Feminism | Then & Now

Written by

Lay Sion Ng @ Issues Under Tissues

Chinese Malaysian, American Literature at Osaka University, Japan.

 

To Feminism or Not to Feminism: Problems with the word “feminism”

 

Recently, the word “feminism” has become a hot topic as many find it implies more negative connotations than positive. Those who view the word “feminism” as sexism towards men or male subjugation, call for changing the word “feminism” to something else such as “equalism” as they do not believe feminism accurately represents gender equality. However, some argue that the word “feminism” need not be renamed as it will lose its meaning once the name is changed. A further explanation will be discussed in the following paragraphs.

People who strike for changing the word “feminism” suggest that words carry incredible power—the word “fem” implies supremacy of women over men. Changing the name “feminism” to “equalism” or “gender equality” or even “humanism” will reduce the confusion toward the concept of feminism in general. It seems like there are a lot of negative connotations attached to the word “feminism” nowadays as some assume that it is similar to racism because it relates only to specific interest groups.

Regarding the viewpoint above, Jude Kelly, one of Britain’s leading feminists, claims that “Feminism, like Suffragettes, is a word that is associated with struggle, and therefore it is associated with conflict” (The Telegraph, 2014). Indeed, Feminism is a movement focused on advocating gender equality. Feminism not only attempts to improve the social position of women, it also seeks to “bring justice to people who have been discriminated against in terms of their race, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, and much more” (Fembot, 2015). Similarly, if men were the ones who had been oppressed in the past, the word we use today would have been “manism” or “masculism”.

Nevertheless, some suggest changing the word “feminism” to “humanism” as it seems to be able to solve the conflict between male and female. According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online (2016), humanism means

 

“A variety of ethical theory and practice characterized by a stress on human rationality and capacity for free thought and moral action, and a rejection of theistic religion and the supernatural in favour of secular and naturalistic views of humanity and the universe.”

 

From the description above we understand that humanism is something totally different than advocating for human rights. It concentrates on “how wonderful the human mind is and how humans need not rely on an invisible entity to conduct their lives” (Fembot, 2015). On the other hand, feminism is defined as “advocacy of equality of the sexes and the establishment of the political, social, and economic rights of the female sex” (2016) in the OED. In other words, feminism can be viewed as a space in which many voices are gathered and heard regardless of class, race and gender. Therefore, it is clear that changing “feminism” to “humanism” is a needless argument because they are two different ideas.

To conclude, choosing a new name for the gender equality movement would imply that feminism is somehow wrong, shameful and negative. A new name will not get us any closer to gender equality, and would lessen the contribution of those feminists who came before us. Fighting for changing the name of the gender equality movement is meaningless. Fighting for gender equality is not. Why should we not focus on the latter?

 

References:

Daubney, Martin. “Why men have a problem with the word ‘feminism’.” The Telegraph. 11 Nov. 2014. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.

Oxford English Dictionary. “feminism”, “humanism”. Oxford UP. 2016. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.

Rendon, Katherine. “So, If It’s For Everyone, Why Is It Called “Feminism?” Fembot. 6 Feb. 2015. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.

 

Text © Lay Sion Ng

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