From Rachel Hills’ profile on Caitlin Moran in Sunday Life, 7th August 2011:
“Part of the problem… is that we just don’t agree on what it [feminism] means anymore. ‘I understand what I mean by feminism, and all my girlfriends—my girl Vikings—understand it. But if you say it to someone like a man or a younger person, they wouldn’t really understand what you meant.’”
“‘I want to reclaim the phrase “strident feminist” in the same way the black community has reclaimed the word “nigger”,’ she writes. ‘“Go, my strident feminist! You work that male/female dialectic dichotomy,” I will shout at my friends in bars, while everyone nods at how edgy and real we are.’
“Why do labels matter? Isn’t it enough to just take on the ideas? ‘Saying, “I’m a feminist” is just the quickest, shortest way of saying, “Get out of my face. I am not going to take your bullshit,”’ Moran retorts.”
Recently, when asked in an interview with UK Harper’s Bazaar, Beyonce said she wanted to invent a new word for feminism, because she doesn’t feel it “necessary” to define whether she is one or not.
Why, in this day and age, do we still distance ourselves from the word “feminism”?
And it’s not just Beyonce.
In response to all this, Jezebel ran a contest to come up with “a catchy new word for feminism”, like Beyonce suggested she should do. Some suggestions were “FUCK PATRIARCHY”, “Flesh-Hungry Young Slutism” (seemingly appropriate given it has been the year of the SlutWalk, if you will), “Vaginist”, “Diva-is-a-female-version-of-a-hustla-ism” (how you like that, Beyonce?), but the one that came out on top was “Equalism” which, in my experience, is what young feminists today strive for.
Speaking of young feminists, I would probably only define a handful of my friends as this, and even they are hesitant to describe themselves this way.
One says she’s not a feminist because she wants to “cook for her boyfriend”. Since when did not cooking and feminism become mutually exclusive?
Another says he’s (yes, he’s) could never truly be a feminist because he doesn’t have a vagina, so therefore will never know what those who do have to go through on a daily basis in a patriarchal society, and have gone through for centuries in patriarchal societies.
I have another who, just by looking at her, screams feminism before she even opens her mouth. Yet sometimes, when she says things I morally disagree with, I think, “she’s not feminist enough”. (Abhorrent, I know, and something I strive not to think and say as a feminist. And, by my own admission, some might say I’m “not feminist enough” because of the way I talk and how I dress.)
It’s a far cry from Beyonce, Keri et al., who try to distance themselves from feminism, while young feminists (and old!) bicker amongst themselves about who’s more feminist! And it perfectly illustrates the discrepancies between what self-described feminists project onto the movement, and what lay, non-feminist Generation Y believes it to be about.
Camilla Peffer over at Girls Are Made From Pepsi writes:
“I think most women associate feminism with radicalism and the whole bra burning hulla-balloo. Which is RI-DUNK-U-LOUS. And a lot of people see the term feminist [as] biased towards females in the sense that the whole movement promotes this idea of women being better than men.”
Indeed, there is a far cry between the first wave suffragist movement, second wave “bra-burning” and the sexual revolution, and current third-wave feminism. Some would even say that we have passed third-wave feminism and are now living in a post-feminist society.
When I first started getting into feminism about two years ago, I subscribed to this notion. Now, having been exposed to all manner of blogs, academic articles, events etc. to put the sexism, discrimination and harassment I’ve experienced as a woman into perspective, I can see that we sure as hell aren’t living in a post-feminist world and that we still need feminism, perhaps more than ever with the rise of the Tea Party and Michele Bachmann and the closure of Planned Parenthoods in the U.S., the blatant harassment most women experience on the street and in their workplaces every day, the attacks on SlutWalk, and the atrocities facing Third World women, to name but a few.
Taking on these battles shouldn’t be seen as something “dirty”; it should be seen as something we can all get behind, if it leads to our daughters experiencing a world free from harassment and discrimination based on what genitals she possesses and what she looks like, no matter what part of the world she hails from.
Sadly, as Rachel Hills muses, “it can be a bit uncool to care. Feminism means caring and wanting to change things, ergo it makes people uncomfortable—especially people who are comfortable with the status quo.”
Are you comfortable with the status quo? Do you think feminism is still a dirty word?