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Back in the 1980's or 1990's there was a major public opinion poll asking women what they thought about "women's issues".  They asked women whether they considered themselves to be feminists.  Most said No.  They asked the same women whether they felt women should be able to work the same jobs as men.  Most said Yes.  They were asked if they felt women should get the same pay for the same job.  Most said Yes.  They were asked whether they supported other kinds of women's rights.  Most said Yes.

Most women were on the side of women's rights on the particular issues, but they didn't label themselves as "feminists".  That's an essential lesson.

If the average woman's introduction to women's rights had been activists pushing the importance of being "feminists", studying feminist theory, etc., fewer of those women would probably have been saying "yes" on those issues.  Sure, those of us who've reached a certain level of interest, involvement and/or understanding should be trying to learn more about the underlying factors.  At the same time, it's crucial to try to reach out to as many people as possible with social change messages.  Most of them aren't at that studying level yet.  It's not time for most of them to distinguish between feminism, womanism and femalism - or to choose which (if any) to label themselves.  It will take more thought to balance offering the deeper view to those who are ready, and avoiding too much emphasis on it to those who aren't ready.  However, it will help make our work more effective.

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