“I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?” – Ellen Page
I have been asked, by both men and women, as to why the word ‘feminism’ is still used in this day and age. If feminism is for everyone, why include ‘fem’ in the title? Surely, if feminism does include fighting for the equality of not only women but also men, non-binary people, the LGBT community and POC then we should modernise the title to a more inclusive one? In 2015, Meryl Streep claimed that she did not associate with the word ‘feminist’ but instead stated: “I am a humanist, I am for a nice easy balance”.
So, the question is: should the word ‘feminism’ be updated? Should we start defining ourselves as ‘humanists’ and ‘equalists’ to avoid claims that the label ‘feminism’ no longer fits the list of people that it claims to help?
The thing is, by referring to ourselves as ‘feminists’ we are highlighting the social, political and economic disadvantages that women face every single day; this ranges from unwanted cat-calling in the street, FGM, the Bathroom Bill, to the gender pay-gap. Of course, we can claim that defining ourselves as ‘humanists’ and ‘equalists’ we are taking into account and fighting for the equality of everyone. However, the key to understanding why we refer to the word ‘feminism’ when referring to gender equality is to remember that feminism is all about addressing the current state of the world. In the current world we live in, women are the gender group who are heavily discriminated against. This includes the discrimination against WOC, transwomen, gay women and bisexual women.
As Vlogger Steve Shives claimed in a video in 2014:
“The reason why it’s called feminism while advocating for gender equality is because females are the gender that are the underprivileged, underserved gender…You attain gender equality by advocating for the rights of the underprivileged gender”
Despite popular belief, especially amongst the older generations, that feminism is all about women wanting to be better than men, it is actually about bringing women up to the same level as men. How is this possible, by using definitions such as ‘Equalism’ when we have not yet reached that target? This is not to say that men are not discriminated against or affected by the patriarchy. From a young age, society teaches men that they shouldn’t show emotion; that they should act ‘manly’; that they shouldn’t wear the colour pink; they shouldn’t play with dolls but with cars instead. Through my time at school, I watched as boys were labelled as ‘gay boys’ if they let their guard down for more than a second. Statistics show that this behaviour is incredibly damaging for men in later life. Men are statistically more likely to struggle with alcoholism as a coping mechanism rather than women. Additionally, the 2017 Samaritans Suicide Statisics Report claimed that the highest suicide rate in the UK was for men, aged 40-44. If we want to smash the patriarchy and consequently, these problems and ideas, men must realise the importance and the impact of feminism. We need to stop cowering away from the word and use it as a sword, to smash and protect ourselves from that glass ceiling.
Essentially, it is not the WORD ‘feminism’ that is the problem, and none of us should be afraid to use it, whether you believe in ‘Equalism’ or ‘Humanism’ or not. The thing that both men and women need to continually focus on is making sure that the feminism itself is intersectional. We need to make sure that our feminism isn’t just the type of feminism that only impacts ourselves. In order to make sure that our feminism is progressive, we need to make sure that it includes fighting against the discrimination against race, class and sexual orientation.
Feminism is not a dirty word. Feminism does not mean burning bras, does not automatically make you a lesbian, does not mean you hate men and certainly does not mean you want to be better than men. Without the acceptance of the word and definition of the word ‘feminism’, equality is not, and will never be possible.