The word “feminist”….

In this postmodern feminist era, is the word “feminist” outdated?  The word feminist was created during the suffrage and Women’s Rights Movement, in the late 19th/ early 20th century.  During those days, feminists primarily constituted white, middle/upper class women who were fighting for women’s rights.
Today, the feminist movement constitutes more than just “women’s rights.” It’s purpose has been transformed to include not only women’s issues, but men’s issues, children issues, environmental issues, minority issues etc.

Many people advocate at least one of these issues; however, few people would label themselves a feminist, including me.  The word feminist has so many connotations that are excluding and confining so many people have a hard time attaching the label to themselves.  To be a feminist people envision a female who is all about women, women rights and a person who takes drastic measures to advance their belief.  However, this constricting (but stereotypical) definition excludes men and those who are not radical. It essentially excludes most people, including me.

The Feminist Movement has evolved and transformed to be the contemporary movement we see today.  This movement is no longer solely about women’s issues, but the word still is.  In order to keep up with the times, and allow for more people to join in and label themselves as such, I think the connotations associated with the word needs to change. But how to do this is a mystery.  The current connotations with the word are so engrained in people’s minds that trying to alter it might be difficult, if not impossible.

I am not sure whether it is practical or reasonable to diverge from the word “feminist,” but I do believe the traditional meaning no longer fits in today’s reality. The feminist movement has turned into human issues, regardless of gender and race.  And while I acknowledge that rage and gender, as well as able-bodiness, class, etc still exist, it should not be the deciding factor in what people choose to be labeled as.  This mode of thinking has created fragmentation, where people do not see how working with someone from a different background could help further the cause.  But we are all working towards the same goal: equality.  And that is what people need to remember.


About Haley Behre

I graduated from Syracuse University in December 2011 with majors in newspaper journalism and women and gender studies. Using these majors, I aspire to become a journalist who writes about human rights issues. I have held internships at the Syracuse New Times, Dash Media PR Firm, Syracuse Post-Standard and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. I also had an internship at the Not For Sale Campaign Syracuse chapter, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking. I was born in Seoul, Korea on September 30, 1990 and moved to the United States before I was one year old. When I was 8, my family and I moved to Norwich, England for three years. While I was here I was immersed into a new culture and got to experience many things other children my age do not get to. Over the three years, I visited Ireland, France and the Netherlands several times, and Belgium, Wales and Sweden once. In the winter of 2010, I got an amazing opportunity to visit Kenya for a month. This was by far the single most eye-opening experience of my life thus far. The natural beauty of the landscape and its people do not compare to anything I have seen. I currently intern for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press in the hopes of getting a full-time job at a newspaper or non-profit after.
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