STORY BY CLARE VANECHAUTE
Before I really understood what feminism was, I refused to call myself a feminist.
I argued that I was a humanist. I didn’t realize that my reasoning had been skewed because of the word itself and its roots within the feminine, a.k.a the “weaker sex.”
Today, I would argue that the only reason people refuse to accept the term is because of its roots in feminine etymology.
In my mind, the term feminist was the ultimate indicator of a man hating, overtly aggressive, PMS-y and irrationally unhappy woman.
I associated the word with women who allowed themselves to be subverted in society without any actual evidence of discrimination.
I considered companies who regulated the number of women on a particular staff as negatively affected by this league of unhappy women convinced that inequality is the norm.
I argued that women have just as many rights as men do in society.
Hillary Clinton has been the Secretary of State, Sarah Palin has run as Vice President and more and more women are breaking through the perceived glass ceiling and so on and so on.
Ultimately, I was a victim of the “feminist is a dirty word” mentality.
Because of the term with its root in the feminine, I saw it as innately unequal.
Upon further research, what I have discovered is in today’s society, the etymology of many dirty words are rooted strongly in the feminine and the historically perceived inferiority that femininity represents.
Feminism should not be renamed to a more gender-inclusive term.
Those on the supporting side of the renaming agenda argue that because the term “feminism” is rooted in the word feminine, it automatically is associated as an exclusively women-oriented concept.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, feminism was first used to describe the advocacy for women’s rights in 1895.
The root of the word feminism comes from femininus, a Latin derivative, and femenin, a French term, meaning “female; or of the female sex; effeminate,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.
The OED goes on to define “effeminate” as a negative association to womanly qualities, or unmanly.
This term is used derogatorily today to describe men who are found to be weak, womanish and typically of the gay persuasion.
As society has progressed, more and more dirty words have been rooted in the word feminine.
Terms like “pussy,” a derivative of the Latin word pusillanimous which means “very weak spirit or courage,” according to the OED.
This term is thrown about today not only as a term for female genitalia, but also is assigned to men and women alike when they are being cowardly, serving as yet another example of modern terminology rooted in the idea of women’s innate inferiority.
To rename feminism, the gender equality movement, to another gender-less word would merely facilitate the continuation of the belief that women are inherently weaker than men.
To be unable to hold up the term due to its conceptual and etymological association with the feminine is merely another reason why gender equality is a battle that has yet to be won.