Feminism is not a dirty word, but people seem to think it is.
When I first told people about this blog, some expressed concern about me using the word feminism. They wondered if maybe genuine feminism needed to be called something else since the word had become so tainted by misinformation, misconceptions and extremists.
Their concerns were valid. Feminism is very much a slap-you-in-the-face word. However, I also had concerns.
Why were people so threatened by the word feminism? Why must we strip a movement of its historical name in order to make people comfotable? When this topic came up at dinner with friends the other night, one coyly quoted Dumbledore and said, "fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself."
I want to tattoo "FEMINISM IS NOT A DIRTY WORD" onto my forehead, but even if I did I doubt people would believe me. Whenever feminism comes up, their eyes flicker to the side nervously, their face paling, their laughter growing stilted and nervous. You would think I had just stripped naked and set my panties on fire.
And God forbid I dare to associate feminism with the church.
I get it. Feminism has not been associated with positive things lately. In mainstream media we see extremists who incorrectly label themselves feminists, or we see the shallow fashion brands embrace "feminism" to sell clothes. We have turned feminism into a monster that attacks instead of educates--fights instead of loves.
But every movement has its extremists that give it a bad name. For example, Christianity. Just look at how many murderers have killed in the name of Christ. Look at churches like the Westboro Baptists. They do not give Christianity a good name. They very clearly did not pay close attention to the life of Jesus, who promoted nothing but love.
Just like the church, feminism might need some minor rebranding, but it is not going to be changing its name anytime soon.
The word 'feminism' should make people feel uncomfortable. It is challenging everything we have accepted as the norm. It dares to stand apart and say, "I believe everyone has VALUE and should be given the same opportunities and freedoms as everyone else."
The word 'feminism' should not scare you, but if it does--if it makes you stomach twist, your hands clammy, your gaze unsteady--I would ask you to consider why you are experiencing that reaction.
Why does equality scare you?
If your answer is something to the effect of, "Because feminism isn't about equality anymore," I encourage you to open up a dictionary. Look up the word feminism. Read the definition.
Maybe it says, "the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of equality of the sexes." It is phrased this way because historically, men have been inherently given rights, whereas women have had to fight for them; equality was never a given. All this definition is saying is that feminism advocates that women's rights catch up to the rights of men so that we can all be equals. But more on that later.
For now, take comfort in the simple, genuine, heart of feminism. Friends, it is so simple! So beautiful!
I do not think many of you would ever claim to be better than someone else because of your gender. For example, no loving father would ever turn to his daughter and say, "you are worth so much less than I am because you are a female and I am a male." You are all feminists at heart.
Feminism doesn't need to be renamed. Feminism needs be said so much more! The word needs to be said until we don't feel like we have to whisper it, eyes darting away nervously. Until we no longer feel unreasonable guilt for calling ourselves feminists.
Feminism is not a dirty word.