Ruby Views: In Defense of the Word ‘Feminist’

The face of a feminist?

The face of a feminist?

I can hear the reactions already – “Here we go, another feminist rant.” To an extent you’re correct, however today’s article is somewhat different, as it strives to defend the word ‘feminist’ itself.

Several months ago, Katy Perry was nominated as ‘Woman of the Year‘ at a Women in Music luncheon. During her acceptance speech she made the following statement “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.”

Unsurprisingly, Perry received a great deal of negative backlash due to her comment. In fact, many twitter comments and blog posts arose that were devoted to slut shaming her. This is by no means my intention: if she wants to shoot whipped cream out of her boobs in order to slay Gummi Bears more power to her. I’m an advocate for all women to utilise any resources they have in order to reach their goals, including their bodies.

My only prerequisite to this is that they do it with some integrity and not solely for the gratification of men. And before you ask, yes I do include the sex industry in this argument. Hell, maybe I’d even consider going into it if I wasn’t in a happy and healthy relationship. (Apparently my Masters Degree would snatch me a pretty penny as a high class escort!)

My future career choices aside, some writers did come to Perry’s defence. One article even posed the question, “Shouldn’t all women be able to subscribe to the feminist ideology, even if they do not agree with or understand every bit of it?” Yes, yes they should. And you know why? Because that’s what feminism is about – a woman’s right to choose.

My initial reactions to both Perry’s statement and the aforementioned article were less than favourable. However, after the initial rage blackout passed, it did get me thinking. Why would a modern woman, with her own successful career, who supposedly believes in strong women, not consider herself to be a feminist? In fact, why would any woman living in the 21st century not consider herself to be one? Yet, this rejection of the feminist label is not rare. I’ve encountered countless women who are educated, have a career, and are self-supporting, yet won’t call themselves a feminist. In fact, they act as if it’s a dirty word.

Why are we so afraid of the word ‘feminist’, ladies? 

I get it. We don’t want to be labelled as man haters, right? Even worse, we don’t want anyone to think that we are bra burning lesbians who don’t shave.  That’s not attractive to all the boys. I’ll let you in on a little secret though – bra burning lesbians who don’t shave may be feminists, but they don’t define the term.  Furthermore, feminism doesn’t equate to man hating, that’s called misandry. There’s another word for it for a reason.

Here is an actual definition of feminism: “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

Equality. That’s all.

Admittedly, like with anything, some people take it too far. There are people who are considered to be ‘radical feminists’ and feminism has been used as an excuse to wage war on men. However, assuming that every feminist should agree on every point and think in the same way is as ridiculous (and anti-feminist) as saying every man should think and act in exactly the same way.  Quite frankly, it’s as offensive as asking an African American what “his people” think about global warming. Yes, we’re all feminists, but we’re also all individuals.

It’s important to understand that the meaning of words can change and that new words are still being introduced to the English language. Hell, even ‘bogan‘ is in the dictionary now. However, despite my acceptance the evolution of language, I’m extremely wary of it. If I and other self professed feminists allow the word to be subverted in a negative way, what do we have left to call ourselves and our beliefs?  To take our name and to twist it into something it wasn’t intended to be is incredibly dangerous notion, as well as a huge backward step for the cause. Perry, and other women rejecting feminism is evidence of this.

So, we’ve learnt that feminism isn’t necessarily what everyone thinks it is and that we shouldn’t be too quick to reject it. However, I can feel that some of you still may not be convinced. As such, I have put together this questionnaire that will assess whether or not you’re a feminist:

Do you think that women have the right to a bank account without it being signed for by their father or husband?

Do you feel that women should be allowed to continue working after marriage?

Do you think that women have the right to attend university without the permission of their father or husband?

Do you think women should have a right to vote?

Do you think a woman has the right to her own body? (This includes the right to an abortion.)

Do you think that women have a right to wear what they please without the fear of sexual violence?

Do you feel that women have a right to say no if a man touches her inappropriately?

Do you think women have a right to utilise contraception?

Do you feel that women are entitled to maternity leave?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you’re a feminist. That includes you, gents. As I mentioned earlier, feminists can be defined as anyone who believes in equality.

It’s time to stop being scared of what others think of you. If someone misunderstands or judges you when you say you’re a feminist, educate them. I’ll admit, you won’t convince everyone that feminism is a positive thing, but that’s because you find jerks in every corner of society, even the feminist corners. Regardless, it’s time for more of us to grow a pair (of ovaries) and stand up for the word ‘feminist’.

This week, Twitter has been awash with the hashtag #TellAFeministThankYou. We’d love to hear your thoughts on feminism and what it means to you. Let us know in comments, on Twitter or on Facebook.

While our comment editing policy is usually pretty relaxed, we reserve the right to delete any comments deemed offensive or inflammatory.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Ruby Views: In Defense of the Word ‘Feminist’

  1. Kansas

    i think that to embrace the values but reject the term is based in a fear of taking space, as a woman or someone who does not identify as a cis-gendered male. and for men, it represents a fear of loss of control over perspective and representation. feminism certainly does stretch the male imagination. i’ve just read a blog piece about this written by al stefanelli and he makes the point that feminism has the ability to relate the feeling of inequality (as opposed to thinking about) which is distinctly feminine. i think this may be one reason for popular discomfort with the term.

    i think too that rejecting the term would have unintended consequences for women, it would be vaulted because it is seen as negative, antiquated, or is undervalued. this is harmful to feminism itself and is not about the term alone.

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