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Rebranding feminism: the planning meeting

Hi everyone: welcome to this, the meeting in which we aim to rebrand feminism, an exercise that countless people have insisted is vital. As a feminist, I’m often told that the word needs to be changed, or that feminism’s image must be improved, and because I’ve heard the phrase ‘rebranding feminism’ at least seven hundred times over the course of 2014, I thought 2015 should be the year we roll up our sleeves and get on with it.

Please take a seat, help yourself to coffee, and try not to fight over the chocolate biscuits.

Point 1 on the agenda: does feminism need a name change?

Lots of people have brought this one up, because ultimately ‘feminism’ does sound a bit woman-y, doesn’t it? Although – wait a minute! – maybe the word is doing exactly what it’s designed to – highlight issues which disproportionately affect women?

I suspect that’s the case. While the structures in which we live harm everyone by putting them in a set ‘place’ based on whether they’re perceived to be pink or blue, they do disproportionately harm women. The word is actually pretty damn useful because it highlights the fact that, well, feminism is going to struggle harder for women’s rights than men’s rights in most cases. Not because men don’t deserve the same rights over e.g. their own bodies, their right to education, to political representation etc, but because in many instances they already have them.

So… name change is a tricky one, but let’s take some suggestions from the floor. Any ideas as to what we should call it?

Point 2: should feminism really be called ‘equalism’?

No – motion denied by the senior committee of… well… me. Apart from being an extraordinarily ugly word, we have a word for ‘equalism’ already – it’s ‘equality’. And we actually do use that word a hell of a lot – not just when we’re fighting for women’s rights but also when we’re fighting for equality regardless of race, sexual orientation, etc etc. If you’re repulsed by the word ‘feminism’ then please feel free to use the word ‘equality’ if you like. I’m not going to stop you.

However, I’d question why you feel that it’s so gosh-darn-it vital that you insist I never use it. We have specific words and phrases to describe other areas of political struggle, because it’s important to recognise when we’re fighting for rights that have traditionally been denied to certain people, or when we’re campaigning against something that disproportionately affects a particular group.

If you’re insisting not just on calling it ‘equalism’, but eradicating any word that hints at the specific struggle for the rights of women, I’d question what your motivations are for doing that: are you insisting on equalism because you believe – against all available evidence – that the patriarchy harms men to exactly the same degree?

Patriarchy does harm men – I’ve done this one before. But we generally measure ‘success’ and ‘harm’ by who has power and wealth and freedom and rights, and in most countries in the world, men have the lion’s share of those things. They are harmed by the patriarchy, but not in the same ways, or to the same degree.

There are some who think we should throw out all structures and start again. I’m not one of these people, and I suspect if you’re advocating a mealy-mouthed ‘equalism’ then you probably aren’t either. So if you want to keep our current political structures yet fight for ‘equalism’ you have to recognise that these structures have, historically, harmed women more than men.

Having a word that highlights this point doesn’t feel like a ludicrously ambitious request to make, to be honest.

Next point of order:

Point 3: if not equalism, then what?

My actual answer, if offered the task of renaming feminism, wouldn’t be to change the word to focus on including the dominant group, but changing it to be more inclusive of groups which have traditionally been marginalised even within feminism.

Feminists aren’t perfect. In fact, some of them are arseholes (myself included). Like all dominant groups, groups of feminists with the loudest voices often have a tendency to drown out the voices of a whole bunch of other people, and the way our society is structured means some tend to be amplified more than others. So rather than renaming feminism to something that will please (or at least try to avoid offending) members of a more dominant group, why not rename it to something that is more demonstrably inclusive of the groups whose problems feminism has traditionally marginalised? Women of colour, trans women, disabled women, women who live in countries which don’t allow them access to education or healthcare, women who don’t happen to have a giant blogging platform on which to bang on about their tedious opinions… etc.

Answers on a postcard to this one, but I think it’s a much stronger suggestion than that proposed by ‘equalists.’

Question from the floor: how about we start ‘meninism’ as well?

Thanks, Mike from accounts. Great question. The answer is: because that’s bollocks.

Name me a specific, proven issue that disproportionately affects dudes, and I’ll show you how and why many feminists care about it. Saying ‘we need meninism’ is a bit like trying to ringfence a portion of the meeting biscuits onto your own special plate. I bought the biscuits for everyone, Mike, and you’ve already had three. You’ll still get biscuits in future meetings, it’s just that they won’t specifically be called ‘Mike’s biscuits.’

Another question from the floor: aren’t you worried about turning people off being feminist?

Maybe. Maybe I’m turning off some people who already hate the word feminism. But to be honest, if you hate the word ‘feminism’ because it puts too strong an emphasis on the rights that women have traditionally been denied, you probably aren’t going to be excited about fighting for those rights.

If you have genuine concerns about what feminism is, or does, I’d much rather spend time tackling those actual problems than coming up with a word that will obscure them.

Point 4: what does feminism stand for? What do feminists want?

We’re obviously struggling to come up with a new name for feminism here, and I’m not sure we’re even clear on whether it needs one. Let’s put that to one side for now and focus on the rebrand itself.

Can we at least agree on a list of things that feminists want? Hmm.

Feminism is not a massive club where we all sit round having these actual meetings. We don’t gather together in a town hall, let Caitlin Moran make a short speech about the agenda, vote to ban page 3 and internet porn, then pop home before the patriarchy notices we don’t have its dinner on the table.

Feminism is not a group of people studiously beavering away to tick off a set of universally agreed goals. Feminists are united by an idea: the notion that everyone is equal regardless of gender and that on this basis, equal rights are worth fighting for. Within that common idea there are myriad different goals, from getting Jane Austen on a tenner to achieving educational equality. Some of these goals are amazing, and the kind of things I am 100% behind. Others are, I think, misguided and/or badly done and/or entirely missing the point of what I think feminism should be about.

But that’s cool, because – as mentioned above – this is not actually a unified movement: there are no meetings, and I’m certainly not the goddamn leader.

Going back to the point above – if you think feminists should stop whining and all agree on a common cause, you’ll end up with a ‘common cause’ which writes off a whole bunch of people whose voices have traditionally been ignored. And, come to think of it, isn’t agreeing on a new ‘brand’ for feminism just a more ‘marketable’ way of doing exactly that?

It’s starting to look like we shouldn’t rebrand at all, to be honest.

Point 5: why feminism and nothing else?

Maybe feminism’s just too hard to rebrand. I mean if these pesky feminists can’t even agree on what their next campaign is, how the hell are we going to get them to vote on a logo?

