What Is the Feminist Agenda?

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k

A broad term encompassing a range of perspectives and objectives and sometimes used as a slur by antifeminists, the feminist agenda describes the purpose of feminism and its associated actions and causes, as well as the issues involved within it and the methods by which feminist women and men are attempting to achieve their goals.

What exactly does the term mean, and which main issues drive the feminist agenda? Here is what you should know.

What is the feminist agenda?

In different forms, feminism has existed for centuries — perhaps even forever. The issues that have been the focal points of the feminist movement have evolved and changed over time.

It can be difficult to define “the” feminist agenda since feminism itself is the intersection of many thoughts and ideas. Ultimately, feminists seek to promote gender and sex equality and inclusion, live in a society where the voices of all genders are considered and respected and find fulfillment of their basic needs and rights.

The feminist agenda, therefore, works toward the ultimate goal of realizing and effecting these tenants and ending gender discrimination. The vehicles by which women and men work toward this objective, however, vary. Many “sub” feminist agendas exist, often in harmony with one another.

The Feminist Agenda: Key Issues

Depending on whom you ask, the feminist agenda should focus on one particular issue or many. Some feminists see certain problems and rights as central to the advancement of women. Below are some of the important issues facing women and feminism in today’s world and how advocates are seeking to address them.

• Reproductive Rights

In the United States, the current makeup of the Supreme Court and state bills that challenge reproductive rights present a real danger to women across the country. Because of this threat, many feminists are focusing on preserving and protecting Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion across the land. Despite this law, many states have passed legislation restricting access to and limiting abortion. 

Dangers to and Protections for Reproductive Rights

For example, in April 2019, Alabama’s House of Representatives passed a bill that would criminalize all abortions except in cases that present a danger to a pregnant woman. It would also make performing an abortion a Class C felony for the doctor involved. Alabama legislators intend for the bill to make its way up to the Supreme Court to present a challenge to Roe v. Wade.

Because of this and other dangers to reproductive rights, some women’s rights activists are making the issue the central point of the feminist agenda, attempting to protect the right to choose at the state level and promoting the safety and health of all women. For example, notably, in 2017, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner made Illinois the first state to lift the Federal ban on abortion coverage for women enrolled in Medicaid.

• Job and Economic Equality

The Equal Pay Act dictates that women and men must receive equal wages for performing the same (not necessarily identical) work for the same employer. Despite this, women currently earn an overall median pay of 80.7 cents to men’s dollar. 

The disparity in income and career opportunities is an important and central issue for many feminists, who are fighting to eliminate the wage gap. This is happening within companies, some of which are seeking to eliminate discrimination in the workplace by developing diversity initiatives and enforcing fair hiring practices, at the industry level, and through legislation.

For instance, in January 2019, Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced supplemental legislation that would prohibit retaliation against employees who discuss salaries and limit the use of wage history in the hiring process. The thinking is that women would be placed at an unfair disadvantage and be subject to wage discrimination if they were required to disclose information about their previous salaries. Some states, such as Massachusetts, and cities including New York and Philadelphia already have similar laws in place.

• Parental Leave

Currently, the United States does not mandate paid leave for parents, although some states do. While some companies offer generous packages to mothers and fathers alike, an overwhelming majority of employees are not eligible for paid maternity or paternity leave. 

This is an issue for women and men alike, of course, since all parents need time to adjust and bond with their children. Women who give birth, however, also require time for their bodies to recover. The U.S.’s laws provide a stark contrast to those of most other developed nations, and many feminists see this issue is central to the agenda.

• Combatting Violence Against Women

The Violence Against Women Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. It was renewed in 2000, 2005, and 2013, and temporarily reinstated in January 2019, only to expire again in February 2019. The House of Representatives passed a bill for reauthorization in April 2019. 

The Act initially provided funding to be used toward investigating, prosecuting and instituting mandatory restitution for convictions of violence against women, as well as created an Office on the Violence Against Women, part of the Department of Justice. It represents an important step in combatting violent crimes against women.

Still, women routinely experience violent acts and harassment. For many, this is central to the feminist agenda, as evidenced by the still ongoing Me Too movement

Violence Against Women Internationally

Women experience extreme violence in the U.S., and this type of crime is all too common in many countries around the world. Honor killings, genital mutilation, human trafficking, child marriage, rape and other violent acts are urgent problems that need to be addressed. Organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) seek to spread awareness about and reduce the prevalence of violence against women around the world through initiatives, education and activism.

The Feminist Agenda: Promoting Empowerment

These are just some of the issues central to the feminist agenda. Around the world, women and men are speaking up for gender equality and rights through efforts including demonstrations and marches, educating others, spreading awareness and more. Ultimately, the feminist agenda is about empowerment, equality, knowledge and rights.

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