If feminism is to survive, and thrive, it’s time for the term “feminism” to become more broad and inclusive. It would best serve the 4th wave (if there is to be a 4th wave) to claim the motto, “You are a feminist if you say you are a feminist.” No other requirements.
This would mean hijab-wearing feminists, “grizzly mama” feminists, Libertarian feminists, Anarchist feminists, male feminists, stay-at-home-mom (or dad) feminists, CEO feminists, liberal feminists, conservative feminists, trans feminists, queer feminists.
It would mean that feminism would no longer have the “single-issue” solidarity that it currently has around a woman’s right to choice. But who am I – who are you, or any of us – to decide what one issue defines feminism?
Is a Catholic mom in Guatemala who is fighting for healthcare for the women and children in her village less than a feminist because she is not pro-choice? Is a Muslim woman who fights for her right to WEAR a hijab less a feminist than one who is campaigning for her right not to? Is a sex worker campaigning for decriminalization of sex work less a feminist than a woman who is an advocate for women *forced* into prostitution?
My answer is unequivocal; they are all equally feminist.
Feminism cannot be circumscribed to issues that are idealized. Feminism, if it is to become a global movement – and all movements that are going to thrive in the “information age” are going to globalize or perish – will have to open it’s doors, become less judgmental, and include every voice.
In first wave feminism, radical feminists like Emma Goldman, Victoria Claflin Woodhull, and many others were told their ideas and issues (the right to own property, the right to divorce, the right to wear pants – no joke!) would marginalize the suffrage movement.
In early second wave feminism, lesbians were told that the politics of sexual choice had no place at the feminist table, and that feminism would be marginalized by the radicalism of identity politics.
Third wave feminism was all about identity politics, but the hard-edge of third wave feminism had its own judgments and proclamations about who could – and could not – validly call themselves a feminist. Stay-at-home-moms weren’t “true” feminists. The trans community was marginalized because of the complexity of gender issues. Traditionalists (women who got married and took their husband’s last names, or stood in support roles to the men in their lives) weren’t allowed to claim the title of “feminist”.
We (mostly white, mostly “educated”, mostly intellectual, mostly kinda “Ivory Tower” in our ways) can’t afford to attempt to define feminism for the women of the world any longer. More importantly, why would we want to? Our ethnocentric biases have gotten us into enough trouble as it is.
Maybe it’s time to fight amongst ourselves less, and listen more. Maybe out of the dischord will arise a chorus. Perhaps all the voices will find a way to be heard, and the areas that don’t gain total consensus agreement are not the actual issues that the global reach of feminism needs, at this moment, as a whole, to be facing. I feel certain that, on a global level, there are more pressing matters than the ones we as a movement have so far chosen to focus on.
I believe there are as many feminist ideologies as there are feminists. How else do we check “credentials”? Perhaps the words will suffice; I say I am a feminist, therefore I am a feminist.