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Last Updated: Oct 20, 2017 URL: Print Guide

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Feminists You Need to Know

bell hooks

bell hooks. "hooks (who takes her uncapitalised name from her maternal great-grandmother) is one of America’s most widely published black feminist scholars. Her book, Feminism is for Everybody, is a wildly popular, man-friendly proposal for common sense feminism that is sensible and wise...."

Germaine Greer. "Most famous for The Female Eunuch, which argued that women have been repressed and alienated from their own bodies and sexuality, and that sexual liberation is the key to women's liberation. A leader of the second wave of the women’s movement of the Sixties and Seventies, Greer now feels feminism has not gone far enough...."

Dolores Huerta. "Dolores Huerta went from being a teacher to working with farm workers. She was one of the first women negotiating contracts. She played just as big a role as Cesar Chavez in fighting for the rights of farm workers...." For more, check out: A Dolores Huerta Reader.

Gloria Steinem. "A leader in the second wave of feminist activists and writers, Steinem was a founder and editor of one of the first feminist magazines – Ms – until its closure in 1987. Her collection of essays, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, is a classic of its time...."

Hélène Cixous. "Novelist, literary critic and poet Cixous is famous for her analyses of the unconscious, bisexuality and l’écriture féminine. Best known for her 1975 essay, The Laugh of the Medusa"...

Malala Yousafzai. "Yousafzai became the youngest (shared) winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. The Pakistani schoolgirl is famous for advocating girls schools, writing for the BBC about Taliban rule in her town. She was shot in the head in 2012 and recovered, carrying on her quest for female education...." Check out her book, I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.

Naomi Wolfe. "Wolfe made an impact with her 1991 bestseller, The Beauty Myth, which was a must-read for the third wave of feminism. Listed as one of the 70 most influential books of the 20th century by The New York Times, Wolfe’s argument that beauty is a social construct determined by men was endorsed by generations of men and women...."

Roxane Gay. "Author of the essay collection, Bad Feminist (2014), Gay is a commentator, editor, writer and professor of English who is at the forefront of feminist multiplicity. Gay, far from having an academic style, speaks plainly about how feminism intersects with race, religion, context, location, history and heritage."

Simone De Beauvoir. "De Beauvoir is considered one of the main founders of the modern feminist movement, mainly for her landmark text, Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex)"...

Sonia Sotomayor. "Sonia Sotomayor is a noteworthy Latina because of her position as a Supreme Court Justice. Not only does she represent a strong woman, she is rooting for other women, too. “Don’t give up,” she said to a room of mostly women at an event in San Francisco organized by Watermark. “The greatest obstacle to your own success is your own fear...."

Check out her book, My Beloved World, which College of Marin has in English, Spanish, print, e-book and audio!


From "The Telegraph" and "Latina"




This guide will help you find library resources related to... FEMINISM

san francisco gay marriage newsom

Feminist and lesbian activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon
were the first same-sex couple married in San Francisco. 

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Here is a useful starting point from the Salem Press Encyclopedia:

Feminism Debate

Feminism is defined as the belief in social, political and economic equality between the sexes. In practice and in history, feminist social movements and academic theories have defined the relationship between the sexes in general and the liberation of women in particular.

Feminist movements have attempted to influence politics and social policies through research, education, activism and legislation. The modern feminist movement addresses issues such as women’s rights in the workplace, reproductive rights (including abortion and birth control), sexual harassment and discrimination, and gender stereotypes.

In the United States, there are differing opinions regarding the state of the feminist movement. Some critics believe that modern feminists have become increasingly radical, and that societal changes have reduced the need for an active feminist movement. Feminists and their supporters argue that there are still significant inequalities between the sexes; however, it is also acknowledged that feminist ideals have become more commonly accepted in American culture.

In other cultures, women are not permitted to take part in the political process and receive little protection under the law. Some believe that the greatest challenge for feminists is to address institutionalized sexism, discrimination, misogyny and stereotypes regarding gender roles in other parts of the world.

