In debates or conversations with Feminists online I’ve heard terms like “do you even know the definition of Feminism” and “go look in a dictionary” a lot. So often in fact, that the words had lost all meaning to me, I’d simply laugh it off and explain how people can’t expect to be judged by their dictionary definition when acting in a contradictory manner, and not give it a second thought.
I’ve also been told a number of times variations on the theme of “if you believe in equality for everyone, you’re a Feminist”, and of course, we often see Feminists in the media explaining to Women who reject the tag that they are, in fact, Feminists based on the common definition of the term. I usually don’t take these claims seriously at all but this week something that I can’t quite put my finger on started me thinking about these statements and pondering these questions and ideas, allow me a few minutes to explain why.
We don’t usually dismiss dictionary definitions
We’re perfectly happy to refer to the dictionary for other definitions aren’t we? If you were to hear the word “succinct”, for example, and were unsure of its meaning, what would you do? You’d most likely Google the word and see what the dictionary definition of that word was in order to ensure that you’re using it correctly, right? I know from experience that I’ve even used the actual definitions of words a number of times in my own arguments. An example of a situation when this might happen would be if a Christian were to tell me that God exists but is merely “intangible” and leaves no evidence of his existence, I might remind them that something without foundation, substance or a ‘footprint’ of any kind is the definition of non-existent.
When Feminists direct us to the dictionary though, we are so quick to dismiss the idea, why is that? I decided that I’d keep this in mind and take a look at some of the definitions in various, popular dictionaries online, here are the results:
Oxford Dictionaries Online:
The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
So I’m a feminist then. Who isn’t?
Alright then, we’ve established that I am indeed a Feminist! Wow. That is something that I never expected to say! It feels pretty weird, but the dictionary tells me that it is fact, so we’ll go with that. With such a positive definition though, it seems to beg the question “who on Earth wouldn’t be a Feminist?” You’d have to be a pretty terrible person not to want these things after all! Equality for Men and Women alike surely just makes sense, right?
Well, let’s start by looking at some of the more well-known ‘Feminist’ icons and see if they fit the bill shall we?
Jessica Valenti – Well, she wears “I bathe in Male tears” t-shirts, so we don’t need to look any further – Not a Feminist.
Anita Sarkeesian – “There’s no such thing as sexism against Men” – Not a Feminist.
Emma Watson – #HeForShe – Not a Feminist.
Robin Morgan – “I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honourable and viable political act…” – Not a Feminist.
Valerie Solanas – “To call a man an animal is to flatter him; he’s a machine, a walking dildo” – Nope.
Andrea Dworkin – “I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig” – Not even close.
I could go on of course, but at this rate we’ll run out of faux-Feminists and wind up without enough people to keep the movement going! So the real question here is what can we do about this? Clearly we, the true Feminists, need to take back the word from these awful Women who ‘stole Feminism’ from us!But then, what do we call those Women? Perhaps, as they are clearly the very antithesis of the definition of Feminism we should give them the label of ‘Anti-Feminist’? That sounds quite good right?
Are YOU a real feminist?
Thinking about it, we could probably do with a checklist so that people who are confused (as I previously was) can tell if they are a Feminist or not, so let’s get started!
- If you think ‘the Patriarchy’ is a real thing, then you’re not a Feminist.
- If you genuinely use the terms “Mansplain”, “Manslam”, “Maninterrupt” or “Manspread”, you’re not a Feminist.
- If you perpetuate the wage gap or rape culture myths in Western society, you’re not a Feminist.
- If you think that Women should get special treatment or preference for certain positions because a company “doesn’t have enough Women”, you’re not a Feminist.
- If you think that “toxic masculinity” is a thing, you’re not a Feminist.
- If you believe that sexism against Men isn’t possible, you’re not a Feminist.
- If you only care about Women’s issues when it comes to equality, you’re not a Feminist.
I’m sure we could come up with more of these but I’m sure you see the point. If you, in any way, generalise all men in a negative way and help to perpetuate stereotypes or myths based on the ideas of Patriarchy and ‘Male privilege’ then you’re simply not a Feminist by its very definition.
With all of that said, I think it’s time to start a Twitter campaign to take back OUR word! I jest of course, in reality the dictionary does not have the power to define a movement containing so many people, one which can alter its own path or split into several differing ones at any given time. Feminism as we know it today is a very different beast from the one which was originally defined and even from what we now know as second wave Feminism. Third wave Feminism or ‘modern’ Feminism is almost unrecognisable and we’re simply waiting for the dictionaries to catch up.
On a side note: While searching for pictures to add to this article I Googled “This is what a Feminist looks like” which gives a gallery of some of the people who wore that T-shirt. It was a rather depressing experience indeed seeing the likes of Patrick Stewart donning the offending item of clothing. I can only assume that most of these people were brow-beaten into wearing it or simply haven’t been in the loop with ‘modern Feminism’.