Feminism

So many things need to be said here.

Fortunately, others have said the most important things already. There’s Emma Watson’s UN speech on the He For She initiative:

Then there’s Laci Green’s whole YouTube output. Especially videos like this one:

There’s the Skepchick network, and feminist movements in various places and worldviews (there are feminists in India, Africa, China, even Canada; there are Christian feminists, Muslim feminists, Atheist feminists, Republican feminists).

So what can I offer? Well, first and most importantly, I can declare my support for real legal and social equality for men, women, and people of other gender identities. I do this by calling myself a feminist.

The very least someone like me can do is to voice support for gender equality. I claim the right for my wife, my daughter, and all women to be assertive, to have their work valued and their ideas respected, to retain autonomy over their bodies. I claim the right for myself, my son, and all men to be emotionally vulnerable, to be nurturing, and to find pride in lifting others up. I claim the right for all people to be who they are, without deference to cultural or religious expectations. I am a feminist.

Second, as a linguist, perhaps I can address the issue that many people have with using the word “feminism” to point to gender equality:

Words mean what people use them to mean.* And it seems to me that most people who call themselves feminists use the word to mean they support gender equality. In Canada and around the world, the most numerous and drastic victims of gender inequality (of most sorts of inequality, really) are women.

This tells me that highlighting women in the term is justified.

And if you pay attention to the mainstream, sensible feminists (such as in He For She, or Laci Green’s stuff linked above), you’ll see that modern feminists specifically identify harms done to men as part of the endemic sexism in our culture – and they work against that too. And the same people, in my experience, also support real help for transgender and other marginalized gender identities. So there is no credible argument that feminism excludes anyone.

Still hung up on the fact that “feminine” is in the name? Really? So, do you object to the term “Caucasian” for “white person”, whenever that white person doesn’t trace their ancestry from Caucasia? Do you avoid calling this language “English” because most people who use it are not in or from England, and most English words come from other places originally? I’m gonna guess not.

Call yourself what you will. If you are in favour of equality, including acting to remove systematic privilege that men still enjoy (as well as the odd point where men are “oppressed”), then you are a feminist, in the sense that it seems to be used most often and productively. Welcome to the fold!

Footnote:

* I say this with the authority of a trained and practicing linguist – a scientist of language.

 

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