The Dalai Lama offered a light-hearted but very telling comment at the closing ceremonies of the International Freedom Award. He said, "I call myself a feminist. Isn't that what you call someone who fights for women's rights?"
It really is just as simple as that. I think people get locked into hyperbolic images of feminists as radical women who do all sorts of zany and stereotypical things. (Not that feminists shouldn't do those things, by all means, burn some bras!) But in the end, the Dalai Lama has given the world a definition: a feminist is one who fights (and that term need not have a pejorative connotation-remember it's coming from a Buddhist!) for women's rights.
People opposed women's suffrage, de-segregation, interracial marriage, women in the workforce, decriminalization of homo-genital acts and all that business has gone by the wayside. One day we'll shatter the glass ceiling, and provide universal reproductive health care (universal health care, in general, would be wonderful), and allow gay people to marry because, deep down, everyone understands that equality is reasonable and laudable.
No one wants to be denigrated, cast down, spit upon, excluded, or victimized. In talking with people, we can stay away from contentious debates about particulars of controversial issues and understand that we all value freedom and equality as central tenets of what defines the United States and provides the direction we'd like to set for the world. We can start that journey in our own back yard by never discriminating, never disparaging, and always valuing love and compassion.
Never doubt that a committed group of thoughtful people can make a world of difference in the lives of those who can't always speak for themselves.