The word feminism originated from the French word “feminisime” in the nineteenth century. Interestingly, it was used either as a medical term to describe the feminisation of male body or to describe women with masculine traits. According to Jaggar(1983), a sociologist, when the word ‘feminism’ was used in the early part of the twentieth century, it was used only to a particular group of women: ‘the group stressed the uniqueness of women, their mystical experience of motherhood and their special purity’. Later, it came to be known as a political stance of someone committed to changing the social position of women. The term since then is used for the one who believes that women are subjugated because of their gender and that women deserve formal equality in the eyes of the law.
Feminist writers and activists, who existed long before the term ‘feminism’ came into common parlance, imagined a world where women could live to realize their potential as individuals. For doing this, they conceptualized the ideas regarding femininity and women’s rights which were dubbed as informal and illegitimate in some ways. However, for modern feminists, it became important to make feminist ideas legitimate by circulating their ideas as widely as possible and inviting the contributions and responses of other women too.
Since the 1980s, it has become common to use plural form when it comes to feminism in order to signify the fact that although the feminists share the same and the basic commitment that female oppression must come to an end, yet variations can be observed in terms of their philosophical and political base. There is no denying the fact that richness of feminists’ legacy stems from this diversity and heterogeneity of positions. All feminists having varied philosophical and ideological inclinations agree that women suffer social and material inequities simply because of their biological identity and they are committed to change this position but there are various methods and means to bring a change in women’s position in a society. This heterogeneity of positions makes feminism a term rather unwieldy and overburdened with meanings. Most feminists regard this homogeneity as a sign of healthy debate, though some detractors see it as a sign of feminism’s inbuilt weakness. Feminists, however, have always emerged from different cultures and political perspectives.
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