Dear A1ex,

On May 27th, you posted a tweet tagged #Idontneedfeminism (please see below). This email is in response to the tweet. While I respect your thoughts and opinions, I would like to provide you with some information that highlights the importance and relevance of feminism.

First, I would like to define feminism, as its definition is the foundation for the arguments that follow. According to Bell Hooks, feminism is “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression” [1]. This definition comes from a line of liberal theory, as liberal feminists believe that women and men should have equal chances of succeeding in the public realm [2]. In other words, no person should be discriminated against, whether that be for a job opportunity or voting right, based on their gender. From your tweet, it seems that we both agree on this definition.

I would now like to address your first point:

“#Idontneedfeminism bc last time I checked I vote, go to school, & believe what I want.”

I think a short history lesson would be appropriate here. In nineteenth-century America, women had very few legal, social, and economic rights. According to Shaw in What is Women’s Studies, women were mostly barred from higher education until women’s colleges started opening in the mid-nineteenth century and could not vote until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 [3]. How did these changes come about? Feminists (then more commonly referred to as women’s rights activists), like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Mary Wollstonecraft, worked tirelessly to fight for women’s equality. You have the right to vote, go to school, and believe what you want precisely because of feminism and the work of early feminists. So to say you don’t need feminism because you have the rights that feminism granted you seems somewhat contradictory.

As for your second point:

“Some countries don’t even have those rights.”

Feminism is a global movement. In fact, many feminists are working to provide education and voting rights for young women all across the world. In Egypt, the Egyptian Feminist Union reemerged recently, following a 60-year ban [4]. In India, gender-equality protests tore through the country when a woman died after being gang-raped in 2012 [5]. Feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie holds writing workshops in Nigeria and Wajeha al-Huwaider advocates for the right of women to participate in sports and for the right to drive in Saudi Arabia [6]. You are correct in pointing out that women in “some countries don’t even have those rights,” and if you mean to say that feminists should focus their work in those countries rather than in the western world, many are surely doing so. If you mean to say that feminists should not continue to push for equality in the western world just because people in other countries are worse off, then please consider this. If Susan B. Anthony did not push for women’s rights in the 19th century just because women in other parts of the world had even fewer rights, you may not have been able to vote today.

Again, I value your opinion, because, as you mentioned, we are each entitled to believe what we want. But sometimes what we want to believe is not what is true, and I hope that this email may have encouraged you to further research the merits, challenges, and critiques of feminism. I have a list of resources about feminism below if you are interested.

[1] Bell Hooks, Feminism is for Everybody

[2] Rosemarie Tong, Feminist Thought

[3] Shaw, What is Women’s Studies?

[4] http://intpolicydigest.org/2012/02/02/islamic-feminism-in-the-middle-east/

[5] http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~theinterpreter/2014/10/feminism-across-the-globe/

[6] http://www.l3.ulg.ac.be/adichie/cnabio.html

Original tweet:

(As a side note, Bell Hooks’ definition could also be considered poststructuralist feminism, which agrees that feminism is an anti-sexism movement, but goes further in saying that in order to achieve an anti-sexist society, the patriarchal structure must be uprooted, as equality is defined within that structure.)

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