My Definition of Feminism

This paper was written for my Women's Studies class. In our essay we had to discuss a person that was discussed in class. So I chose Hildegard of Bingen. I took this as an opportunity to give a witness.

My definition of Feminism is probably the same as it was before this class and probably more complex than this paper will allow, however, I think it is best summed up in the following ideas: Empowerment of Women, Freedom of Creative Expression and Intellectual Development, as well as Standing Up for What's Right. Also Our Goals and Knowledge of Ourselves is important. I will elaborate more on these in the following paragraphs.

An aspect of Feminism is the empowerment of women. One is empowered when they realize that they are NOT inferior just because of their gender. They realize that they have abilities and talents that are just as important, and as good, as the abilities of a man, and they choose to use them to the full. They also realize that they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings, and this gives them strength and hope.

This brings us to another aspect of Feminism, which is Freedom of Creative Expression and Intellectual Development. One important aspect of this freedom is the freedom of creative expression, in its many forms. Also important is the freedom of intellectual development. Also, there is freedom if they know they CAN express themselves creatively, and develop themselves intellectually, despite what others might say. Both of these are important in the improvement of one's self.

Another aspect of Feminism, which is related to empowerment, is having the courage, or strength of character to stand up for what is right. Not just in things related to Feminism, but in all aspects of life. There have been women of the past that died for what they believed in, and stuck to it, no matter what. We all should have such conviction.

We also need to set realistic goals for our future. We should set goals and then strive to meet them head-on. When setbacks happen, we shouldn't give up, rather, we should keep on trying. When we reach the goals we set, we feel better about ourselves and we strive to reach more goals. We should be single-minded in our determination to reach our goals.

Finally, we should strive to understand and get to know ourselves. This can be very difficult, because all too often we bury parts of ourselves so deeply that we ourselves are no longer aware of what's inside us. Sometimes, there are some things that should be left alone, yes, but also we should try to understand ourselves. Some accomplish this through a journal or diary; some accomplish this in other ways. I think it probably all comes down to self-awareness, knowing and understanding who we are and what we want out of life.

An example of a woman who lived her life in this manner was a nun from the twelfth century, Hildegard of Bingen. She stuck by what she thought was right, despite what others said. Also, Hildegard was educated in mathematics, astronomy, writing, singing, and liturgy (a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship, Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary). She became leader in her community, quite a feat for a woman in those times, in 1136, and in 1150 she started a convent. Hildegard left behind a large body of work including several books, a play, and two books about a secret language that she invented. She also had the "nerve" to rebuke the Roman Emperor Barbarossa because of his policies. Amazingly enough, he accepted her rebuke, and even granted her his special protection to the convent during the war. By living in this manner, she "managed to create an entirely new role for herself and other women." (Lerner, pg. 52) Hildegard was authoritative and strong, "she addressed Popes and Emperors as equals and was apparently so treated by them in response." (Lerner, pg. 55) She was the epitome of Feminism, according to my definition. Hildegard is just one among many women who struggled for autonomy, equality and independence, giving women of today many more opportunities than those before us had. However, has the battle for women's rights really been won?

No way! The battle for women's rights is far from over. There is still much gender discrimination in the work place, and in the home. Women, on average, still earn less than men, even a man who doesn't have as much education as the woman in question. A woman with a college education will earn less than a man with a High School Diploma. Indeed, "if women have 'made it' then why are nearly 80 percent of working women still stuck in traditional 'female' jobs?" (Faludi, pg. 9) Neither are women equal in the home, as mentioned earlier, as they "still shoulder 70 percent of the household duties." (Faludi, pg. 9) With this statistical information, can we really say the struggle is over? We answer with a resounding NO!

I really appreciated the point that Betty Friedan brought out: "Women are human beings, not stuffed dolls, not animals." (Friedan, pg 11) I couldn't have said it better, we are humans just like everyone else. We are humans that should be allowed the freedom, equality, autonomy as well as the right to set our own goals and achieve them. We all need to work on being self-aware, and continually develop our creative and intellectual abilities, thereby proving ourselves, which is still necessary today.

How would I apply all of this information to myself? Well for one thing, I feel I need to work more on self awareness. I need to be more aware of what I'm thinking and doing. Sometimes I'll do something, and later I'll wonder why. I think, as imperfect humans, this is something we all have to work on constantly.

I also feel that standing up for what you know is right is extremely important. As a Jehovah's Witness, I was raised that you should always stand up for what is right. We're expected to stand up for truth, and I intend to apply this principle to all aspects of my life.

As for freedom of creative expression and intellectual development, I really enjoy keeping a poetry journal. Lately I've been bad though, as I haven't been writing in it as often as I have before. I do intend to increase my writing. I also have been thinking of expanding the use of my journal to possibly include more than just poetry. I don't know, we'll see. As for my intellectual development, that's one reason why I'm in college, and it's been great, I love learning new things!

I know that also I should work at setting more goals for myself. I'll make them small and gradual, that way they are more attainable and I won't get quite so frustrated about the enormity of the task at hand. When I attain those goals, I'll feel better about myself and I can work at reaching larger goals. Perhaps one of my goals could be writing more in my journal more often.

I do have to say, however, that I won't be getting involved in voting and politics in general. Why, you may ask? Well, as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I feel that God's Kingdom, under Christ as King, is the only Government (Yes, it's a real Government, that surprises most people, as they feel that God's Kingdom is in your heart. But, it's actually a real ruling Government. Dan. 2:44) that will solve all of humankind's problems. Under his reign, women will be treated with just as much dignity and kindness as men.

How do we know that women will be treated well under that Kingdom? We know women will be treated well, for Jesus dignified women. He dignified the Samaritan woman by telling her outright that he was the Christ, when he hadn't said that to anyone else. (John 4:25-26) He dignified two of his female disciples by appearing to them first, before the other disciples, or even the apostles! (Luke 24:1-11) Of course, those imperfect disciples did not believe the women, but the fact that Jesus showed himself first to these women shows that he valued them. This knowledge makes me know that I want to live under that new arrangement.

When we are under that Kingdom, under Christ's Reign in total perfection, we will all be able to reach our full potential, and Females and Males will be equally valued for their abilities and talents. No minority groups will be under oppression. I look forward to that day!


Works Cited & Consulted

  • Lerner, Gerda. Women and History Volume 2: The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to Eighteen-Seventy. Oxford Univ. Press, 1994
  • Faludi, Susan. Backlash: the Undeclared War Against American Woman "Blame It On Feminism" Doubleday, 1991
  • Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique: Chapter 2 "The Happy Housewife Heroine", W. W. Norton & Company, 2001
  • Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary
  • Bible Books of Daniel, Luke, & John