My fifth and (I promise) final point addresses the thing that pisses me off most: the notion that not only should all feminists agree on whatever our ‘goal’ or ‘brand’ is, but that we should settle upon something which is not distasteful to those in power.

“Oh the problem with feminism is that it conjures images of angry femi-Nazis,” warbles the ex-editor of Loaded magazine, trotting out the tired ‘all men are rapists’ quote without a trace of irony. “I know feminism isn’t about misandry, but so many people think of it that way,” garble the people who are predominantly responsible for making others think that way.

Look: just because you have misconceptions about something that does not mean that everyone engaged in that thing needs to leap through new communication hoops to prevent you from having a cry about it. We can try, of course, and engaging new people is important, but don’t tell feminists to rebrand in the same breath as you explain why feminism isn’t *really* about man-hating. If you know it isn’t (and of course it isn’t) then give other people the credit to recognise that too.

More pressingly, why on earth is this kind of criticism only ever levelled at feminism?

Are we going to rebrand Utilitarianism because a bunch of people don’t know what it means? Shall we ditch the toxic word ‘Christianity’ because of the Westboro Baptist Church? Do we insist that capitalism be renamed to ‘not as bad as you think-ism’ because its image has become a bit negative after the financial collapse?

Is there any large political or ideological movement in which everyone agrees? And, perhaps more pertinently, is anyone waving their flag and demanding these other movements all rebrand themselves because they don’t reflect differences of opinion or have names which actively seek to challenge misconceptions? No.

Over to you: rebranding feminism

If you want to identify as a feminist: great. If you don’t: don’t. The only time I’ll realistically care is if you say you’re a feminist while actively fighting for something that holds back gender equality. My problem isn’t with how anyone else identifies, but how people dictate what I call myself. Within the broad scope of Any Issue That Touches On Gender Equality, I’m well up for a debate. Let’s talk about the problems different people face, and how best to solve them. Let’s work out what we want to do next to highlight a particular issue, or campaign for a fairer law. Let’s try and reflect on what’s good about feminism and what’s bad, and not disappear head-first up our own arses in an attempt to placate those who’d never have joined in anyway.

So, my conclusion from this – the Meeting Where We Talk About Rebranding Feminism – is that I refuse to slap a new name badge on something I’ve called myself for years, or insist that we all agree on the Feminist Agenda for 2015.

If you disagree then the floor is yours. I’ll be here in the corner, scowling at the word ‘equalism’ and eating the last of the biscuits.


  • IanH says:

    GOTN, thanks for a great read – and a funny one too. I’m going to flag this up on Twitter for teachers to use, perhaps in sixth form discussion groups or sociology lessons. I’ll leave it up to them to consider linking implications!

    I remember a phrase, but not the source, that described atheism as “an attitude, not an organisation”. I can see how describing feminism in the same way might be relevant?

    • Girl on the net says:

      Thanks! Bit worried about this one tbh as i know the tone is quite shouty. But glad it gets things across.

      I think you’re right re: attitude – it’s definitely closer than ‘agrees with a set list of goals.’

  • Pandora says:

    “I bought the biscuits for everyone, Mike, and you’ve already had three.”


    Fantastic post, as ever – you have a gift for taking an opinion and turning into playful commentary. If I’d written this post, it would have been angry polemic. With you, it’s a good-humoured discussion. Even if our club doesn’t actually exist, I am so glad you’re in it :)

    Oh, and on point 3, I use “intersectional feminist” to mean exactly that, but some people whine that’s too intellectual. Next time they do that in my presence I’m tempted to quote your line about “utilitarianism” at them, though.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Thank you =) So glad you liked it – was quite worried about this one as I am about lots of the posts in which I get a bit ranty.

      Good point re: intersectional – in my opinion all feminism (and any movement that fights for equality) should be intersectional, and recognise competing privileges and challenges, but I was a bit unsure about using the term as a kind of catch-all for feminism. I feel like one of the massive failings of some major feminist campaigns is that they aren’t intersectional, or they have a tendency towards making a token effort towards it while failing to recognise where they fall down. Sorry, that’s a bit waffly. The ‘intellectualism’ thing is a tricky one because I can kind of understand where people are coming from, but I think given that it’s something not many people *do* understand, education and comms is important (not necessarily coming up with a new word!). Had a really interesting chat with someone about this recently, who basically pointed out to me that although lots of people get frustrated at the word ‘intersectional’, the vast majority of people go ‘oh yeah obviously’ when it’s explained. And ultimately the same ‘intellectual’ argument can be made for any concept that’s yet to make it into common discourse – maybe we just need to talk about it more. People down the pub are going to LOVE me =)

  • Lichuan says:

    Hi GOTN. Interesting post, impressive and funny, just like your personality.

  • Lucy Fenton says:

    Great article. Thank you for articulating this so well.

    I didn’t find you shouty – coherent, funny and understandably frustrated but not shouty. Although, maybe I’m biased because I was shouting “yes, exactly” to every point you made.

  • Rahul says:

    Suicide. The statistics are appalling. The vast majority of suicides are carried out by males, most likely because they feel inadequately “masculine,” as society demands of them. This can manifest itself in terms earning “less-than-satisfactory” wages, being physically “weak” or “small,” or not being able to ever open up about their emotional vulnerabilities.

    How many Feminists care to talk about it? Zero. Because it doesn’t fit in very well with the narrative of “Patriarchy means most men enjoy being in positions of power (and hence subjugating women), and also enjoy even the *expectation* of being powerful.”

    I can name you other issues if you’d like, too.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Feminists not only care about this, but it was one of the key points mentioned by Emma Watson in the “HeForShe” launch speech:

    • Artemis says:

      As GotN has already pointed out, many feminists do talk about the higher success rate of suicide attempts among men, and are deeply concerned with changing that. Your statement is a massive over-simplification though, and I want you to appreciate rright from the start that I could be playing Dragon Age right now, but I am taking time away from my busy “saving Thedas and shagging Iron Bull” schedule to go into it.

      Please don’t read the rest of this comment if you are suicidal or find discussion of suicide distressing. In the former case, please, please contact the Samaritans and your doctor. Even though it feels like it, you are not alone. Don’t listen to the part of you that screams that you are. It’s lying.

      There are many, many reasons why more men kill themselves than women. Method of suicide is big one: men are more likely to choose fast and violent methods than women are. This means that there is a much shorter window of time to change their minds and get help. Given that the number of women who suffer from depression and depressive illnesses is far higher than the number of men, this implies that there is are underpinning cultural factors which help to determine both method of suicide, and whether an attempt is made at all.

