Feminism is a word that has been dragged through the mud, giving it a meaning that a lot of people would prefer not to be associated with. So is it time to redefine what it stands for?
Over the years, feminism has received a lot of negative attention. Universities particularly hold a strong feminist movement. The imagery of angry, unattractive women who can’t get a man still springs to a lot of people’s minds when the word feminism is brought up, and despite the time we’re in, people still seem to define the ‘f’ word as such. Many people deny being a feminist just from the negative publicity that the word gets. So the question is whether how feminism is defined should be changed to appeal more to the public?
There are numerous negative connotations that feminism holds. A lot of people confuse the core of feminism with the values of being ‘male haters’ and female superiority. First thing to clear up is that feminism has nothing to do with hating the male gender, rather the heart of it is about equality between men and women.
While studying my A-levels, I remember discussing feminism and our teacher asked us what it was. A guy put his hand up and said it was nothing more than hating the male gender. This surprised me as I didn’t realise that even at that stage, people were still completely wrong about a word that has been around for so long.
A lot of people still don’t identify with being a feminist due to the negative connotations that it has, both men and women. Saying you’re a feminist to some people instantly puts them off and gives them a certain view of you. Some people still identify being a feminist with outdated views, seeing old women who have become bitter with time and picturing the suffragette movement. While it helped significantly, a lot of people see it as too extreme, especially for the modern age. So has the term been overused and dragged through the mud too much for it to be seen for what it really is?
The Guardian published an article by a student blogger who discussed the problem of feminism within universities and why it is an issue that should possibly be relabeled. Lad culture is a staple to a lot of people’s lives at university. Lad culture praises the degradation of women, getting drunk as much as possible and generally supports sexist attitudes towards the opposite sex.
Due to this surge of ‘lad culture’ at universities, it can make it more difficult for men to call themselves feminists. The focus is on ‘feminine’, giving it the connotations of being related solely to females, rather than a matter of equality and missing the point that feminism includes male rights of equality too.
Feminists themselves can give the label a bad name. Through history there has been a mixed batch of feminist approaches. From standpoint feminism which believes that feminism is about understanding a woman’s experience through her eyes so the only people who can be true feminists are women, to liberal feminism which believes in equality and anti-discrimination.
There have been numerous suggestions for changing what feminism is called. From ‘genderism’ to ‘humanist’, which is advocated by Susan Sarandon who says that the term feminist is a label that is too stigmatised to be taken seriously so it shouldn’t be used anymore.
In 2013, The Huffington Post did a poll on their website which found that only 20 per cent of Americans considered themselves as feminists, 23 per cent of which were female and 12 per cent male. Despite this, 82 per cent believed in equality between males and females in the polls. So is pushing a term that so many people don’t like counterproductive? It seems that people continue to believe the stereotype of the typical feminist being an angry man hater who solely seeks female superiority among the male population, and it doesn’t seem to be changing.
Netmums.com, in 2012, conducted a similar study where they surveyed 1300 women and found that only one in seven of those women called themselves feminists. They also found that younger women were less likely to accept the term in identifying themselves.
So why not get rid of the term and exchange it for many of the other suggested substitutes such as ‘humanist’? Feminism can be seen to scare off non-feminists and since the younger population aren’t keen on adopting the word, it seems it’s futile in trying to get back what it stood for.
Yet, feminism is a word with such a strong connotation, despite being seen as bad to some, it holds a fiery past and by getting rid of it, you would lose so much of the history and almost forget all those who fought for the true meaning of the word. What we should be doing instead is focussing on teaching people more about the core of the meaning and stop being afraid of being seen as one.