Why the conversation about replacing the word ‘feminist’ is moot

Equalist. Humanist. Egalitarian. It won’t work. No rebrand for the word “feminist” will succeed and here’s why (with apologies to the optimistic among us).

Any new word will be instantly and deliberately torpedoed by MRAs, misguided women, and the right-wing nutosphere. And then what? Another new name to replace each name that gets ruined? Wash, rinse and repeat? Any new name for the feminist movement will be met with cries of “Misandry!” from the most privileged group of homo sapiens on this planet as well as with comments like “I’m not a(n) insert-new-word-here, but…” from too many young women convinced that the mere utterance of any word intended to convey desired equality of the genders will condemn them to a life of celibacy.

No reboot and re-launch will stick because any new word will similarly be said to stand for man-hating. It doesn’t, but the facts don’t matter in this Cold War. The propagandists will have their cake and eat it too, so let’s not go to the trouble of all that baking.

Recently a bunch of 4Chan MRA’s orchestrated a mob-style takedown vote of the word “feminist” via a TIME poll asking “Which Word Should Be Banned in 2015?” We can only assume the author of the article must have included the word in order to generate controversy… That it did. It was one more cut among a thousand tiny paper cuts imposed on a movement that deserves a hell of a lot better from TIME and from the rest of the human race. Make no mistake: Any new word introduced to replace “feminist” will take on the same amount of enemy fire the moment it is rolled out.

Why? Fundamentally, any new word for the feminist movement will be instantly polluted because there is not enough support behind the movement itself — too many people do not want women to have equal rights. The purpose of the movement won’t change.

Some people advocate dropping the prefix “fem-” from the word because too many people perceive it to have negative connotations. Because this word has the gall to derive etymologically from “female” — the gender that is oppressed — are we obligated to trash it in favor of a less explicit word that does not connote the oppression of women that is actually going on? Should we also exchange “environmentalism” for oh, say, “energyism,” in an attempt to somehow mask our legitimate concern for the embattled environment with some kind of vague cheerleading for all forms of energy, equally, as if none of them are directly harming the environment and deserve that call-out?

It’s just not a simple issue of semantics. Saying “I support egalitarianism, but only when the rights of men receive equal attention” is like saying “I support imperialism, but only when it works out well for the colonizers.” Or, “I support fighting racism, but only when Caucasians get equal airtime.” If the only version of a thing you support is a hypothetical version of a social contract that in no way addresses the root oppression, then your support is entirely specious.

Despite wide-scale agreement with the actual individual goals of feminism when separated out from the label (like we see with the word “Obamacare” and the individual healthcare benefits therein), people will continue to be manipulated. Changing the word will only provoke the Rush Limbaughs of the world to coin perversions of the new word to the same eventual effect. Humanist could become humanazi. Scorn for women and their efforts at equality will persist despite playing musical chairs with terminology. So why bother?

Venturing further into the fever-swamp, until we fully grok that patriarchy thrives on thwarting feminist efforts to dismantle it, we will continue spinning over futile issues of PR, such as how to rebrand the effort itself.

History reinforces this lesson. Let’s take race. The word “Coloured” became “Negro” became “black” became “African-American,” and has vacillated between the latter two terms for various reasons for the past few decades. It is good that language evolves, and that racial terms change with the sensibilities of those they apply to, so I don’t mean to insinuate that these shifts should not happen. Often there is a deep need to find a sense of power in reaction to the troubling associations that have accrued to older terms. But vocabulary rebrands are not panaceas because the problem is still the underlying racism — no new word for the people who are oppressed by racism will negate the existence of racism.

Another example: “Mongolian idiots” became “mentally retarded” became “intellectual disability.” The terms used for this condition are subject to a process called the euphemism treadmill. This means that whatever term is chosen for this condition, it eventually becomes perceived as an insult. The problem is discrimination and discomfort with those who have Down Syndrome and other cognitive impairments. As long as some people continue to have the need to put other people down by uttering a hyperbolic version of “you idiot,” they will say, “you retard.”

We can educate, and it can help, but it takes a huge and concerted effort by many stakeholders. I see more and more people standing up to the bigots who use terms like “retard” or “fag” or “nigger.” But “bitch,” “cunt,” “slut?” Not seeing the same, shall we say… collective societal smack-down. The root problem — misogyny — is the last frontier of acceptable bigotry. Feminism as the antidote will be sabotaged at every turn, regardless of new terminology. From the stripping of women’s rights, to the stigmatizing of the nomenclature for the resistance to the attacks on those rights, the stubborn problem remains.

I recently watched a New Zealand movie called “Boy.” It was about the struggles of a pair of brothers, and the older one often cruelly called the younger one “egg.” I later checked the Urban Dictionary, which informed me this is New Zealand slang for dumbass, clown, or idiot. I didn’t know this while watching the film. Across two hours, I went from confused bemusement, to ineffectual cultural analysis, to noticing I was actually starting to have negative associations with a word that until that very day had simply referred to what I eat for breakfast. I suddenly understood the pernicious power of a repeated slur.

Those in media who orchestrate the use of slurs such as “feminazi” are smart. They are also fortified by plentiful rightwing money and a bloviating brigade of talk radio hosts and Fox News spokesmodels. They understand that if people hear these slurs enough — like “egg” — their perceptions will gradually shift. It’s a guerrilla tactic. Propaganda can come in sound bites as small as a single word.

