For the record, I have to say that what I found relied quite a bit on ideological ideas that are presented as fact, with nothing to back them up. The two major ideas from this category are “oppression of women” and the “media presentation of feminism as a negative thing”.
Note: The quotation marks I used above do not indicate that I have taken these expressions verbatim from something I found, but rather are names I have assigned to broad ideas I saw over and over again.
FEMINISM 101 -- WHAT IS FEMINISM?
Feminism is not a monolith, nor is it a dogma. The only thing you have to believe in order to call yourself a feminist is that ensuring women's freedom and equality of opportunity in all spheres of life is a crucial priority. That's it.
Feminists all work from that basic axiom, but aside from that we are an incredibly diverse group. We are diverse in five ways:
1) We come from every conceivable background and life experience. There are feminists from every country, every socio-economic class, every religion, every sexual orientation, every profession, every race and ethnicity.
2) We are diverse in terms of style and personality and lifestyle.
3) We are diverse in terms of emphasis. Some of us focus on fostering equality in the realm of sex. Some of us are concerned with the equality of opportunity for professional women. Some of us care most about cultural attitudes regarding the proper roles and characteristics of men and women. Some of us criticize organized religion, while others work for reform from inside faiths such as Catholicism or Mormonism or Islam. Some of us stress the issue of violence upon women. Some of us are primarily concerned with reproductive rights. Some of us point to gender apartheid in places like Saudi Arabia, while others criticize inequities in comparably more "liberated" societies in the West.
4) We are diverse in terms of the conclusions we draw from our feminism. Feminists often disagree with each other on all sorts of things. For example (and this is a gross simplification, by the way) some feminists believe that pornography is inherently degrading to women whereas others may believe that participation in pornography is potentially empowering. The point is that both camps are looking at the issue in terms of how pornography affects women's freedom and equality. Both camps are feminist even though they reach diametrically opposed conclusions. As another example, I believe strongly in the equality of opportunity for women in business, but I would be very much opposed to the United States imposing a quota like Norway's where companies are legally required to have a 40% female board of directors.
5) We also have other things we care about that aren't about feminism. My husband is one of those maddening people who will say, "I don't think I'm a feminist. I'm a humanist because I am not ONLY concerned about women's equality." But I haven't met too many feminists who are concerned about women's equality and nothing else. For me, I care very deeply about ending the death penalty, ending the corporal punishment of children, protecting our civil liberties across the board, and ensuring equal treatment for men, gays, people with disabilities, people of different races, etc. etc. etc. among many other issues that are not specifically feminist.
I suppose people may be inclined to say that my definition of feminism is so broad as to render feminism irrelevant. People often ask, well, doesn't everyone think that women should be free and equal? Sadly, the answer is no. There are whole nations devoted to a system of crushing gender apartheid. And in our own culture -- remarkable though our progress has been over the last three or four decades -- limiting assumptions about women's proper role run rampant and highly influential organizations like Focus on the Family are doing what they can to turn the clock back for women.
The Happy Feminist
In many ways, I suspect my feminism is fairly bourgeois. I don't want a revolution that doesn't allow me to dance, flirt, and buy shoes. On the other hand, my feminism is fairly absolute in that I will not allow myself (or others) to demonize "radical feminists" or to ignore poor women or women of color, and I object very strongly when I see women fighting with each other over crumbs. I'm sure I do it too, sometimes, but I try very hard not to. My feminism is material in the sense that I believe that the body is irreducible (more and more so, as I age, and more since becoming a mother). I do not believe that there are no differences between men and women; but I believe that what differences there are have been vastly exaggerated by social conditioning, and I reject essentialism. My feminism likes men, and is sympathetic to the ways that they, too, suffer from narrow definitions of gender. My feminism insists on being heard, and will not give up a fight, and will not back down. On the other hand, my feminism deplores unfairness, meanness, and insensitivity. I believe in principles, including the principle that people matter. I believe in forgiveness and second chances, and in teaching, and in learning; and I also believe in having high expectations and firm boundaries. My feminism is polemical but embraces ambiguities. My feminism is aggressive and protective.
feminism: (a) a range of contemporary theoretical perspectives (political, sociological, legal, psychoanalytic, literary, philosophical) in which women's experiences are examined in relation to actual and perceived differences between the power and status of men and women; (b) a social justice movement in which issues of particular importance for women (e.g. domestic violence, pay equity, globalization) are analysed, understood, and addressed from feminist perspectives. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the term was often used in compounds such as "lesbian feminism" and "eco-feminism."
Family Pride Canada
The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.
From an Art History course out of Auckland, NZ
Feminism is both an intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms.
From The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
"Feminism - I myself have never known what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat." -Rebecca West, 1913
"Feminism--the belief that women are full human beings capable of participation and leadership in the full range of human activities--intellectual political, social, sexual, spiritual, and economic." -Pearl Cleage, Deals with the devil, p.28. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1993.)
"Feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free _all_ women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, disabled women, lesbians, old women--as well as white, economically privileged, heterosexual women. Anything less than this vision of total freedom is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement." -Barbara Smith (reprinted in Gloria Anzaldua's Making Face, Making Soul, 25.)
