Feminism is Not a Dirty Word ~ Marlana Moore

“I’m not a feminist, but…”

I hear this phrase a lot, and I suppose that at one point in time I was guilty of using it too. However, just as I grew out of my Hot Topic shopping habits and eventually realized that my seventh grade obsession with wearing cat ears to school was embarrassing, I have outgrown my previously immature attitudes. What my aversion was, and what others’ continue to be, is a misconstrued vision of what a feminist is. If the thought that a feminist is a dirty hippie who burns her bras and never washes her hair, who scorns men every chance she can, and devotes her free time demonstrating at pro-choice rallies, then believe me, I am no feminist. However, if these strange social conventions are stripped from the word, and for example, the world sees feminism as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it, “advocacy of the rights of women (based on the theory of equality of the sexes),” then maybe more people would understand that they are in fact feminists.

Think of it this way: if I were to say, “I am not a Rutgers student, but I take all of my classes at Rutgers,” something would sound off. By taking Rutgers classes at any of the three campuses, I am a Rutgers student. Because I fulfill the only criteria necessary to be a student at Rutgers, not identifying as one makes me sound ridiculous. The same goes for those who say, “I am not a feminist, but I believe women should have the same rights as men,” or something analogous. The criteria for being a feminist is fulfilled, yet the person chooses not to identify as one. For some reason, this is an overwhelmingly acceptable attitude. The whole idea strikes me as absurd.

The problem lies in the general attitude toward feminists, and in turn how feminism is perceived. For example, instead of defining a Rutgers student as one who attends Rutgers classes, I have defined the term as a person who attends Rutgers football games. Therefore, I am not a Rutgers student because I do not attend Rutgers football games. It is true that many Rutgers students attend the football games at the brand new stadium on Busch campus, and many Rutgers students also wear Rutgers attire. Though these characteristics describe Rutgers students, they are not conditions of being a Rutgers student. In the same way, certain characteristics that are ascribed to feminists do not make a person a feminist.

Case in point, on a Friday night in my apartment before going out, my female friend interjects that she would like to put on some make up before we left. A certain male friend gives her a funny look and says, “Why are you putting on make up? I thought you were a feminist.” And in the next thirty seconds he got schooled in how taking pride in your appearance as a woman does not contradict feminist values. In fact, feminists can take any number of shapes from women’s studies majors to housewives to even men. Because the “feminazi” stereotype first perpetuated by Rush Limbaugh has run rampant through the American vernacular, feminism is something to fear, like a militant state run by Hitler or “woman power” in the same way as the Neo-Nazi “White Power.” These associations retard the social progress necessary for women to finally achieve equal rights as men.

Though since the Woman’s Suffrage movement of the 1920s, America has come a far way in extending equal rights to women. However, if we concede this to be a victory and render feminism no longer necessary, we will lose far more in the long run. If women were equal to men in American society today, then women would be paid the same as men, women would not have to worry about sexual harassment, abuse or assault. Just readBen’s article from two weeks ago to see how these issues are handled at Rutgers. If we look around the world at these issues, we will see that of the 2.5 million people forced into labor, 43% are forced into commercial sexual exploitation. 98% of these people are women and girls.

We need to be feminists for these women. We need to stand up for women’s rights for all those who do not have the same fundamental rights as men. When we deny feminism and we are scared to identify as feminists, then we turn a blind eye to the women who are treated profoundly unequal to their male counterparts. Feminism is absolutely necessary in our culture today, if not to recognize that inequality both exists and abounds in our world. When we allow for the “Feminazi” stereotype to persist, we give a victory to those who want to oppress women or make us believe that these issues do not exist anymore. They clearly do. And for this reason, feminism should not be a dirty word. You are a feminist, and so am I.


Photo courtesy of novaseeker.wordpress.com


11 thoughts on “Feminism is Not a Dirty Word ~ Marlana Moore

  1. Marlana,
    I really like this article.
    I also want to say that the word ‘feminism’ is inherently a biased word in that it is stuck in the old gender role debate. Why does someone who wants equal rights for people need to be called a ‘feminist’ in one sense, a ‘gay rights activist’ in another, or a ‘leader in the african american community’ in yet another. I try and stay away from the ‘ists’ because although they are more progressive minded than the stereotypical rich, white, slave owning man they still won’t let the old divisions die. Maybe your yearning for the love, connection, and respect that that Carl Jung called “great and oceanic” sentiments could better expressed as ‘humanist’, ‘connected’, or ‘honest’ rather than feminist.
    Again though, I really want you to know that this piece of yours is well written, necessary, and ultimately very appropriate.
    – Brendan Kaplan

  2. Brendan,
    Honestly, I agree with you. I wish that feminism was not necessary. I wish that we didn’t have women’s literature classes but rather the canon of female writers be instead included under the title of “literature.” And that everyone enjoyed equal rights everywhere. Eventually, I hope that feminism becomes a movement in history that people read about, but until we can properly retire the word to the history books, then I think I have to identify as a feminist and encourage others to as well.

