This is something I read on tumblr, and responded to there. I thought I’d share it here because a) it’s relevant and b) I haven’t posted in an AGE.
Interesting responses found online:
“As to why feminism requires a distinct agenda within the equalist movements? The special and distinct problem of misogyny both oppressing and directly harming women, pure and simple. Unless misogyny is directly addressed and acted against, general equalist activism will not be enough.”
“Frankly I agree with everything you said; there are ways in which individual feminists – or groups of feminists – can go very wrong, and you clearly gave some examples how.
I still don’t believe, however, that those things explain away the need for feminism. While there is no possible way for all of feminism to suddenly agree on everything, and do everything correctly, there is still a need for feminists to highlight women’s issues (and even trivial things like a 13yo girl winning a spelling bee) because often, no one else will.
More importantly, I quoted the portion of the answer that I did because I do believe the whole feminism vs. equalism vs. humanism argument in the answer is a bit flawed, and you essentially explained why (and davenj touched on below as well.) It kind of seems like that debate is one that has run itself in circles: it inevitably starts because someone finds out that textbook feminism isn’t about women being better than men but rather equal to them, so the newly enlightened person helpfully suggests a term which *more accurately* describes what feminism is. Except that feminism can’t be synonymous with humanism or equalism – there is no possible way that one movement can include everything and everyone! So to me, frankly, that whole debate is kind of a red herring. “Humanism” and “equalism” are NOT more accurate terms to describe what feminism is about, which is why I think the true answer to the question was revealed in the quoted portion.
And granted, that statement itself is certainly open for agreement or disagreement, which is why I would like to officially re-iterate that I’m not trying to state anything as factual – I’m just trying to offer my interpretation of the argument presented in that answer. :) I think that portion of the answer is the threatening part to a lot of people – the humanism bit softens the blow by saying “We can be humanists! We’re not man haters! Being a humanist means we love everybody!” But saying that feminism is important because …Unless misogyny is directly addressed and acted against, general equalist activism will not be enough…. gets to the crux of the issue for me. We need to call it feminism because there are women’s issues which are sidelined in the media and in society, just as every marginalized group has issues that they think are important. If all of these groups can work together to bring more awareness about those issues, then collectively we move closer to *equalism.*” (mandoir on Feministing.com)
“Being a male and also being somewhat of a feminist I can see this from both side of the fence.However…How many of you would like to participate in or support something termed “Masculinism?” Gender equality, equalism, humanism, are all gender-unbiased terms that can mean (depending on the person) pretty much the same thing as what Feminism means today.” (sh0ck on Feministing.com)
“Because of its history. It’s always been called “feminism”. I’m not bothered about being equal with men – I am worried about women being treated as second class citizens.” (Emily Hobhouse on Yahoo Answers)
What are your thoughts? Is Feminism as a word still relevant? Does it exist as a word just to distinguish what kind of oppression we’re talking about, or its history and meaning deeper?
I find this one really difficult. Not because of how I feel about the term, but because of the necessity of finding a suitable language to embrace the desire for gender equality. Language is so powerful, it can change things. The way people are perceived, the way they perceive, so much of it comes down to the words that we use. But as well as using terms that work for us, as far as a political movement goes we need terms that work for everyone.
Personally, I call myself a feminist. I talk about the feminist movement, I look back on the feminists before me, and the term ‘equalist’ doesn’t seem to hack it. Because while feminism means, in effect, a belief in equality, it is not as straight forward as that. There has to be a focus upon those who are ‘less equal’, to bring them up to a level playing field, and that minority is women.
Calling it equalism feels like dismissing women-specific issues, denying the difference between how the genders are viewed socially. I would be the first person to argue that feminism is an issue for everyone, yes. I would say that men’s issues are a part of feminism, and that everyone on the gender spectrum can benefit from feminism. But I think that our society, and people all over the world, need to acknowledge that there is a real problem with the way that women are treated. To side-step such an issue with terms like ‘equalism’ is to deny the fact that the issue is gendered, to deny the fact that it is women who are the subjugated minority.
That said, the term feminism scares people. They are scared of the stigma, they are scared of the implications of such a label. These may be people who believe women should be treated better. They may be people who benefit from the toils of feminists of generations past. They may be people who genuinely want to improve things. But they are scared of this word. If one word is all that stands between these people and activism, between silence and making a stand, then perhaps using the term equalism isn’t such a bad thing after all.
An example – I set up a feminist society at my university with a group of friends (don’t get me started on the fact that there wasn’t one already…) and we spent a great deal of time working on the name. I fought for The Feminist Society. Straight forward, does exactly what it says on the tin, attracts people who give a shit. And then The Gender Equality Society was suggested, and I felt that to choose that name was to disregard the ‘feminist’ movement. It felt like giving in somehow, especially with arguments like ‘cos feminism is a dirty word’ and ‘would you really want President of the Feminist Society on your CV?”. But I was out-voted, and I am glad of it. Because we have a group of people who are interested in what we’re doing, people who give a shit, many of whom found the term feminism intimidating. Of course, when they come to the society they meet me, so they get the ‘feminist perspective’, and a lot of people seem to understand the term better than before. But they would never have come to the society had it not had a name that made them all feel included, women and men alike. And we get to have ‘Hit the G Soc’ as our slogan…
So really, I don’t know. I don’t think feminism should be renamed equalism because it feels like a betrayal, and a defeat. It seems to deny the very nature of the philosophy of feminism. And yet, I think feminism should be named whatever the hell people want to name it, as long as the job gets done. While words are powerful, sometimes to disregard the necessity for a term in favour of action is the most powerful thing of all. Call feminism jealousy, call it lesbianism, call itequalism, call it brilliance, call it anything, just as long as women and men can rise above that term and fight for what is right. That’s what it comes down to in the end, and that transcends every word, in every language.