Thought of the Day

24 Jan

This post should be short, as I’m using it to actively procrastinate (or, maybe not: is it still procrastination if you are working through information you are in the middle of reading?). Nevertheless, here is the framing of this thought: I am currently wading through a few hundred pages of reading for the week. I’ve gotten through my readings on gender and human rights and inequality, poverty and gender, but now I have come to my readings for feminist knowledge production. I could probably go on for endless paragraphs even about what that name means, but the point is, I’m reading the first chapter of Feminist Research in Theory and Practice and am in the middle of the section about language. Many theorists argue that, while talking about knowledge and knowledge production, especially from a feminist perspective, you must consider language as the creator of reality. Language is determined by those with access to power and authoritative knowledge, these barriers are designated by those with the most cultural control, and historicall in a Western sense, those people have been men. Specifically, white, upper class men. There are arguments about whether language is or should be presented as the sole motivator in the constitution of reality, I don’t want to get into that.

Right now, the author is discussing political correctness and its effects on language and on the work of feminists to subvert masculinist language and discourse. If “politially correct” is the concept that enourages gender-neutral terms for occupations and pronouns as well as the political catechrises and reappropriation of words previously connotated derogatory, then a culture that rebels against politcal correctness is likely to reject and ridicule these attempts. Further, through manipulation of language over time, words like spinster (originally referring to a woman who worked with a spindle. These women just happened to enjoy a higher than normal standard of living for women, by the by) and gossip (originally meaning a friend who was there for the birth of a child and would take on the role of godparent) have turned into deragatory terms that are mainly targeted at women. And, when used in reference to men, have a doubly damning impact of also feminizing the one in question. Like these words, “feminism” is now out of vogue. I cannot tell you how many times people have asked me why, if it has such a negative connotation, don’t I just pick another word? When I mention that some people have negative reactions to the word, the most common response is almost accusatory, like I am asking for this response because I already know that feminism is the other “f-word” and that people don’t like feminists, in general. I don’t like anyone accusing anybody of “asking for it,” in general, but in this particular instance it is so difficult to explain that even claiming the word “feminist” is, in itself a feminist act. In the article I’m reading, a UK women’s magazine printed this sentiment: “feminism: we still need it but we want a new name for it.” This, reflecting on all of the reading about language preceding it, led me to this question: Why are only the subversive uses of language asked to change? Why would anyone feel it is alright to ask an entire movement to change it’s name because of an unfounded, sexist, and misogynist backlash against its very foundation? I will not accede to the demands of masculinist culture and change my stance, and I will not choose a different word based on the manipulation of a patriarchal society. Feminism is about calling out inequality and demanding that the patriarchy end, so why on earth would you ask me to appease this demand of The Man, which attempts to discolor “feminism” and mold it into a dirty, shameful word?

I will not be your bubblegum feminist to make you feel more at ease with me, and I will not pick from your “more acceptable” terms to desribe what I am. I am a feminist. This means, inherently, that I’m dedicated to the reorganization of society and a rejection of current hierarchies and patterns of oppression.

Deal with it.

In Sisterhood and Solidarity,



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