Madhok, Diksha — The Word “Feminist” Is Already in Decline

Madhok, Diksha. “The Word Feminist Is Already in Decline.” Quartz. 17 Nov. 2014. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.

In November 2014, Time magazine published their annual poll to have readers vote on “which word should be banned from the English language forever because it is so cringe-worthy that it makes you “seek out the nearest pair of chopsticks and thrust them through your own eardrums.” The word feminist was included on that list of words “alongside 14 other contenders such as “om nom nom nom” and “obvi.” The magazine received enough backlash for their decision to include the word “feminist” on the list to be forced to apologize shortly afterwards.

However, Diksha Madhok thought Time was onto something even with their mistake. The author wrote an article for the online news outlet Quartz in response to Time’s poll, remarking on the decline of the words feminist and feminism. Madhok did her own research through “Google’s n-gram viewer [which] allows armchair historians to trawl for phrases in millions of books digitized by the search giant.” After searching for the words (up until the year 2008, as the data does not span past that year), Madhok found: “The words feminist and feminism have been seeing a steady decline since 1996 in the English corpus.” The graphs she included show that the word feminist makes up just below 0.00150% in 2008 compared to 0.00257% in 1996, while the word feminism decreased from a 0.00095% usage in 1996 to a 0.00055% usage in 2008. However, while words for feminism have declined, Madhok notes that misandry, which means “hatred of men,” “has had a pretty good run in the last five years.” The writer goes on to elaborate and give examples

Many people assume—incorrectly—that feminism means hatred or dislike of men. On the Facebook group, Women Against Feminism, many users, mostly women, have posted their pictures with banners that read: “I don’t need feminism because I love my boyfriend” or “I am mom to 3 boys.”

This month, actress Salma Hayek said: “I am not a feminist…. I believe in equality.”

Madhok concludes the article by asserting that “Feminism is simply the radical notion that women are people” and by raising the following question: “Could the diminished usage of the term mean women have actually attained equality? If only…”

The article by Madhok brings up an unfortunate trend that’s been growing over the past couple years. The word feminist, while once the term for an individual following a movement to grant women equal rights as men, has suffered from pejoration. The semantics of the word have been degraded to mean something along the lines of “a woman who hates men.” Now women will not associate themselves with the word because they think it’s harmful to men. In fact, nothing about feminism is harmful to men unless those men value their own superiority and privilege over other people’s rights. Critics of feminism don’t understand that the movement is about equal rights for both men and women. Now, instead of looking at the movement behind the word for what it is, women bully each other for being “feminist.” All this does is spread unnecessary hatred based on ignorance. Madhok offers examples of women posing with banners which say “I don’t need feminism because I love my boyfriend” or because “I am the mom to three boys,” which implies that women who desire the same rights as men hate men and are doing a disservice to them. This is yet another way for the progress of women’s rights to be stalled, because instead of focusing on issues such as equal pay, or women’s health care, women are pitted against each other over men’s feelings getting hurt for being called out on the privileges awarded to their sex. This is violent to women because by taking the value away from feminism, it implies women are lesser human beings unworthy of basic human rights. Women who have internalized this mindset will never be able to reach their full potential.

–Ashley Stant


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