Men and, most worryingly, women, need to stop stigmatising the word ‘feminist’. Kelly Clarkson said it was “too strong” a word to define her views, Lady Gaga could only admit she was “a little bit of a feminist” and Katy Perry managed to say one of the greatest oxymorons of all time: “I am not a feminist but I do believe in the strength of women.”
As Beyoncé quotes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s definition in her song Flawless:
“Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”.
There you go, a clear and accurate definition which spells out the emphasis on equality of the sexes (not the supremacy of women). By disassociating ourselves from a word defined thus, men and women suggest that this equality is not an easy given in today’s society. If you disagree with the way the word has been defined by some, then take action to redefine it, set the dictionaries straight like Adichie did in her TED talk.
There is this modern myth that you have to reject feminism in order to receive kudos off men. But in fact, it’s no more than a sad attempt at standing out from the crowd. Who can say they are ‘too cool’ for feminism? It’s laughable. Tragic in fact, that this word, an unequivocal word, is so misconstrued.
Remember when Barack Obama clearly stated that he was a proud feminist live on air? He was in no way afraid to admit it to the world. Back when David Cameron was our prime minister, he was asked, also live on air, if he too would identify as a feminist. Unlike Obama, he felt this overpowering need to hesitate, define the word and then agree to be one himself. This word should be harmless, and our ex-prime minister should not have shown terror, genuine terror, when being asked to identify himself as a feminist. Unfortunately, he did what many other people seem to be finding themselves doing – justifying a word that should not have to be justified. I’m doing it right now. This word should be understood universally by all, for what it really is: equality of the sexes, and nothing more.
I do not, in any way, deny the negative connotations people have attached to this word, but by rejecting the label outright you are just surrendering it to yet more negativity. It’s about time we reclaimed this word ‘feminism’. Rise above the white noise of ‘man-hating’ and ‘sexist-sensitivity’ we seem to be indulging in wherever we turn our heads. Don’t be ashamed to call yourself a feminist, don’t flinch when people say the word because you’re worried it could be alienating. It’s not. We should be pre-empting these anxieties by bandying the word about without any hesitation. Women who claim supremacy over men are not feminists, and they never will be. By its very definition it is so wrong to describe their actions as such, and we know that, so rise above it.
My final message to you all is this: stop fearing the word ‘feminist’. If we were to replace it with synonyms such as ‘gender-equality’ we would not be so quick as to keep it at arm’s length. Boys and girls, please stop vandalising a word so beautiful and organic. It’s up to us to shape the meaning this word becomes, so lets preserve the very peace it set out to achieve between the sexes.
In the words of Second-wave feminist write Germaine Greer: