Tag Archives: words

My private feminism

28 Feb

I’m re-posting this from Tumblr. What are your feelings on separating a name from a movement?

“By definition, feminism is ‘the principle that women should have economic and social rights equal to those of men’. Given this definition, a Harris poll recently found that 71 per cent of all women in the US identify themselves as feminists. The most common comment from young women who are asked about feminism is ‘I’m not a feminist but…’ The ‘but’ usually goes on to include a laundry list to the effect of-‘I want equal pay; I want access to better jobs; I want to have the right to choose whether to have an abortion’. Essentially, these women aren’t ready to join a feminist movement of women and men because of the stereotypes attached to the label but they want to reap the benefits from it.”

The F- Word, by Amy Richards and Julie Parker (via sallydraperbitch)

If people are paranoid about the word, but are ok with the concept, would it be possible to just ditch the word and keep the concept?  Once a word has negative connotations attached to it, they become very hard to shake.  Would it be possible to create routes of action that are feminist in nature but not in name?  Could that make them more subversive, to remove the most recognizable and objectionable aspect, but leave everything else in place?  I mean, the Girl Scouts is not marketed as a feminist organization, but from all the women that were once girl scouts that i know, it certainly was a feminist organization.  Is the word more important than the concept?

Just something I’ve been thinking about.

(via themundaneworld)

[The following is my response.]

The word isn’t more important than the concept. The word is the concept. The word feminism encompasses a history that includes the 19th Amendment, Roe v. Wade, as well as the ongoing fights for autonomy over our own bodies, equal pay for equal work, etc. To sever the idea from the word would be to deprive it of over 100 years of history. And for what? Because when people hear the word “feminist”, they automatically picture a bunch of angry, unshaven man-haters? So. Fucking. What. There will always be people who are uncomfortable with change, who are narrow-minded and bigoted and scared. Changing the word “feminism” to something else in an effort to get scared, narrow-minded bigots on board seems wildly counter-productive.

As far as the but-feminists (“I’m not a feminist, but…”), they’ll get on board or they won’t. The goal of feminism is equality and change, not recruitment. Yes, I personally find it frustrating when people (especially women) try to distance themselves from the term “feminist”. However, I have to remind myself that part of this big crazy idea that I so fervently believe in is choice. And that includes the choice of what to label yourself. The Freedom Riders didn’t come back from Mississippi and proclaim that equality would only be extended to those who were on the buses. Susan B. Anthony didn’t just want votes for one generation of women. Harvey Milk didn’t believe that gay rights should stop at the San Francisco city limits. Just because you don’t identify as a feminist, that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve the same rights that we’ve been fighting for.

So, what if, instead of trying to change the word “feminism”, we tried to foster a culture that has a better handle on what it actually means? What if, instead of bending to the societal pressure that feminism is somehow gauche, we just ask about it? “Oh hey, you’re a feminist? What does that mean?” I guarantee you’ll get a different answer every time. Words have power. So why should we give ours up?