Not to Godwin this post, but sometimes words don’t even need to be changed at all in order to take them from their original neutral and descriptive meaning to something sinister. The Nazis did it with “Jew,” building on centuries of anti-Semitism in Europe. A more current example is the way “gay” was shifted to mean “bad” or “stupid,” as in “that’s so gay.”

Obamacare, an attempted put-down for the Affordable Care Act that republicans flogged mercilessly in order to slander the legislation as it was rolling out, is yet another example. Act Two: Net neutrality is now derogatorily referred to as “Obamacare for the Internet” by Ted Cruz, and Paul Ryan is going around saying that the Dodd-Frank Act is “Obamacare for banks.” Even if the Democrats wanted to rename this legislation, what would be the point?

So my opinion on whether we need a new word for “feminism” is obvious. No we don’t, and I’d rather not step onto the euphemism treadmill. Isn’t the work we already have to do exhausting enough?

And a special thank you to TIME Magazine. Grow up.


Lori DayLori Day is an educational psychologist, consultant, and parenting coach with Lori Day Consulting in Newburyport, MA. She is the author of Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More and speaks on the topic of raising confident girls in a disempowering marketing and media culture. You can connect with Lori on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.






Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • While we’re at it, let’s get rid of “activist,” and also “civil rights,” that’s just so sixties.

    The whole idea of eschewing words or phrases is about their being clichés. Since when is social justice a cliché?

    • In the US it seems the word “activist” has been replaced with “terrorist.”

      • Good point, Francois 🙁

    • “Since when is social justice a cliché?”

      Since liberals appropriated the term. When I was younger I thought social justice was about address economic inequality. Nowadays it seems it can mean anything liberals like. I guess they did find the term “activism” too scary.

      In any case, the right wingers did not fall for it. They see through liberal deception in an instant and so do I. Stop trying to appeal to right wingers. They do not hate you because you were not nice enough to them. Some people are just going to hate you and other people (including me) are going to think you are wrong. Not everybody is a liberal on the inside.

      • Wait, what? I am not a liberal.

        • But are you a… STEALTH LIBERAL??

        • I did not mean to insinuate that you were a liberal. I was just pointing out that, at my university at least, “social justice” is a term liberals use to describe themselves. Few people call themselves liberals. The term has negative connotations in the US and in Australia, there is a very right wing party which calls itself the “Liberal Party”, so use of the term “liberal” can be a bit confusing.

          When people say they support “social justice”, I take that to mean that the person is a “liberal” in the sense that I use to the term, meaning that they are pro-pornography, pro-BDSM, have a highly individualistic and idealist approach to gender issues and have the general belief that anything goes and that no behaviour should ever be criticised.

          The second paragraph in my above comment was not directed at you (Miep). It was directed at liberals. Sorry for the confusion.

          • Wow, talk about language corruption. Social justice now equals “liberal?” damn it, we have to stop backing down about this stuff.

            Yes, I did recently become aware of the “liberal” party in Australia! There are times I think activists should stop adhering to labels at all, with all of these language lampreys around. Except it makes it impossible to talk about things.

            Thanks for the clarification – no harm, no foul.

      • I do think that liberal concepts have their place, but not as overriding primary political constructs. They are too much about individual freedoms and tend to ignore how the broadening of such freedoms can enable oppression of other parties.

        • This in turn creates a class bias in favor of those with the loudest voices and most political leverage. Liberal ideology has a way of attempting to instate false equivalencies in what is actually a profoundly hierarchical social structure, it’s problematic that way.

  • Angela

    My daughters are really put off by the word “feminist” because to them it conjures up images of angry women who are against what some women choose to do like being a homemaker, dressing sexy, or pleasing their husbands. I think they are being biased but I do like the word “humanist” because that is what my son describes himself as.

    • Meghan Murphy

      But the reason why they attach that image to the word is because of anti-feminist propaganda… If ‘humanist’ meant ‘feminist’ it would hold the same connotations…

      • It would become humanazi in a nanosecond if it were still about equal rights for women. And if it weren’t, then do we just throw in the towel when it comes to fighting for the rights of the systemically oppressed gender? I know a lot of people sure would like us to cave in this way. It would be easier for them. If Taylor Swift can come to recognize the propaganda for what it is, maybe there’s hope for us all!

      • Angela

        It was their personal experiences around the “feminists” at their universities.

        • Meghan Murphy

          1) I think you’re manipulating what it was these feminists you don’t actually know and have never had a conversation with think/argue with regard to “dressing sexy,” “pleasing their husbands,” and being a “homemaker.” Which is to say that feminism IS critical of gendered roles but that isn’t the same as just straight ‘not liking’ something.
          2) Women have a right to be angry.
          3) If your daughters don’t like that feminists are critical of prescribed gender roles and are angry about sexism then you’re right that they aren’t feminist. I wonder where they got that from…

          • Missfit

            Yes, not every woman is a feminist, some even say they like patriarchy. There is no need to find a term for the sake of having non-feminists feel included.

