Feminism is an academic thing just as much as history and philosophy are academic things, however it goes beyond academia. I think that feminism is embodied by women who speak their mind and stand up for their thoughts and beliefs, ie. Marching for suffrage or equal salaries. Like the bumper sticker says, "Well behaved women rarely make history." (although perhaps "well behaved" isn't the right choice of words). I think the majority of women today DO stand up for themselves and DO speak their minds. To me these women are feminists whether they consider themselves so or not. One doesn't need to know the vocabulary or even much about Feminism to be a feminist. I think feminism is a way of life, one that many of today's women lead.
I agree with Tommy. I don't think that Feminism itself is an academic thing, inherently, but a way of thinking about and living your life.
Feminism didn't start in academia. It's always flowed from political concerns. The first two waves of the movement came on the heels of the movement for the abolition of slavery and then the Civil Rights movement, so they coincided with periods of raised political consciousness. And both waves had very important political concerns at their heart: the right for women to vote and earn equal pay. (And, oh, so much more.)Sure, feminism has a stronghold there in Women and Gender Studies departments and feminist concerns are often brought up outside academic lines (ok, ok, depending on your school). But that's the theory end of things. There's plenty of people doing practical work that is only, theoretically or ideologically connected to what's happening in academia. And usually it's the people out on the field and on the ground who push the boundaries for academics- not vice versa.I get a little worried about when people act like being a feminist is just about women making their own choices (to work, stay home, not wear makeup, not have sex, have lots of sex). I think that is definitely and END in feminism but that's not at the heart of it. And this approach can really cheapen feminism as a movement. If feminism is really just about being able to smoke Virginia Slims if I want, count me out.Feminism HAS to be tied to a political consciousness. Now, I think you can be politically conscious and do work that demonstrates that in ways considered feminist without giving yourself the title, if you're really hung up on the word. For instance, if you were working on policies to end poverty, you would work on issues such as affordable housing-- not blame single motherhood.Keeping women's interest in mind and feminism are the same thing. But feminism has gotten such a bad rep from the media and the backlash movement that you wouldn't know the difference. I hate that it's this way, and maybe this is why feminism is seen as academic, but if you want to know more about the movement, you have to do your own research. But I don't see why academics have to have a stranglehold on research. Even a trip to a big-box store like Borders could do a lot to raise feminist consciousness.
I feel really torn about this issue. I been in the world of academic feminism, I got my Master's in Women's Studies. Now I am a domestic violence advocate and to practice feminist theories in reality is very difficult for a few different reasons.In academia there is room to espouse all the abstract thoughts and research. There is the space to think about feminism works in our society without the infrastructures of society pushing back. In a reality situation such as working in domestic violence and trying to "feminist" work there are larger, patriarchal power structures making it difficult and sometimes impossible to empower women.As the other commentors have mentioned feminism is a way of life that sustains itself in a philosophy but to practice that philosophy as purely as we see it in the academic environment is sometime difficult.When practicing my feminism becomes difficult or I get frustrated with the system it is great to have a space like this to discuss it.
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