I said in my post on the third wave that I would discuss my feelings on the word feminism later. Well, I've decided it's time to bit that bullet, much as it's a topic that makes me squirm a little in my combat boots.

I identify as a feminist because it's the only word I have in my vocabulary to describe a person who devotes a lot of time to creating equality between the sexes. I do not like the word "feminist." I don't like the word "feminism." The whole concept bothers me.

It's not because I think women haven't been oppressed by the patriarchy. I believe that an important part of making men and women equal is empowering women. I am not afraid of the stigma the label carries; I do adopt it and I'm ready and raring to fight against that stigma at any opportunity.

However. I do not think that the empowerment of women--the "fem" in the word "feminism"--is the be all and end all of my personal quest for sex equality. I do see ways in which society's gender roles oppress men. Granted, in some ways they're oppressing themselves, but that doesn't make it any less real or any less of a problem. I strongly believe that until men are willing to--hell, until they really, really want to--throw off their gender roles, the patriarchy will not go away.

I see my mission as breaking down gender roles and creating personal freedom for people regardless of their sex (or class, or race, or religion). I do not feel that the word "feminism" adequately describes this mission. It is too focused on women. Its popularly understood meaning has become too narrow for people to understand what I actually mean when I say I'm a feminist.

I've noticed that the backlash against feminism--as a word and a movement--has meant that men are now openly opposing empowerment of women without negative PR consequences. They can claim that we feminists are trying to take over the world with our schemes for female empowerment, and nobody fights them very hard when they take steps to push women back down. They're just ensuring equality, making sure those women don't get too uppity.

We need to stop this. We need a new way of describing ourselves. If we construct a new term carefully enough, we might be able to get away from some of the negative connotations our opponents have managed to give to "feminism." I think the whole cause could benefit from this: a new label might bring a breath of fresh air to what really is a fragmented and feuding movement.

I want a word that connotes equality, not just female empowerment. I want a word that doesn't exclude half the population of the world simply through its root meanings. I love male feminists, and it would be nice to have a word that included them instead of making their maleness an oxymoron.

I want a word that nobody can argue with because it simply stands for a person who seeks equality. I want us to be crafty and smart in choosing this word, so that when we go up to people and ask "Are you a _____?" they have to say yes or sound like a douchebag. We can be like the Right: who wants to say no to "Do you support the troops?"

I haven't found this word yet. If I'd found one that I liked, that actually described what I'm working towards, I'd be screaming it from rooftops. When I do find it, believe me, I'll let you know.


Michael Halila said...


I blogsurfed my way here and found you blogging on the same topic as I just was...

In my opinion, the problem is that these days feminism = politicized left-leaning university radical feminism, and as long as this is the case, it's no wonder feminism doesn't seem to mean what we want it to mean.

If you do think of a better word, let me know too! I agree with you 100% about men beng needed to throw off patriarchy as well. I personally believe patriarhy oppresses men as well, they just don't understand it. As soon as I get my big essay on that together, I'll post it.

I enjoyed reading your blog!

Anonymous said...

I think "humanism" might be a good candidate- if that word wasn't already corrupted by people in the (a)theism debate.


papercutsandplastic said...

Yeah, I'd like humanism if it didn't already have too many connotations. I don't think it would work to appropriate it, though, because it's already been used to define several different movements.

Oh, linguistics, how you confound me.

Adamgv said...

Women need to be empowered more in general. They need to use their looks for good rather than use them for personal selfish persuits. When you get a moment check out:


Myca said...

Yeah, I think the dynamics around this tend to be really messed up, since the sort of natural folks to fight for expanded male gender roles would be MRA's (Men's Rights Activists), and instead they sort of have ended up being primarily anti-feminists.

Which is unfortunate.

It would be nice for TPHMT (The Patriarchy Hurts Men Too) to be a source of discussion rather than derision. I'm actually writing a sort of related post on this at the moment.


On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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