            If people are reluctant because of false ideas/propaganda, it’s their responsibility to go see beyond that propaganda. It’s not difficult nowadays to find a lot of feminist sources. Re-naming because of anti-feminists’ propaganda tactics would mean the anti-feminists won. And then, as mentioned, we would come back with another word and the anti-feminists would still be unhappy, of course, because our objectives would be the same. So it is really the objectives they want us to change.

            They think that by naming it ‘equalism’ or ‘humanism’, thus deleting any connotation to fem(ale), they could actually change the objectives and end up making it something that does not focus on females after all. A name for a movement where men would feel as included as women, on equal par. And then, men being socialized as men and women being socialized as women, men would end up setting/controlling the agenda. Ultimately, the point is that women shouldn’t become aware of all the facets of their specific oppression and unite to fight it. This is always what I think when I hear men say ‘why not calling yourself a humanist’ or ‘I am an equalist’. And when I hear a woman say the same, I think a lack of awareness or a desire (conscious or not) for men/patriarchy approval.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Indeed. People don’t like the term ‘feminist’ because it’s threatening/it threatens the status quo. That is the whole point! And those who don’t like it are those who are not interested in challenging the status quo… Too bad for them.

          • I am weary unto death of people trying to co-opt and otherwise dilute political language in order to defeat the agendas of those whom they find threatening. I cannot count how many times I have been attacked online by people who think they have the right to decide that words mean what it would be more personally convenient for them, for these words to mean.

          • Angela

            Meghan I do know that a woman in my daughter’s class wrote an article for the college newspaper using my daughter as an example of a “horrible woman” for getting married young and being pregnant while taking women’s studies. My daughter’s husband had just passed the bar and successfully sued for slander.

          • Meghan Murphy

            LOLOLOLLLLLLLLLLL. I don’t believe you for half a second, “Angela.”

          • Generally speaking people involved in libel suits don’t confuse libel with slander, and also understand that libel involves claims of false action, not opinions about whether a given party is “horrible.” LOLOL indeed.

    • Where’s your sense of responsibility in this? Why have you raised your daughters to hate feminists and love homemaking and pleasing men above pleasing themselves?

      • Angela

        lol I raised amazing daughters. I encouraged them both to take women’s studies courses because I enjoyed taking them. They said they didn’t like the opinions of some of the students and teachers. I think to most young women feminism is a positive thing but if you look at it radically it can be unappealing to most as well. Most women don’t like being told that traditional roles are somehow wrong even if they aren’t in those roles.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Feminism *is* radical. It isn’t about positive thinking…

          • But Meghan doncha know that if you’re positive about your own oppression, that makes it okay! It’s just like how if you’re poor as dirt but you don’t actually want anything, you’re actually rich and we take you off the poverty statistics!

            If you actively suppress all negative thoughts and people from your life, you’ll be happy forever. (or until the negative becomes too big to ignore, but then you can just tell yourself new, better lies!)

        • Oh of course it’s not your fault. You encouraged them to take women’s studies! And apparently that’s all it takes to raise women who are able to stand up for themselves.

          Come on. You can’t possibly be serious.

        • Meh

          Your daughters sound really annoying.

          They remind me of this girl I went to uni with who said, “Women with strong opinions are weird” lol

          • Angela

            That’s funny because they both have strong opinions. One is an entrepreneur and a city council member and the other is a mother and midwife who has delivered 35 babies this year. Neither one is concerned about bitching about what other people think. You can’t tell someone they are or aren’t a feminist because what they think. I can see how they would feel bullied by you all because they disagree on some levels with you. I bet Malala Yousafzai would disagree with you all on some levels too but you can’t say she isn’t a feminist.

          • Meh

            Oh shut up. It’s not bullying to think critically about things.

            Your daughters sound boring and annoying. They sound threatened by the thought of other women questioning things.

        • For heaven’s sake – why should you ever think that a movement for social change, a movement that is meant to usurp the power from the group of people born to it should be “appealing”? It’s not jazzercise. It involves commitment, critical thought, self knowledge and a lot of courage. How ridiculous a notion it would have been to expect resistance to American slavery to be “appealing”. It, like feminism, is necessary because it is a fight for justice. It’s not a fashion. It’s not a club. It’s not even a political campaign in the conventional electoral sense. It’s a fight for justice. It’s fight to make social change that reduces poverty, violence and slavery. The people involved tend to be wickedly witty and to have good laughs amongst the hard work, but “fun’ and ease is not the point.

          Your daughters did not like the opinions of some of the students and teachers, like the cold hard fact that being compliant with patriarchy does not actually dismantle patriarchy. Boo hoo. Grow up. It’s a movement that agitates for social change, not a hairstyle.

          • Meghan Murphy

            New slogan! “Feminism: It’s not jazzercise.”

          • Angela

            What do you know about how to “dismantle patriarchy”? Being mean and angry at every perceived threat has gotten you really far smh.

          • Wonderful, using the “feminists are angry” stereotype to silence people. Is that what they taught you in Women’s Studies?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Alrighty, that’s about enough. Everyone thank “Angela” for stopping by and send your best.

          • Maybe it’s just me, but people who say women are imagining threats tend to be dudes, Angela..

          • Sabine

            If “Angela” ain’t a man-troll I’ll eat my hat!

        • What university did your daughters go to? If you are describing it accurately, I want to go there!

