Sometimes I hesitate before I tell people that I write about feminism.
I’m not completely sure why. Am I a terrible feminist? Probably not, but I do have a feeling it has to do with my subconscious, how society feels about the word, and how that has impacted my thoughts of the sound of it.
I forget there is more to a word than a word sometimes. I love words, sometimes regardless of semantics, just because of how they sound. Phonaesthesia suggests that some people can sense the unpleasant or pleasant connotations of a word simply by its sound. Society has grown to link the word feminism with displeasing connotations, and I have unknowingly been influenced by that.
But as my favorite Capulet says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
For those who didn’t study Romeo and Juliet in high school and are devoid of literary analysis of Middle English, it means that something, no matter what you call it, will still mean the same thing.
Buzzfeed conducted a survey in November of 2014 where 300,000 anonymous participants were asked whether they agreed “that all people are entitled to the same civil rights, liberties and opportunities regardless of gender.” Approximately 99 percent of the participants agreed. However, when asked whether or not they identified as feminists only 69 percent said yes.
Fifty-six percent of those same participants said a gender equality movement should use a different name.
This is understandable. I’ve previously written about how feminism is constantly misunderstood, and this survey suggests it is because of the name. People are apparently under the impression that feminism only applies to women, or that it is not OK to relate to women and their fight for gender equality, which is not the case.
According to the article regarding the results of the survey, “Of those who answered that they don’t identify as feminist, the majority said it wasn’t that they didn’t believe in gender equality, but because they don’t believe feminism accurately represents their views.”
It makes sense that people would not want to identify with a word that is so closely related to feminine or femininity, which seems like the case despite the difference in definition between those words and feminism. Not everyone is, in fact, female, but it looks as though a lot of people believe in equality. If a man is a feminist does that demote his masculinity? No, but if he is only listening to the word and not the ideas behind it I can see why he would think so. The part of society that wants equality appears to have attached itself to the word, not the meaning of it.
Some suggested “humanism” be used instead. Unfortunately, that already means something completely different. According to the definition of humanism, “Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.”
What could feminism be called without being called feminism? People mispronounce my name all the time but I’m not going to change it because it’s hard to say. Feminism is being misunderstood, but it doesn’t matter what feminism is called because in the end it is still feminism.
Gertrude Stein once said, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” Feminism is feminism is feminism. Semantics matter here. I don’t identify with the sound of words, but by what they stand for. Suggesting that you wouldn’t stand for feminism because you don’t like the sound of it is childish, and it is definitely an uneducated perception of how words are meant to work.