A Feminist? Definition Varies With the Woman (Published 1975) (2022)

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A Feminist? Definition Varies With the Woman (Published 1975) (1)

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November 8, 1975

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What is a feminist?

There are probably as many definitions as there are women. There is, however, a certain unanimity of thought among women who are active feminists, or, who have spoken out on specific aspects of women's liberation.

True equality between the sexes, development of women to their fullest potential and full partnership, freedom of choice, the breaking down of traditional stereotypes, the recognition of women's many needs, abilities and responsibilities, are common threads among the definitions offered by women well known in various fields, who were asked for their views. Here are some of their statements:

“A liberated woman is one who feels confident in herself, and is happy in what she is doing. She is a person who has a sense of self. I think it all comes down to freedom of choice.”

BETTY FORD (Mrs. Ford generally uses the word “liberated” rather than “feminist”) •

“A feminist is a woman who is conscious of what it means to be a woman in our society. She actively tries to change the way women are perceived by themselves and by men. She evaluates personal and work relationships, social, economic, cultural and political relationships, from the viewpoint of one who knows that throughout most of history, and including the present, women have been confined to stereotyped roles and ancillary positions in our society. She tries to break down these stereotypes in her personal and working life. she says, I want to live and be valued as a total human being, with many different abilities, needs and responsibilities not just as wife, lover, mother, sister, homemaker.”

BELLA S. ABZUG,

United States Representative

“A feminist is one who believes In, and is committed to, the idea of true equality between the sexes, and that means the development of women to their fullest potential and full partnership, and participation by women in all decisions of society.

“A feminist is one who believes in the liberation of that which has been suppressed as female in a man. That equality of women with men can't be achieved with women alone … that the women's liberation movement is only a way station to human liberation, and the first stage in a sex role revolution in which man is not considered the enemy, but a fellow victim.” BETTY FRIEDAN

“A feminist is a woman who assumes self‐dependence as a basic condition of her life. She may live with and love other people (feminism does not necessarily imply becoming a hermit and suddenly not needing any emotional life) but she knows that her own fulfillment is her responsibility, that if she wastes her life, she will have no one to blame but herself. It seems to me that sooner or later, all intelligent women become feminists.”

ERICA JONG Poet, author

“A feminist woman is one who Is willing to take power and responsibility, and a feminist man is one who is willing to give some up.”

LETTY COTTIN POGREBIN Writer, columnist

“A feminist is a man or a woman who already knows for a fact that men and women are equal, and who wants society to wake up to that fact, so the world can stop operating at half‐strength. So that half the brains, half the inspiration, half the joy and beauty, half the human resources in the world will no longer be wasted.”

MARLO THOMAS

Actress

“A feminist is a person who believes that the subordination of women is not only unfair, but immoral—and lives according to that belief.”

BARBARA SHACK Associate Director, New York Civil Liberties Union

“A feminist is someone who does everything it is necessary to do to win full human rights for women.”

KATHIE SARACHILD Editor, Redstockings, and founding member, New York Radical Women

“Intellectually, to me a feminist is any person, female or male, who believes in the equality of the sexes. Emotionally, to me a feminist knows she is a woman, not a girl, and when she sees the ‘For Adults Only’ sign on any door, opens it anyway and painfully makes her way around.”

CYNTHIA GLACKEN Member, board of directors, Stewardesses for Women's Rights,

“A feminist is a woman who directly attacks, through the sum of her actions, the most primary and physical manifestations constituting the oppression of women; the State and nationalism, the Church, the family, marriage, prostitution, rape, pornography; and a woman who rejects the value concept of power.”

TI‐GRACE ATKINSON Founding member, National Organization for Women, and author of “Amazon Odyssey”

“A feminist has a particular perspective which helps to reveal the roots of oppression, and it doing so provides another handle to help us get out of the mess we are in. As a feminist, I see the problem of aging in America as a woman's issue. The poverty, loneliness and neglect of older women is the payoff for performing woman's traditional role. But as we grow stronger and move together, we can change that and build a bridge between mothers and daughters.”