          At my university, the students got furious when they thought a lecturer was being critical of women doing housework. She was not she just pointing out that women did more housework than man and this made some of the students really angry.

          Then there was my tutor who went out of her way to state (at the end of the class when I did not have a chance to respond) that prostitution could be an empowering choice for women and that we should not be too critical of it. This led to many students expressing agreement with her.

          My tutor also said that no feminists had ever been opposed to women doing housework or becoming housewives if they chose to. In reality Betty Friedan expressed the view that women would have to be unambititious idiots in order to want to become housewives. I think what Friedan said was a bit mean, but my tutor’s claim that women with anti-housewivery options had never existed is downright false and Orwellian.

          Also, my tutor said that after I made it clear that I had anti-housewivery opinions. I view the issue from a communist standpoint as a well as a feminist standpoint. I understand that wage labour is often exploitative under capitalism, but if society were socialist I think it would be important that everyone contribute as much as they could to improving society and there are very few people who can only contribute manual labour to a society. But according to my tutor, communists probably never existed either. Also my ideas are supposedly “dangerous”, but it is not my belief in literal revolution that is dangerous, it is my belief that women develop the desire to become housewives as a result of socialisation. How horrible and evil, right?

          To be fair, I am talking about my experiences in sociology class (not gender studies) but there is clearly a lot of overlap between the two and from what radical feminists have said, it seems my experiences are pretty common.

          Then there is the fact that the Women’s Department an my university regularly runs an entire week devoted to promoting hard core pornography, sadomasochism and similar activities. To be fair, they also talk about rape and sexual assault, but I would not be surprised if that were just another opportunity for them to rant about how awesome the BDSM community was because of their absurdly high consent standards.

          The point I am trying to make is that, real feminism, the kind that mainstream society hates, the kind that actually does involve angry women ranting about femininity, has been forced out of universities in recent years. Odds are, either your daughters went to university a long time ago or they misunderstood what the liberal, “anything-goes” feminists at their university were trying to tell them. In any case, feminism does not exist to be liked. It exists to promote an accurate understanding of women’s lives, so that women can recognise that they are being oppressed and fight back effectively. Popularity should not be the primary aim.

          • Angela

            One went to Washington U in Seattle and also to the Evergreen State U. in Olympia, Washington. The other went to Stanford University. As you can tell by the way theses commentators have called them the opposite of “actual, real, self-actualized adults” and boring and stupid that they might have a point in feeling like radical feminism is really against women having choices. Betty Friedan was a good example of this. How stupid of her to think it is unambitious and idiotic to be a homemaker. Thank you though Independent Radical for not name-calling my family and actually wanting to discuss. I’m ignoring all the rude people.

          • Meghan Murphy

            What Betty Friedan pointed out was that women had been sold a lie — that they would feel happy and fulfilled by being homemakers and wives and mothers… But they weren’t. They felt depressed and empty and unfulfilled. Her argument was not that women were “unambitious and idiotic,” it was that this “problem that had no name” had made women feel isolated and as though there was something wrong with them for not being ‘happy’ in their supposed ‘natural’ female role. You need to start reading/listening to the things you are commenting on before doing so lest you look ‘idiotic’ yourself.

          • Sabine

            Right on, Meghan!

          • “One went to Washington U in Seattle and also to the Evergreen State U. in Olympia, Washington. The other went to Stanford University.”

            During which period of time did they go to these universities? The reason I ask is because the kind of feminism being promoted by the commenters is not the kind of feminism that I see being promoted at universities.

            You may think that the way I am putting forward my views is nicer than the way other commenters are, but at my university, my views were deemed unacceptable and “dangerous” by my tutor even though I had not been all that rude while presenting my views. Fact is, people whose job it is to promote mainstream ways of thinking are not to political radicals (especially female political radicals) no matter how they talk.

            “….feeling like radical feminism is really against women having choices.”

            Arguing that a choice is harmful is not the same as arguing that people should not have choices. Wealthy, white males have been making moral claims (i.e. claims about which choices people should and should not make) for thousands of years and when they make such claims they are celebrated as brilliant insightful philosophers. When feminists make such claims, they are vilified as totalitarian monsters. Part of the problem is that our modern culture is very individualistic and opposed to moral claims, but there does seem to be a particularly strong stigma against women who make moral claims.

            Contrary to what our culture may insist, moral claims are not the enemy of choice (nor are they necessarily conservative or anti-feminist). In fact, if people listen to arguments that are put forward against a particular decision, they can make a more informed choice.

            Like it or not, feminism has not always been about blindly endorsing all choices. Betty Friedan really was under the impression that deciding to have a job was a better decision for women than deciding to become a housewife and I have no problem with her making that claim. Moral claims should be put forward and debated if society is to make moral progress.

            However, I do believe that Friedan’s critique of the housewife role is incomplete. It does not take into account the effect that women becoming housewives has on the rest of society. She argued that women should get jobs so that they could achieve intellectual fulfilment for themselves, but since her version of feminism lacked a critique of capitalism, she was unable to see that many paid jobs, even jobs that require university degrees, are not all that intellectually fulfilling. Such jobs are still part of a capitalist hierarchy in which workers are supposed to be subordinate to bosses and not disrupt the status quo.

