The majority of the population have heard of feminism, and many feel a close connection with the label ‘feminist’. According to The Independent, who collected and analysed data in 2019, more than 67% of young women in the UK (aged 18-24), identify as feminist. Despite judgments from other critiques, who call this movement unnecessary and misandrist, many strong women and men have continued to shed light on the importance of teaching individuals about the impact of patriarchal values on our lives.
One incredible example is Alice Walker, a novelist, poet, and social activist. She participated in the Civil Rights Movement, fought against racial segregation, and used her activism to shape her writing. In her award-winning, and most well-known fiction novel, The Colour Purple, Walker writes of characters overcoming their oppression through sisterhood, and the importance of strong and loyal friendship amongst these women which aids them in gaining some form of socio-economic freedom.
Walker herself is a radical feminist. This is a perspective that aims to eradicate male supremacy by demanding an extreme shift in society. It brings awareness to the fact that women's experiences are also affected by other major factors, such as race and social class. It is often contrasted with liberal feminism which aims to change certain laws to prevent gender segregation at work, allow equal educational opportunities, and equal pay. The main difference, despite having many of the same outcomes as their goal, is that the former wishes a complete restructure of culture and society, and focuses on drawing attention to the pervading damage caused by patriarchal ideology in women’s lives, whereas the latter focuses on legal changes in the existing system.
A third type of feminism is Marxist feminism. It focuses on the exploitation of working-class women by both the patriarchy and capitalism. Although most feminists believe that gender is the most significant conflict dividing society, Marxist-feminists believe that social class is of equal importance. They argue that women’s housework is part of the social reproduction of capitalism and contend much of women's labour is uncompensated. Experts say this raises philosophical problems because it is difficult to interpret what mothers do as ‘work’ or ‘play’. Should a woman be paid extra for housework and taking care of her children or elderly relations? Or is it simply her duty out of love for her family? Is it fair if a couple returns home after working, and the man is not expected to do those things?
Walker’s writing has inspired many different types of feminists and continues to do so. She is an advocate for human rights, though specifically for women of colour. She created the term ‘womanists’, who, in addition to celebrating all women, also place special focus on issues specific to black women, men, and families. Her famous quote ‘womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender’ suggests that feminism is only a small part of a much larger concept created by her; womanism.
One significant problem feminists face is having their beliefs associated with the ideas of ‘Misandrists’. What does that mean? The dictionary definition is ‘a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against men’. Clearly, the two are far from meaning the same thing. Unlike misandry, feminism is about creating equality of opportunity between the genders and taking down the hierarchy, whether it be women or men who dominate. Feminists know that misandry would never work because it would result in men having no rights and women are very well versed in the problems that this creates in society, in relationships, and for the individual.
A blog, published by Lucie Mathieu in 2021 states “we are all aware of the imagery that portrays feminist women as hysterical, angry, and lacking humour”. It goes on to say that it is wrong to categorise them in such a way, because the sole purpose of the movement is to end sexist oppression, rather than simply to be “anti-male”. Each of the different types of feminists mentioned above (and many more) receive this judgement yet continue to work together under the umbrella of feminism to maintain the central ideal that various forms of inequity are bound together, and a reform is much needed, for the overall benefit of both women and men.