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Post: Blog2_Post
  • Kathryn Patterson

Why I'm Not A Feminist, Pt. 3: The Power of Names



1 a : a word or phrase that constitutes the distinctive designation of a person or thing    b: a word or symbol used in logic to designate an entity 2 a descriptive often disparaging epithet 3 a : reputation    b : an illustrious record : fame    c : a person or thing with a reputation 4 family, clan 5 appearance as opposed to reality 6 one referred to by a name Such simple words for such a complex idea.  Names are more than simple words; names are how we interpret the world around us.  Helen Keller learns to speak when she understood the hand movements where the name of water.  In ancient times, the Egyptian god Ptah created things by naming them.  In science, naming rights reflect who either thought up an idea first or who implemented an idea first/the best.   Neil DeGrasse Tyson does a phenomenal job explaining how we interpret history through naming rights. Fairy tales such as Rumpelstiltskin show how knowing a person's name gives you a power over them (or at least that's what we used to believe).  Today, people name their children to connect future generations with past generations (through the use of familial names), or to reflect a parent's wishes or dreams for their progeny (e.g. naming a child 'Lucifer' because you want him to be beautiful and able to think for himself), or to remember their culture heritage.  Studies show that men with feminine sounding names have more peer problems in school; that people with unusual names have a harder time getting hired.

What does this have to do with feminism? The name 'feminism' is a word used in logic to designate an idea.  The word appears around 1851 with the meaning 'the quality of being female' or 'the state of being feminine'.  In the early 1900s, 'feminism' took on new meaning with the women's suffrage movement, now denoting a social theory or political movement that states we need to remove legal and social restrictions on women to allow them equality to men. Over time, the word 'feminism' changed definitions as women's rights moved forward.   Women now have rights that at one point were reserved for men, such as the right to own property, the right to vote, the right to an education, the right to work, ...  Socially, women shed previous restrictions on clothing, mannerisms, sexual behaviors, reproductive rights, hairstyles, hair colors, ornamentation (e.g. jewelry, tattoos, piercings,...), career choices,... I think it's safe to say that the majority of legal and social restrictions have been removed. This begs the question:  what does feminism mean today? Some women claim that feminism still refers to gaining equality between the genders.  But we already for words for that - egalitarianism or equalitarianism.  These names sound like movements for equality, whereas 'feminism' sounds like a movement only for women. Some women claim that feminism refers to a movement dedicated to protecting women from domestic violence or intimate personal violence (IPV), rape, and harassment.  But IPV, rape, and harassment are not female problems; these are crimes committed by woman and men against men and women.  The name 'feminism' not only sounds like a movement especially to help women in these situations, but also ignores or belittles the half where men are also victims.

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