      Men are socialised to believe that violence is acceptable and even desirable. Women are not. This probably has an impact on the method of suicide: women are far more likely to self-poison than men, which is notably much less violent than pretty much every other way to end one’s life.

      Men are socialised to believe that succeeding at something is preferable to learning from making mistakes, whereas women are expected to make mistakes. A suicidal man, therefore, is far more likely to want to succeed, and will be far less likely to change his mind part-way through. Women do not have the same cultural taboos about admitting failure, and expect strangers to judge them as failures regularly, thus are better positioned mentally to accept the consequences of having attempted suicide but not succeeded.

      Men are socialised to believe that emotions are weakness (in the UK in specific and the West in general), whereas women are seen as emotionally incontinent. This means that a woman in crisis is far more likely to talk about it than a man, and thus is less likely to even attempt suicide – women are more likely to ask for help, and to receive it, than men.

      Given that women are more likely to choose a means by which they are more able to change their minds and get help, but that only “successful” suicide attempts are reported on, it’s really hard to get a clear picture of how many people attempt suicide against numbers of deaths. I suspect that the numbers would look considerably different, but that is based on my personal experiences, and the fact that I suffer from confirmation bias along with everyone else. Women are also more likely to be dismissed as “attention seeking” or “crying for help” when they attempt suicide, so self-reporting has to be much more difficult gauge accurately.

      If you take the view that male suicide is a thing which is not influenced by anything else, then I can see how you might think that feminists ignore male suicide. But in actual fact, nothing exists in a vacuum, and male suicide is influenced by a large number of factors which feminism is intimately concerned with, which I detailed above. It is important to remember that the victims of inequality are sometimes beneficiaries in weird ways, and this is one of them. Women are less likely to kill themselves, even though the reasons why that is the case revolve around women being seen as less competent, less adult, and less important than men.

      If you want to change that statistic for the better, your best bet is to change the underlying structure which forces men into these narrow and binary ways of thinking. And that means feminism. Literally everything you can think of which affects men “more” than it does women is because of this: male-on-male violence, death-by-cop, murder-suicide, prostate cancer statistics, mental health stuff, whatever – it all comes from a social structure which tells men that they cannot show vulnerability, they cannot ask for help, they cannot fail at anything, that violence is always an appropriate solution, and so on. Women are not to blame for this. Feminism wants to fix it. Stop fighting us, and start dismantling this bullshit.

      • Girl on the net says:

        Thank you Artemis! Could not agree more, especially with your last para. That’s pretty much the reason I was so confident making the ‘name me an issue’ statement in the first place.

        • Artemis says:

          :) Yeah, I agreed with everything in your original as well, especially that bastard Mike always stealing the biscuits. Arsehole.

    • Azkyroth says:

      Last time I saw statistics, it was something like women are 2-3 times as likely to attempt as males, but male attempters are 4-5 times as likely to succeed, mostly due to pills-or-razors vs. guns as method of choice, respectively.

  • Rahul says:

    Sorry, above comment ^^ was in response to quote: “Name me a specific, proven issue that disproportionately affects dudes, and I’ll show you how and why many feminists care about it.”

  • Ian says:

    Interesting read on a topic my woolly liberalism makes me hesitant to approach usually because I rarely feel happy with the efficacy of my own feminism, but I’m curious…

    Although not explicitly a move to rebrand feminism, I wondered what you thought about the “HeForShe” campaign? It felt to me a little like an attempt to confront the “what about equality” argument, but I worry that it might be seen as somehow “men supporting women being *allowed* equality”. I’m quite sure that’s not their intent, am I being overly cautious or sensitive seeing it as possible to read that way? Is it a helpful additional avenue for foster more positive engagement from men, or an adjunct that only provides a badge for the converted as it were?

    By way of a postscript, and with tongue firmly placed in cheek I hasten to add, just exactly which variety of biscuits would be served at this rebranding meeting?

    • Girl on the net says:

      “I rarely feel happy with the efficacy of my own feminism.”
      You and me both =) More uncertainty with things like this is good, I reckon, because it means we examine our actions more. My actions are frequently crap, and to be honest if I were happy with the efficacy of my feminism it probably wouldn’t be that effective, because I’d never be examining it to see where I’m cocking up.

      You ask a tricky question (the HeForShe one, not the biscuits). My initial reaction was a kind of growl of frustration – I find it really annoying when feminist campaigns focus on trying to do what I’d see as placating or patronising men. But that’s probably a lot of arrogance on my part. My general attitude is – ‘well, of COURSE feminism affects men, and will benefit them!’ as in the example above that Rahul asked about. I often see (and frequently mention) issues which have a significant affect on men and which feminism aims to tackle. Probably front of my mind is the idea that all men are beasts who are so unable to control their rampant sexuality that they’ll inevitably sexually assault women if given half the chance. Obviously that’s arse, and I think the people who’ve been making the biggest fuss about it are feminists. Conversely, most of the misandry I see comes from people who are also misogynists – there’s a kind of complementary ‘men are simply biological automatons and will act exactly as hormones dictate they should’ assumption that comes hand in hand with assumptions about women being e.g. weak or incapable.

      BUT, given the reaction to it, and the fact that it’s clearly *not* obvious how feminism also benefits men, I’m probably more in favour of the campaign now than I was when it launched. It’s probably not framed in quite the way I’d do it, but who the hell am I to decide? And the fact that it’s backed by the UN means it got phenomenal coverage and does stand a chance of getting cut-through, particularly to people who might not have paid attention before.

      Sorry, I realise that’s a bit middle-ground and fence-sitting. Here’s an area where I can be more decisive: biscuits.

      Naturally budget constraints will influence the biscuits at future meetings, but because it’s the launch meeting I thought I’d splash out on some of these: (not an ad, these are just my favourite chocolate biscuits)

  • DigitalBroccoli says:

    As someone who works in higher education, (as a teacher, adviser and administrator in varying degrees over the last 15 years) and is currently putting the bow on my very last degree, I am absolutely amazed at how the single best representation of this topic I’ve read in the last few years is not in an academic journal, not in a diversity seminar but instead its on the internet, on a blog, written by a chick that normally writes about wanking.

    And that my dear, is why I love ya. :)

  • I fully agree. As I mentioned on Twitter, I’ve been told I can’t be a feminist because I used to be a stripper, or I can’t be a feminist because I dint find nudity morally repugnant, or I can’t be a feminist because I enjoy sunbathing in the nude.

    What annoys me most about these comments is that they invariably always come from other women who call themselves feminists. Apparently, my brand of feminism isn’t genuine and that by my past choices, I have somehow betrayed the ‘sisterhood’.

    To which I say “fuck that!”

