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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

In defense of the word 'feminist'

In my first post, I wrote about the negative stigma attached to feminism. But it's recently become clear to me how often people have problems with the actual word itself, sometimes more so than its meaning. The label "feminist" really seems to rub people the wrong way -- so much so that replacements are often used that don't mean the same thing at all. 

In a recent class discussion about feminism, a classmate brought up that he instead considered himself an equalist. Then, at a panel I was at the other day some people said they would rather consider themselves the somewhat loftier label of a humanist. 

What's the big deal, y'all? First of all, humanism is a completely different movement. It's by no means a fight for equal rights but a broad philosophy that espouses humans power to give their own meaning to life. Equalism, I'm guessing, is just a farther-reaching word for a belief in equality for all. 

Therefore, these words should never be replacements for feminism because they are inherently different. They don't focus on the real issue at stake — that women have a history of being oppressed and disenfranchised, which continues today. The 'fem' in feminism addresses this, because working toward gender equality is overwhelmingly working toward further rights for women. 

I get that some people don't like the word because they don't think women's rights deserve a special movement or label anymore. They want a more inclusive word. Here's my take: Maybe in 500 years, the estimate of time it will take before women and men will be equally represented in government, we can take on a different label. But for now, we still need it. Below is some evidence in the form of a rundown of news events that occurred this week:

  • Because we're not allowed to say the word "uterus" on the House floor in our very own Florida, apparently, at least according to state Republicans who deemed it inappropriate for Rep. Scott Randolph to use such a term. "I think it's a sad commentary about what we think about sex education in the state," Randolph said. 

  • Because college campus administrations such as Yale still have problems dealing with sexual harassment and assault, which has resulted in a "hostile environment" and a Title IX complaint that the university is now responding to. (Side note: Today is the first day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.)

  • Because in Bangladesh, a 14-year-old girl was sentenced to 101 lashes after being raped and wrongly accused of adultery. She later died at the hospital. According to the UN, domestic violence, rape and other violence is common because of the country's "entrenched patriarchal system."

Last year around this time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed to get women's rights recognized as a security issue instead of a sideline issue. She said there was a direct relationship between the treatment of women and the status of a government. By standing up for women we "enhance our own security." In the same way, when speaking of gender equality, we shouldn't be afraid of the feminist label. Yes, feminism does tend to place more attention on women's rights, but we all can benefit from it. 

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