  3. I agree with Brendan both in the praise to the article and the idea that perhaps there is no need to see feminism in the light of these necessary conditions ascribed to it by dictionaries or cultural prejudices. However, I disagree with you Marlana when you say that feminism is necessary. I guess it is necessary within the framework you have described and using the description of feminism you have provided, but advocacy for the equal rights of women doesn’t seem to me to be a sufficient condition for feminism. Yet, taking classes at Rutgers necessarily and sufficiently makes you a Rutgers student. More than rejecting the label of “feminist” because of the stereotypes associated with them, I choose to ignore it because I do not prefer reasoning in those terms.

  4. Alejandra, I think the difference between our two views is that while you choose to reject the label because of the stereotypes, I choose to reject the stereotypes associated with the word. And if the equal rights of women isn’t a sufficient condition, I’d like to know what is. I know that in the USA by law, women and men have equal rights, which makes it kind of iffy. Maybe advocacy for the equality of men and women, period, is better, but I don’t really know.

  5. “I choose to reject the stereotypes associated with the word.”
    I see what you mean by this, but I think the problem with it is that the stereotypes have become so engraved in our discourse that there’s no way you can separate the word from the stereotypes, kind of like the “n” word on a smaller scale (smaller only because it’s implication, at least I think, is much more widely understood and incredibly more derogatory). Language is a very tricky thing to deal with – language is a living thing that is constantly changing and evolving, but we humans are stubborn creatures of habit.
    Besides that, awesome article!

  6. Dave, I understand what you are saying, but I think the “n word” is a poor analogy. The “n word” is not associated with a particular ideology and mindset in the same way that “feminist” is. Rather, a certain set of cultural stereotypes have been formed to the word. At the root of the word, where it came from, the “n word” is a word of oppression but “feminism” was a label to a movement in civil rights.
    I think that the cultural associations with the word do not change what it means. Similarly when a Fox News pundit talks about “liberals” as if they all drive hybrid cars and take yoga. Or when someone talks about “teenagers,” with the assumption that they all do is send dirty text messages to one another on their iphones. Each of these words have a meaning when it is stripped away from their cultural associations, and it is up to intelligent people to use these words as they are properly defined as opposed to how the stereotypes deem them to be.

  7. increasing the empowerment of women around the world will have impact for generations to come.
    From The Atlantic Monthly: “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs—up from 26.1 percent in 1980… Earlier this year, for the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the nation’s jobs.” Forty years ago, just 4% of the nation’s lawyers were women; now the figure is 32%. (They also note that among Americans who choose the sex of their children, most now choose girls.)
    yet few would argue that the genders have achieved equality. Still, there are signs of economic and political progress. the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, passed by a few weeks ago

  8. I agree completely with Marlana. Bren, you make a good observation about the use of categorical language (it gets more or less specific). But I see no reason to reject the word “feminist”; it’s just a lable for a specifc facet of humanism, a necessary element of any humanist ideology.
    Dave, I think you contradict yourself with your own example. Consider the term “black people”. Hasn’t the stereotype around it changed with time? Words are living, growing, evolving ideas because people like Marlana take hold of them and assert them as seperate from stereotypes.
    Ale, what exactly do you think is a sufficient condition for feminism if not advocacy for equal gender rights? I’m pretty sure that is exactly what feminism is.
    Overall, I’m frankly surprised by how heavily you guys feel we as
    Americans (or humans or whatever) are wedded to stereotypes. They are just ideas and we have control over them.
    Marlana, your ideas are spot on, I’m in complete agreement with them. A couple things stand out that should have been caught during the editorial process, odd wording, typos and the like. Otherwise, solid piece.

  9. No, I don’t know specifically what it is but I do think it’s lacking. I wouldn’t know what the sufficient condition would be. But again, I’m not rejecting the label because of its stereotypes I just don’t see the need to reason in those terms. In the case that feminism does correspond to the definition you guys are agreeing on then yeah, I would consider myself a feminist. Yet, I think such a word hardly makes any difference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>