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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 share a common goal: 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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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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"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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Nisia Floresta

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Rebecca Helferich Clarke with viola
Rebecca Clarke was an English classical composer and violist best known for her chamber music featuring the viola. She is considered one of the most important British composers in the interwar period between World War I and World War II; she has also been called the most distinguished British female composer of her generation. Though she wrote little, due in part to her ideas about the role of a female composer, her work was recognized for its compositional skill. Most of Clarke's works have yet to be published (or have only recently been published), and her work was largely forgotten after she stopped composing. Scholarship and interest in her work revived when she reached her ninetieth birthday in 1976.

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Ani DiFranco
My idea of feminism is self-determination, and it's very open-ended; every woman has the right to become herself, and do whatever she needs to do.

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