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Portal:Feminism

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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, establish, and achieve 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 unfairly within those societies. Efforts to change that include fighting gender stereotypes and seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities 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, to hold public office, to work, to earn fair wages, equal pay and eliminate the gender pay gap, to own property, to receive education, to enter contracts, to have equal rights within marriage, and to have 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 dress and acceptable physical activity 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, including bell hooks, 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; it has 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. Some forms of feminism have been criticized for taking into account only white, middle class, and college-educated perspectives. This criticism led to the creation of ethnically specific or multicultural forms of feminism, including black feminism and intersectional feminism.

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RuPaul's character wears a t-shirt that proclaims "Straight is great!"
But I'm a Cheerleader is a 1999 satirical romantic comedy film directed by Jamie Babbit and written by Brian Wayne Peterson. Natasha Lyonne stars as Megan Bloomfield, an apparently happily heterosexual high school cheerleader. However, her friends and family are convinced that she is a homosexual and arrange an intervention, sending her to a residential inpatient reparative therapy camp to cure her lesbianism. At camp, Megan soon realizes that she is indeed a lesbian and, despite the therapy, gradually comes to embrace this fact. The supporting cast features Clea DuVall, Cathy Moriarty, RuPaul, Mink Stole and Bud Cort. But I'm a Cheerleader was Babbit's first feature film. It was inspired by an article about conversion therapy and her childhood familiarity with rehabilitation programs. She used the story of a young woman finding her sexual identity to explore the social construction of gender roles and heteronormativity. The film was not well received by critics who compared it unfavorably to the films of John Waters and criticized the colorful production design. The lead actors were praised for their performances but some of the characters were described as stereotypical.

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"Charlotte Corday" by Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry (1860)
Credit: Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry

Charlotte Corday was a poor French aristocrat who supported the Girondists during the French Revolution. She single-handedly assassinated Jean-Paul Marat, a Jacobin journalist, with a knife in 1793. Although she was beheaded four days afterwards and the Reign of Terror continued for another year, she was later seen as a heroine who gave her life to rid her country of a monster. The assassination is depicted in this 1860 painting.

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"Zelda" by Nancy Milford (1919)
Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald (1900 - 1948), born Zelda Sayre in Montgomery, Alabama, was a novelist and the wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. She was an icon of the 1920s—dubbed by her husband "the first American Flapper". After the success of his first novel This Side of Paradise, the Fitzgeralds became celebrities. The newspapers of New York saw them as embodiments of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties: young, rich, beautiful, and energetic. She met F. Scott Fitzgerald at a dance, and despite fights and a prolonged break-up, they married in 1920 and spent the early part of the decade as literary celebrities in New York. The strain of her tempestuous marriage, Scott's increasing alcoholism, and her growing instability presaged Zelda's admittance to a sanatorium in 1930. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia. While in a Maryland clinic, she wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, Save Me the Waltz, which was published in 1932. Back in America, Scott went to Hollywood where he tried screenwriting and began an affair with the movie columnist Sheilah Graham. In 1936, Zelda entered the Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. In 1948, the hospital at which she had been a patient caught fire, causing her death. After a life as an emblem of the Jazz Age, Roaring Twenties, and Lost Generation, Zelda Fitzgerald posthumously found a new role: after a popular 1970 biography portrayed her as a victim of an overbearing husband, she became a feminist icon.

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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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