The Definition of Feminism

Social media have become a prevalent sphere of knowledge exchanges – and sometimes, exasperating ones. Unfortunately I had to digest a whole array of denunciations of feminism on Facebook weeks ago. Despite convenient Googling, many still perceive ‘feminism’ as a condemnable weapon adopted by military feminists to suppress men.

In the wake of the Women’s March on Washington, ‘feminism’ has become more ambiguous than ever. Some would have been flabbergasted to see men in the ‘civil activism of women’. In truth, the movement’s goals encompass not only women’s equal rights, but also environmental protection and immigrants’ civil equality. Almost surprisingly, it didn’t advocate female superiority at all.

Then what’s feminism?

Let’s rethink feminism.

women's march

Women’s March on Washington didn’t advocate female supremacy at all. Source: CBC News



Defining ideology

Before defining it, we shall delve into the fluid nature of ‘ideology’. I compare socialism with feminism here.

Socialism isn’t a single concept to which everyone agrees. One perspective would view socialism as the financial saviour of the deprived, for the government utilises tax revenues to fund the welfare state. The second type of critics may perceive it as a reason for the poor to be ‘lazy’. Thirdly, bloody capitalists demonise socialism as communism, pushing the ideology further to the ultimate left of the political spectrum. Herein we see a wide range of perspectives on ‘socialism’. The key is, nevertheless, we can (and should) popularise the correct one.

Feminism – identically – means different things for people of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Discourses in society seem to have fostered the categorisation of feminism(s) into two major divisions. The first wants female superiority: the advent of feminist movements in the nineteenth century was the beginning of the end of men. Secondly, a milder form of feminism espouses the empowerment of women in various institutions.

this is feminism

Feminism and sexism are two different concepts. Source: 4th Wave Feminism

However, widely adopted online dictionaries tell a different story. Merriam-Webster defines feminism as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Oxford Dictionary refers feminism to “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” regards feminism as “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.”

Obvious is, they identically present the ultimate aim of feminism: gender equality. Not only does the feminist doctrine advocate empowering women, it aims also – more importantly – to secure an equal gender platform for everyday life.

Though critics have concerns too. The increasing visibility of women might directly jeopardise (or even supplant) the presence of men in society. Gender inequality might eventually prevail – and the only difference is, by that time, women could ‘dominate’ the world. Women might even deploy feminism against men whenever they ‘lose’ during conversations.

emma watson being right

“Being a feminist doesn’t make me man-hating,” said Emma Watson. Source:

Although these uncertainties are quite understandable, they aren’t true, they aren’t necessary. Because feminism – the feminism that I believe in – doesn’t accept sociopolitical superiority of any gender.

Feminists actually reject sexism, that simply means they reject gender superiority too.


Feminists protect everyone

As a feminist, I’m careful with ‘words’, ‘phrases’, or ‘sentences’ that might reinforce gender disparity.

About two months ago in an Oral Communications class, I was reading an excerpt to the class. The sentence from the book goes as such: “If you write or paint on someone else’s property without his permission, you are breaking the law.” Notice that while ‘someone’ can indicate a woman as well, the text incorporates only the male generic pronoun – his. I spontaneously read: “If you write or paint on someone else’s property without his or her permission, you are breaking the law”. Regardless of whether one inserts only ‘he’, or only ‘she’, as a reference to ‘someone’, feminists simply reject.

Weeks ago in the TV Room, abrupt sexist language from a female friend triggered my instant response. She contended that ‘men are born to make decisions’, to which I immediately replied: ‘NO’. Because ‘men are born to make decisions’ is part of the sexist discourse that – in addition to marginalising female leaders – damages male members of society. There are men who would be hesitant under certain circumstances, and not every man can be consistently decisive during critical situations. More vitally, these inadequacies should be normal, because everyone’s unique.

These personal experiences have served well to illustrate that, feminists protect all genders.

Sexist language, harassment, or other behaviours won’t and can’t be condoned by anyone. We should recognise and believe in the true principles of feminism. Only by then, we can reduce or even pre-empt sexism in the future. That’s why we urgently need more feminists in the world.

Feminism is not a sexist concept, but an imperative movement towards fairness, equality, and justice. We as students of the UNMC – and more significantly, as members of modern society – must work collectively to, firstly, eradicate false notions of ‘feminism’, and secondly, fulfil the indisputable goal of feminism: gender equality.


Written by Teoh Sing Fei

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of the editorial team at IGNITE.

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"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." (George Orwell, in Animal Farm, 1945)

1 Comment

  • January 31, 2017

    Athena Brown

    Really honored that you’d link to 4th Wavers. The new site by the way is . Also, the link you used actually talks about something other than what you referenced. 😛 But still thanks though!

    Lived in Malaysia for 4 years and ran some companies while I was there. Plenty of memories.