This is nice. I ask a question and the internet answers. Well, Rachel Hills, on the other side of the world, answers.
A feminist, in my view, is a person interested in the politics of being female (my personal interest is in the politics of gender, but I’m willing to let people with an interest in women only slide here); someone who believes in gender equality and pursues policies and philosophies with that end in mind.
Her war-starting, union-busting proclivities aside, Thatcher wasn’t a feminist for the simple reason that she had no interest in the politics of gender, little interest in pursuing policies with equality (of outcome or opportunity) in mind, and as far as I’ve read, little interest in the structural factors that contribute to inequality of opportunity or outcome. Not to mention that she notoriously said that she “owed nothing to women’s lib”.
But can other conservative or religious women call themselves feminists? Sure – if they believe that the policies they’re pursuing are the path to gender equality. And note well: that doesn’t mean you have to like them, or agree with them on everything (or anything, for that matter).
There are plenty of issues I disagree with other feminists on. I disagree with Germaine Greer on trans people. I disagree with Naomi Wolf’s handling of the Julian Assange sexual assault case. I disagree with the woman I met at the Feminism In London conference who basically said that all men were rapists. Equally, there are left wing feminists who I think privately engage in ways that are destructive to “the movement”, despite agreeing with the views they put out into the public arena. Just as the left don’t have a monopoly on feminism, the right don’t have a monopoly on crappy politics.
Yay for diversity in feminism. Yes, for interest in the politics of gender, and interest in equality, however one may go about pursuing that interest.