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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The F Word

Is it time to abandon the 'bad' label and invent one anew? Salon.com:

Gandy isn't suggesting that anyone rub the word "feminism" off their bumper stickers or refrigerator magnets. But she did acknowledge that she has had informal conversations -- both with people who work at NOW and with those she meets on the road -- about agitation from some within the movement who believe it's time to retire "feminism's" number.


But, she said, we cannot pretend that "feminism" has escaped the fate of "liberalism" before it. "This is what the right-wing has done to our language," she said. "'Liberal' is a proud term. But at a certain point, it became very difficult for people to call themselves liberal. If you asked them about issues they would say, 'I'm not liberal, I'm progressive.' Excuse me, you are a liberal! But the right made that a bad word. They've done the same thing with 'feminism.'"


But some people didn't think the notion of ditching the word was such a crazy idea at all. "I think it's very smart," said Erica Jong, whose use of explicit language in "Fear of Flying' changed the nature of American women's fiction in 1973. "The problem hasn't gone away. Women are still second-class citizens; the problem of choice is still with us -- in fact it's gotten worse. So if we need to change the name to get people involved, we should."

I have never had a problem with the term and I know many men who happily label themselves 'feminists', but many people do find the term repellant even though they endorse the ideas. I think that is more the result of social stigma and negative connotation than the suggestive gender denotation of the term itself. In this case, it doesn't matter what we call it because the anti-feminist, anti-humanist, anti-civil rights lobby will be determined to smear it.