    The point of feminism to me is that I am equal to any man and anything he can do, apart from have an erection. I should be allowed to do too. I don’t hate men, far from it, nor do I want to be a man (imagine only owning two pairs of shoes), but I do want to be equal to men.

    It all puts me in mind of the tongue in cheek lyric from The Devine Comedy: “Generation Sex respects the rights of girls who want to take their clothes off, so long as we can all watch, that’s ok”.

    We still have far to go.

    Katie xx

    • Azkyroth says:

      Unfortunately, there is a streak of “feminism” which asserts that, well, actually, some women…you know, those women…actually aren’t morally or mentally equal to men, and that they need the right women to make their decisions for them instead of being allowed to make them themselves, poor dears. This is usually most overtly a manifestation of intersectionality failure (most commonly in terms of class, though race also comes up), but frankly it’s only mildly hyperbolic to observe that this subset enthusiastically endorses the structures of patriarchy…just not who’s at the top of the pyramid. >.>

  • Azkyroth says:

    I feel like there’s a cogent argument to be made that the construct and “face meaning” of “feminism” as a term for pursuit of gender equality tends to elide non-binary people.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yes, I can definitely see that. In fact on Twitter yesterday someone suggested ‘degenderism’ as a new term, if we’re looking for something to rebrand to. I like this as an aim, although I’m not sure it’d necessarily reflect what feminism is currently, or has tried to be, because there are a number of feminist groups/campaigns that ignore non-binary people (or even attack them because they don’t fit the women/men narrative). So yeah, I like it, although I’d probably feel a bit of a fraud using it as a catch-all label right now, because it might end up covering up the failures of feminism up to this point rather than highlighting them. As an ambition, though? Fuck yeah. I think people are becoming more aware of the failings of feminism (and, to be honest, Life and The World generally) in the way it often reinforces the gender binary, but it’s not a mainstream understanding or topic yet – I think this is changing and can change a lot more dramatically over the next few years with a bit of a push in the right direction.

  • Lena says:

    The thing I find pushing me away from the word Feminism is other feminists, pure and simple. If I don’t agree with you on something, aggressively telling me I’m a stupid girl for not getting it (funnily enough, the kind of blatant patronising cack men throw at me) is only going to make me get up, walk away, and count myself lucky I’m not one of them. The radfem crew in particular only seem to be getting louder and angrier with other women for not behaving the way they want us to, and it’s that kind of extremist crap that stick in the minds of people new, curious and seeking, and turns them off.

    I’m happy to join the Egalitarians if it means getting away from the Millie Tants brigade who are giving the rest of us a bad name and abusing women like me for not buying into their bullshit, which for me includes ‘ironic’ misandry and their cutesy ‘I drink male tears’ t-shirts.

    You’re welcome to Feminism if that’s what it’s becoming.

  • Lena says:

    Ps: Because I’m aware how disillusioned and angry I sound about this (because I am), Yes, I’m obviously still a ‘dictionary feminist’ – I believe in equality of the sexes, but the fact that I even have to point that out shows how far from the goddamn dictionary the movement now appears.


    • Girl on the net says:

      You’re right – I think there’s a hell of a lot of ‘you’re not a feminist unless you agree with me’ going round at the moment. And to be honest I find it a bit odd. Like, if I genuinely have a heartfelt disagreement with someone, and I think they’re massively wrong on something, then what are the chances that I’m going to decide to agree with them just because I want to claim the label ‘feminist’? Not particularly likely, tbh. It’s also incredibly exclusionary – there are certain people (sex workers probably feature pretty highly on this list) who are treated to the debate equivalent of slammed doors in their faces on a pretty constant basis. ‘You do something that I do not approve of, therefore please get out of feminism and don’t come back.’

      Kinda tricky to defend against this really valid criticism without sounding a bit ‘not all feminists’ tbh, but here goes: I hate the fact that often these views are the ones most lauded in the national press. For instance, the P3 thing this week was often laced with the narrative that ‘feminists’ hate p3 and any kind of stripping/sex work. I don’t, and one of the reasons I do identify as a feminist is because I don’t want the term that I’ve understood to represent equal gender rights (which I feel is basically what feminism is) to be coopted and mangled until it ends up just meaning ‘what some prominent mainstream women think.’ But yeah, obviously I see where you’re coming from. This isn’t me trying to persuade you to identify as a feminist – obviously other people can identify however they like. I just wanted to explain why these things also frustrate me, and why even despite my frustration I don’t want to drop the word. x

      • Lena says:

        “there are certain people (sex workers probably feature pretty highly on this list) who are treated to the debate equivalent of slammed doors in their faces on a pretty constant basis. ‘You do something that I do not approve of, therefore please get out of feminism and don’t come back.’ ”

        God yes. All the time. It’s infuriating and deeply upsetting and divisive.

        ‘I just wanted to explain why these things also frustrate me, and why even despite my frustration I don’t want to drop the word. x’

        To be honest, I don’t want to drop the word, it makes me very sad and angry, as you’ve probably guessed, that I even feel pressured to because of the actions of a very vocal minority. I also understand why you hate that the trope of the perpetually ranting ‘feminazi’ is the one most often trotted out by the media, because I feel the same way – and yet I also can’t dismiss the fact that it’s those women who verbally abuse me on social media for not agreeing with them, and who make the most noise via blogs/social/etc, to the detriment of the whole damn movement.


        • Lena says:

          Also, instead of raging against those women who feel that ‘feminist’ no longer describes them as stupid, misinformed or suffering from internalised misogyny, perhaps the movement should wonder why it’s losing so many people who were once happy to stand alongside them.

        • I agree with this entirely. Because I express my sexuality in a certain way, and am forthright about it, and because I’ve made certain choices and done certain things in my past, and because I am open a d blog about these things, I am clearly nothing more than a silly little attention seeming airhead who cannot possibly be a feminist because obviously I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the debate.

          Um, yeah, so my experiences aren’t valid?

          Yeah right!

          *Storms off in self-righteous huff*

          Katie xx

  • Claire says:

    I really was in two minds about responding to this. It’s a really emotive subject that can cause a lot of offence, whether intentionally or unintentionally. For what its worth I used to be somewhat feminist but consider myself to be more of a humanist / equalitarian / egalitarian now. In part thats due to 3rd wave feminism and its adherents – its certainly not the feminism I grew up with.

    In fact I’ll preface with that – The feminism I grew up with is one that taught me that women should have the same choices and opportunities in life as men, should be paid the same for the same work and basically treated as human beings. I stil believe in that – so If that hasnt changed, have I moved away from feminismm, or has feminism moved away from me?

    Now bear in mind I say all this as someone in a femdom relationship who has struggled with gender issues myself.

