Not all feminists think or act the same. But very simply understood, a feminist is a woman or man (yes, male feminists exist) who believes that women are human beings too. And as human beings, women or females deserve to be treat with the same consideration, freedoms, privileges, and benefits as their male human counterparts. Feminism is a political and human rights movement that seeks to raise the consciousness of men and women about systems of domination that oppress people because of their gender, race or class (and other categories of oppression). The system of domination that oppresses persons based on their female gender is generally called patriarchy. Feminism is a movement to end sexism and sexist exploitation. It is a movement to end violence against women and all forms of violence.
It was the feminist movement that fought for and won the right for women to vote. It is because of the feminist movement that women can work outside of their homes and earn a wage. (Of course, black women have had to work outside of the “home” as slaves long before the women’s suffrage movement of the nineteenth century.) Many two parent homes benefit from two incomes and are able to provide for their families in ways that one income might not permit. A man does not have to bear total responsibility for the welfare of his family, particularly in a bad economy or in a system in which some men are underemployed, underpaid, last hired, and first fired. I remember visiting a church with my then husband in Chattanooga. This particular denomination of the church we visited that day generally has a strong patriarchal theo/ideologies about women and men’s roles in church and society. This was the denomination my now ex husband grew up in. That Sunday the pastor preached that men as heads of the household should bear sole responsibility for the household; that if his wife works, she should be able to do whatever she wants with her money (shop it away, regardless of bills that need paying). As quick as we sat down, my now ex said, “let’s go.”
Anyone raised in a single-parent, female-headed household should be grateful that his or her parent could work and earn a decent wage. It is because of the feminist movement that families have legal access to birth control of many forms and can therefore generally plan when and how many children they will conceive. It is because of the feminist movement and the courage of individual women that women can enroll in colleges and universities and pursue dreams and degrees that tradition, fueled by patriarchal ideology and not divine ordination, had reserved for men. As bell hooks writes “Feminist politics aims to end domination to free us to be who we are. . . . Feminism is for everybody.”
God did not create two unequal human beings: Male and female created God them. God gave them the responsibility of taking care of the earth that God entrusted to them. To point primarily to the story of God taking a rib from the Adam (the human being) as a sign of women’s subordination or submissiveness to men or to the story of the curse after the “fall” in the garden of Eden is to dismiss the rest of the story. God did not consider God’s self a suitable partner for Adam. It was about being of the same species or kind; it was not a matter of subordination or an inferior flesh. Why not take a rib? Why “reinvent the wheel” when all God had to do was put the “wheel” to sleep? God created them in the image of God! And the feminist or womanist [see Alice Walker's In Our Mother's Gardens where she defines womanist/womanish] movement is about existentially, socially (and soul-cially) and politically reaffirming that image in women and minorities despite operative patriarchal ideologies and constructed theologies to the contrary. Women deserve equal pay for equal work. Feminists/womanists are not about emasculating men (which I might add is only possible if a man’s masculinity resides outside of himself in the form of traditional roles constructed on women’s backs). We are about empowering women to live and freely express their full God-given humanity. We are about engendering the wholeness and health of the entire community.