Recently, I was introduced to a fascinating new idea in the fight for gender equality. Apparently, there are some fresh young minds out there that are attempting to use language to strengthen the fight for equality between the sexes.
In essence, some people feel that by having men call themselves Feminists, it detracts from the efforts of women in the Feminist community that the school of thought was intended to help and empower. However, they also don’t want to take away from the men who actually try to make things fair for everyone. To that end, some people have started encouraging male Feminists to start calling themselves “Pro-Feminists” instead.
Before I get into my usual criticism, I’d just like to say that I understand the thinking here. People want to celebrate the women that Feminism was made for. That’s a perfectly noble cause and I feel their hearts are in the right place.
However, I can’t help but see a few potential problems with this new set-up.
First, for all of the concern about language diminishing the efforts of women that started this movement, supporters of this change seem to have missed how they flipped the issue 180 degrees on to men now. By using the phrase Pro-Feminist to describe male Feminists, a person seems to be implying (however unintentionally), that men can’t be useful to the cause and be a part of the team. It makes men look like an other in society and creates the atmosphere of “no boys/girls allowed” that Feminism was meant to challenge and destroy.
Also, I feel like the word implies a sense of laziness or apathy to a person. A Feminist sounds like someone who actively tries to fight for equality; a Pro-Feminist sounds like someone who’s into the idea, but can’t be arsed to actually do any work for it. And remember who’s saying this; as a creative writer, radio personality, journalist, public speaker, and stage performer, I know how important it is for a word to sound just right.
Lastly, this new language ignores how much good Feminism does for men as well as women. For example, every time a guy gets bullied and taunted by being emasculated with feminine slurs (i.e., being called a bitch, a p***y, a c***, ETC.) or is criticized for being “too girly”, that throws every woman under the bus as well by implying that feminine is bad. It may be called feminism, but it’s meant to help EVERYONE be equal to each other regardless of their gender or the gender roles they choose for themselves.
In short, I personally feel there’s nothing wrong calling yourself a Feminist regardless of your gender. All that title means is that you believe in striving for a society that doesn’t judge a person’s value or force roles on them based on their gender. Perhaps what we really need is to change the word “Feminism” to reflect that belief a little better.
Of course, this movement in language is still young and anything could happen. I await your thoughts on the subject, world.