    So lets give it a go..
    Specifically male issues: Someones already mentioned male suicide, and thats a good start. Theres a whole number of reasons as Artemis mentions, and while some if holds up its not the whole story (and not even part of it). For example, male suicide rates post divorce are a big problem.

    Support for male victims of domestice violence perhaps? Nope – shelters specifically for men have been opposed by feminists because the pervailing narritive is that men are the offenders, not victims – a view held socially and reinforced by feminism in government and law enforcement. The real reason I suspect is that it takes away funding from feminist causes, goven that indepedent studies have show ratios of male on female and female on male violence to be almost equal, with a slight swing either way depending on age group.

    False rape acccusations. The UVA scandal is a good example of this, and one of many.
    Workplace death rates – massively skewed towards males, and yet theres no push from feminism to get women into the “dangerous” jobs that dont have any cachet (like the military)
    Male reproductive rights.
    Male rape (both homosexual and female on male).
    Male genital mutilation.
    Disparities between male and female sentencing for the same crimes.
    Family court bias in favour of the mother, even when the father has been primary garegiver.
    Alimony laws & divorce settlements.
    Mens studies in academia – non existent and opposed at every turn when introduction is attempted.
    Men being seen as perverts, child molesters, sexual monsters – a societal view pushed by modern feminism. When was the last time you heard someone like Valenti say “not all men are like that”? Never.

    All issues either exclusive to males, or massively skewed to impact males. And every time men try to address these issues themselves – theres opposition from feminists.

    For all the talk of caring about male only issues, there’s precious little action from the feminist side on any male only issue, other than shaming, derision, blaming it on “society” or “the patriarchy”, or outright lies. Emma Watson’s “He for She” speech was an attempt to rebrand chivalry for the 21st century (and a failure at that). The clue is in the speech title for gods sake.

    Intersectionality and patriarchy theory frankly dont hold up to evidential scrutiny. Womens Studies in academia needs a massive overhaul to remove the ideological element.

    Like it or not, modern 3rd wave feminism does have an image problem, and its not one that can be fixed imho. As long as feminism has the likes of Marcotte, Valenti and Sarkeesian speaking for it it will continue to be seen as a man hating, female supremacist movement intent on revenge. As long as issues such as “Manspreading” and whining about how Christmas is oppressive to women are the messages being pushed, the longer modern feminism has an image problem. Its why less than 25% of all women in the USA now identify as feminists.

    And thats largely why Im no longer a feminist. Its why my daughters or wife dont identify as feminists. The movement needs a good housecleaning.

    Apologies if it came over as a bit “ranty” – not intended.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Heya, not ranty at all, and thanks for giving the long list of issues. I’m going to go through them and add a couple of bits, which always looks a bit confrontational, but mainly doing it because I don’t want to miss anything.

      First thing’s first: the point I made was that if you name me an issue that disproportionately affects men, I’ll show you how and why many feminists care about it. The ‘many’ is important because, as also mentioned, there are a shitload of feminist campaigns/arguments that I don’t agree with, and some things that I actively challenge because I think they’re a massive problem. Such is the nature of something that is so disparate. And reading through your list, and your comments, in which you’ve highlighted some stuff that I would definitely challenge/disagree with, it sounds like you’re associating feminism with one particular narrow strand. The bit in my blog about the ‘loudest voices’ often being damaging? A lot of the things you mention relate to those things, so I think we can agree on some feminist stuff being crappy.

      Anyway, onto the list:

      Someones already mentioned male suicide, and thats a good start. Theres a whole number of reasons as Artemis mentions, and while some if holds up its not the whole story (and not even part of it). For example, male suicide rates post divorce are a big problem.

      – Yep, I think I’ve covered this one. Male suicide rates are a huge problem, and something that many feminists are working to tackle. I think Artemis’s explanation of how some of this stems from gender attitudes we have covers exactly why it should be (and is) a problem that feminism should be helping to tackle.

      Support for male victims of domestice violence perhaps? Nope – shelters specifically for men have been opposed by feminists because the pervailing narritive is that men are the offenders, not victims – a view held socially and reinforced by feminism in government and law enforcement. The real reason I suspect is that it takes away funding from feminist causes, goven that indepedent studies have show ratios of male on female and female on male violence to be almost equal, with a slight swing either way depending on age group.

      – I’d question that stat about DV stats being gender neutral, as I’ve never seen anything that would imply that, and it’s notoriously difficult to measure something that is traditionally underreported, but on your main point – yep. This is an issue, and I think anyone would struggle to defend the idea that female DV is in any way acceptable, or that male victims don’t need support. If some people *are* arguing that, then perhaps they’re arseholes rather than indicative of the feminist movement as a whole? Regarding reporting of DV – there’s actually quite an interesting debate around how to encourage men to report instances, and how to secure convictions, with some prominent writers arguing that feminist DV campaigns have increased DV reporting *across the genders*. I think also many of Artemis’s points are relevant here: the way society socialises men and tells them to ‘man up’ and that ‘boys don’t cry’ etc can significantly contribute to low reporting rates, as well as appallingly bad support from the authorities.

      False rape acccusations. The UVA scandal is a good example of this, and one of many.

      – I am yet to see evidence that this is a massive issue, and as a general rule I send people this:

      Workplace death rates – massively skewed towards males, and yet theres no push from feminism to get women into the “dangerous” jobs that dont have any cachet (like the military)

      – Re: death rates, see the thing about suicide above. and Re: the army – there *is* a push from feminism to get women into the military, and able to participate in all the same jobs as men do. There’s such a wealth of evidence for this I don’t know where to start, but because I’m feeling fun, here’s a link to a hilarious rant about how awful it is that women have destroyed the US Military by insisting on being in it:

      Male reproductive rights.

      – What do you mean on this? I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at. Are male reproductive rights (i.e. right to their own bodies, access to contraception etc) being denied?

      Male rape (both homosexual and female on male).

      – Blimey. I’d argue that in the last 20 years feminism has done more to raise awareness of the importance of consent, and combat rape, than any other movement. Again, there’s loads here but here’s a specific feminist campaign aimed at changing the definition of the rape law in the US because (among other things) it essentially defined rape in a way that completely denied male victims:

      Male genital mutilation.

      – Again, I think feminism has dealt a few pretty hefty blows on the general issue of bodily autonomy, and this is one issue where that argument is pretty sound:

      Disparities between male and female sentencing for the same crimes.

