[Cross-post] Why we should hang on to the word “feminism”

I originally posted this about a year and a half ago on the Feministing community blog, which I rarely visit anymore as the comments sections can be a bit gnarly among other reasons. Anyway, I still stand by a fair bit of what I wrote back then so thought I’d repost it up here as an example of the all-too-rare moments when I am actually capable of clear, linear thinking. Might give y’all a little bit of insight into my political leanings as well!

Let me preface this post by explaining a few things I believe to be true about feminism:

1. Feminism has many different definitions and means different things to different people. It is a very broad subject area.

2. Damn right it is. Feminism is arguably the oldest and most successful social justice movement in the world (it goes back much further than the suffragettes, y’know). Moreover, it pretty much touches every aspect of our lives. So it had bloody well better be a very broad subject area.

3. This is why people often refer to feminisms, not feminism. It is not monolithic.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, let me explain something about my particular feminism.

For me, the more my feminist consciousness grows and develops, the more strongly I believe that feminism is not just about women, it is a movement for men as well. I believe there are as many restrictions placed on man by the patriarchy as there are on women, and no doubt I will elaborate on this in a future post.

But now, on with my main argument: Why we should keep the word ‘feminist’.

There have been a few times where I’ve found myself in discussion with non-feminist friends and acquaintances of mine about feminism’s relevance in the world, and I have explained that I don’t really consider feminism nowadays to be about “equal rights” so much as about liberating people from restrictive gender roles. Therefore, it is just as relevant to men as it is to women. The typical response goes a little bit like this:

“Then why is it called ‘feminism’? Why don’t you just call it ‘humanism’ or ‘equalism’ or something? ‘Feminist’ implies it’s only about females by virtue of its very name.”

My problem with this is threefold.

1. The word ‘feminism is important because it gives our thoughts, actions and ideas a context.

– Feminism’s history is colourful, varied, fascinating and inspiring. Feminists today may have shifted their focus, but they (‘we’, I should say), are part of a long and rich tradition of fighting for gender equality. It is important to see our struggles as part of a bigger picture.
– Changing the word ‘feminism’ to something else would rob us of this history.
– Feminists (as well as people with a burgeoning feminist consciousness who do not yet ID as feminist) often feel a strong sense of isolation – sometimes it seems as though you’re the only one who notices that there’s anything wrong with the world.
– Knowing that there are others who feel the same way is very important in combating this isolation.
– As such, the word ‘feminism’ unites us under a common banner and gives focus and meaning to our thoughts, actions and ideas.

2. Feminism is traditionally about women, hence the name. Do you have a problem with that?

– However much I feel that feminism benefits everyone, sexism has throughout the course of history disproportionately hurt women.
– Moreover, although great strides have been made in terms of legal and social equality, the fact remains that pretty much every society in the world sees females as inferior.
– Although many feminisms (such as mine) focus to varying degrees on how to benefit men, we should honour our history by keeping the female-centric nature of the word in acknowledgment of the fact that women have been, and continue to be, more negatively affected by patriarchy than men. And we should never, EVER be ashamed of it.

3. People who advocate a rebranding of feminism to something more gender-neutral are ass-kissers.

– Whether you realise it or not, your unwillingness to align yourself with feminism may have something to do with the fact that it’s predominantly associated with women.
– There’s a stigma attached to anything seen as overly female. Think about it. Boys and men who want to do traditionally female stuff are seen as ‘cissies’, whereas girls and women who aspire to do traditionally male stuff are either lauded or seen as over-ambitious.
– As a result, a movement which unashamedly benefits women and fights for their place within society (even though, as I say, it helps men too) is ghettoized. It’s somehow not ‘worthy’ enough.
– Much as I hate to generalize, chances are if you’re a guy and you disassociate yourself from feminism you are to some extent afraid of being seen as being ‘pussy-whipped’. And if you’re a lady who does the same, you’re kissing the ass of the patriarchy in order to get a pat on the head. Of course, this only applies if you support the general aims of feminism in the first place; if you’re a right-wing misogynist ignore what I just said.

So there you have it. If you want to read a much better worded, better structured and more interesting piece on a similar theme, try Catherine Redfern’s ‘Feminists are Sexist‘. I promise you will be enlightened.

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7 responses

  1. What? Doth my eyes deceive me? Aideen making an argument to hold unto a tradition???? Grounded in history of all things?????

    Clearly I’m starting to wear off a little bit :p

    Or perhaps my ego is over-inflated, her argument is generally sound, I happen to agree with her generally, or the above are true in some inter-related dependencies.

    Although, I think for my part I would rather be a post-colonialist than a feminist because I do not think the history of feminism speaks well of the challenges of exploiting the global poor… and I tend to be a little too generalist (and equally politically averse) to be a Marxist… And we have yet to coin a really, really, really, really, really good word to declare “Stop exploiting the poor and disadvantaged!!!!” other than “Christian” …yet the only label that really captures what it is that we are to be all about has been terribly disfigured by people who claimed to manifest it. Really, few things have been so radically written than to assert that there is neither male nor female, slave nor free, Greek nor Gentile and that all bear the image and likeness of Christ…. Lord have mercy! Holy Saint Paul, pray for us that we may come into and live within the full meaning of those words!

  2. Pingback: On hiatus til October « head into the heavens

  3. Pingback: Welcome! | head into the heavens

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