            I think that if workers had democratic control over the economy (this state of affairs was at one point called “socialism”) then work would be far more fulfilling and even if it was not, I think people would have a moral responsibility to seek work (since work, under a system of genuine socialism, would in fact be aimed at meeting the needs of society). Why do work that only benefits one’s husband and children, when the same amount of work can benefit the whole of society (or at least, large amount of people), if performed outside the home?

            I do not fault people (men or women) for not wanting to work in a capitalist society. Though I do note that there is a double standard within our culture, in which housewives are generally celebrated, while unemployed women without employed husbands are vilified as “welfare bludgers” and “leeches”. Is it really fair to treat women differently depending on whether or not they have a husband and whether or not their husband is employed?

            Far from having embraced radical feminist, anti-housewivery views, our society has a strong pro-housewife bias and advertisements representing women within the home are just as common, if not more common, than they were in the fifties (remember that the number of advertisement people see in an average day has gone up dramatically). Then there is the fact that toys promoting cooking, cleaning and child-rearing (including nappy changing) to young girls are outnumbered only by toys that stress the importance of being pretty.

            Supporters of housewivery have nothing to complain about, their views still dominate the culture, even if women do not adhere to them. If women feel guilty about wanting to be housewives, it is probably not because anti-housewivery feminism has taken over the culture (it clearly has not). They may feel guilty because they want to fully contribute to society, just like unemployed men do.

            To Meghan,

            To Meghan, I should take some of the blame for the misrepresentation of Betty Friedan. I am familiar with the arguments she put made in the Feminine Mystique and I generally agree with them (though like I said above, they are incomplete, individual centered and somewhat bourgeois).

            I believe that at one point she did say that no intelligent woman could be fulfiled by the housewife role and that can be interpretted as “happy housewives are stupid”, though now that I think about it, she was probably suggesting that fulfiled housewives barely existed, in which case I apologise for misrepresenting her.

            It is ironic that Betty Friedan has been vilified as an extreme “radical feminist”, when she actually turned out to be somewhat liberal. According to Wikipedia, she signed a petition, started by a pro-porngraphery “feminist” group, which opposed a bill that would have given those who had been harmed by pornography-incited violence to sue pornography producers.

            Wikipedia attributes the following quote to her “To suppress free speech in the name of protecting women is dangerous and wrong.Even some blue-jean ads are insulting and denigrating. I’m not adverse to a boycott, but I don’t think they should be suppressed.” This quote represents a total lack of understanding regarding the anti-pornography viewpoint and the bill in question (the bill would not have censored pornography and was inspired by concerns about the actions of pornography viewers, not whether women would be offended by pornography.)

            Betty Friedan may not have been a total liberal, given her clear opposition to women becoming housewives, but she clearly had little familiarity with radical feminism and its critique of porngraphy. She accepted the liberal, pro-pornography framing of the pornography issue. Friedan may have played an important role in kicking off the second wave of feminism and many attacks on her are motivated by anti-feminist thinking, but I think there are still valid critiques to be made of her.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “I believe that at one point she did say that no intelligent woman could be fulfiled by the housewife role and that can be interpreted as ‘happy housewives are stupid’, though now that I think about it, she was probably suggesting that fulfiled housewives barely existed, in which case I apologise for misrepresenting her.”

            My response was to Angela, who clearly had not read Friedan. I actually missed your comment there! Sorry about that! I would tend to agree with Friedan that being a housewife isn’t a particularly fulfilling role, if that’s all you do, though I wouldn’t argue those women are necessarily ‘idiotic,’ simply because they don’t work outside the home. I mean, there are plenty of unfulfiling jobs that don’t require much intelligence at all. At the time she wrote the book, that was what women were supposed to aspire to and they were supposed to also be happy in that role, so it isn’t surprising that many women would claim to be, lest they be seen as not-sufficiently-feminine. Also, I don’t know, as someone who has always needed to do paid work in order to survive/a working class woman (and I bet a LOT of working class women would agree…), the idea of staying at home and cooking and cleaning might seem a little relaxing/easy (even luxurious in my imagination) in comparison to slogging away in retail/shitty office work, etc., which is what I’ve always done (I am fully aware that childrearing/doing ALL the domestic chores is, actually, a difficult job that would get tired pretty fast also, for the record)… I hate going to work 🙂

            I doubt many feminists would go along with the idea that it’s as simple as housewife=idiotic. Clearly class is a huge factor in this conversation, as well as accepted gender roles.

          • Missfit

            ‘Wealthy, white males have been making moral claims (i.e. claims about which choices people should and should not make) for thousands of years and when they make such claims they are celebrated as brilliant insightful philosophers. When feminists make such claims, they are vilified as totalitarian monsters.’

            This! So tired of seeing people responding to thought provoking analysis of our ways of living with ‘don’t dictate me choices (now please stop talking)’. And this sometimes simply in response to feminists discussing our experiences and reflections from living under patriarchy. Like, I’m being told from birth by diverse sources (religion, education, culture, advertising) how I am suppose to present myself, what should be important, what I should want; in other words, what I should choose. This by the people who control the institutions (the media, the school curricula, etc,), that is: wealthy white men. Radical feminists are a marginal voice saying ‘hey, there is another way to look at things, another way that could shed light on unanswered questions, another way of being/living, an alternative that may make you more fulfilled’. And people act like if this marginal voice is actually fascist, is actually dictating anything. Another patriarchal reversal. Are some women being so defensive because they are afraid of looking deeper? Because there is no rational explanation to the anger some of them can throw at radical feminists. As for men, we know why they want to silence women who object to their historical self-appointed authority and moral claims…

        • Laur

          Hi Angela,

          When I was a teenager, I had a bad image of feminists from some women I knew who called themselves feminists. They always seemed angry about something and I thought they were alienated from what the rest of their peers wanted.

