Thursday, August 18, 2011

Feminism: Need a new word?

I was reading an article today on that really caught my eye. When I teach the feminism comes up in most, if not all, of my classes at some point.  I remember when I labeled myself as a feminist one time someone asked me how I planned to be a mother and a career-oriented woman. I responded that the two were certainly not mutually exclusive in my mind. What comes to mind for you when you hear the word feminist? Are you one? Are you proud or do you identify as a feminist in only certain situations or around certain people? These questions are not to lay on a guilt trip, but truly to help start a dialogue around this word and what it means to different people. I often ask my students whether men can be feminists. Usually they all jump to yes (surprising perhaps). But, I can see some of them thinking more and more about it. I can see that this "yes" response doesn't sit perfectly with everyone. Can a man be a feminist?

For me a feminist is someone who supports equal rights between men and women. There is no set appearance, sexuality, education level, religion or any other social characteristic that dictates whether someone is a feminist or not. Take a look at this video:

What do you think? Surprised by any of the responses? Maybe not surprised, but disappointed. Yes. I am.

So, this article I read, it was all about renaming feminism. Making it more socially acceptable. Softer. Jezebel solicited suggestions and the following list was created:

Flesh-Hungry Young Slutism
Lieutenant Ripleyism
Reallyism (as in "really? In 2011 that's acceptable behavior or thought to have about women? really?")
Equality for everyone regardless of their genitals
Equaligasm (an adherent of equaligasm would be an equaligasmitist)
FYATPHPHYRIO? (Pronounced Fee-Aht-Fee-Ree-Oh): Fuck You And The Privileged Heterosexist Patriarchal Horse You Rode In On
GEM (Gender Equality Movement)
Decency (feminists are "decentists.")
and special mention to [a symbol of our choosing]
But the winner?


I'm not going to lie, some of these suggestions are funny. Some I don't like. And some, well, are very bluntly correct, in my opinion.

So what is wrong with feminism? Do we really need a new word? Is there harm in using a new word? Won't it too just be labeled and negatively sanctioned?

I think this topic is important because we're picking on a word. A word that symbolizes equality between sexes. Is it really a battle against a word, or is it really a battle against equality, which our society is scapegoating a word?

If you'd like to read the jezebel article, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Personally, I like the word feminism. I like it because when it makes me uncomfortable, you get a chance to ask why, clarify misunderstandings about what it means, and why the idea of strong, independent, equal females is upsetting to some.

    I define feminism in the same way you do, as being all about equality between men and women. Not to say that there are no differences, but to say that I should not be denied basic rights and respect simply because of the genetalia I was gifted with. I think most feminists agree with the idea that feminism is about equality, and that's probably why Equalism won. I suspect, however, that use of this word would then have people in a tizzy about how feminists are communists and want everything handed to them (clearly not true, but words will be twisted).

    My favorite from the list? "Fuck You And The Privileged Heterosexist Patriarchal Horse You Rode In On." And that's because it adequately describes my EXTREME frustration, which sometimes turns into anger, at the fact that really, in 2011 it's still ok to pretend women aren't worth anything, really? Of course, this doesn't help our reputation...

    (oh, and I married a feminist. so I do believe that men can be feminists. They just sometimes don't completely understand)