A Follow-Up To Yesterday’s Feminism Post

I saw an article today over at Salon that I believe reinforces yesterday’s post very nicely. If you didn’t check the link, basically it’s a list of powerful women in today’s culture who do not self-identify as feminists. Amid the expected celebrities, one name in particular stands out to me:

Sandra Day O’Connor:I never did [call myself a feminist]. I care very much about women and their progress. I didn’t go march in the streets, but when I was in the Arizona Legislature, one of the things that I did was to examine every single statute in the state of Arizona to pick out the ones that discriminated against women and get them changed.”

I think that this is the reason why feminists need to worry more about “the strength of our brand.” I hope you’ll forgive the smarmy “corporate-speak” there; to be honest, I makes me feel a little dirty typing something that sounds like it belongs in the mouth and mind of a high-powered venture capitalist or corporate consultant. But I think that it’s also very true.

When you have high-profile, powerful women using the phrase “I’m not a feminist, but . . .” it is indicative of an image problem. The fact is that these women are feminists in that they agree with the feminist cause: equality for women. The fact that they don’t adopt the label is indicative of a negative association with the label in the public consciousness. Consider Madonna’s comment at the end of the article:

Madonna: I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist.”

That should be a telling differentiation right there and one that I think many people would agree with: the label of humanist is fine for most people. The label of feminist, not so much. That’s indicative of a problem. It means people are less likely to listen when they hear the “f-word,” much in the same way that straight white males like myself currently shut down their brains when they hear the “p-word”: privilege.

Though I’m a dedicated humanist myself, I think that feminism is worthy of its own distinct identity because the goal of humanism is too broad. Feminism as a label addresses certainly issues like male privilege and rape culture that get lost in the shuffle for humanism. In a perfect world, feminism and humanism are synonymous and I very much hope we get to the point where the distinction is unnecessary, because that means feminism will have won.

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