Understanding the Discussion

Discrimination: Behavior either for or against a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs.

Feminism: Belief in the political, social and economic equality of the sexes.

Misogyny: Hatred or distrust of women.

New Social Movement: A social movement that arose from the conflicts in the post-industrial revolution society and economy.

Sexism: Behavior based on traditional stereotypes regarding sexual roles, or discrimination based on a person’s gender.

Social Movement: A deliberate voluntary effort to organize individuals to act in concert to achieve group influence to make or block changes.

Suffrage: The right to vote in political elections and on social issues.


Throughout history, women have joined together in male-dominated societies to gain political and social influence. One of the earliest documented women’s movements originated in the Roman Republic (500–20 BCE). In medieval Europe and Asia, women were considered subordinate to men; however, because those governments were based on royalty, women were able to ascend to leadership by becoming an empress or queen. In addition, because of rigid social structures, women from elite families were dominant over men of lower social classes.

Colonial Americans rejected the idea of royalty and therefore abolished the possibility of women attaining leadership through familial ascendancy. Women in the American colonies were considered subordinate to men and were expected to concentrate on childrearing and domestic duties.

During the 1700s, women’s movements originated in France and England. In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, one of the first examples of feminist literature. Though early women’s movements inspired future generations of feminists, significant political changes did not occur until the nineteenth century.

During the drafting of the United States Constitution, feminists like Abigail Adams lobbied to have women’s rights included in the document. The movement ultimately failed, but the unifying purpose helped the growth of feminism.

In 1848, a convention of women was held at Seneca Falls, New York, headed by Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. The meeting resulted in a Declaration of Women’s Rights, a document that called for equal rights between the sexes, including voting privileges, legal protection, and equal employment and wages.

During the early twentieth century, the feminist movement began to focus on women’s suffrage. Several territories and states, including Wyoming and New Jersey, granted voting rights to women before a constitutional amendment was in place. The amendment for women’s suffrage was proposed in every session of Congress beginning in 1878, before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919.

Following the success of the suffrage movement, feminism declined in the United States but remained a powerful lobby. Feminists made some gains during the 1940s and '50s, including the establishment of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 1946.

The American feminist movement grew during the 1960s and '70s, as a reaction to inequalities in employment and educational opportunities, pay rates, reproductive rights, and government representation. The feminist movement of the 1960s is often referred to as the "women’s liberation" movement, during which theorists and political activists urged women to take an active role in politics and economics. The 1960s feminist movement is an example of a new social movement. New social movements, in contrast to traditional social movements, refer to social movements that arise from the conflicts in post-industrial revolution society and economy. New social movements, such as the feminist movement, the civil rights movements and the environmental movement, engage in social and political protest as a means of creating large-scale global change.

During the 1960s, several states passed laws regarding workplace and educational discrimination and reproductive rights. In 1972, the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Roe v. Wade officially gave women the right to undergo abortion, seen as a major victory for the feminist movement. That year, schools were prohibited from denying educational opportunities on the basis of gender.

Also in 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment was proposed in Congress. The ERA called for absolute legal equality, and would have made any discriminatory laws unconstitutional. Opponents of the ERA argued that the amendment would remove some laws that are in place to protect women, and would require women to register with the Selective Service in case of a military draft.

The ERA was passed by Congress but was not ratified by a sufficient portion of state governments. Despite the failure of the ERA, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 achieved some of the same goals regarding antidiscrimination laws. For instance, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, or national origin. In addition, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in wage compensation for similar work under similar conditions.

During the 1980s and 1990s, feminist activism became less common, while academic feminism, also referred to as women’s studies or gender studies, grew into a significant discipline involving political science, philosophy, psychology, and ethics. The number of women involved in United States politics grew significantly during the 1990s. The presidential administrations of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton set records in terms of the number of women appointed to federal office.

Feminism Today

The modern feminist movement seeks to increase representation of women in politics and to remove obstacles preventing women from achieving higher office and leading corporations. Modern American feminists are concerned with combating existing misogyny and prejudices regarding the suitability of women for leadership.

