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OverviewAnglo-american Feminism, Trajectories Within Feminism, Feminist Theory And Women's Studies, Feminism And Other Ideologies

Feminism may broadly be defined as a movement seeking the reorganization of the world upon the basis of sex equality, rejecting all forms of differentiation among or discrimination against individuals upon grounds of sex. It urges a worldview that rejects male-created ideologies. At another level, it is also a mode of analysis and politics, committed to freeing all women of gender-based oppressions. Literally, then, anyone who supports such an ideology can be a feminist, regardless of gender.

Since the 1980s, following women's campaigns and struggles as well as theoretical and empirical research highlighting gender discrimination pervasive in law, policy, and opportunities to work, organizations and governments around the world have begun to incorporate gender considerations into policies and programs. International agencies such as the United Nations support many women's projects globally, including World Conferences on Women (Mexico, 1975; Copenhagen, 1980; Nairobi, 1985; Beijing, 1995), bringing together thousands of women to facilitate exchange and global networks.

Any discussion of feminism must analyze not only its genesis, practices, and forms of resistance (organized women's movements) but also its writing and theorizing, which has been an important form of self-expression and indeed a conscious exercise in building a body of feminist knowledge. Since the 1980s Western feminist thought has generated newer, more nuanced understandings of such concepts as "sex," "gender," and "woman." In this entry, the term feminism is used inclusively to discuss facets of the women's movement as well as feminist theorizing.

Feminism (both as ideology and struggle) can hardly be discussed as a seamless narrative, for in the twenty-first century it is practiced within different social and political configurations, and women's movements flourish in diverse locations. However, it is evident that despite broad commonalities, feminist struggles are influenced by local, cultural, national, and indeed global factors that shape local polities and economies.

An overview of salient developments reveals fascinating interrogations of Western feminism by non-Western women as well as deep divisions among Western feminists based on race, class, and sexual orientation. In fact, in the early 2000s many believe that the term is valid only in its plural form, feminisms, to reflect its many transnational manifestations across race, class, and religion.

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