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Portal:Feminism

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The Feminism Portal

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International Women's Day, Bangladesh (2005)

Feminism is a range of socio-political movements and ideologies that aim to define and establish the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes. Feminism incorporates the position that society prioritizes the male point of view and that women are treated unjustly in these societies. Efforts to change this include fighting against gender stereotypes and establishing educational, professional, and interpersonal opportunities and outcomes for women that are equal to those for men.

Feminist movements have campaigned and continue to campaign for women's rights, including the right to vote, run for public office, work, earn equal pay, own property, receive education, enter contracts, have equal rights within marriage, and maternity leave. Feminists have also worked to ensure access to contraception, legal abortions, and social integration and to protect women and girls from rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence. Changes in female dress standards and acceptable physical activities for females have often been part of feminist movements.

Some scholars consider feminist campaigns to be a main force behind major historical societal changes for women's rights, particularly in the West, where they are near-universally credited with achieving women's suffrage, gender-neutral language, reproductive rights for women (including access to contraceptives and abortion), and the right to enter into contracts and own property. Although feminist advocacy is, and has been, mainly focused on women's rights, some feminists argue for the inclusion of men's liberation within its aims, because they believe that men are also harmed by traditional gender roles. Feminist theory, which emerged from feminist movements, aims to understand the nature of gender inequality by examining women's social roles and lived experience; feminist theorists have developed theories in a variety of disciplines in order to respond to issues concerning gender.

Numerous feminist movements and ideologies have developed over the years and represent different viewpoints and aims. Traditionally, since the 19th century, first-wave liberal feminism that sought political and legal equality through reforms within a liberal democratic framework was contrasted with labour-based proletarian women's movements that over time developed into socialist and Marxist feminism based on class struggle theory. Since the 1960s, both of these traditions are also contrasted with radical feminism that arose from the radical wing of second-wave feminism and that calls for a radical reordering of society to eliminate male supremacy; together liberal, socialist and radical feminism are sometimes called the "Big Three" schools of feminist thought.

Since the late 20th century, many newer forms of feminisms have emerged. Some forms of feminism have been criticized for taking into account only white, middle class, college-educated, heterosexual, or cisgender perspectives. These criticisms have led to the creation of ethnically specific or multicultural forms of feminism, such as black feminism and intersectional feminism. Some feminists have argued that feminism often promotes misandry and the elevation of women's interests above men's, and criticize radical feminist positions as harmful to both men and women. (Full article...)

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First page of the first edition of Thoughts (1787)
Thoughts on the Education of Daughters is British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft's first published work. Published in 1787 by her friend Joseph Johnson, Thoughts is a conduct book that offers advice on female education to the emerging British middle class. Although dominated by considerations of morality and etiquette, the text also contains basic child-rearing instructions, such as how to care for an infant. An early version of the modern self-help book, the eighteenth-century British conduct book drew on several literary traditions, such as advice manuals and religious narratives. There was an explosion in the number of conduct books published during the second half of the eighteenth century, and Wollstonecraft took advantage of this burgeoning market when she published Thoughts. However, the book was only moderately successful: it was favourably reviewed, but only by one journal and it was reprinted only once. Although it was excerpted in popular magazines of the time, it was not republished until the rise of feminist literary criticism in the 1970s. The book encourages mothers to teach their daughters analytical thinking, self-discipline, honesty, contentment in their social position, and marketable skills (in case they should ever need to support themselves).

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Palestinian costume
Credit: American Colony (Jerusalem) Photo Depart.

A young woman from Ramallah, c. 1898-1914. Until the 1940s, women of Palestine wore elaborate handcrafted garments. The creation and maintenance of these items played a significant role in their lives. A knowledgeable observer could determine a woman's village of origin and social status from her clothing. The circular band near this woman's forehead is a ring of coins made from a portion of her dowry money, and indicates that she is unmarried.

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Betty Friedan
If divorce has increased by one thousand percent, don't blame the women's movement. Blame the obsolete sex roles on which our marriages were based.

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Wedgwood cameo of Barbauld from 1775
Anna Laetitia Barbauld (née Aikin) (1743 - 1825) was a prominent eighteenth-century English poet, essayist, and children's author. A "woman of letters" who published in multiple genres, Barbauld had a successful writing career at a time when female professional writers were rare. She was a noted teacher at the celebrated Palgrave Academy and an innovative children's writer; her famous primers provided a model for pedagogy for more than a century. Her essays demonstrated that it was possible for a woman to be publicly engaged in politics, and other women authors emulated her. Even more importantly, her poetry was foundational to the development of Romanticism in England. Barbauld was also a literary critic, and her anthology of eighteenth-century British novels helped establish the canon as we know it today. Barbauld's literary career ended abruptly in 1812 with the publication of her poem Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, which criticized Britain's participation in the Napoleonic Wars. The vicious reviews shocked Barbauld and she published nothing else within her lifetime. The rise of feminist literary criticism in the 1980s renewed interest in her works and restored her place in literary history.

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