It’s hard to imagine another word that invokes such strikingly different connotations than the word feminism. For many (most) on the left, the word feminism is a categorically positive reference to the larger fight for women’s rights and the overall push for equal rights and opportunity for women alongside men.

For many on the right (not all), feminism has become a categorically negative reference to a vocal and aggressive minority of women pushing everyone else to allow them to ‘act the same as men.’ For some conservatives, the feminist movement disregards unique and special aspects of womanhood in favor for a universalized and androgenous view of gender. In addition to overlooking the distinctive female elements, feminism is seen as eradicating and even trying to destroy the distinctive and unique complementarity between men and women - as well as the traditional family.  

For those especially attuned to the historic injustices of women - and the ongoing violence women face in the world - resistance to the feminist causes is quizzical and curious at best - dangerous at worst.  For conservatives who prize the role of parents - fathers and mothers - above almost all else - they look sadly at a ‘women’s movement’ that takes as a central platform the right to abort one’s own child.   

Even as the word feminism is gaining broader acceptance in mainstream culture, it is also rapidly evolving and changing to reflect the diverse viewpoints and experiences of the women who claim it, with distinctions increasingly being made between egalitarian feminism and maternal feminism.  Egalitarian feminism represents what some would consider the more extreme liberal wing of feminism and is unified around the idea of dismantling male oppression.  And what is called ‘maternal feminism’ represents a more moderate approach that seeks to engage both men and women in women’s issues, and articulate a feminist position which supports faith, family, and motherhood.  Moderate and conservative women are increasingly identifying themselves with the maternal feminist movement.

Although there have always been huge schisms within feminism, liberal feminists have been loath to acknowledge them - especially when moderate and conservative women began actively advocating to “take back” the word for their own causes.