      – Yep, a really interesting one and again one many feminists care about. Personally I think it’s another product of our gender narrative (boys are big and scary and violent whereas women are weak and delicate and therefore not so much of a threat). Here’s a paper what I found that examines it, and this quote sums up why this is an issue for feminists: “This model maps onto the traditional gender roles of men and women asserting that
      women are weaker and their actions are not seen as completely valid and almost
      “childlike.” Thus, women should not be held to the same standards as men in the
      criminal justice system as they are not “fully responsible for their actions” (Rodriguez
      et al., 2006, p. 320)”

      Family court bias in favour of the mother, even when the father has been primary garegiver.

      – Again, a problem for feminists. The idea of women as ‘naturally’ the more nurturing, and the one who *has to* look after the children, impacts these decisions even in a situation where a m/f couple have decided to split care along non-traditional lines.

      Alimony laws & divorce settlements.

      – See above, although add in the fact that traditionally men earn more money because of these assumptions, so we’ve based a whole new set of assumptions (around e.g. alimony etc) in on top. You didn’t mention paternity leave, but I’ll throw that in too – men don’t get the choice (or at least not yet – UK law’s changing in April thanks to the result of a lot of campaigning, much of it feminist) as to whether to take significant time off when a baby is born.

      Mens studies in academia – non existent and opposed at every turn when introduction is attempted.

      – The vast vast majority of our history, literature, scientific and academic study focuses on what men have done.

      Men being seen as perverts, child molesters, sexual monsters – a societal view pushed by modern feminism. When was the last time you heard someone like Valenti say “not all men are like that”? Never.

      – I don’t know if I count as ‘someone like Valenti’ but I’m a feminist, and I say this all the time. Seriously: all. The. Time. Here’s a blog in which I said it: In fact, as I mentioned above, some of the most hateful attitudes I tend to see expressed towards men come not from feminists but from anti-feminists, who are often so sold on the idea that men and women should be a certain way, that they end up subscribing to views of men as purely hormone-driven animals.

      Phew, sorry that was really long, but I hope I’ve addressed your points. A lot of them are criticisms that come up frequently when I have this kind of discussion, and people assert that feminists all think X or naturally will fight against Y. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what ‘all feminists’ might think or want, but (and I’m aware that I’m looking through a prism of ‘what I believe’ right now) I think any situation in which men have it harder is one which can be solved if we stop insisting that men and women are fundamentally different, and that we need special rights one over another.

      • Claire says:


        thanks for the thoughtful reply (and links) – lots do digest there, some of which I was aware of, some not ,some of which had been debunked, some not :-)

        Only time for a quick reply here unfortunately, but I’ll dig up the DV stats stuff when I get a moment. Ive got them somewhere!

        The only 2 clarifications Id like to add at this point are:

        Mens studies – Last year there was a course that was pulled at the last minute at the Uni of South Australia on Men’s Studies. The main focus of the course was men’s health issues (physical and mental) . After a massive disinformation campaign by campus feminists flasely linking it to “MRAs” led by the gender studies faculty and prominient Aussie feminists, its was pulled. After 2 years of coordinated work with the Uni by Dr Miles Groth. Not to mention the same systematic shutdown of any “Mens Rights” groups that tries to form on a Uni campus to discuss men’s issues. Mens studies isnt a study of what men have done, but rather an exploration of what men are. Much of modern feminism pushes the idea of toxic masculinity, however men arent even allowed to discuss the topic for themselves outside of a feminist study framework. Why does it need to be approved by feminists first?

        Male reproductive rights. This is an interesting one. Effectively we currently have a state of affairs where if there is a pregnancy as a result of a coupling, “my body my choice” is the prevailing view – which I largely agree with. However – If the pregnancy is unwanted (or coerced, or accidental) the male has absolutely no say in whether that child comes into the world or not, or whether to support it or not. Now, some say that is the responsibility that comes with the liasion, but equaility would dictate that if its the females choice only to have the child (She wants it) and the male doesnt, the male should have the option of giving up the paternity rights. Currently the male has no say in it at all. It takes 2 to tango, but one is treated as a walking cashpoint (the male has the financial responsibility but is frequently denied any caring / visitation when they want it). Basically we have a state of affairs where the female controls the choice for both parties. Its a very sticky issue that is currently very one sided.

        That said, new options for male birth control are in the works, so that situation could well change drastically in the not too distant future as men will be able to control whether their sperm are viable or not. Assuming its not blocked by the powers that be.

        I think terminology & classification is becoming a big issue as well amongst the gender rights movements – feminism is now god knows how many branches (i.e you strike me from your view and writing as largely a second wave sex positive feminist), many branches of said refuse to even consider that men’s rights need to exist or that men have issues (rather, they contend that men are the issue) – then throw in traditionalists (another anti feminist movement) and a media thats only interested in pushing what is effectively clickbait – and you have a really big bloody mess. Add in random screaming of mysoginy to shut down any discussion and it only gets worse from there.

        tbh, this is more of the more rational discussions Ive ever seen on the topic, which is what encouraged me to weigh in.
        Thanks for listening though, and the thoughtful reply.

          • Girl on the net says:

            All of those links contradict each other – one says 40%, another is a press release which says men are ‘more likely’ to be victims of PV (although it’s just a press release about the research which says it will be presented at some point – I can’t find the actual research) and the second link supports what I was saying above, specifically in reference to male reporting of partner violence. i.e.

            “Perhaps more surprisingly, however, men and women also tend to significantly under-report their own
            victimization. Szinovacz and Egley (1995: 1002) found that women under-report their own injuries by 43%,
            while men under-report their own injuries by fully 93%. (This finding is consistent with the finding,
            presented below, that men are only half as likely as women to report their victimization to the police, too.)”

            Don’t worry about it, though – for the purposes of this discussion whatever the specific percentage is, male domestic violence is important from a feminist perspective. That’s my point. It’s important because the narrative that men and women are fundamentally different and should be treated differently, while it feeds into the idea that women should be denied certain rights, also feeds into the narrative that men should put up and shut up in the face of violence.

        • Girl on the net says:

          I wrote a proper reply below, but all the comments are getting weird (eta – format weird, I mean). Re: one course that got pulled from one uni somewhere – see the blog post. Feminism isn’t a unified movement, we don’t all condone all campaigns, and some feminists are arseholes. I have no idea if there was good reason to pull this course or not, but I think you’re missing my point a bit (see below, or above, I can’t tell where it’ll appear, but it’s the one in response to your education bit)

        • Chris says:

          After the child is born whatever happens is supposed to be in the best interests of the child, not in either of the adult parents. A child is entitled to financial support from both of its parents regardless of whether the parent has the legal status of parental responsibility or not. If a woman wants a child without the involvement of a man she could use a sperm donor – but saying that someone can give up parental rights simply because they don’t want them denies that child the right to be supported, and for me that overrides what the adults want.

