There is a very simple reason why people dislike the word “feminism”, and that is because it advocates for women’s rights. Period. The end. Fin. Those who resent the feminist movement will list a thousand phoney reasons just to cover up for the awkward fact that, deep inside, no matter how much they care about gender equality, they are scared of taking away the privileges that don’t belong – of the offence and the outrage that it would spark amongst those who hold such privileges. They are scared of undermining the structures that are so vital to the heteropatriarchy because, like it or not, the heteropatriarchy has very much become – for both us women and men – the most comfortable out of all the comfort zones.
The fact is that some won’t like our words the same way that they don’t like our ideas. But it is part of this journey that we learn that divisiveness cannot be helped as long as there’s still people out there who refuse to let go of this system of oppression and assimilate change. And we are not to be blamed for that.
Why am I not willing to swap “feminism” for “gender equality” or “humanism” in my everyday talk? Simply because gender equality is meaningless when women are not granted the freedom to choose a word that represents their cause. Because by no stretch of the imagination it is something new that women are deprived of what they feel is empowering to them. Because of course, IT IS divisive and contentious that a historically underrepresented, tyrannised group of people suddenly reclaim their rights and attempt to perform acts of socio-economic, cultural and linguistic reappropriation.
Because all we asked for was one word – one single word – to express our desire for justice and liberation. Defending our right to be feminists and use the word “feminism” is as much a part of the fight for gender equality as is scrapping the gender pay gap, or giving women the right to vote. And just because, after millennia of systematised oppression, the world has gotten cold feet about it, doesn’t mean we’re going to give it back. We shall not consent that – yet once again – they take away the only word that has ever belonged to us.
Happy early International Women’s Day.