What Does Feminism Mean to Me?



In this introduction to philosophy course, I expected feminism to be glossed over, or not spoken about at all. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the thought that was put into the discussion(s) about feminism. I have identified as a feminist for years and seeing the accusations that feminists hate men, or that feminism is only for women deterred me from sharing my own philosophical ideas. This course allowed me to reflect on what I understood about feminism, and what steps need to be taken in attempts to make the world a better, more equal place. After all, feminism is based entirely on the idea of equality. 

In reading Hilda Lindemann’s “Standard Moral Theories from a Feminist Perspective,” I found that many of my own moral principles, some of which I did not see as feminist ideas, were mirrored in the explanations. For example, I have always believed that people are naturally deceptive, and though I wish I were more optimistic, I have been hurt enough times to know that when you let your guard down is when you are most vulnerable. However, I also understand that my own fear of being hurt sometimes gets me into more trouble than expected. I have always equated my distrust of others to being a woman; as I have heard hundreds of stories about those who lurk in shadows, hoping to find and hurt young women. However, I never expected my deep-rooted fear to be a feminist issue, as I was told I was alone in my fear. Lindemann, however, seems to have a similar stance on fear of others, and on being aware that allowing these fears to dictate decisions is harmful. She states, “You won’t have much of a life if you keep having to look over your shoulder to make sure you aren’t about to be stabbed in the back,” (Lindemann, 61). Though my distrust of others was not mirrored in Lindemann’s presented feminist view, the understanding that paranoia and mistrust can cause you to lose sight of what is important seemed to be illustrated. Lindemann explains that constantly worrying about what lies behind you may cause you to lose sight of what lays ahead. 

Previously, when asked why I identify as a feminist; simply stating that I believe in equal rights led to arguments. Misunderstandings about what feminism is lead to my own beliefs being silenced, with explanations on the wage gap being fake, or stories about women having “more rights than men.” I have been told that women are free and that we no longer live in a patriarchal society. However, as Lindemann states when explaining Kantianism, “To act freely, Kant says, is to act without being constrained either by other people or by the laws of nature” (Lindemann, 68). There are areas in the world in which women are not allowed to exit their homes without a man. Is this not a constraint places upon those women by a society that values men more than women? Is being expected to obey one’s father, and then obey one’s husband, not suppression of free will? As Lindemann explains, Kant would argue that this is not freedom. Constraints placed upon women by society are evidence, according to Kant, that in some places, women are not free, nor equal. 

This is not to say that we still live in a world where women are property. Though this may be true in some places, feminism has led to less suppression of women around the world. In Saudi Arabia, a society known for laws suppressing women, females were granted the right to drive in 2018. In 1980, sexual harassment was defined and labeled as a crime. In 2018, Delaware outlawed the marriage of anyone under the age of 18, even with the consent of the parents. Much of this is due to the feminist movement. However, modern media often describes feminists as people who hate men or discredits feminism as a whole. Feminist has been replaced, in many places by the term “feminazi,” which is used to describe members of a “modern feminist movement.” However, I believe that modern media has largely corrupted the feminist movement, or at the very least, misrepresented it as a whole. Though Lindemann uses this quote in the explanation of “The PowerPoint Problem” (discussed by Lindemann on 81), it struck me as a quote that could describe why so often, people discredit feminism based solely upon what they see in modern media. Lindemann states, “you are repeatedly forced into a very limited kind of thinking…” (Lindemann, 82). I believe that the media has misrepresented feminism in an attempt to keep the movement less populated. Fewer people participating in the movement makes the movement as a whole, less threatening to the society we live in. Since we still live in a patriarchal society, the media attempts to discredit the feminist movement as a means of protecting the structure of society that we have. If fewer people consider themselves feminist, the movement will not be taken seriously by other members of society based upon media coverage. My opinion on media coverage on feminism is based upon an experience with misinformation. Once, I asked my mother if she considered herself to be a feminist. We got into an argument because she asked why I would consider myself a part of a movement that hates men and preaches misogyny rather than equality. After a few discussions on what feminism is actually about, I found that her understanding of the word “feminism” was based on misinformation from media coverage (on what was then the beginning of the “me too” movement). After more conversations, I found myself more educated on what the media presents feminism as; and my mother confirmed that she does consider herself a feminist “as long as that means I stand for equality rather than suppression.” 

By far, the most impactful theory I was introduced to in this course was Kantianism. Prior to his introduction, I had been misinformed on what Kant stood for, simply believing that he saw everything as either completely good or completely bad. However, upon reading some of the works of Immanuel Kant, and reading what a feminist might say about Kant’s ideas, I found that much of what I believe and hold as central to my being aligns with what Kant believes. My understanding of the world, morality, and even feminism aligns with many of Kant’s ideas about what is and what is not ethical or moral.