Who gets to call themself a feminist, and are there core beliefs which one must affirm to claim that label? Several women are debating this, in a series on Slate.com. The genesis of the article is whether Sarah Palin and other politicians should be allowed to use the term, but it moves beyond that pretty widely.
Amy Bloom writes, "Feminism, I'm pretty sure, means a commitment to equal opportunity, equal ability, and equal potential for all women. It doesn't mean (and I realize that reasonable women differ on the definition of feminism—that's why it's feminism and not algebra) that a possession of a womb brings with it a special spiritual gift, or that women are avatars of goodness, entitled to yell, 'Misogynist!' whenever it is to their advantage...
there are, apparently, honest-to-God feminists who believe that abortion is murder and even though I think that that's not true, I have to respect that...But there is no such thing as free market/anti-legislation/I've-got-mine feminism."
Nora Ephron disagrees: "You can't call yourself a feminist if you don't believe in the right to abortion."
Katha Pollitt weighs in: "In the 1970s, feminists alienated a lot of women by being too censorious about clothes, makeup, and other personal choices; these days, feminism seems to mean supporting a woman's 'choice' to do just about anything, no matter how degrading or disempowering or socially harmful or foolish. Eventually, this kind of feminism bites its own tail: If choices cannot be discussed or (horrors!) criticized, there is no way to challenge, or even examine, their social context."
Anna Holmes notes that the term "feminism" has often been "rejected by minority and working-class progressive women, whose concerns, efforts, and agitations toward gender equality have historically been ignored or dismissed by the progressive movement's overwhelmingly white, wealthy standard-bearers."
Amanda Marcotte quotes Lisa Jervis, "Real feminists support a society in which biological gender 'doesn't determine social roles or expected behavior.'"
I like Jervis' definition, because it would dovetail nicely with a form of "masculinism" that would also support a society where being born male does not require being strong, silent and self-sacrificing. There is some complexity here: being born male *does* mean that I cannot conceive, nor nourish and carry a child in my body. But widening our understanding of social roles and expected behavior seems like a good goal.