October 12, 2015 - Written by:

Feminist? Humanist? Intergalactic Tricycle Riding Mushroom?

Meryl Streep, Marion Cotillard and Sarah Jessica Parker are just some of the high profile names who have recently rejected the word ‘feminism’ in favour of the term ‘humanism’. Why? Is political correctness on crack now? 

Hillary Clinton recently confessed in an interview with Lena Dunham that she was a little bit puzzled by women who believe in equal rights but don’t consider themselves feminists. And I’ll confess, to me it is a bit of a head scratcher too. 

The definition of feminism is:

‘The social, political, economical equality of sexes.’

To me, it’s just a word that describes a core belief. I thought that was how words work? They mean things, right? I wouldn’t call a carrot a potato, because it’s a carrot, right? But if, in some other parallel universe the word ‘carrot’ was used describe a potato, I can see how there could be confusion. 

Is it because the word itself offends people? Is the ‘fem’ upsetting? I don’t know.

For me feminism is a word that represents progression and passion and love. It means raising up, not tearing down.


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Ever since the term Women’s Liberationist was replaced by feminism during the 1960’s/70’s – the term has been used to join a discourse to which gender equality is at the heart.

Vlogger Steve Shives gives an explanation to why feminism has its name:

‘Reason why it’s called feminism while advocating for equality is because females are the gender, that are the under privileged, under-served gender. You attain gender equality by advocating for the rights of the under privileged gender.’

This doesn’t mean that feminism doesn’t value manhood. No. That’s not what it is at all.

What is slightly frustrating is that humanists and feminists seem to be essentially TALKING ABOUT EXACTLY THE SAME THINGS. 

Then there’s Meryl Streep.

Ass kicking, Abba singing, acting chameleon Streep. (I love you Streepy!) Meryl who funded a lab for Screenwriters’ in Hollywood for women over 40. Meryl who lobbied for Equal Rights Amendment in the US. Meryl who raved like a royal badass as Patricia Arquette gave her equal pay speech at the 2015 Oscars. 

Meryl Streep

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Meryl who recently took the role of Emmeline Pankhurst in the critically acclaimed film Suffragette. Really, you’re not a feminist? Did I miss something? Everything Meryl has done are acts that serve equality of the sexes i.e. feminism.

From my understanding, Meryl is by definition a ‘feminist’ because of her actions and core beliefs. Sure, if she doesn’t want to use the f-word that’s her freedom of choice. Her actions speak louder than her choice of label; it’s just that her label doesn’t quite make sense to me. 

Maybe the problem is we all just get a bit too caught up in semantics.

Do we have too much time on our hands? It would make the discourse a little smoother if we used the same words, wouldn’t it? 

I find the Women Against Feminism posy irritating, not because they don’t identify as ‘feminists’, but because once again they are drawing away from those vulnerable girls whose voice has been silenced, wasting everyone’s time talking about shit that really makes no difference to the people who actually need equality. 

Do you really think the cage girls in Mumbai are having this conversation? Do you think the 15 million girls who are married off as child brides are contemplating whether to call themselves feminists or humanists? No. Why? because they are existing in a living nightmare. 

Or how about in the West… that a women is raped every 6 minutes in the UK. That’s 85,000 rapes a year. Or that I met a 12 year old girl the other day that told me she didn’t want to play basketball because she didn’t want to be ‘manly’. THIS is what deserves our attention.

Even writing this, I feel like I could be talking about something more important. I should be talking about something more important. 

If you’re pioneering for equality in the world – where our boys and girls have an equal shot at life, it’s really none of my business what you call yourself. Feminist? Humanist? Intergalactic tricycle riding mushroom? Maybe we should let our actions speak for themselves. 

If you enjoyed this post, why not check out ‘Why I Need Feminism (What the aliljoy.com Team Have to Say)’?



1 Comment

  • Amy

    I find this debate so frustrating, because it’s a refusal to acknowledge that it is women (for the most part) who, like you say, are the under-privileged ones when it comes to gender equality. It’s an attempt to try and make men feel included and I just want to say ‘who cares?’ – it’s not up to feminism to make people feel all warm and fuzzy about their movement. You don’t get this with anti-racism. (Or maybe you do a bit… *rolls eyes at White History Month advocates*). If men (or anyone) feel threatened by feminism, and with a movement that is centred on raising women up to their level of privilege, maybe they should take a look at themselves and their reasons…

    Plus, humanism already has a meaning and it’s got nothing to do with equality. You can’t just go throwing that out there. You can be a humanist AND a feminist, but the two are not interchangeable. As you say, that’s just how words work!

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