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Is the term ‘feminism’ holding the movement back?

Can the stigma around the term “feminism” be reversed? 
Feminists have received backlash from the very start of their movement in the late 1800s. Early on, people openly had zero respect for women. Becoming the property of your husband was customary, both domestic abuse and martial rape were impossible in the eyes of the law, and women were completely eliminated from all policy making. Today, discrimination against women is more subtle, but some would argue that makes the battle more difficult. We no longer have as much concrete proof that female status is less than men’s. In reality, we suffer from most of the same problems that have existed for a hundred years. Most people can agree that the lack of childcare, the pay gap, and cultural disrespect are as problematic as ever, yet few actually call themselves “feminists”. Men, in particular, will refrain from using this term even though they agree that women have a systematic disadvantage in society and want to change it. 
So why do so many people stray away from calling themselves feminists? Opposers of the movement have created a negative image of a feminist from the very beginning. Portraying women that wanted equal rights as angry, single, and ugly people who wanted to see all men burn. The idea that feminism means that women think they are better than men still exist today and is part of the reason that people distance themselves from feminism. I myself have been called a “feminazi” countless times in high school for subtly speaking on my beliefs. 
Now that we understand why people have a misconception of feminism, can its reputation be saved? Some people believe it would be more productive for the movement to change Feminism to Humanitarianism, or something more neutral. Others think it would be wasteful to change the name after all of its progress and history. Personally, I lean towards changing the name because for an ideology that men and women deserve equal rights, it has a feminine name to it. This could turn many men away from the movement in fear of the men hating radicals. On the other hand, I completely understand where people are coming from wanting to preserve the historical value to the original title of the ideology. 
Nobody knows the right answer, but whatever feminism ends up being called doesn’t matter too much. It’s about the policy and social norm change that will benefit not just women, but everyone in society.  


Maeve Kenny

Scranton '23

Hi my name is Maeve Kenny and I am a sophomore Advertising / Public Relations and Business Communications double major with a Social Media Strategies minor. I am on my university's field hockey team and am passionate about staying fit, self care, and staying motivated. I love to learn and try new things, and hope you enjoy some of my thoughts!
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