FEM Magazine says that if you Google "what is feminism," you will find a varied range of definitions. Urban Dictionary calls it "the belief that all people are entitled to the same civil rights and liberties and can be intellectual equals regardless of gender." Dictionary.com describes feminism as "the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women, equal to those of men." Merriam-Webster, interestingly enough, has a "simple" definition and a "full" definition, with the full definition being the "theory of political, social, and economic equality of the sexes."
While all these definitions vary slightly, they all have one thing in common -- a focus on gender. This is perhaps the extent of common ground among all the different spheres of feminism as well.
The word "feminism" started appearing in the early 20th century. Its usage climbed sharply in the 70s and 80s, and peaked in 1996. It's pretty recent, so it's safe to say that we have just begun ironing out the kinks.
As I pointed out, the most agreed-upon common ground is that feminism has a focus on gender equality. Definitions of feminism often call this equality "social, political, and economic." This means, amongst many other things, representation in politics, equitable access to resources, equal pay, breaking down harmful stereotypes and misogynistic language, and fighting oppressive social norms about gender. Feminism obviously strives towards these goals because of the history of oppression that has denied women the kinds of opportunities that have been made available to men.
Ultimately, “feminist” is less an adjective and more an identity. The people who self-identify as feminist are diverse and heterogenous, all with different interpretations of one common idea: gender equality.
Posted by FEM Magazine (undated)