Some critics believe the feminist movement has limited the choices available to women and damaged family stability by discouraging women from making childcare their primary goal. In addition, some have criticized feminists for supporting what opponents consider morally questionable legislation, especially regarding abortion and reproductive rights.

In addition to political representation, modern feminists are engaged in the global state of feminism. Groups in the United States and Europe have formed a lobby asking for Western governments to exert political influence on nations that do not grant political or social equality to women. Additionally, independent feminist movements have emerged in countries that have historically oppressed female citizens. In 2011, for instance, dozens of women in Saudi Arabia publicly defied bans on driving after a woman named Shema was sentenced to lashing for breaking the driving laws. Her sentencing—which King Abdullah eventually overturned—came just days after it was declared that, beginning in 2015, Saudi women would be allowed to vote for the first time in the nation’s history. In December of that year, Saudi women cast their first ballots for municipal councillors and nearly a thousand even ran for office in that country's third election. And in India, public outrage mounted throughout the 2010s over the high rate of rape and sexual assault against women and perpetrators' relative impunity in society and in the legal system.

Yet some American feminists argue that the movement should not focus on influencing the governments and cultures of other nations until women have achieved domestic goals, including the abolition of discrimination and sexism. Feminist interests played an integral role in the political landscape leading up to the 2012 election cycle. Congressional races yielded momentous wins for the women-in-government movement, with a record twenty women elected to US Senate seats, including Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, the nation’s first openly lesbian senator. In the presidential race, women voted primarily Democratic, with 55 percent of women voting for Barack Obama, and 44 percent voting for Mitt Romney, according to CNN exit polls.

The 2016 presidential campaign marked a historic milestone in US women's political leadership, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton becoming the first woman to be nominated by a major political party. The campaign championed such "women's issues" as equal pay for equal work, three months' paid family leave, child-care assistance, and universal preschool. Yet Clinton enjoyed only qualified support even from self-identified feminists, many of whom saw her as representative of so-called corporate feminism, which critics alleges only helps white, middle-class women who are already advantaged by their race and social class. (Many modern feminists subscribe to intersectionality, a view that gender is only one social hierarchy and that it is enmeshed with others such as race, class, and sexual orientation.) Nevertheless, the campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump appealed far more to white male voters, while Clinton polled better among women of all races. Some observers noted that the 2016 presidential election appeared to be a contest between feminists on one hand and antifeminists on the other, thus debate about the role and relevancy of feminism in America lives on.

By Micah L. Issitt and Simone Flynn

Simone Flynn earned a PhD in cultural anthropology from Yale University in 2003. She is a researcher, writer, and teacher based in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Citation: Issitt, Micah L. and Simone Flynn. "Feminism Debate." Salem Press Encyclopedia, January, 2016.



Andrea Dworkin

Andrea Dworkin. "A radical feminist and activist famous for being boldly outspoken, writing and saying what others could only think. With the publication of her book, Woman Hating (1974), Dworkin assailed the gender war’s pretence of civility with brutal acumen. Criticised for being a lesbian and a feminist, she is often seen as a man-hater and for being passionately against  pornography...." from "The Telegraph"

Doris Lessing. "The oldest person ever to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 2007, Lessing was called an "epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny". Her first novel was published in 1950, but it was Lessing’s 1962 groundbreaking novel, The Golden Notebook, that made her famous, touching on politics and gender in a new way...."from "The Telegraph"

Image result for betty friedan

Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan. "American feminist best known for her book The Feminine Mystique (1963), which explored the causes of the frustrations of modern women in traditional roles....In October 1966 Friedan cofounded the National Organization for Women (NOW), a civil rights group dedicated to achieving equality of opportunity for women. As president of NOW, she directed campaigns to end sex-classified employment notices, for greater representation of women in government, for child-care centres for working mothers, and for legalized abortion and other reforms." From Encyclopaedia Britannica.


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