The American Heritage Dictionary defines feminism as "Belief in or advocacy of women's social political, and economic rights, especially with regard to equality of the sexes." Also '"the movement organized around this belief." Strictly speaking, that is so. But, not so strictly speaking, it may extend to any woman of great distinction who thus advances the cause of women. Whereby it may be argued that Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Hypatia (the victim of a Christian mob), and Byzantiine empress Theodora were a kind of accidental feminists.
But as the old-time proclaimed feminists knew, the right to vote (i.e., suffrsge) underlies every kind of equality with men. and that is what activists like Susan B.Anthony and Emmeline B. Pankhurst, the so-called suffragettes. primarily aimed at.
Feminism takes on a different aspect according to the era and society in which it is practiced, and, to be sure, like all isms--patriotism, nationalism, certainly populism, but even rationalism--it can be exaggerated into fanaticism. I was surprised by even the worthy Maureen Dowd, in her Times column, claiming it was all right for a boss to compliment a female employee on 'a short dress, but only if he had already praised the wearer as a human being.
This strikes me as peculiar, as if you could express respect for an elephant's being able to climb on a kettledrum only if you had previously exalted the entire species. The tiny bit of flirtatiousness does not strike me as being culpable as a prelude to attempted abuse.
But I do assent to feminism for having denounced sex for the sake of gaining advancement or keeping a job, as if the victim were always somehow complicit in a dirty business. And I consider it appropriate if people in high positions are fired or induced into resigning for some sort of sexual exploitation in the past. Altogether I have difficulties with the statute of limitations, as if, say, a murder only solved and acted upon twenty years later were less of a crime. The assumption is that the perpetrator has become a repentant, better person. But isn't the very sense of having got away with something thoroughly reprehensible for a long time encouragement enough to depraved others to follow suit? The poster boy, so to speak, for male dominance of the most odious sort is HarveyWeinstein, however instrumental he was as producer of deserving, often foreign, movies. A good deed does not justify other bad ones, and physical grossness is not exonerated by professional savvy.
An ugly man can be a good person, and a handsome one a bastard. But somehow I cannot help feeling, as I see Weinstein on television, that something about him was too unappealing not to be avoided. Or is that merely a piece of wisdom attained a posteriori? I have similar feelings about Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, Charley Rose, Matt Lauer, and several others, and think that I have disliked them from way back. But, in all honesty I cannot be sure that this is not all after the fact. Moreover, unlikableness is not tantamount to any sort of guilt.And yet, and yet. . .
Particularly divisive, and anti-feminist, is the anti-abortionist stance. It seems to me that any woman wanting an abortion should be accorded one. Wishing not to have a baby and going to considerable lengths not to have one, is almost certainly a guarantee that you would not make a good mother. But note that "almost." It can be assumed, as it is by many, that having that adorable baby in the hands would make the most hardened feminist turn into mush, But a baby is also a lot of work, starting with all that diaper changing, and good many babies end up abandoned or, worse yet, found in the garbage.So I can see both the pro and the con in this issue.
But where the feminists can do the greatest good is in battling the NRA. Whoever had to fight for equal rights can put her fighting spirit to good use in combating the gun lobbyists and the right-to-lifers. And as long as the glass ceiling still obtains in a good many places, we still need feminist warriors embattled. If that makes them, as others would have it, less feminine, so be it: a woman will remain a woman no matter her politics, and what a wonderful thing that is.