What is Feminism? (and what it’s not)

What is Feminism? (and what it’s not)

This is Part 1 of a 4-part series on “You’re a Woman, Making History” with Shaleen Kendrick

In this first part of the 4-part series, we’ll explore:

  • What is feminism?
  • wWhat is it not?
  • And perhaps most importantly how feminism is inherently intertwined with our spirituality.

Here’s a clip from this powerful interview with Shaleen…

Watch full interview here*

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What Feminism Is:

Two influential leaders in the feminist movement described feminism like this:

“a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation,
and oppression.”

bell hooks

Dorothy Smith

Dorothy Smith

“Feminism is destabilizing systems of power and oppression.”

Dorothy Smith (1)

What Feminism is NOT:

  • Women who hate men. It is not anti-male.
  • For “Butch lesbians” who hate men. That messaging was created by Christian patriarchy in the 1980s. It should be noted there is an arm of feminism that is proudly and with no shame this demographic.
  • For wealthy white women wanting to work outside the home in fancy jobs.

Feminism at its core:

Is a movement of women, men, and non-conforming persons confronting and dismantling sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.

What is sexism?

“Sexism” is the prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender,
especially against women and girls.

Sexism can be a belief that one sex is superior to or more valuable than another sex.

  • It imposes limits on what men and boys can and should do and what women and girls can and should do.

  • Expanded to include the oppression of any sex, including men and boys, intersex people, and transgender people.

  • It functions to maintain patriarchy, or male domination, through ideological and material practices of individuals, collectives, and institutions that oppress women and girls on the basis of sex or gender

  • Such oppression usually takes the forms of economic exploitation and social domination. (2)


– biological or otherwise – of every race and class

Feminism is:

  • Focused on equal pay for equal work and accommodating work conditions that allow partners to share in domestic labor.
  • Dismantling toxic relationships and systems defined by “power-over” hierarchies.
  • Re-imagining and co-creating collaborative “power-with” dynamics, relationally and systemically.

We are telling a collective story. 

This is so very IMPORTANT because often our story of injustice and the powerful feminist movement has been told by men through the lens of patriarchy and detached from spirituality.

We are reclaiming our story of
feminism and spirituality.  

“True resistance begins with people confronting pain, whether it’s theirs or somebody else’s, and wanting to do something to change it…Pain as a catalyst for change, for working to change.”

bell hooks

And our story includes pain and a new vision for our collective daughters and granddaughters. 


“A fundamental goal of visionary feminism was to create strategies to change the lot of ALL women and enhance their personal power.”

bell hooks

It is also very important on the front end of any talk of feminism to acknowledge how white women took center stage at the onslaught and any white woman in now the 4th wave feminism MUST recognize race and class as essential components in the movement, lest we do so again.

bell hooks reminds us that “When the feminist movement began racial integration was still rare.” (3) Additionally, she calls out that

“The feminist movement, especially the work of visionary black activists, paved the way for a reconsideration of race and racism that has had a positive impact on our society as a whole. Rarely do mainstream social critiques acknowledge this fact.”


We end Part 1 with yet more of bell hooks’ work, inviting us into prophetic imagination for a feminist world.

On earth as it is in heaven…

Prophetic Imagination

Imagine living in a world where there is no domination

where females and males are equitable AND not the same

where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction. 

Imagine living in a world where we can ALL be who we are, 

A world of peace and possibility. 

Feminist revolution alone will not create such a world; we need to end racism, class elitism, imperialism. 

But feminism will make it possible for us to be fully self-actualized females and males able to create beloved community, to live together, realizing our dreams of freedom and justice, living the truth that we are all “created equal.” 

Come closer. See how feminism can touch and change your life and all our lives together. 

Come closer and know firsthand what the feminist movement is all about. 

Come closer and you will see: feminism is for everybody. (4)

– bell hooks

Read the whole series here:


additional sources linked throughout the article

1 Dorothy Smith: Embodied Knowing vs. the Ruling Relations

2 Gina Masequesmay, “Sexism,” in Encyclopedia Britannica, September 28, 2001, https://www.britannica.com/topic/sexism

3 hooks, bell. Feminism Is for Everybody (p. 59)

4 hooks, bell. Feminism Is for Everybody (p. 109)