Feminism 101

Everyone seems to be talking about Sarah Palin: from RH Reality Check to Jessica Valenti and plenty of other media outlets.  Sarah Palin’s self-identification as a feminist has caused quite a frenzy.  It brings up a lot of important questions that I feel need to be addressed: what is feminism and who can, or should, identify as such?  Rather than getting caught up in the debate about Palin, I think we need to take a step back and discuss feminism in and of itself.  

According to the dictionary, is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.  Feminists generally agree with this definition but often take it a step further.  For me, feminism is more than just gender equality.  It is about equality for all people regardless of their gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, class, nationality, etc.  In order to achieve this equality, we must restructure the existing social structure which is based on patriarchal, heterosexist, white supremacist, Christian ideals.  There are many ways to go about doing this, including, but not limited to, education, microfinance programs, communication, etc.  Although the dictionary definition of feminism is completely accurate, my personal understanding of feminism is a bit different.

As a feminist, I believe that all people have human rights that need to be recognized and upheld, but this belief is not limited solely to feminism.  I would argue that the majority of people believe in the existence of fundamental human rights.  The difference here lies in how we define human rights.  Applying a feminist perspective to this makes the matter much more complex.  I believe all people have the right to make the best decision for themselves.  This means that they have been presented with all of their options and that they are aware of the potential consequences of their actions.  (For example, I strongly believe that children and teenagers need to be educated about healthy sexuality.  They should be taught about abstinence, natural family planning methods, and modern family planning methods.  They should also be taught about the advantage and disadvantages of each method and the potential consequences of unprotected sex.  All of this information should be medically accurate and presented from an unbiased perspective.) Feminism is about giving people choices and trusting them to make decisions. 

Overall, I think the most important part about feminism is choice: the choice to work outside of the home or inside the home, the choice to start a family if and when you want to, with whoever you want, the ability to choose how you express yourself, etc.  For me, someone that identifies as a feminist has to believe in all choices.  Someone who identifies as personally conservative can be a feminist as long as they do not want to limit choice for other people.  Those that want to and/or attempt to limit freedom and choice are those that do not fit in to the definition of feminism, which is why Sarah Palin is ultimately not a feminist.  This does not in any way mean that the feminist movement is divisive or trying to exclude certain groups of people from the movement.  Like any other political belief, feminism has key principles that need to be recognized and respected in all aspects.

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