1.Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
2.The movement organized around this belief.
That is, according to Dictionary.com. On the personal level (because after all, the personal is political), I’d say that feminism is the freedom for women (primarily, but men as well) to make uncoerced choices about their bodies, families, careers, lives, etc.
But what is coercion – is it outright force, gun to the head style, or is it something subtler, maybe even so subtle that the woman herself doesn’t know she’s being messed with? If you are genuinely happy where you are, is that bad? Is happiness a kind of false consciousness that could be yanked away if The Facts were provided?
Perhaps more to the point, who owns feminism, who says what is and is not feminist?
I’m personally a firm believer that there are many feminisms, and that feminism is largely about choice and self-determination for women. My own feminism has taken many different shapes over time. Certainly when I was a teenager my brand of feminism did not embrace BDSM, cooking, or wearing high heels. My, how things change. I very much identify as a feminist, even if it’s a bad word, even if other feminists think I’m bad and evil, but sometimes I wonder what it is and looks like for me.
This weekend I had this peculiar realization that my relationship replicates some rather standard gender roles: he won’t let me pay for anything when we go out, so to get even I cook up a goddamn storm and stuff him full whenever he’s at my house. Of course there are myriad unorthodox things about this relationship otherwise (oh let me count the ways), so it’s not like I’m completely kow-towing to the goddess of domesticity or whatever. But still, it set me to thinking about choices – choices seem much more feminist when they are against the grain of gender roles. I would get more kudos (and boast more) if he were cooking me meals and I was capable of paying for his entertainment out on the town, but the fact is that the opposite is a considered choice that I’m happily participating in.
So then I think about the sex industry and the feminist impulse I have within it. An industry built around men’s desires to look at and touch women’s bodies and have said women do the men’s bidding? Not so awesome, not so feminist. Women deciding to use what they’ve got and exploit men’s money and desires? A little more awesome, a little more feminist. But this isn’t an either or scenario – both are happening at the same time, different sides of the same coin, even if the men are think to themselves that they can buy and sell bitches and women think that they can get pathetic men to do whatever they want and get paid. And of course this is all complicated by the fact that not all – or even anywhere near most – sex workers consider themselves feminists; many would scoff at such a suggestion. It’s ridiculous to tout sex work as an across the board feminist choice of profession, because it just flat out isn’t for most women. But for some, it is.
Does this mean that absolutely anything can be feminist, depending on the thought behind it? I’m not so sure. But does it then follow that some things are inherently not feminist? I’m not so sure about that either. Conclusive, eh?