Origins of feminism
Feminism began with the idea that women should have the same civil or human rights as men without regard to their sex, such as the right to vote, or the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" cited in the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
Currently, in areas where such rights are still denied to women, these goals remain very relevant; feminists there work to shed light on situations where women are legally beaten by their husbands, or forced into marriages, or murdered as part of "honor-killings," in which the woman is seen to have shamed her family for acts that in other areas might be considered minor transgressions or even blameless (e.g., talking to another man, kissing the wrong boy when still a child, and even being raped).
Other areas of concern for feminists are securing equal rights in spheres such as education and employment, so that women can have the right to attempt anything a man can — not to be "the same" as far as what they can do, but "the same" as far as what the law or society allows them to try to do.
Types of feminism
Ideologically, most variants of feminism tend to make attempts to work within a particular established political or religious movement. For example, liberalism, anarchism, socialism, Marxism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all have corresponding feminist movements. There are also specific types of feminism for different ethnic groups, focusing on the experiences of women in those particular groups.
A very small branch of feminism, radical feminism, suggests that the human history of patriarchy is responsible for all ills done not only to women, but to society as a whole. For these feminists, most, if not all of the long standing social traditions, the world's religions (or even religion in a general sense), and traditional institutions (such as marriage and families) must be either entirely re-evaluated or even done away with before equality among people can ever be achieved. This branch is often exaggerated in discussions of feminism, but is no more influential on more traditional "feminism" than the KKK is on traditional Christianity.
Biblical view of gender roles
Verses supporting equality
There are some verses in the Bible that would tend to support feminism in principle, such as:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.— Galatians 3:28
The Quakers in particular have been principled supporters of gender equality; many early feminists were Quakers, e.g, Alice Paul, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott (who was a Quaker minister).
Verses opposing equivalence
On the other hand, there are a number verses that some argue oppose equality, although these are usually limited to husband/wife relationships and opposing equivalence (that is, they recognise that men and women have different roles) or their meaning is disputed.
- The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man.— 1 Corinthians 11:3
- For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.— 1 Corinthians 11:8-9
- Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.— Ephesians 5:22-24
- Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.— 1 Timothy 2:11-12