When a group of us at university made the decision to start a feminist group, we found ourselves becoming most nervous about how we chose our wording. Our title. Our identities. We didn’t want to refer to ourselves as ‘feminists’, despite that being the sole purpose of our group, and the subject that we wanted to discuss and teach together. It was an issue we had, to try and get around this ‘poisonous’ meaning of the word, without avoiding the cause altogether.
It’s an interesting (and frustrating) concept, that people have created this secondary (and probably more prominent) meaning to the word. One which suggests anger, extremism, bitchiness, bra-burning, man-hating. It’s a topic that Emma Watson discussed recently in her famous United Nations speech. People don’t want to be feminists. To be a feminist would make you unlikable, unattractive, unpopular.
Emma Watson explains this, and side steps it by saying that you don’t need to be a ‘feminist’ to want gender equality. She addresses the issue by saying that it’s okay for people to avoid the term, as long as they fight for the right outcome in the long term.
But for me this isn’t enough. The language that people use on a day to day basis is a huge part of the fight for equality. We can all want the right thing in the long run, but if inequality is still in our everyday language, the issue itself is going to be everyday too.
I often wonder if we made the right choice, by deciding on a group name which avoids the term ‘feminism’ altogether. I sometimes feel like by doing this, our group agrees with the idea that feminism is a dirty word. But unfortunately, if we were to include the word as a part of our identity, it would most likely become even harder to get the attention of those we want to listen to us.