3 points on feminism throughout history

*(A paper written for a college writing class, circa 2010?)

  1. Feminism is history. Or, at the very least, feminism is currently being historicized by scholars, critics, and curators in a remarkable wave of exhibitions and publications that attempt to write the narrative of feminist history. (Folkerts, 2009) The historicizing craze that these individuals praise arrives at a new question of how feminism could possibly make its own history without satisfying the politics that the movement itself had put down. It would have been a hard thing to do when men control all of your means of communication. Historically women had no place in the print media; they were typists, not journalists or authors. Women would have had to engage men to listen to their thoughts and prove that they had a voice and that their voice could be heard over the roar of American male society. In today’s society, things have changed in a positive way for women, open any sports-illustrated magazine, and you will find at least one article written or edited by a female. Women have become editors in chief for many top-rated newspapers, they are graphic designers for many top-rated magazines, are world-renowned authors, there are even magazines and newspapers just for women’s enjoyment, and men actually run many. The irony in the change over the last few centuries is astonishing.
  1. Women have been confronted with a major issue throughout history: domestic violence. Men have been battering women since the evolution of humans; it is one way for men to establish a dependency connection. The dependency connection happens after a woman has been transformed, by a man, into a commodity, reducing her to parts of her body and physically or ideologically whipped into compliance; she can only be dependent. Like any slave, she becomes a set of reactions to her slaveholder, a defender of his definitions and treatment of her. (Karenga, 2002) The feminist movement led to this issue being publicized as a real issue and not just an issue that was not spoken of out from behind closed doors. Today the battered women’s hotline is published everywhere, including magazines, newspapers, and billboards. You can even find ample reading material on what to do if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence. This is a major improvement for feminism because it has allowed women to step out of the shadow of men and be their own entity. One of the major controversies surrounding the feminist movement is ‘Can a man be a feminist?’. There are two definitions of feminism according to Webster, 1.) the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes and 2.) organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests. Our current President, Barrack Obama, claims he is, in fact, a feminist; however, women feminists claim that no man can ever be a feminist because no man can possibly fathom the daily struggles a woman must go through. (Hundal, 2009) Women want something to call their own and hate that men are trying to take part in something they have worked so hard to achieve. To some having men as feminists defeat the purpose of being feminists in the first place, but at the same time, the dictionary does not define feminism as something that solely belongs to women. A great debate for the new millennium, but it may never be answered.
  1. Historically, the role of print media has not been a friend to the feminist movement. In the listings for the 1950s, the feminist heading was only a cross-reference to “Women, social and moral questions.” Over the next two decades, these cross-references expanded and eventually came to include “Women, equal rights.” But it was not until the 1980s that feminism became a topic heading in its own right. (Rhode, 1995) Historically feminism was something the print media was afraid to publish because of its possible repercussions. Elizabeth Cady Stanton first spoke out to fight against women’s suffrage in the late 1800s; she spoke at several different places, but try and find an article from that time period that says, “Stanton, to speak on women’s suffrage,” do not bother looking because you will not find one. Men did not want to publish things because they did not want their wives to have their own voices. Today if a feminist speaker were coming to any town to speak on the rights of women, it would at the very least be in the newspaper with a date, time, and location. Depending on what part of the country you live in, you might even see the entire speech printed in the paper the following day, with several letters to the editor or ‘Dear Abby’ letters to start a mini-debate about whatever the speaker’s topic was. One would not find that in the previous centuries’ newspapers.


Folkert, H. (2009). Rebelle: Feminism and the Haunting of History. <Not Available>

Karenga, M. (2002). Introduction to Black Studies. Los Angeles : University of Sankore Press.

Hundal, S. (2009). Obama feminist controversy raises more questions. Retrieved from http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2009/01/obama_feminist.

Rhode, D. (1995). Media Images, Feminist Issues. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Vol 20, no 3, 685.

Don’t forget to wash your hands.

Talk soon.