          Yes, it sucks that men don’t get control over whether a pregnancy goes ahead or not. On the other hand, it’s not easy to go ahead with a pregnancy when the man you thought you could trust has left you to deal with an unwanted pregnancy on your own; the abortion rate is pretty large too.

    • Chris says:

      Men are under-researched, at least in my area of interest, which is sperm donors and fatherhood. In family sociology in general, this is not a subject that men choose to research, it’s female-dominated and (IMO) low status as a result. I wish men would undertake more research here as their views and experience are important, particularly in ethnographic research where the relationship between the researcher and the researched makes a big difference to the quality of the end result. It feels extremely awkward to me as a feminist to be focusing on an area which I think men themselves would be better off working in – and they do have the choice.

      On the sentencing issue, men do get longer sentences for some crimes than women do, but this is being brought up as a problem – for example by Sonja Starr. It is certainly a problem that female paedophiles or female perps of DV with male victims tend to get treated more leniently. But it’s one thing to point out that the effects of patriarchy sometimes benefit women, and quite another to lay that at the door of feminists as being responsible for perpetrating it.

  • In the workplace, class is as big an issue as gender in my experience. Over the years I’ve worked with countless talent-free, upper middle class people parachuted into plum jobs due to their parents’ contacts. Their absolute conviction that they’re in a good job due to their ability is laughable. It’s not remotely laughable when they’re talking at you like you’re ‘the help’ for having a regional accent, though.

  • You know the drill says:

    “Name me a specific, proven issue that disproportionately affects dudes, and I’ll show you how and why many feminists care about it.”
    Gender disparity in education. Women students perform better on average in primary education and outnumber men in most academic fields, yet feminist discussion seems to mostly concern itself with gender issues in STEM disciplines (which are very real and definitely need of attention, yet the fact that this seems to be the only point of discussion is fairly disappointing given men and boys’ sliding results over the past 15 years).

    • Claire says:

      Gender disparity in education is becoming a big issue as boys are falling way behind. Was quite surprised to see Anne Diamond on Sky this morning openly state that boys should probably be taught in a completely different way to girls, something Ive been saying for years.

      Its not only educational attainment though, the number of male teachers both in primary and secondary has declined massively in the last 40 years. While there has been a slight uptick in the number of male teachers at primary level in the last year or so, its estimated that almost 75% of primary schools in the UK have no male teachers at all.

      Re: STEM – Im not actuially convinced its a major problem. I dont see a “need” (as is often quoted) to have more females in STEM fields, however if there are systemic barriers stopping females taking those subjects then they need to be removed. If females are actively choosing not to pursue those fields, then that is fine. Ive yet to see a case where the former is true, and the latter isnt though.

      • Girl on the net says:

        YES OH MY GOD. Primary teachers is a really really brilliant example of why feminism also affects men. Couple of things:

        – Firstly, one of the reasons male primary teachers are so few and far between is because of the attitudes (mentioned in previous comments) that women are more nurturing than men, coupled by a kind of squicky weirdness we have about men as potential sexual predators (see all my comments above). This example perfectly highlights why feminism will benefit men too, so I don’t really understand why you’re proposing it as a counterexample.

        – Secondly, what do you propose we do about this? Like what would your solution be to make sure men (and women) can pursue the careers that are best for them without feeling like they have to conform to gender stereotypes? Because my answer is feminism: we effect lots of changes throughout society, impacting people’s attitudes towards men and women, and eventually find ourselves living in a society where you are no longer limited in your choices based on what people think about your gender. This applies to every single example that you have picked, and it’s the reason I was so confident in saying I can explain to you why feminists can and do care about issues that predominantly affect men.

        This is the case with all the examples you’ve offered above, although I’m not entirely sure you get why that’s the case, because you’ve offered another example that seems to do the same?

        The idea that patriarchy harms men as well isn’t a controversial one – it’s accepted by tonnes of feminist thinkers and activists, and it’s not only logical but apparent wherever you look as soon as you’re aware of it. Your ‘reproductive rights’ issue, for example (although I’m not sure it’s a reproductive rights issue so much as a civil and family one) again is born of the idea that women are responsible for bearing the children, men are responsible for spreading the seed and supporting the family. If we threw out this notion of women as the nurturing ones and men as the feckless, irresponsible ones who need to be forced to care for their children, rather than responsible, mature adults who have the ability to take control of their own contraceptive choices and care for their children when they have them? Yeah, then that issue would go away. And that is why it’s a problem for feminists.

        So there you go – as far as I can see, I’ve addressed each of your issues and where they’re important, explained how they relate to feminism and why they are important to feminists. If you want to throw more links at me, go for it: I’m actually not even massively concerned with facts and figures here, I mainly want to make sure I’ve got the principle across. Let’s say for the purposes of argument I accept that every single thing you say is true, my point still stands: although feminism is a broad idea rather than a coherent ‘movement’ with a set list of goals, given that it’s based on the idea of gender equality, problems which exist for men because of our assumptions about gender *are also a problem for feminists.* I’m not telling you to stop caring about these issues, I’m telling you that feminism is one of the tools with which you (or I, or that other feminist over there) can help to identify why they’re issues and help solve them.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Women students perform better on average in primary education.

      – Do they? I didn’t know this. Well done them. Can you identify why this is the case? Are boys being held back or girls pushed forward in a specific way that we can identify as unfair? *That* would be an issue, and therefore probably of interest to feminists. Otherwise this is no more an issue than the fact that some kids run faster than others. And, tying into my point below, it’s worth pointing out that there are countries in the world in which girls cannot possibly outperform boys in primary education, because they are not allowed it.

      Women ‘outnumber men in most academic fields’

      – I don’t think you can say this – it varies greatly depending on where you are, what the education system is like, which country you’re in (i.e. there are some countries in which this cannot possibly be the case, as women are denied access to education at much younger levels, and may not even be allowed to attend university or take the same courses as men). Do you mean in a specific country?

      • Claire says:


        thanks for the replies – you certainly provide some interesting food for thought.

        I think we agree on pretty much most things here, and I think terminology / varied meanings has crept into some of the conversation. But that said, we seem to be on the same page (or at least in the same chapter!)