          Women, especially, are trained to not be too confrontational and to be “nice” to everyone. The way these women were acting was not within this way of thinking, which I think was what alienated me most from them. They scared me, and having the label of “feminist” scared me. After all, my bf at the time, mocked feminists.

          There are many reasons the word “feminism” has been unappealing to women, the biggest of which is because it’s most associated with despicable us–women.

          Calling oneself a humanist is (for a woman) the nicer, more feminine, approach. It means she is not putting her own rights before anyone else’s, even as every other group puts her own rights LAST.

          It’s easy to see why men would label themselves humanists, as they can’t see, even the ones that want to, each and every problem women face in our daily lives b/c of our sex.

        • derrington

          And what’s your son’s humanist stance on rape porn, gendered hate speech disseminated in porn, child abuse promoted in porn, the attacks by policemen on women and children reporting rape to the police as sluts, whores and other gendered hate speech. The non representation of women in government, the attacks on women having abortions but nothing said about the boyfriends that perform abortions on their girlfriends through DV, or the fact that sexist violence in the home is defined by the location and not the attitude driving the violence. Or if you check out webpages for male sufferers of domestic violence there are bucketloads of gendered hate speech directed about women and yet you dont see gendered hate speech about men on women’s DV websites. What your son’s stance on whether sexist attitudes fuels sexist violence in the home? After all, more women die in the home through sexist violence than troops did on active service in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past ten years – am sure he will have lots to say about that as a humanist … I’d be really interested in what you humanists’ stance is on all of those issues and whether you’ll be helping break down the code of male supremacy that allows so many men to rape women and children with covering fire from most other men … even when the victim is a child.

          • C.K. Egbert

            I think it’s rather telling that she likes “humanist”…because her SON calls himself that. Suddenly a word gains legitimacy because of approval by a man?

        • I sure as hell didn’t. Suppose it is because I’m an oldish bat. I remember the terrifyingly stultifying world in which women were locked, in the postwar world. They didn’t relinquish those “male jobs” they accessed while the men were on the front willingly, you know.

          It is ridiculous to consign people to a lifelong “homemaker” role. Yes, there should be maternity leaves for reasons pertaining to pregnancy and nursing, as those are biologically female, and for maternity, paternity and other parental leaves for all parents and guardians. But it is criminal to waste women’s intellectual and creative potential by shutting her up in this role.

          I don’t think people realize how much hard physical work being a housewife involved a century ago. Even families with modest incomes would take on “help” to accomplish those tasks.

          Usually people of both genders and any sexual orientation, in most cultures, like to dress in ways they find attractive to themselves and others, but these days there is an undue pressure on young women to dress in a hypersexualized way. Not all may agree, but I don’t think that is necessarily healthy.

          In the same vein, people enjoy pleasing those they love, whether spouse, family member or close friend, but the pressure on women to “please their husbands” is all-too-often one-sided, and means pleasing their spouse (and why assume everyone is heterosexual) and denying their own pleasure.

    • Lee

      Your daughters like living in tiny little boxes… well, good for them… but a lot of us want to be actual, real, self-actualized adults. That’s pretty threatening, isn’t it?

    • Ellesar

      I think the idea that feminists are angry is just fine! If the patriarchy does not make you angry then you clearly haven’t a feminist bone in your body, and using the word to describe yourself would be bizarre.

      Women being angry is something ‘traditionalists’ cannot cope with. Men being angry is ‘normal’. Women being unable to express their anger is one of the reasons that women have higher rates of depression than men.

  • Sabine

    From what I can gather the whole premise is about making feminism more “palatable” by changing its name and hopefully some of the “negative” connotations. What absolute bullshit. Feminism is not and cannot ever be deemed palatable within a patriarchal society which is precisely why the “negative” connotations exist in the first place! It’s the changing of ACTIONS that impacts the world we live in. Not the changing of words. I am all for eradicating hate speech but, as mentioned above, racism hasn’t been obliterated because it’s no longer acceptable to use the N-word. It takes a bit more than that…

    • derrington

      I sometimes refer to myself as a feminazi vegan – or as a feminig+a since that’s how the likes of Rush Limpbough describe us – he and his ilk dont like uppity members of the slave class of any colour, race, gender or disability. We should all learn to shut the fuck up and know and keep to our place of toiling for his sorry arse. Members of the media are the chief proponents of propoganda and the current bunch of hacks are simply the worst of their breed for some years. In the UK we have fascist pen scribblers who write about the freedom of the press as if it is holy ground, whilst failing to address how Murdoch’s scribes have pissed all over that freedom by hacking dead children’s phones to get front page news fodder, selling an idea of an entire gender as nothing but fuck fest material and using blackmail on every political party to ensure that big business’s agenda trumps any legislation brought into to protect the ordinary citizen. Hence why we are called Nazis and the heroes are the ones dishing out zero hours contracts, petitioning against the minimum wage and reintroducing slavery into the Western world as fast as they can work out the profit stream from it. We live in the Matrix.

