Skip to main content

What is Feminism?

Feminism is a social, political, and cultural movement that advocates for the rights and equality of all genders, focusing on addressing and rectifying historical and ongoing inequalities women face. It seeks to challenge and change the systemic structures and cultural norms that perpetuate gender-based discrimination and oppression. Feminism seeks to achieve gender equality in all aspects of life, including legal rights, social opportunities, economic participation, and personal relationships. While there may be differences in approaches and perspectives within the feminist movement, the overarching goal remains the pursuit of equality and justice for all genders. Many goals and beliefs of the feminist movement directly overlap with the goals and beliefs of the trans rights movement.

How does Feminism overlap with Trans rights?

Feminism asserts that all individuals, regardless of their gender, should have equal rights and opportunities in every sphere of life. Trans rights movements likewise push for equal rights and opportunities. Historically, feminism has been closely associated with advocating for women’s rights, including the right to vote, access to education, reproductive rights, and protection from gender-based violence. Feminism critiques and challenges patriarchal systems and seeks to dismantle power structures that perpetuate gender inequality. Even though the focus of early feminism was primarily on cisgender women’s rights and issues, the feminist movement has evolved over time to recognise and address the intersectionality of all identities.

Feminism recognises and addresses the intersecting factors of identity, such as race, class, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Intersectionality is a central tenant of feminism, which acknowledges that individuals experience multiple forms of oppression, and it strives to be inclusive and attentive to these intersecting dynamics. Under this framework, feminism works to break down traditional gender roles and stereotypes that limit anyone- particularly individuals limited based on their perceived gender. Anyone can pursue any career, exhibit any personality trait, and engage in any activity without discrimination. Feminism advocates for the autonomy of individuals over their own bodies, including the right to make decisions about reproductive health, sexuality, and gender identity without facing discrimination.

Often, arguments on excluding trans individuals from feminist movements centre on incorrect beliefs surrounding biology. This surface-level view misses the importance of recognising that feminism’s focus is not biology. Biology is not the source of discrimination and misogyny. Catherine MacKinnon, American feminist legal scholar, activist, and author, states:

“On my analysis of the real world—a feminist analysis I reckon—the linchpin of the subordination of women, the impetus and structure of women’s gendered status as second class, is sexuality, socially gendered through sexualized misogyny. We are placed on the bottom of the gender hierarchy by the misogynistic meanings that male dominant societies create, project onto us, attribute to us, which, in my observation and analysis, center on women’s sexuality. This has nothing whatsoever to do with biology, which serves, however powerfully, as sexuality’s after-the-fact attributed naturalized rationalization and supposed ratification. Sexualized misogyny merges synergistically with myriad inequalities: it sucks up and incorporates age-based specifics, takes on every racialized and caste and class guise… In other words, I reject the “single-axis” notion argued by what is currently inaccurately being called “gender-critical feminism.” (MacKinnon in Signs)

Her apt analysis covers the necessity of feminism to address inequality, not due to biological differences, but due to sexualised misogyny. She continues, examining the source of subordination and finds it is not bodies, but male-dominant ideologies. 

“Women are not, in fact, subordinated or oppressed by our bodies. We do not need to be liberated from our chromosomes or our ovaries. It is core male-dominant ideology that attributes the source of women’s inequality to our nature, our biological sex, which for male dominance makes it inevitable, immutable, unchangeable, on us.” (MacKinnon in Signs)

Feminism must be trans-inclusive to acknowledge the rights, experiences, and struggles of transgender individuals. Gender-based discrimination and oppression affect people across the gender spectrum, not just cisgender women.

Hate crimes against transgender people in England, Scotland and Wales (as recorded by police) increased 81% from 2016/17 (1,073 crimes) to 2018/19 (1,944 crimes) and 24% of us know a trans person- this increases to 48% of 18–24s and 31% of 25–34s. According to Stonewall, at least 1 in 5 people knows a trans person in every region of Great Britain. We’re well aware that bias is alive and well, therefore, now, more than ever, feminists must ensure the most vulnerable are included in the fight for equality. Feminism must remain trans-inclusive in order to practise intersectionality and uplift and uphold human rights and dignity. Trans individuals experience gender-based discrimination in addition to other intersecting forms of oppression; like cis women, they often face discrimination, violence, and societal expectations based on their gender identity or even gender presentations. Feminism is grounded in the belief that everyone, regardless of their gender identity, deserves to be treated with dignity by having their rights as humans respected.

Join Right to Equality in the movement to promote gender equality for all. You can stay up-to-date with our work by following us on social media (Instagram and Twitter) or signing up for our newsletter!

Check out Right to Equality’s previous writing on the need to support trans rights here and why radical feminism includes trans rights here!