The Definition of Feminism


In the wake of the Women’s March on Washington, the idea of feminism has become more ambiguous than ever. Some would have been flabbergasted at the presence of men in the ‘civil activism of women’. In essence, the purposes of the movement encompass the advocacy of not only women’s equal rights, but also environmental protection and immigrants’ civil equality; in fact, the movement did not advocate female superiority at all.

Ultimately, my dear reader, what is feminism?

women's march

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

Social networking has become a prevalent sphere of interactions, often exasperating ones – unfortunately I had to digest a whole array of denunciations of feminism on Facebook weeks ago. In this era of convenient Googling, many still perceive the aforementioned ideology as a condemnable weapon adopted by feminists to suppress men. In response, I will first discuss the several perspectives on feminism; then, I propose the true meaning of feminism and exemplify it with real life instances.

Before defining feminism, let us delve into the nature of ideologies: we must acknowledge the fluidity and flexibility of all ideologies. For the purpose of explanation and clarification, I compare socialism with feminism according to their intrinsic similarity – they respectively have a variety of definitions.

Socialism is not a single concept as there are many perspectives on the ideology – this article particularly discusses three. One perspective would view socialist materialisation 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 idle and apathetic. Thirdly, anti-socialism extremists would even directly synonymise socialism to communism, pushing the ideology further to the ultimate left of the political spectrum. In other words, there is a wide range of definitions of socialism; however, it must be kept in mind that with an educated capacity to infer and differentiate, we can construct the correct perception.

Feminism – identically – has a wide continuum of conceptualisations that is produced by societal members, be they feminist academics, student activists, anti-feminism organisations, conservative politicians and the other vast variety of critics. Nevertheless, despite the multitude of definitions, discourses in society seem to have fostered the categorisation of feminism(s) into two major divisions: the first group of feminisms postulates female superiority – the advent of feminist movements in the nineteenth century was the beginning of the gradual decline of men; secondly, a milder form of feminism espouses the empowerment of women in various socio-political institutions.

One major deviation from the first definition of feminism was verified as I Googled the definition of feminism: widely adopted online dictionaries amongst the student community 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”.

this is feminism

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

In fact, the definitions presented by the array of online dictionaries have inculcated the actual notion of feminism; these definitions have evidenced my perennial understanding of feminism as the fundamentals of gender equality. Not only does the feminist doctrine advocate the empowerment of women, feminism aims also – more importantly – to engender an equal gender platform for professional competition.

Nonetheless, there are several flaws in the recognition. Disagreements may include the belief that the increasing visibility of women will directly jeopardise (or even supplant) the presence of men in society; many are concerned that gender inequality would eventually prevail and the difference is only that the group that will have ‘gender hegemony’ in the future would be women. Other than that, critics reasonably envisage the abuse of feminist principles by women for personal interests; for instance, some believe that women will deploy feminism against men whenever feeling subordinated or “bullied” during conversations.

emma watson being right

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

Although these uncertainties are totally understandable, they are not completely correct. The prediction (or fortune-telling) of the implication of feminism is essentially unjustifiable because feminism – the feminism that I believe in – does not accept socio-political superiority of any gender.

Feminists actually reject sexism, sexist propositions and gender superiority in society.

In particular, being a feminist, I am careful in interpreting words, phrases or sentences that adhere to gender disparity. Two exemplars below will demonstrate that not only does a feminist safeguard the equal rights of women, he or she will concurrently protect the equal rights of men.

Approximately two months ago in an Oral Communication class, I was assigned to read an excerpt from the text 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.

As a feminist, I spontaneously read it this way: “If you write or paint on someone else’s property without his or her permission, you are breaking the law”; indeed, the use of male generic terms is a form of sexist language because it overlooks the opposite gender. Overall, regardless of whether one inserts only ‘he’ or only ‘she’ as a reference to ‘someone’, feminists reject.

benderblash combosnitch being right

Benedict Cumberbatch demonstrates the semblance of a feminist. Source:

Weeks ago in the TV Room (my fellow Notts know where), my friends and I were having a casual conversation. An abrupt insertion of sexist discourse by a female friend of mine stimulated my instant response. She contended that ‘men are born to make decisions’, which was immediately rejected by my firm reply of ‘NO’.

As a feminist, I perceived ‘men are born to make decisions’ as a sexist discourse that – in addition to marginalising female leadership – damages male members of society in a variety of ways; there are men who would be hesitant under certain circumstances, and not all men can be consistently decisive in decision-making processes – and these inadequacies are normal because every human is born with neurological, psychological and intellectual differences.

These personal experiences have served well to illustrate that – as a feminist – I espouse gender equality. Feminists (including myself) protect all genders.

Sexist discourses and other behaviours (such as sexual harassment) will not and cannot be condoned by me, and other members of the UNMC and the global community; in fact, we should acknowledge the true principles of feminism to reduce and even pre-empt sexism in the future.

To summarise, this sharing of opinions has demonstrated that feminism is not a sexist concept, but an imperative ideology that aims to achieve gender equality in society. We as students of UNMC – and more significantly as members of modern civilisation – must together complete the two following missions: firstly, to eradicate false notions of the feminist ideology; secondly, to disseminate the true objective of feminism: gender equality.


Written by Teoh Sing Fei

Disclaimer: 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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Potato sprout monkey bladder. Who reads these things?

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.