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Defining Feminism

© Peter Zohrab 2006

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In my book Sex, Lies & Feminism, I define "Feminism" as follows:

"My own approach to the problem is to define Feminism as the application of the victims of oppression model to the situation of women in society. Thus a Feminist is one who believes this model (in any given society) fits the situation of women more appropriately than it does the situation of men. This does not imply that all Feminists believe the 'oppressors' of women are men – some Feminists believe the real oppressor is Society itself, and that men, too, are oppressed by the rigidity of the roles that Society forces them to adopt."

In the above passage, I define Feminism in terms of people's beliefs.

Because people generally have little sense of social history, however, many people define Feminism in terms of what people do, rather than in terms of what they think. So they think of themselves (wherever they live, and at whatever point in history they live) as having "normal" views, and they call "Feminists" those people who are political activists agitating for women's perceived interests.

But Feminist activists have been successful over many decades, because their opposition has been relatively disorganised, and they have converted what used to be thought of as "Feminist" thinking into what people came to think of as "normal" thinking. So ideas that I would call "Feminist" became part of the mainstream, and Feminist activists were those who espoused an additional set of complaints about society which they based their activism around.

This is why you get articles from time to time such as The Somewhat-Exaggerated Death of Feminism by Ryan Brown-Haysom, in Critic 2006-08-04.

Feminists themselves, having had very little opposition, and usually not being very intellectual, have very little concept of the essential unity of Feminism. Since most of the discussion about Feminism has been amongst Feminists themselves, they have concentrated on the differences between various tendencies within Feminism, and have been unable to see the wood for the trees.

Moreover, people generally, especially at university, have been intimidated from saying things that might displease Feminists, so there has been a very real sense in which Feminists never experienced alternative modes of thinking to Feminist ones. Any such alternatives could always be written off with some sort of stereotype, such as "old-fashioned", "Third-World", "Victorian", etc.. I have, since 1987, had as my main aim to make Western societies realise that there are viable alternatives to Feminism. I think I (together with others, of course) have succeeded, at last. And maybe the War on Terror has also alerted people to the fact that other world-views exist, and don't regard themselves as old-fashioned.




Peter Douglas Zohrab

Latest Update

23 July 2015