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Redefining the F Word

Written by Mili Bhatnagar —mbhatnagar@ucdavis.edu

Feminism is synonymous with gender equality.

The issue surrounding many feminists today is the stigma that comes along with the word “feminism”, and the fear of being labeled as a “feminist.” We have a skewed, quasi-definition of the word—largely due to labels such as “FemiNazi” or “PC Police”—which is why many people often demur from identifying as feminists.

A classmate once told me that she agrees that women deserve the same privileges and liberties as men, yet she does not want to be called a feminist. I understand why this “F word” often comes across as alienating and unappealing. As social creatures, humans have an innate herd rationality, which makes us apprehensive of ideas and groups that can separate us from the rest of society.

Sadly, feminism falls into such a list of excommunicated groups that people are hesitant towards—mostly due to misconceptions and a few people who give the movement a bad name. As an essential part of human rights, gender issues have their own place among the world’s problems, and they cannot be left unacknowledged due to society’s uneasy feelings towards the word “feminism.”

Yes, feminism is about empowering women and leading them towards their ambitions. It is not about irrationally hating or wanting to be superior to men. However, it is often mistaken for just that. A woman who is a feminist is merely aiming to become what she was always meant to be: an equal. It must become clear that the movement seeks to celebrate all individuals and exists to liberate everyone from the gender roles placed upon them. It goes hand in hand with gender equality; it helps achieve relief from sexism across the board. It exists to further shed the deep-seated beliefs of what really makes a man masculine and a woman feminine.

So why not call it gender equality?

Simply, because it needs to be discerned that the repressed gender is females. Such a distinction emphasizes the gender that is being treated unfairly; it draws attention to the gender that needs help. It is more specific than the term “gender equality,” and helps address the problem forwardly.

Gender equality is the prime intent, and feminism is one way to get there.

Although feminism may not be looked down upon quite as much anymore, there are still derogatory terms against it that are alive and well. When a culture is imbued with adverse terms for people who advocate for gender equality, that’s a sign that a regrettable number of people still believe in gender inequality. Our language as it stands often causes certain perspectives to be valued over others, but the goal should be to create spaces where people of all identities feel heard and validated. The only way to a brilliant, more empathetic future for men, women, and all shades of gender, is by beginning to redefine the principles of feminism.