Then why is it called “feminism”? (Like you don’t know.)

One of the cliché lines in the argument between feminists and anti-feminists seems to be “If it’s about equality, why is it called ‘feminism’ instead of ‘egalitarianism’ (or ‘humanism’ or something)?”

There’s a more detailed case to be made about the importance of the way the movement is named and described, you can read about that here, for example (specifically “Part One”), but I won’t go into that here. It’s been done. What I want to ask is this: for the people who say that, are you telling me you honestly don’t know already?

In other words: I know people are ignorant about a lot of things, but how many people talking about feminism have not even heard of the idea that women are in an oppressed position and feminism seeks to improve that?

I mean, you may think that’s not true, that either women are not or feminism does not or both. But even if that were right, questioning the word would still be a stupid argument. This has little to do with who’s right about women’s rights and feminism. It’s perfectly consistent to say that you support equality, that the status of women needs to be improved in order to reach equality, and that you therefore want to advance women’s status specifically.

If it were not true, that’d be a different matter that has nothing to do with the name. Maybe someone could make the case that the Palestine Liberation Organization is or was not really about liberating Palestine — but they wouldn’t start their case by saying that it must be about Palestinian supremacy because it isn’t called “All Nations’ Liberation Organization”.

So when you ask “Then why is it called feminism?,” have you really not heard of the reason? You probably have heard the relevant claims, so what’s so difficult here?

I can venture a guess as to the answer for that question. I don’t think that it’s difficult; it’s the other thing that is easy. Easy to interpret words in a way that gives you an apparent argument for your own side, easy to ask “hard” questions from your opposition and not listen to the answers, easy to interpret the other side in a hostile way instead of even trying to see where they’re coming from. Easy to only look for confirmation for what you already support. It’s okay; that happens on every side.

I should say that I think anti-feminists are wrong in what they think about feminism. I’m a feminist myself, although a lot of people who claim to know all about feminism (ie. anti-feminists) would claim I’m doing it wrong if I’m for equality. But even given their premisses, this “why is it called feminism” argument would still be stupid. Verbal quips with no content don’t make an argument, otherwise we could prove that “This dog is Socrates’ and this dog is a father, therefore this dog is Socrates’ father.”

So quit it. You know why. You just disagree.

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One thought on “Then why is it called “feminism”? (Like you don’t know.)

  1. lexborgia says:

    Equality would obviously be the foundation of ‘feminine ideology’ or the ‘female[fem] ism’. Not complicated at all.

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