      • Sabine

        “We live in the matrix”. Yes. We. Do.

  • anne cameron

    My daughters are both feminists… not only because their mom is a mouthy dyke but because I had a lot of (unwelcome) help from the society in which we live. I’d like to share something with all of you; we had ONE woman bus driver in the town in which we lived. ONE. My daughter was twelve and a half, riding the bus home from a movie. The bus stop was near, but not in front of, our house. A man moved to sit beside my daughter, and inched his way closer and closer, until he was pressing against her. So she moved. A few moments later, he moved, sat next to her and began…so she moved, more quickly this time. He moved, too and began…and the bus stopped suddenly, the driver stood, pointed at the pervy asshole and said “off this bus NOW!”. He skulked off and the driver looked at my daughter and said “don’t you EVER think you’re to blame. HE is to blame, not you.”. She went back to her seat, started the bus, drove on leaving the asshole standing by the road and when she got to our house she stopped in front of our door. As my daughter got off the bus, she said “thank you” to the driver and the woman winked at her and said “no problem, babygirl.”.

    THEY can call us whatever they want. It’s water off a ducks’ back. WE know who we are, and we know what we’re working for, and we know we’re going to get it. For ourselves, for our daughters, for our granddaughters. They can call it oatmeal porridge, it doesn’t matter, we know and, by example, we teach our daughters.

    I’m a feminist. Both my daughters are feminists. My granddaughters are feminist. And our numbers grow. And THAT is why the assholes of the world are fulminating and fomenting. They know what we know; we’re winning!

    • Meghan Murphy


    • Great story! 🙂

    • Sabine


    • What a fantastic story, thank you!

    • Testify, sistah!!!!

  • Dewey

    I think the 4Channians misread the TIME poll header as “Which Should Be Banned in 2015?” Somebody’s in for a world of disappointment.

  • In addition to eradicating the word “feminism,” I would like to suggest to our Dictator-In-Chief Meghan Murphy the following reframings:

    gender= sexiness
    transgender= uber-sexiness
    objectification= veneration
    genderism= scientific sexiness / bringing sexy back
    sexual harassment= patriarchal compliments
    rape= surprise sex (Something Awful forums has already implemented this change)
    prostitution= market sex
    pornography= mediatic sex
    BDSM= non-consensual consent (I believe they’ve already started using that one before we even ordered them to, good for them). Also tasty sex (to contrast with vanilla sex).
    gynocide= gender equality
    high heels= gluteal uplifting device

    In addition, the words “male” and “female” will be eliminated, as they apparently designate nothing.

    I hope this meets with your approval and provides suitable proof that I should be appointed linguist in chief of the Murphyist Kingdom.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Non-consensual consent. HA. Good one 🙂

    • “Unexpected Penises” = “Surprise Birthday Cake.”

    • Soon after Assange was accused of rape, some dude from his legal defence team most actually said, a very close variation on; “It wasn’t rape, it was surprise sex”. Yo, I never thought I would live to see that actually used 1) in a newspaper and 2) by someone in the legal profession. I did have the link to that quote, but *surprise* it has actually disappeared from the internet. Menz love to rewrite history to suit themselves. Damn, I should have saved a pdf of it.

      At the time (on my blog) we had a little fun (sometimes you have to laugh, so as not to cry) with such golden memes as “Assange: It’s not extradition, it’s surprise relocation” and “It’s not arrest, it’s surprise incarceration”.

  • Ellesar

    The word feminist should stay if for only one reason – 4chan voted it as the word they would most like to ban. For anyone who doesn’t know 4chan is a repulsive site, seemingly populated by boys of 14 who like to ‘gross each other out’ with various images of abuse and general human exploitation.

    If you do not like the connotations of the word feminist I suggest that you look at that, rather than changing the word. If I use the word ‘lesbian’ to describe myself but I do not want to be associated with butch dykes what does that say about my understanding of the need for solidarity within an oppressed group?

    Words are interpreted differently over time. 100 years ago a socialist or an anarchist would be looked at very differently to how they are now.

    I suggest that those who call for a ‘rebranding’ seek to undermine feminism. Let them go and be wimpy liberals, or self centred libertarians – they have their own words already.

  • RadFemPornBasher

    I’m all for changing it back to Women’s Liberationist. That’s nice and clear, and it’s the real definition of feminist.

    I had no idea someone wants to change the indicator feminist to some other word. I don’t think this is the time in history to back down even more. We’ve got 2 generations coming up who have had unrestricted porn use, and it is now acceptable. What are these young people going to be like?

    I’m a proud women’s libber who used to have boys chase me around screaming it at me. I think people today need a descriptor that is very clear. Feminism is about the liberation of women from the patriarchy. That needs to be known.

    • Dear RadFemPornBasher: Yes, a thousand times yes.

    • Yeah, but also due to being an oldish bat, I remember when women’s liberationist got shortened to “women’s libber”, with the implication that they were nothing but loudmouths and bra-burners.

