The word “feminism” has become a hot topic. Some feel it has more negative than positive connotations. Some view the word “feminism” as sexist towards men (even though you cannot be sexist towards men), promoting male subjugation, and do not believe “feminism” accurately represents gender equality. So they call to change the word “feminism” to something else such as “equalism” or “humanism.” However, others argue that the word “feminism” shouldn’t be renamed, because it would lose its meaning, power, and history once the name is changed. So, what should people who believe in equality consider to choose the right word?
Why Change a Word?
People who argue to change the word “feminism” suggest that words carry incredible power — and, specifically, that the “fem” root implies supremacy of women over men. Changing the name “feminism” to “equalism” or “gender equality” or even “humanism” would reduce confusion that feminism is about putting women in more powerful positions than men. It might also remove a lot of the negative connotations attached to the word “feminism,” or the false beliefs that it’s only helping women rather than helping both/all genders (as patriarchy and double standards hurt men too). Similarly, if men were the ones who had been oppressed in the past, the word we use today would be “manism” or “masculism.”
Jude Kelly, one of Britain’s most prolific feminists, claims that “Feminism, like Suffragettes, is a word that is associated with struggle, and therefore it is associated with conflict” (The Telegraph, 2014). Indeed, feminism is a movement focused on advocating gender equality. However, feminism not only attempts to improve the social position of women, but also seeks to “bring justice to people who have been discriminated against in terms of their race, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, and much more” (Fembot, 2015).
Should It Be Humanism?
Some suggest changing the word “feminism” to “humanism” because it would appear to solve the conflict between male and female. According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online (2016), humanism means:
“A variety of ethical theory and practice characterized by a stress on human rationality and capacity for free thought and moral action, and a rejection of theistic religion and the supernatural in favour of secular and naturalistic views of humanity and the universe.”
From the description above, we understand that humanism is something totally different than advocating for human rights. It concentrates on “how wonderful the human mind is and how humans need not rely on an invisible entity to conduct their lives” (Fembot, 2015).
On the other hand, feminism is defined as “advocacy of equality of the sexes and the establishment of the political, social, and economic rights of the female sex” (2016) in the OED. In other words, feminism can be viewed as a space in which many voices are gathered and heard regardless of class, race, or gender. Changing “feminism” to “humanism” is a needless argument because they are two different ideas.
Not a Problem After All
Overall, choosing a new name for the gender equality movement would imply that feminism is somehow wrong, shameful, and negative. A new name will not get us any closer to gender equality, and would weaken the connection to the contribution of those feminists who came before us. Fighting for changing the name of the gender equality movement is meaningless. Fighting for gender equality is not. Why should we focus on the former, when the latter is so much more important?
Daubney, Martin. “Why men have a problem with the word ‘feminism’.” The Telegraph. 11 Nov. 2014. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
Oxford English Dictionary. “feminism”, “humanism”. Oxford UP. 2016. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
Rendon, Katherine. “So, If It’s For Everyone, Why Is It Called “Feminism?” Fembot. 6 Feb. 2015. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.