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The Feminism Portal

International Women's Day, Bangladesh (2005)

Feminism is a range of social movements, 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 societies prioritize the male point of view, and that women are treated unjustly within those societies. Efforts to change that 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, hold 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 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. (Full article...)

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Alison Bechdel at a London signing for Fun Home in 2006
Fun Home is a graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, author of the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. It chronicles the author's childhood and youth in rural Pennsylvania, focusing on her complex relationship with her father. The book addresses themes of sexual orientation, gender roles, suicide and the role of literature in understanding oneself and one's family. Writing and illustrating Fun Home took seven years, in part because of Bechdel's laborious artistic process, which includes photographing herself in poses for each human figure. Fun Home has been both a popular and critical success, and spent two weeks on the New York Times' bestseller list. In the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Sean Wilsey called it "a pioneering work, pushing two genres (comics and memoir) in multiple new directions." Several publications named Fun Home as one of the best books of 2006; it was also nominated for several awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award and three Eisner Awards (one of which it won). A French translation of Fun Home was serialized in the newspaper Libération; the book was an official selection of the Angoulême International Comics Festival and has been the subject of an academic conference in France. Fun Home also generated controversy: a public library in Missouri removed Fun Home from its shelves for five months after local residents objected to its contents.

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Bedouin woman in traditional attire
Credit: American colony photographers

A Bedouin woman in traditional attire, c. 1898-1914. Bedouin in the Sinai wore apparel modified for the desert environment, usually cotton, poplin, or sateen. Black was the preferred fabric color. Sinai and Negev Bedouin women used the same brightly colored embroidery cross-stitch used throughout Palestinian villages. Embroidery indicated a woman's marital status: blue for unmarried women and red for married women.

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Makhtaran Bibi

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Timothy Leary
Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.

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Marble herm in the Vatican Museums inscribed with Aspasia's name
Aspasia was a renowned woman of ancient Greece, famous for her romantic involvement with the Athenian statesman Pericles. She was born in the city of Miletus in Asia Minor, but at some point she travelled to Athens, where she spent the rest of her life. After Pericles' death, she was allegedly involved with Lysicles, another Athenian statesman and general. She had a son with Pericles, Pericles the Younger, who was elected general and was executed after the Battle of Arginusae. Aspasia appears in the philosophical writings of Plato and other philosophers and is regarded by modern scholars as an exceptional person who distinguished herself due to her political influence and intellectual charisma. However, almost nothing is certain about her life. While ancient writers report that Aspasia was a brothel keeper and a harlot, many of these were comic poets who intended to ridicule Pericles and the war rather than document anything factual about Aspasia, and their accounts are disputed. Some researchers question even the assessment that she was a hetaera, or courtesan.

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Jo-no-mai by Uemura Shoen


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