      Feminist is a word with a long history, and probably first “féminisme” in French. 😉

  • Pingback: There is nothing wrong with the word “feminism” (feimineach/com)()

  • John K

    There’s nothing wrong with the word “feminist” but there’s nothing wrong with the words “equalist, humanist, or egalitarian” either. Words are pretty silly sometimes. I went to India a few winters ago and there was this big gay pride parade going on and the people kept saying a word in some form of Hindi that basically meant all four of those words and were interchangeable I was told.

    • Missfit

      There is nothing wrong with the word humanist, but not as a replacement for the word feminist. Feminism, as the word implies, focusses on females. And this is the reason why some people don’t like it.

  • I totally agree with the article—it really does not matter what word feminism is ‘re-branded’ to; the replacement will eventually become just as hated, despised and ridiculed.

    Feminism (and feminists) are hated, because females are hated.

    I share my MRA-troll story of the day. These dudes never have an original bone in their bodies.

    MRA-troll: “…you women give feminism a bad name…”
    Me: “When did feminism ever have a good name? Never is when.”

    Because yes, I remember the insults in the 60s/70s towards “Women’s Libbers”. I think ‘hairy legged prude’ was probably thrown about then as well. The more things change, the more they stay the same. For me though, even though a bit too young to participate, those insults actually set me on the feminist path. The words were uttered by my father, while we were all watching news coverage of a WL march. Given he had a wife and two daughters, it struck me as shocking, even as a kid, that he opposed women’s rights. Everything changed in that very moment. I never respected him again.

    I just wish more women and girls would have the same wake-up, when they hear those insults, instead of siding with the oppressor against all of our kind.

    Yes, misogyny is the last frontier of acceptable bigotry. It is the universal—crack that one, and the rest should fall. The world is built on the backs of women.

    • C.K. Egbert

      Very true. I have to say that “humanist” is usually an attempt to erase women’s experiences/oppression specifically (very much in the same way that “cis” does) and put everyone’s rights before women’s own.

      • I agree. What I understand of “humanism” is that it emerged from a group of white male europeans alongside and intertwined with classic liberalism and rights theory, (right at the height of the slave trade). Those theories look great in the package and I would not suggest that they be dispensed with altogether, but I approach them with a giant does of caution given that they have proven to be so malleable and instrumental in hiding oppression.

    • “it struck me as shocking, even as a kid, that he opposed women’s rights. Everything changed in that very moment. I never respected him again.”

      That is inspiring. Thank you for sharing it. I have never understood how few of the insights many of us had as girls carried though and were integrated into who we became as women – or perhaps I do thanks to Carol Gilligan, but I guess I just don’t want to accept it. I recall my disgust at age 5 when I was told that if I married the boy next door, I’d have to take his name and not vice versa “just because”. All through elementary school the vast divide between the way girls were controlled and disciplined and the way the boys were [not] drove me crazy. The depth of sexism is right in front of our eyes all the time and it’s quite the phenomenon that so many are in denial about it. Gilligan has shown that the denial becomes cemented as girls enter adolescence, i.e. become capable of sexual reproduction.

      “I just wish more women and girls would have the same wake-up, when they hear those insults, instead of siding with the oppressor against all of our kind.

      Yes, misogyny is the last frontier of acceptable bigotry. It is the universal—crack that one, and the rest should fall. The world is built on the backs of women.”

      Yes, yes, a thousand time yes!!

      • I am glad you found it helpful.

        The other main event in my formation, is my mother telling me (in the 60s, when I was a kid in primary) that “you can be whatever you want to be”.

        At the time, I felt suddenly overwhelmed (at the choices!), and although I would only analyse it much later, clearly there were a lot of sexist sex-role messages from school and society generally that I was not even aware of—and that I had been brainwashed by it all—myself and all other girls at that time were given very limited opportunities. And it is only relatively recently that STEM subjects have been deemed ‘acceptable’ for girls.

        It was not the end of overcoming the brainwashing though. I was a bit of a liberal-radical feminist hybrid in my 20s, and really only shook off (the liberal part!) by my late 20s. From that point on, it was just a matter of expanding the knowledge (from a radfem perspective) into all areas of feminism.

        I title the above story as “My journey to loud-mouthed, hairy-legged man-hater” (hey, the ‘misandrist’ bs had not been invented yet). Yep, I want all females to be free of male violence and control, and if that makes me a ‘misandrist’, so be it!

        • We need a more accurate word for man-hater/misandrist. I hate the sexism in men. Loath it. Mis-sexist?…reads and spells all wrong.

          Its easy to feel hatred for men when so few seem to be free of what women-hating culture makes them into. In this case “Hate the sin not the sinner” is exactly appropriate. The thing is, dividing the sexism for the person who conveys it (or who they might have been/ who they might be if they’d wake the fuck up) takes a hell of a lot of energy and I’m all tired out from navigating the bullshit.

          • Missfit

            ‘Man-hater’ is usually always used against women who are naming the problem of men’s violence against women and cultural/political sexism. This is the tactic of attacking the messenger instead of addressing the message. Now if you are calling someone a man-hater for addressing misogyny, you are implying that men are inherently misogynists (as with this view, ‘man’ can’t be separate from ‘misogyny’ apparently). If that is the case, women would be right then in resenting men, all men. As such, the man-haters accusers are only bringing their own thought to its logical conclusion; they really do think that all men are misogynists.