It's no great news that "feminism" -- the word and, by extension, the movement -- has an image problem. Women of all ages and colors have, at turns, bristled at the term, embraced it, lauded it and disdained it, practically since it was coined. However, after years of soldiering on under the burden of a heavily loaded word, a new crop of progressive and politically active women are finally addressing the problem. Some are looking to reinvigorate "feminist" by laying claim to the word -- a new magazine and a recent book are both cheekily titled "The F Word" -- while others are contemplating new words and phrases to employ in the fight for women's equality. After years of quiet debate, women are tackling their own labels with the energy of a movement anxious to make itself fresh again.I'm not scared of the word. I got fed up with the people who seem, so easily, to become its public face. I got tired of being told over and over "if you believe in equality, then our word applies to you, and you must stick it onto yourself and be proud of the label, no matter how uneasy your alliance is with us. You're allowed to disagree vehemently with us on some matters, of course. We promise we're indulgent. But the moment you decide our word is not for you, you label yourself a hater of your own freedom, fool."
Why do these people never ask how much being condescended to a person can take before she leaves? Why not ask whether it's more important to her to be recognized as a freedom fighter -- or at least, to parade around like an idiot using the phrase freedom fighters are supposed to use, while doing nothing more than smugly blogging from behind a wall of (usually) white privilege and class privilege -- or more important to her to stand in solidarity with her sex worker friends, kinky friends, femme friends, SAHM friends? Or to stand up for herself, should she fit into one of those categories? I've seen people in all of those groups critiqued for insufficient slavish loyalty to some official concept of women's "liberation," and more than a few of them called enemies of women's freedom. And, as I've said before, I am so done.
I'm loyal to my people and my principles. Not your names. As I've said a thousand times, call me a feminist if you want. You won't be wrong. But hearing "but if you believe in basic decency, you're a feminist" for the thousandth time won't make me don the badge again.
Also, it quite honestly demeans feminism when you claim that anyone who believes in equality is a feminist. Plenty of people "believe in equality" from their couches. I don't think they should get to count alongside actual activists, simply because we'd like more people to like the word "feminist" better.