“Oh no, I’m not a feminist.” My friend said this whilst looking at me as if I had accused of accused her of a throwing a cat into a wheelie bin. Just to back up her point she muttered ‘oh no, no’ a few more times before turning back to the website she had been wanting to show me.
After a bit of digging, and a good few cups of tea, I got her to clarify her stance on women’s rights. She was definitely not a feminist – but she wanted equal rights, respect and pay. Glad we cleared that up.
Women’s rights, god forbid we call it feminism, has been having a moment lately. We’ve had #EqualPayDay trending on Twitter to highlight inequalities, we’ve had a viral videos raising the issue of street-harassment from dedicated websites such as Everyday Sexism to mainstream sites including your Facebook newsfeed. Even as I type this Channel 4 is discussing the feminist triumph of the cancelling of ‘comedian’ – and I use that word in its loosest definition- Dapper Laugh’s ITV show.
So why do people still fear the words ‘feminism’ and ‘feminist’? Why are they still labels that nobody wants? Most labels people avoid like the plague have reasons. Rascist. Prejudice. Nobody wants to be known as that, completely understandable when you consider their meanings. Yet feminism is defined as:
And just in case you aren’t sure, feminism is defined as:
So nobody wants to advocate women’s rights? I don’t believe that, yes there are still problems women face, yet society’s view on women is almost always improving. The odd time it slips back into objectifying or degrading women, people speak up, point it out and the whole thing is dammed (remember Robin Thicke?)
I think one of the problems is the connotations of the word. If you claim to be a feminist, people –inexplicitly- imagine you as hairy. Its’ weird, depressing, but true. You also probably hate men and are secretly gay. Because you obviously cannot want to be equal with a man, without hating him, right? And don’t forget the bitchiness. A feminist is nothing if not a bitch.
I’m sorry but what?
Yes, there are arguments and sects within feminism, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bitchy area. Some believe wearing make-up is demeaning, some think that red lipstick and killer heels are the ultimate empowering outfit. But people need to stop making a big deal over these factions; they all agree on the main point; equal rights should be enjoyed by all. It’s just like some people enjoy reality TV, while other reach for the remote as soon as the Geordie guy announces “Its day four in the Big Brother House.” They have different likes, but they all watch TV.
Another disturbing term that has erupted into the English language is ‘Feminazi’ it’s become so well used, even Google has decided to add it to its list of definitions.
If a women makes a vaguely feminist reference, she can be easily dismissed as a Feminazi, especially on social media sites. As soon as that name is spoken, her point, any future points and herself is robbed of validity.
So what can we do about these words? How can we reclaim them?
There have seem been small advances. Until the sweatshop scandal broke, the ‘This is What a Feminist Looks Like’ T-shirts were a success. Rizzle Kicks have tweeted to show their dislike of degrading words for women, and called out the music industry.
I honestly don’t know how to reclaim these words. And I don’t believe it is something that can be done overnight, over a few months, or even a year.
Perhaps though, if more people use the words for their correct meaning, the tide will eventually turn.
So let’s start now.
My names Rebecca, and I’m a feminist.