What is a feminist? There are probably as many answers to this question as there are women who identify themselves as feminists. I will point out things you already know as well as things you may not know, but my hope is to cultivate understanding. Therefore, I welcome comments. The meaning of the term "feminist" is lived out, publicly and privately. Here are a few of the ways I live as a feminist: I vote in ways that benefit women, I started a blog (public). When I married, I did not change my last name (private and public). When I read a book with my daughter, we reflect together on what the story had to say about the women in it (private). In my work in the church, I preach and teach in ways that recover the history of women in the church (public). Another feminist may have different experiences. I have a friend who says she wants to work soon after her children are born, and have her partner stay home to nurture the kids. I am not currently working, while I breastfeed and nurture an infant. We are both feminists. No two feminists are alike. There is no doctrine to separate the heretics from the orthodox .
You are probably familiar with the negative connotations associated with the word feminist. There is a dismissive quality in thinking that feminists are simply male-bashers, as if they did not have a reason to bash men. There is a knowing smirk which accompanies the thought that they are probably lesbians, which is untrue. The word "feminazi" is defined in Urban Dictionary as 1) a feminist who refuses to subscribe to logic, 2) a manhater, 3) dislikes all men because of the societal pressures women face, but is unwilling to concede to the fact that the sentiment is perpetuated by both sexes, 4) aggressive towards men because of their sex
5) promoter of reverse sexual discrimination; often feels her sexism is justified because of the attrocities endured by women 6) does not adhere to the philosophy of feminism, but instead promotes a simplified, inaccurate, uniformed view. In order to compare anyone to Nazis, they must first have all of the power. Women still must fight for any power in our society, as they continue to earn less than men when performing the same work (http://usgovinfo.about.com/cs/censusstatistic/a/womenspay.htm).
Another negative connotation of the word feminist, is due to the albeit justified critique that feminists have been predominantly privileged, white, upper-class women, and the term is connected with their experience. The experiences of women who are not white or rich are different. Therefore, black women have gathered under the term "womanist." Latinas have articulated yet another experience; they have gathered under the term "mujerista." There are many articulations of women's experiences of male dominance and oppression.