality harms women by compelling them to imitate men, by depriving society of their distinctive contributions, or by letting them participate in society only on terms that favor men.


Equality feminism focuses on the basic similarities between men and women, and whose ultimate goal is the equality of the sexes in all domains. This includes economic and political equality, equal access within the workplace, freedom from oppressive gender stereotyping, and an androgynous worldview.

Equality feminism is considered to be the dominant perspective of feminism during the 19th and 20th century. Arguably this remains the case however the 1980s and 1990s brought about a new focus on the essential differences between men and women.


Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 19.55.34Equity feminism advocates a focus on the goal of social and legal equality (that women and men should have the same rights, be paid the same for the same work, have access to the same opportunities, etc).

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 19.55.54It is informed by the need to define a viable alternative form of feminism to those committed to a psychological blank slate where sex differences are concerned, involve sharp criticism of gender roles, portray “all women as victims” and advocate preferential treatment for them on this basis.

fatFat feminism or fat-positive feminism is a form of feminism that merges with fat activism and specifically addresses how misogyny and sexism intersect with sizeism and anti-fat bias.



fauxFaux feminist: Someone adopting feminist tropes for false reasons. Examples of fake feminists include someone claiming to be a feminist to ‘fit in’ with a group of people, for commercial / professional gain or a person who uses feminism to bash and belittle non-feminists (usually men).


libera;Individualist feminism, , is a term for feminist ideas which emphasize individualism. It takes a strong anti-government and pro-choice stand and argues that “feminism should no longer be about communal solutions to communal problems but individual solutions to individual problems”

Individualist feminists promote changes to legal systems which eliminate class and gender privileges and ensure that all individuals have equal rights. They encourage women to take full responsibility for their own lives and oppose any government interference into the choices adults make with their own bodies because, it contends, such interference creates a coercive hierarchy (such as patriarchy).


interIntersectional Feminism: Women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity based on interrelated factors including race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.

Intersectional feminists argue that feminism can focus on white, middle class, cis-gendered and able-bodied women without acknowledging the multi-layered facets of other women’s experiences.



Lesbian feminism seek to denaturalise heterosexuality and, based on this denaturalization, to explore heterosexuality’s “roots” in institutions such as patriarchy, capitalism and colonialism. Additionally, lesbian feminism advocates lesbianism as a rational result of alienation and dissatisfaction with these institutions.


lipstickLipstick feminism: Women who support the belief that it is possible to be a feminist while also displaying femininity, being sex positive, or engaging in other displays of sexuality which earlier generations of feminists once condemned.



Marxist feminism is focused on  the ways in which women are oppressed through systems of capitalism and private property. According to Marxist feminists, women’s liberation can only be achieved through a radical restructuring of the current capitalist structures, in which much of women’s labor is uncompensated.

They argue that a woman’s subordination is not a result of her biological disposition but of social relations, and that men’s efforts to achieve their demands for control of women’s labor and sexual faculties have gradually become institutionalized in the nuclear family.  It legitimates the capitalist class’s refusal to pay for the domestic labor assigned, unpaid, to women.



Maternal feminism is the belief of many early feminists that women as mothers and caregivers had an important but distinctive role to play in society and in politics. The concept was attacked by later feminists as accepting the paternalist view of society and providing an excuse for inequality.



Networked feminism describes the phenomenon of the online mobilization and coordination of feminists to leverage the internet to make traditionally unrepresented voices and viewpoints heard through social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.  Online feminist work is becoming the new engine of contemporary feminism. Arguably no other form of activism has empowered so many people to take action on a singular issue. Activity covers all possible definitions of feminism.


Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 19.56.55 Postcolonial feminism developed as a response to the criticism that feminism has focused primarily on the experiences of women in western cultures. It argues that by using the term “woman” as a universal group, women are then only defined by their gender and not by social class, race, ethnicity, or sexual preference.

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 19.57.13The critique points out the universalizing tendencies of mainstream feminist ideas and argues that women living in non-Western countries are misrepresented.



Power feminism focuses on positive female role models in modern society and encourages women to recognise that they actually have enormous cultural and political power and to focus on their own strength, resourcefulness and self responsibility to achieve what they want in life rather than defining themselves by concepts of victimhood and oppression. Power feminist’s encouraged women to embrace their sexuality and can consider men’s obsession with female sexuality in truth defines them as the weaker sex.


Pro-life feminism is the opposition to abortion by feminists who believe that the principles which inform their support of women’s rights also call them to support the right to life of pre-natal humans.



Proto feminists describes movements or people advocating women’s rights in eras when the modern concept of “feminist” would have been unknown. For example, some consider Plato to be a proto feminist based on this quote from The Republic: ‘Are dogs divided into hes and shes, or do they both share equally in hunting and in keeping watch and in the other duties of dogs?



Religious Feminism is a collective term to acknowledge movements seeking to reconcile women’s rights within the context of religious theology or systems (such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Mormonism).



Radical feminism is a perspective within feminism that calls for a radical reordering of society in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts. Radical feminists seek to abolish patriarchy by challenging existing social norms and institutions, rather than through a purely political process. This includes challenging traditional gender roles, opposing the sexual objectification of women, and raising public awareness about rape and violence against women.

Radical feminists locate the root cause of women’s oppression in patriarchal gender relations, as opposed to legal systems (as in liberal feminism) or class conflict (as in socialist feminism and Marxist feminism).

sep2Separatist feminism is a form of radical feminism that holds that opposition to patriarchy is best done through focusing exclusively on women and girls. Some separatist feminists do not believe that men can make positive contributions to the feminist movement.

transTransfeminism is a movement by and for trans women who view their liberation to be intrinsically linked to the liberation of all women and beyond.” A core tenet of feminism is that biology does not and must not equal destiny. Feminists have traditionally explored the boundaries of what it means to be a woman.  Transfeminists argue that trans people and cisgender feminists confront society’s conventional views of sex and gender in similar ways.
antiAnti – Feminist: Can be motivated by general hostility towards women’s rights, the belief that feminist theories of patriarchy and disadvantages suffered by women in society are incorrect or exaggerated, or that feminism as a movement encourages misandry and seeks to harm or oppress men.


Some antifeminists view feminism as a denial of innate differences between the genders, and an attempt to reprogram people against their biological tendencies.  Antifeminists also frequently argue that feminism, despite espousing equality, ignores rights issues unique to males. Some believe that the feminist movement has achieved its aims and now seeks higher status for women than for men via special rights and exemptions.

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Contemporary issues surrounding antifeminism include concerns of anti3fairness in matters of family law, regarding things like child custody, paternity liability, child support, and concerns of sex or gender inequality in the criminal justice system, such as fairness in sentencing for like crimes.

Some women who identify as anti-feminist define themselves as being humanist because feminism is a discriminatory ideology and continues to portray women as victims.


In November 2014, Time magazine included “feminist” on its annual list of proposed banished words. After initially receiving the overwhelmingly majority of votes (51%), Time then apologized for including the word in the poll and removed it from the results.

Yuck! God, I hate that word. It’s like calling someone a Sadist! I think it’s really unfortunate that word has been so associated with very extreme… extremist persons. Radical behavior. And I think although it probably had to be put in a bit at the beginning, I think all women are rather offended by that term now. What really has power is when you get people women up there doing something really good, as women, being people, just being women. Women just getting on with it and doing it, and doing it well. Which I think a lot of women are doing now. And there’s not such an alienating process going on between men and women. Kate Bush 1989

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