The Definition of Feminism: What Does Feminism Mean?

Feminism is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

Feminist activism is the struggle for that equality.

Core beliefs

  • Sexism exists
  • Sexism against women (misogyny) is enduring, pervasive, systemic, cultural, and ingrained
  • Men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
  • Women are intellectual equals and social equals to men
  • Women should be recognized and treated as equals to men


Activity aimed at ending sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny. Activity in support of women’s rights and interests.

Glossary of feminist terms


Patriarchy describes the way ideas around gender, specifically performance and expectations, inhibit economic, educational, and personal growth.

As cultures and societies de-emphasize gender as a basis for decision making by, for example, allowing women to get educated, make financial decisions, control their fertility, and own property, positive results like better educated, healthier children result.

Patriarchy describes ongoing wage discrimination, the motherhood penalty, likability gap, socialization to deference, under-representation in positions of power and influence, lesser average net worth, and so on.

It also explains how male oppression, such as higher instances of suicide, gender discrimination in child custody cases, and overrepresentation in dangerous jobs and results from patriarchy, specifically from gendered expectations. By fighting patriarchy, feminists are helping men and women. and workplace-related deaths as stemming from an essential view of gender which leads to gendered expectations, which result from patriarchy.

“Some people really feel uncomfortable around women who don’t hate themselves.” –Mindy Kaling

Gender essentialism

Gender essentialism holds that gender results purely from biology, not culture.


Intersectional feminism holds that all people are entitled to the same rights–and opposes discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, religion, culture, or lifestyle.

bell hooks defines feminism as “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.”



Gender roles

Gender roles refer to the ways people perform gender. Articles on gender roles.

Gendered expectations

Gendered expectations refers to the pressure women and men feel to perform their gender and the stigma endured by people who fail to perform it “correctly.” It recognizes that decisions are not made in a culture-free vacuum of total free will or by people too dense to know what will make them happy. We’re all making decisions for ourselves based on what we think will make us happy, but none of us are doing so in a vacuum. (read more)


The difference between an object and a subject is agency. A subject acts, chooses; an object is acted upon. A subject owns and is responsible for, if nothing else, herself. An object is owned and bears no responsibility. There’s a neat little agency trick in blaming Vergara for her own objectification. It removes the agency from where it belongs to where it doesn’t. The only thoughts Vergara should be held responsible for are her own. (read more)


Slut-shaming is the practice of criticizing people for having more sex than you. Primarily though not exclusively directed at women. (read more)

Sex work

Sex work is any labor involving sex or exchange of non-sex value for sex. It’s an umbrella term encompassing:

  • Certain dating practices
  • Many marriages
  • Phone sex operating
  • Sugar babying
  • Mutually beneficial arrangements
  • Escorting
  • Streetwalking
  • Stripping

Some categories of sex workers do not consider themselves sex workers due to bias against certain types of sex workers, described as whorarchy.



Rape culture

Rape culture describes a society where rape is more prevalent and taken less seriously than in other societies. Compared to other cultures, in a rape culture:

  • Victims are often disbelieved
  • Victims often do not report their rapes
  • Victims are often treated poorly by the criminal justice system
  • Rapists often go punished
  • Punishments for rape are often light compared to other crimes

Readings on rape culture:


First Known Use of FEMINISM :1895

Feminism helped women get the vote, obtain equal rights for jobs, made laws to control domestic violence, help women obtain the rights to own property, to divorce, to have access to birth control and to have possession of their own bodies.




Anti-feminism is a subconscious coping strategy. Anti-feminists align themselves with oppressors to take advantage of their considerable powers of protection. Generally “To get what I could from them using the only weapons readily available to me — my body, my charm, my femininity and my compliance.” Gaining the approval of those in charge of a sexist society opens up access to the perks and opportunities of masculinity.

Anti-feminism understands power as zero-sum and seeks to maintain male hegemony.

Anti-feminism misunderstands economic gains as zero-sum and seeks to deny women the ability to compete economically with men unencumbered by sexism.

Anti-feminism scapegoats women for the decreasing economic value of brute strength which is in fact an inevitable result of technological innovation. Anti-feminism blames women for the inevitable decline in economic status of low-skill, low-education, low-intelligence men.

Anti-feminism justifies misogyny through superstition, including religious beliefs.

Anti-feminism smears feminists as misandrists and incorrectly claims feminists don’t care about male-targeted sexism.

Anti-feminism condescends to women by claiming they don’t know what’s good for them.

Anti-feminism uses a flawed understanding of neuroscience to overstate the impact of gender or intellectual capability.

Anti-feminism blames feminists for boys’ poorer performance in schools instead of gender norms which teach boys to behave in ways that are fundamentally incompatible with learning.




Why is it called feminism?

Humanism is taken.

What are some common myths about feminism? See: What Feminism Isn’t.

Is feminism inherently statist? No.

Is feminism inherently carceral? No. No.

Can men be feminists? Yes. Yes.

Is feminism inherently opposed to femininity? No.

Do feminists care about male-focused oppression? Yes.

Is the wage gap real? Yes.

Is feminism incompatible with capitalism? No.

Major debates within feminism

Choice versus anti-choice feminism

Sex-positive versus sex-negative feminism

Free-market versus socialist feminism

Intersectional versus white feminism

Activist versus academic feminism

Types of feminism



Individualist feminism

Objectivist feminism

Sex-negative feminism

Sex-positive feminism

Libertarian feminism

Taylor Swift feminism

Feminism-related subreddits

Foremothers of feminist theory

Simone de Beauvoir

Judith Butler

Nancy Chodorow

Hélène Cixous

Voltairine de Cleyre

Emma Goldman

Luce Irigaray

bell hooks

Julia Kristeva

Virginia Woolf

More reading on feminism and sexism.