"Feminism is an assertion that women as a group have been historically disadvantaged relative to men of their race, class, ethnicity, or sexual identity; and a commitment to changing the structures that systemically privilege men over women." Journal of Women's History
"I define a feminist as a self-empowering woman who wishes the same for her sisters. I do not think the term implies a certain sexual orientation, a certain style of dress, or membership in a certain political party. A feminist is merely a woman who refuses to accept the notion that women's power must come through men." -- Erica Jong, Fear of Fifty, p.286
"I define feminist consciousness as the awareness of women that they belong to a subordinate group; that they have suffered wrongs as a group; that their condition of subordination is not natural, but is societally determined; they they must join with other women to remedy these wrongs; and finally, that they must and can provide an alternate vision of societal organization in which women as well as men will enjoy autonomy and self-determination." -- Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, p. 14
All from the Linda Chapman – Feminist Therapy website
1. The belief that women and men are, and have been, treated
differently by our society, and that women have frequently
and systematically been unable to participate fully in all
social arenas and institutions.
2. A desire to change that situation.
3. That this gives a "new" point-of-view on society, when
eliminating old assumptions about why things are the way
they are, and looking at it from the perspective that women
are not inferior and men are not "the norm."
from the soc.feminism FAQ file (http://www.cs.uu.nl/wais/html/na-dir/feminism/info.html)
What is feminism?
British suffragist and journalist Rebecca West famously said, "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people." In other words, feminism is a commitment to achieving the equality of the sexes. This radical notion is not exclusive to women: men, while benefiting from being the dominant sex, also have a stake in overcoming the restrictive roles that deprive them of full humanity.
From Red Letter Press
There have been three major “waves” of feminism thus far, the first rising as recently as the 19th century. Feminism is an awareness that dawned openly as a response to the Abolition Movement in the mid-nineteenth century and it has matured over the last century. Currently, there are many different expressions of feminism, but the core value of feminism remains. To be feminist is to actively recognize the need for, and work to create equality for women. By definition, there is no dependence upon female superiority, man-hating, or other negative approaches toward equality. Feminism is simply a movement intending to enlighten people with a goal of improving the quality of life for women and their society. However, many people possess images of feminism that fit into the previously mentioned destructive patterns. The confusion about feminism is a result of many factors.
Women have been oppressed for as long as history. This oppression is a very similar tragedy to the oppression that occurs daily towards all kinds of minority groups, but women are not a minority group. There are actually more women on Earth than there are men. Women are not defined by skin color, by spoken language, or by class. Since women are not a minority group, their unequal treatment has gone unnoticed by many. Once talk of feminism is uttered people easily may interpret it as just another reason to complain, due to their blindness to the inequality. It is difficult to publicize an issue and expect change when that issue does not appear to exist.
Another factor that interferes with the appropriate publicity for a controversial cause is the press. In the mid-twentieth century, when mass communication boomed with the invention of the television, the media designed the public’s image of feminism. The way that people learned about this movement was through the filter of journalism. Unfortunately the media’s motives are not solely based on clear, unbiased reports of news. The influences of ratings, public interest, and the government’s economical goals caused the portrayal of feminism on television to focus on scenes that were not the feminist norm. Images of mean, angry and violent women flashed before television viewers and they attracted attention. The general public witnessed feminism as a negative force while watching the evening news.
A concluding point, which is very powerful, is that women are not always actively oppressed, and for the most part women are part of a lot of the actual oppression. The unequal treatment of women in society originates not in men, but from underneath the obvious surface, where social structure dwells. It is difficult to determine exactly where female oppression began; so many people interpret feminism as a movement that blames men. This interpretation of feminism is incorrect, yet popular.
It is important to know that feminism is about equality, not anger. To involve oneself in the feminist movement is to search for a higher quality of life for all people. The misconceptions that commonly arise out of the lack of understanding of feminism can be and must be easily cleared away in order for the truth about feminism to surface.
Declaring a person is a feminist is like declaring a person is religious. It’s a vague title.
Consider this for a moment: How would you react if someone said, “I am religious?”
You wouldn’t really know what they practiced. All you would really know is that they have a spiritual belief system.
This is the same with feminism. All you can really know is that they believe in equality between sexes.
Consider that for a moment: Equality between sexes.
Does that seem so radical? Just like religious people, there are radical feminist, which people seem to be more familiar with.
From Southern Methodist University’s women’s studies definition page
Throughout history, women have always struggled to gain equality, respect, and the same rights as men. This has been difficult because of patriarchy, an ideology in which men are superior to women and have the right to rule women. This ideology has permeated the social structures of societies throughout the world and as a result, even in the new millennium, women are still struggling for rights that most men take for granted. The struggle was even more difficult for women of color because not only were they dealing with issues of sexism, but also racism. In order to fight patriarchy, feminism and feminist theory was born.
From “What is Feminism?” by Kathy Henry
I think that's a pretty broad assortment of sites. Does any of it ring true to those of you who call yourselves feminists?