TISH SOMMERS

Tash Force on Older Women

“A person, not necessarily a woman, dedicated in mind and spirit to full equality for women; equality under the law, without any sex designated restrictions; equality professionally, with the full freedom to succeed or fail on merit, and with pay unrestricted by false guidelines based on sex.

“A feminist has a keen sense of outrage at injustice … is no silent supporter of equality for women; feminism requires action in some form—supporting legislation, helping women to progress, speaking out against discrimination.”

MARLENE SANDERS

Writer, producer, ABC‐TV News

“A feminist believes in the freedom not only to make choices, but also the freedom’ to make commitments; to chose among alternative lifestyles and work styles. A feminist believes that freedom is not only an unbounded future objective of open choices but also an immediate challenge to every woman to seize that opportunity that fits her best, to take her place wherever her talents and dreams can take her.”

ELLEN SULZBERGER STRAUS Chairman, Call for Action Inc.

“A feminist is a woman who knows she's oppressed, who responds to that oppression by fighting it, and who realizes that she can change nothing alone; she is sister. She believes in herSelf and the power of women, she sees the necessity for struggle and she likes to win, in other words, she is completely un‐feminine.”

LIN FARLEY

Working Women United and a founder of Radicalesbians

“A feminist believes that women, that men, that every individual has a right to define themselves—to decide what role to play in our society, who fights exploitation, of women by men, of men by women, of workers by employers, of individuals by society.”

KATHERINE TODD President, Bronx NOW “I think that a feminist would believe that a good life for women still has to do with companionship, love, childbirth, seeing one's children grow … the elemental experiences of the human race … she would also seek to secure for women other possibilities, work that has dignity and joy and usefulness, and a social and cultural environment in which single people can feel at ease.” JOAN DAVIDSON Chairman, New York State Council on the Arts

“A feminist is a person, female or male, who identifies with the needs of all women. A feminist is sensitive to the discrimination suffered by women as a class and advocates full legal, political, social and economic equality for everyone A feminist relates to each person as a human being and wants for all people a free and unconditioned choice to develop their full potential and not be stereotyped into a specific role based on sex. A feminist is one who makes a priority commitment to the betterment of the position of women in our society.” MARY BURKE NICHOLAS Director, Women's Division State of New York •

“A feminist is in the process of understanding what a woman is, and developing into that woman. She is learning to accept the full potential of herself and all women, to trust herself and all women, and to place her allegiance with women. She is the prime determiner of her own life and her own identity.” MARTA VIVAS Writer, film‐maker, New York Radical Feminist •

“A feminist is a woman—or a man—whose commitment to equality for women is strong enough to make that person act and speak on that principle. The term ‘feminist’ may imply to some a carefully developed ideology. In practice, feminism often seems to develop in women and in men out of a “gut” sense of what is fair. Thus the feminists I encounter every day defy the stereotype. They include black men, such as my husband, who like millions of other Americans, eschew the label (he insists he is fellow traveler) while observing the tenets, and black women whose life in America has made them instincfeminists.”

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON City Commissioner on Human Rights

“A feminist believes that the only significant difference in male and female capabilities that is not culturally induced is child‐bearing, and this time‐limited characteristic is insufficient basis for role‐differentiation. Women should be free to choose the vocation o2 homemaking or work outside the home, and individual qualifications, not sex, should govern access to all occupations and levels of responsibility.”

EDYTHE W. FIRST

Chairman, New York City

Commission on the Status

of Women

“It's a woman who is for women, which does not mean being against men; a woman who is giving up the masochism that has for so long characterized women of the western world, refusing to stay in an Adam's rib role; a woman who thinks for herself, who feels autonomous and feels she, at least to some extent, is in charge of her own life, to make her own decisions and not, be afraid. A feminist is also a woman who Identifies with other women, who doesn't think of other women as ‘them.”

BARBARA SEAMAN

Author

“A feminist is a person who actively practices the philosophy of equality of the sexes, whether in a professional or personal aspect.”

ARIE TAYLOR

State Representative, Colorado

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