The “F” WordMay 28, 2008
Much of the dialogue around AAUW’s latest research, Where the Girls Are (check out “Talking About Where the Girls Are” to get a sample listing) is learned, interesting, and obviously written by individuals who can speak knowledgeably about the subject. As I was reading the comments, however, I noticed that other individuals were criticizing AAUW as “that feminist organization,” appearing to use the term feminist as if it were a dirty word.
Then, of course, I had to remind myself what feminist means today — as opposed to the definition I grew up with in the 1970s and 1980s. Then, in my mind at least, it referred to someone fighting for women’s rights as part of a political movement for equality, whether in education, the workplace, or anywhere issues of gender equity were of concern. What’s so dirty about that?
On further reflection, I realized I have fallen into the “I’m not a feminist, but…” conversational mode in casual talk about issues affecting women today. I have apparently adapted my definition of the word toward how I perceive others view it today rather than using feminist simply as an umbrella term for someone concerned about gender issues with regard to women. My personal evolvement of being a feminist has actually grown to include individuals concerned with any gender equity issue — whether affecting women or men.
Getting back to the definition, I find when I go to those ever-ready Web search engines, there are as many interpretations of feminist as there individuals with opinions. One of the more interesting reads I found (albeit a bit ponderous and not necessarily the definitive explanation) was in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy “Topics in Feminism” section. As I read it, I ran across the term sexually subordinate and couldn’t resist adding it to the mix. When taken out of context or without definition, it too could definitely be considered another “dirty word” (or phrase in this case).
What does feminist mean to you? Has the definition evolved for you as it did me? What do you think it means to the average person today?