Brush up on your feminist terminology by taking a gander through these terms. We have mentioned all of these in the passing, so here is your definitive guide to some hot topic terms with helpful examples.
Feminism: The belief that men and women inherently deserve the same rights, opportunities and freedoms. A feminist is someone who fights for these equal rights.
Feminism believes that men and women should have the right to vote, and that their respective votes would hold the exact same amount of weight and power.
Intersectionality: The theory that the overlap of various social identities, such as race, gender, sexuality and class contribute to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual.
White women in America earned the right to vote in the early 1900’s, but women of colour did not earn the right to vote in America until the 1960’s. While the white suffragettes experienced oppression because they were women, other’s experienced oppression twofold because they were not only women but also a POC.
White Feminism: A set of beliefs that allows for the exclusion of issues that specifically affect women of color; a “one size-fits all” feminism, where middle class white women are the mold that others must fit.
When white people embrace feminism, they often neglect to consider or advocate for the ways in which POC need feminism. White feminism is an immature, ethnocentric stream of feminism. Feminism is about equality for everyone, not just white people.
POC: Stands for “Person of Colour.” Used in academia as a way to refer to people who are not Caucasian. Typically used when discussing how POC are viewed as less valuable in a society that glorifies whiteness.
POC can be a divisive term because it makes it sound like white is normal, and every other race is “other.” POC covers many different people, who should not be lumped together. However, for right now, POC is considered the acceptable term within academia.
Oppression: Prolonged cruel or unjust treatment under someone or something's authority.
In the southern states Africans were used as slaves for many years. Despite slavery being abolished, many negative attitudes are still held towards African Americans. The African American community continues to be oppressed by a society that views them as less important, valuable, intelligent and capable of good than a white man.
Racism: A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race; racial prejudice or discrimination
There is a difference between being proud of your heritage and being proud of the colour of your skin. Ali is proud to come from a long line of strong German woman, but she does not consider herself better than others because her skin is white.
Cultural Appropriation: When members of a dominant or privileged group exploit the culture of a marginalized group, often without understanding the latter’s history, experience, or traditions.
It’s Coachella season, so a great example is when people wear Native American headdresses to festivals because it’s so “bo-ho and cute.” The feathers in a headdress are incredibly significant in Native American cultures, so to wear it so flippantly is blatant disrespect. Other people’s culture is not a fashion statement.
Privilege: A right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.
As a member of a gym, Ali enjoys the ability to use their showers, pool and steam rooms. These facilities are not open to the general public. Ali pays for the privilege of having access to them, and she is privileged in her ability to afford this luxury. For a great discussion of Privilege, check out Episode 3 of Dax Shepard’s podcast, ArmChair Expert, where he interviews Joy Bryant.
White Privilege: The rights, immunities and benefits that people with white skin are automatically granted in a society that values individuals based on their whiteness.
In school, Ali never had to actively seek out literature that represented her. The stories she read predominantly featured the human experience as it was for her. For POC, this is rarely the case. There’s all sorts of various types of privilege, such as: heterosexual privilege, able-bodied privilege, education privilege, etc.
Matriarchy: A system of governance in which women exclusively hold power at the expense of the rights, opportunities and freedoms of men.
Rabbits are Matriarchal, which means that the family and social structures between rabbits are led by the females. Females will often assert their dominance by mounting the male rabbit and forcing him to submit to her.
Misandry: Hatred, dislike, or mistrust of men. The belief that men are less-than and the action of treating them as less-than.
Many of the extremists that the right pegs as “femi-nazi’s” are misandrists. They believe that in order for women to rise up, men must be annihilated. They are NOT FEMINISTS.
Patriarchy: A system of governance in which men exclusively hold power at the expense of the rights, opportunities and freedoms of women.
In many churches, women cannot sit on an elders board. They can attend the meetings if their husbands are on the board, but they are not allowed to voice their opinion, pray or vote. These elder boards are patriarchal, which makes these churches as a whole patriarchal.
Misogyny: Hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women. The belief that women are less-than and the action of treating them as less-than.
Many serial killers with abusive mothers wound up targeting women, because their experience with the primary woman in their life was so negative. A woman was the monster under their bed at night, so they took it out on other women. They would be extreme examples of misogynists.
Internalized Misogyny: The involuntary internalization by women of the sexist messages that are present in their societies and culture; the way in which women reinforce sexism by utilizing and relaying sexist messages that they’ve internalized.
When women judge other women for flirting with men, they are expressing internalized misogyny. Women are taught to be coy and chaste, which is a patriarchal idea since men are not held to the same standard. When we judge women for being flirtatious, we are reinforcing these sexist standards.
Sexism: Attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of gender roles.
Baby boy clothes are blue, baby girl clothes are pink. Toy companies are the biggest culprits in promoting sexism, which is especially important to change since the formative years are when kids solidify their views on gender and where they fit in.
Benevolent Sexism: A subjectively positive orientation of protection, idealization and affection directed toward women that, like hostile sexism, serves to justify women's subordinate status to men.
Bella from the Twilight books. She is written as shy, clumsy, quiet and most importantly, fragile compared to Edward, the fast, strong vampire. Although it seems sweet that Edward is so protective of her, it actually undermines her strength as a woman. He sees her as a fragile, tiny human to protect--benevolent, but sexist.
Rape Culture: A society whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.
Rapist Brock Turner was given a measly six-month sentence for raping an unconscious woman at a University party. He was mourned as a “promising Olympic athlete” instead of what he is: a rapist. He was released after just two months, reinforcing that notion that even if you’re caught sexually assaulting someone, the consequences will be meager at best because our society does not care about sexual assault.
Victim Blaming: A devaluing act where the victim of a crime, accident, or any type of abusive mistreatment is held as responsible for the wrongful conduct committed against them.
Rape survivors are often asked what they were wearing at the time of their assault, as if what they were wearing is to blame for being raped, not the rapist. The owness should never be on the victim to prevent a crime--the owness is always on the criminal, no matter what.
Purity Culture: The notion, particularly among religious persons, that an individual's worth is tied to their sexual purity.
In the Christian church it is popular for young girls to receive purity rings from their fathers, where they pledge their sexual purity to God and their father until the day they are married. This puts incredible pressure on these women to remain chaste, and can lead to devastating guilt should they engage in sexual activity before marriage. These “tainted” women are then seen as less than and that they “gave away” a gift that should have been their husbands. For a hilarious (and disturbing) uncovering of “Purity Balls,” check out Episode 2 of the podcast The Dollop.
Slut Shaming: The action of stigmatizing a woman for engaging in behavior judged to be promiscuous or sexually provocative.
RESPECT DOES NOT HAVE A DRESS CODE. Let me say it again: RESPECT DOES NOT HAVE A DRESS CODE.
Consent: Positive, enthusiastic agreement to engage in sexual activity.
While this should be straight forward, not everyone is as attuned to what positive, enthusiastic consent looks like through body language. In cases where you are unsure, worried you aren’t reading the signals right, or anxious that you could be crossing a line, simply ask! Even in marriage, consent is a REQUIREMENT.
Some important phrases to know...
Toxic Masculinity: Masculine behavior that society glorifies as being the epitome of manhood, but that has incredibly harmful consequences.
It is not considered masculine to be vulnerable emotionally. Many men repress their emotions in order to maintain a tough, masculine exterior so that they won’t be called “wimps” or “pussies.” When emotions are repressed they can lead to intense depression (which is why middle aged men have the highest suicide rates) or intense anger (which is why most domestic violence is committed by men).
Locker Room Talk: Completely avoidable and unnecessary crude and vulgar talk, often involving boasts about one's sexual conquests.
When Trump was exposed for saying “grab her by the pussy,” it was brushed off as locker room talk. Is it something people have said in private conversations before? Yes. Should it be something people feel empowered to say? NO NO NO. Shut down your friend’s locker room talk and call them to be more respectful human beings.
Boys Will Be Boys: Said to emphasize that people should not be surprised when boys or men act in a rough, crude or noisy way because this is part of the male character.
When woman call out men for whistling at them on the street, their complaints are often brushed off by people saying “boys will be boys.” Again, does it happen? Yes. Should it happen? NO. We have to stop normalizing bad behavior.
The Male Gaze: Presentation of media, such as films or advertising, from the perspective of a heterosexual man. Often used to denote the exploitation of women in media for the sake of pleasing men.
Burger Advertisements that feature scantily-clad woman moaning with ecstasy over a hamburger. The female body is exploited for its sex appeal to literally sell a hamburger. Director Patty Jenkins flipped the male gaze to the female gaze, but in a positive way, for her film Wonder Woman.
Nice Guy/Girl TM: Men or women who view themselves as prototypical “nice guys/girls,” but whose “nice deeds” are in reality only motivated by attempts to passively please men/women into a relationship and/or sex.
That guy or girl you friendzoned in high school, who then became aggressive and upset for no good reason.
This is definitely just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to important terminology surrounding discussions of equality. Is there something I missed? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the form on our contact page!