        You ask for example on what I would like to see (i.e. male primary teachers – actually male teachers at both primary and secondary). Instead of stupid campaigns like “Ban Bossy” and “He for She”, how about feminism actually launch a campaign that says “Hey guys, why not be a primary school teacher? Boys need good role models and we dont have enough of em.” Likewise instead of focussing on FGM, actually focus on the fact genital mutilation and bodily integrity are issues affecting both sexes, and campaign on that basis? Instead of “50% of women in boardrooms, stat”, how about “Guys, we need more male nurses, nursing isnt just a profession for girls” (or ideally, a broad campaign that covers lots of so called gendered jobs on both sides). Instead of stating “All Men are rapists”, how about “Rape is an issue for both sexes, and women rape too”?. All to often the message comes across as “I want, I want, I want” though.

        Its a small but important shift in message delivery that actually includes both sexes where the issues apply to both, whereas pretty much everything you see from feminism currently is the opposite. I suppose in short I, personally would like to see less talk and a bit more action, and for it to be inclusive, rather than exclusive. In some ways the very name actually hinders that, but its not for me to say that it *should* be changed.

        But I dont think it will happen precisely because there are too many disparate strands of feminism, and currently it appears that the ideological manhaters have all the airtime.I wont dispute that some feminists are discussing mens issues. However from what Ive seen in academia and the media (which may be clickbait biased for sensationalism) – those voices are drowned out by the strident, anti male feminists that seem to have the ear of both government and media – and laws are being made based on their opinions (i.e. the Yes means Yes laws in California are a total joke).

        And I think thats where the problem lies – its a matter of perception. The haters have the floor, wont yield to anyone else and would rather burn the place to the ground and salt the earth than share a platform or have a rational discussion. And all anyone ever sees is the haters.

        Male issues are something that some feminists may feel are important and worth dealing with. Some feminists may be discussing mens issues and how feminism can help. Maybe the majority, theres no way to tell. If thats the case great (from some of the links you provided it would appear theres at least discussion and awareness happening). However, if men are excluded from the conversation, then men will quite rightly discuss the issue themselves outside of the feminist framework. Which is how feminism has lost control of the conversation.

        As I mentioned previously, this has been one of the most rational discussions of feminist issues Ive seen on the net in quite some time, which kind of gives me hope that maybe the divide thats built up over the last 20 years is actually bridgable. So thank you very much for that.

  • Claire says:

    PS – any biscuits left?

  • Maggie says:

    Maybe instead of renaming or re-branding.. we consider fracturing the feminist movement. The feminism I grew up with was more centrally focused on laws, policies and the enforcement of such that prevented woman from having the same opportunities. Sure, we talked about social issues… but they weren’t the focus of funded feminist organizations nor a common topic in the news. Since the internet platform was so new and still forming, there just wasn’t the flood of the varied opinions we have today.

    Like you “Christianity” example above… it’s broken down into further subsets that more accurately describes the views and positions of those involved. We have Catholics, Methodist, Baptist, Protestant, etc. The idea that a movement can capture the ideals and beliefs of 50% of the population is a bit ridiculous when you really sit down and think about it. It was easier when we were just looking for the right to vote, to own property, to learn and to work. But the freedoms and equalities we once fought for has allowed us to become more diverse and more individual… maybe it’s time we broke up the party in favor of more supportive factions.

    Like, I tend to see myself more as a political activist feminist. I’m much more concerned and focused on ensuring the rights we fought so hard for actually stay put and enforced. Things like abortion laws, family laws, political focus are my cup of tea and what I’m most active about. When it comes to issues like Patriarchy, privilege, and the more social issues…I can give token nods towards the idea that these exist, but I find my views on how we deal with them are far different then most modern day feminist. Though I will freely admit that it’s mostly because I can’t really identify with these problems. It’s the same with WOC. I remember being a bit shocked when I first heard the complaint that feminism ignored WOC when I could recall anything I had done or was doing was not inclusive of them as well. It wasn’t until I took the time to research their grievances that I realized that feminism had missed the mark so badly because we didn’t and couldn’t really understand their issues… I’m NOT a WOC. I have no clue what it’s like. Personally, I came to the conclusion I could be a better feminist by supporting the decision to let them form their own movement and be as supportive as possible to their plight, rather then try to wrap them under an all inclusive umbrella in a way that could never fully acknowledge their needs.

    *I have somehow betrayed the ‘sisterhood’.*

    Betrayal of the “sisterhood” has been a long standing issue within the feminist movement. When I first entered the workforce, the HUGE battle going on was between the working mom feminist and the SAHM feminist. It was UGLY!!! While the discord still continues to a degree, it’s far less vitriol then it used to be.

    The real reality is, as women and/or feminists, we are a very LARGE demographic with a diverse range of ideals, beliefs, morals, ethics and needs all based off our individual cultures, desires and dreams. Maybe it’s time we actually acknowledge how different we really all are rather then trying to shove ourselves under one giant homogenous umbrella.

  • There are plenty of gripes to be had with this or that feminist, but the bulk of the backlash isn’t coming from the things feminists are doing wrong; it’s coming from the things they are doing right. The vast majority of its critics will not be satisfied until it becomes a bland and pointless exercise in claiming the crumbs that others toss toward women.

  • I was very struck by the similarities between many of the arguments that “feminism” should be called something else, and the arguments that #BlackLivesMatter should be #AllLivesMatter.

    I hadn’t consciously noticed that similarity before, so thanks.

  • Simon says:

    Very belated comment on this post, but I’ve been thinking about it, specifically this bit:

    ‘We have specific words and phrases to describe other areas of political struggle, because it’s important to recognise when we’re fighting for rights that have traditionally been denied to certain people, or when we’re campaigning against something that disproportionately affects a particular group.’

    Do we, though? I can’t think of a word that describes people who fight for equal rights for the disabled, or for gay people, or even for ethnic minorities. There is no equivalent for ‘feminism’ in any other field of the equal rights movement, that I can think of.

    Instead of saying it needs to be changed to ‘equalism’ or something horrible, why not ask why it needs a name at all? Homophobia and racism may not have been defeated, but the war against them has been far more successful than the war against sexism, and they didn’t need ‘equalism’ or whatever.

    The truth is that using an ‘ism’ word will always put some people off. Words that end in ‘ism’ are either uncomplicatedly bad (fascism, racism, sexism) or movements with set goals and rules (socialism, modernism, pointillism). Feminism can’t be a special case. You can’t use a name that sounds like a unified movement and then claim that it’s not a unified movement.

    Why not just say ‘I believe in equal rights’? Or ‘I believe in equal rights for women’? Or ‘I believe in and fight for equal rights’? etc.

    I agree very much with the tenor of this post. It’s up to you what you label yourself. But you shouldn’t complain about feminism being made a special case in the same breath as claiming that it is a special case. Because there aren’t any similar examples of a word that specifically describes a subsection of the equality movement. And certainly not any that end in ‘ism’.

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