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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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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the 1969 autobiography about the early years of writer and activist Maya Angelou. The first in a six-volume series, it is a coming-of-age story that illustrates how strength of character and a love of literature can help overcome racism and trauma. In the course of Caged Bird, Maya transforms from a victim of racism with an inferiority complex into a self-possessed, dignified young woman capable of responding to racism. Because Angelou uses thematic development and other techniques common to fiction, reviewers often categorize Caged Bird as autobiographical fiction, but the prevailing critical view characterizes it as an autobiography, a genre she attempts to critique, change, and expand. The book covers topics common to autobiographies written by black American women in the years following the civil rights movement: a celebration of black motherhood; a critique of racism; the importance of family; and the quest for independence, personal dignity, and self-definition. Angelou uses her autobiography to explore subjects such as identity, rape, racism, and literacy. She also writes in new ways about women's lives in a male-dominated society. Caged Bird has been used in educational settings from high schools to universities, and the book has been celebrated for creating new literary avenues for the American memoir. However, the book's graphic depiction of childhood rape, racism, and sexuality have caused it to be challenged or banned in some schools and libraries.

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World War II aircraft worker
Credit: David Bransby, OWI

A 1942 aircraft worker at the Vega Aircraft Corporation in Burbank, California. Women on the United States home front during World War II took on many manufacturing jobs in factories, producing munitions and materiel for the battlefront. This photo was one of a series intended to chronicle many aspects of war mobilization, including factories, railroads, aviation training and women employees.

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Nisia Floresta

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Emmy Noether Campus at the University of Siegen
Amalie Emmy Noether, (1882 - 1935) was a German Jewish mathematician who is known for her seminal contributions to abstract algebra. Often described as the most important woman in the history of mathematics, she revolutionized the theories of rings, fields, and algebras. She is also known for her contributions to modern theoretical physics, especially for the first Noether's theorem which explains the connection between symmetry and conservation laws. Born in the Bavarian town of Erlangen to the noted mathematician Max Noether, Emmy originally planned to teach French and English after passing the required examinations. She did not pursue languages, however, and studied mathematics at the University of Erlangen, where her father lectured. After completing her dissertation in 1907 under the supervision of Paul Gordan, she worked at the Mathematical Institute of Erlangen without pay for seven years. In 1915, she was invited by David Hilbert and Felix Klein to join the mathematics department at the University of Göttingen. The Philosophical faculty objected, however, and she spent four years lecturing under Hilbert's name. Her Habilitation process was approved in 1919, paving the way for her to obtain the rank of Privatdozent. By the time she delivered a major address at the 1932 International Congress of Mathematicians in Zürich, her algebraic acumen was recognized around the world. She remained at Göttingen until 1933 when she was fired by Germany's Nazi government, and she moved to the United States, where she took a position at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. In 1935, she underwent surgery for an ovarian cyst and, despite signs of speedy recovery, died four days later at the age of 53.

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Idealized 1870 portrait of Jane Austen

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Suzanne Vega
To me, a feminist belongs in the same category as a humanist or an advocate for human rights. I don't see why someone who's a feminist should be thought of differently.

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