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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 or equal pay, 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 neutrality in English, 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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Hélène Dutrieu
Credit: Bain News Service

Hélène Dutrieu in her airplane in 1911. Dutrieu was the fourth woman in the world to earn a pilot's license and possibly the first to carry passengers. She was the first woman to earn the French Legion of Honor for aviation. She was also world cycling champion, a stunt motorcyclist, an automobile racer, a wartime ambulance driver, and director of a military hospital.

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890 - 1998) was an American journalist, writer and environmentalist known for her staunch defense of the Florida Everglades against draining and development. Moving to Miami as a young woman to work for The Miami Herald, Douglas became a freelance writer, producing over a hundred short stories that were published in popular magazines. Her most influential work was the book The Everglades: River of Grass (1947), which redefined the popular conception of the Everglades as a treasured river instead of a worthless swamp; its impact has been compared to that of the influential 1962 book Silent Spring. Her books, stories, and journalism career brought her influence in Miami, which she used to advance her causes. Even as a young woman Douglas was outspoken and politically conscious of many issues that included women's suffrage and civil rights. She was called upon to take a central role in the protection of the Everglades when she was 79 years old. Numerous awards were given to her, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and she was inducted into several halls of fame. Douglas lived until age 108, working until nearly the end of her life for Everglades restoration.

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Louisa Lawson

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Yasmine Bleeth (left)
Does being a feminist mean that I believe I'm as good as any man? Yes.

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