Is It Time to Replace the Word “Feminism”?


We all know the term “feminism” carries certain connotations – some good, many bad. The fact that the word has so many meanings contributes to the nuances in perception, and a recent post on Reddit suggested it’s time for a name change. User Windyo posted in the feminism subreddit:

“I believe “Feminism” is outdated, and that all people who fight for gender equality should rebrand their movement to “Equalism.””

The post currently has a link karma score of 685 (953 upvotes, 268 downvotes) and 462 comments of agreement and disagreement. Some of the commenters agree that modern feminism has too bad a name to be taken seriously, that the term itself is easily distorted and often viewed as anti-man. Is it possible that the word “feminism” alone turns people away from an idea that largely they support?

According to a recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll, only 20 percent of Americans polled identify as feminists, while 82 percent of pollers say they believe that “men and women should be social, political, and economic equals,” which is the widely agreed upon definition of feminism. These sorts of statistics lend credence to the notion that the word “feminism” conjures a bad taste in the mouth.

Adversely, Redditors opposed to a name change argue that chauvinists who rebuke the feminist movement as anti-man hide behind a strawman, an excuse not to recognize gender equality. This is perhaps true of some people, but it seems unlikely that the majority of those who don’t identify as feminists are masked chauvinists.

I agree that the movement is poorly named, the term “feminism” poorly chosen. The word used to represent a fight for gender equality should be egalitarian, rather than one with a gender identifier in the root word. But the name is hardly the cause of the movement’s growth issue. As Redditor Sappow commented:

“The caricatures and prejudice would follow the rebranding, and the reactionary antifeminists who currently complain about Feminism Gone Too Far would start complaining about the new group. Reactionaries don’t have an issue with the name. They have an issue with the product. And no amount of rebranding will alter that.”

The anti-feminists will not be persuaded to join their adversaries simply because they chose to fight under a new banner. Many people feel that feminists seek to demoralize men in order to explain either why their cause is necessary or how it originated. Others believe that the feminist movement has already achieved its objectives since women are no longer treated as second class citizens by the law (compared to men). People will still believe these things, regardless as to what you call it.

What’s in a name? Not the answer to the feminist movement’s problem.

Feminists need to reframe their issues past woman vs. man; they should clarify to all confused parties: this movement isn’t about men and the problems it seeks to eradicate didn’t arise because of men. It is a result of a world history wrought with patriarchy—something that comes from society at large. We should continue to push for a world that is focused on gender equality, but we should also be clarifying what feminism means, because people are clearly (still) getting hung up on the word.

Too many still don’t understand that feminism fights for gender equality in a culture that has historically devalued women—and the traits prescribed to them. We don’t want to be men—or be better than men—we want to be women in a society that recognizes our merit. This is a message more people can relate to; one larger percentages of people may be willing to support.

So no, let’s not change the word, let’s change the conversation.