What is the Definition of Feminism

      What is Feminism?

     Written By Zoe Weiner


If you were to just search “What is the definition of feminism?” The answer you would get would be as simple as what the dictionary states: “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” But the definition of feminism has changed very much from how it was originally defined.


According to Women’s History Online, the word feminism itself was first used in the 19th century more specifically 1837 by French philosopher, Charles Fourier, it originally referred to “feminine qualities or character,” but clearly the definition has changed since. Around the early 20th century the Washington Herald conducted an interview on the definition of feminism and one of the definitions that they got was not so different from how people today might define it. “”Feminism is the doctrine of the social, legal, and political equality of the sexes.” 


When people think of the history of feminism people almost automatically think of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and women getting the right to vote. While women got the right to vote in 1920 the people who fought for women’s right to vote then were not called feminists. They were called suffragists because the word suffrage means voting is applied equally to men and women and these were the people fighting for the voting rights of women. Today people fighting for women’s rights are “feminists” because they are fighting for all of women’s rights not just a women’s right to vote.


While the 19th amendment gives women the right to vote when it was fought for and passed no one had women of color in mind. Women of color helped in the fight for women’s right to vote but at the time their contribution was mostly ignored. Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act even when the 19th amendment was passed Chinese-Americans still couldn’t vote. Accourding to womens history.org, “Mabel Ping-Hua Lee was a major help in organizing Chinese-American people to help get women the right to vote, when she was only sixteen she helped to lead a suffrage parade in New York City.” Even though it took 25 years after the 19th amendment was passed for Lee and many other women of color to be able to vote, many of them still continued the feminist movement.


Today in our school if someone says that they are a feminist, people think accourding to survey responces that, “They support women and their decisions.” Someone also said, “When someone says that they are a feminist I think it means that they support women’s rights and women empowerment.” And another person said, “I think that they are supporting women and calling out the people who have committed prejudice against women.”


Most responces that were collected from the survey were fairly accurate descriptions of the word but some people are under the impression that only women can be feminists and that is completly false. Feminism is the act and movement of women’s rights, it has nothing to do with being a woman. Feminists are women, men, non-binary people, and everyone else; your gender doesn’t deterime if you are a feminist only your actions can do that. Feminism is the equallity of men and women, it does not mean women are superior to men or that they are better it means that they want to be treated equally to men because in the past they haven’t been.


Feminism is the empowerment and equality of women. The definition is as simple as that. While of course the definition could be expanded on or debated on the details of, the standard few word description will stay the same.