A Feminist Life, Etc. 

by Beverly McPhail 

Feminism:  A Radical Notion 

"Feminism is the radical notion that women are people" is a very popular definition of feminism, often printed on bumper stickers, t-shirts, and buttons.  However, it is also the most frequently misattributed feminist quote. Usually the quote is attributed to Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler, authors of A Feminist Dictionary.  However, this particular definition of feminism first appeared in the feminist newsletter, New Directions for Women, in May/June 1986 in an article written by feminist writer and editor, Marie Shear.  In the article Marie reviews A Feminist Dictionary, praising its definitions while adding quite a few original definitions, including the now wildly popular, "feminism is the radical notion that women are people."  Marie signs her emails with her name and the notation "widely unheralded writer & editor." This certainly seems to be the case when one of the most popular feminist mantras is often misattributed. It is time, past time, to set the record straight and give Marie Shear her due.  The photo above shows an example of a t-shirt with the misattribution printed on it. 
Favorite Feminist Definitions 

Feminism is the advocacy of women's rights based on the equality of the sexes.
Oxford Dictionary 

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. Marie Shear 

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or prostitute. Dame Rebecca West

Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.
bell hooks 

At bottom, feminism is a mode of analysis, an approach to life and politics, a way of asking questions and searching for answers. Nancy Harstock 

It's agenda is basic: It asks that women not be forced to "choose" between public justice and private happiness. It asks that women be free to define themselves-- instead of having their identity defined for them, time and time again, by their culture and their men. Susan Faludi 

At is core, feminism is a multi-issue movement committed to extremely long-term goals: the ending of patriarchy; the achievement of economic, political, and social equality for all women; and the creation of a world free from sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, ableism, violence, and environmental exploitation. 
Eleanor Smeal 

It is not a matter of idle curiosity who gets put into which camp, male or female. It's not like dividing people up on the basis of whether their last name begins with a letter between A and M or one between N and Z.  Whether you're designated female or male has an enormous impact on what sort of life you can lead, what opportunities will or will not be presented to you, and what people will expect of you. That realization, and the belief that this situation is unjust, is for me, a bottom line definition of feminism-- not the only definition, but a very basic one. Cynthia Eller 

Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians. Pat Robertson