Feminism is a philosophy which argues for gender equality.
Roots of the movement in the United States and the United Kingdom include the Women's Suffrage movement of the early 1900's and the Women's Liberation (or "Second Wave Feminist") movement of the 1960's and 1970's.
An Equal Rights Amendment was proposed in the US in 1972, but was unratified. Opponents of the amendment cited the following problems: the integration of single-sex schools; the possible recognition of homosexual marriage; and the revocation of laws that protect women in dangerous jobs, like factory or mining work.
The feminist movement in the West evolved in the 1980s with the rise of Post-Feminism which stresses that women have many rights that go unrecognized in everyday life, often by women themselves, and in the American legal structure. The feminist movement also recognizes that women have many choices, one of which, it is claimed, is abortion, an issue the feminists are so vehement about defending that political commentator Rush Limbaugh coined the term "Femi-nazis" to refer to them. However, despite the opposition of many conservatives and some feminists, a majority of the American public favor the retention of the right to legal, safe abortion.
Second Wave Feminism has made a resurgence in 1990s and early years of 21st century as the movement is spreading internationally in Asia and the Middle East. During the adminstration of Bill Clinton these latter-day feminists overlooked President Clinton's apparently womanizing behavior in order to focus upon his attempts to procure federal funding for several of their causes.
The English novelist and critic Rebecca West said:
"I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute."
- The Feminist eZine Archive of articles about Feminist History.