I have a group of friends, all mature, independent women, who all have accounts on a domain they registered for themselves as a joke, megabitch.org.

As pointed out in transform's Bitch Manifesto node, reclaiming the word bitch is quite the feminist thing to do - but all five of these women routinely drive me up the wall by staying clear away from any potentially heated discussion of feminism with the claim that "they're not feminists". They can call it whatever they want, I call it moral cowardice.

I think that it's about as right for the word "feminism" to fall from grace and turn into a slur as it is for the word "democracy". After all, they're both terms which describe doctrines, ways of thinking, ideologies - there's no ethical value in semantics.

There are, however, examples of both happening - the difference is, democracy has been a dirty word in various totalitarian, joyless and oppressive regimes (or at least that's the way we were taught to view them), while feminism is a dirty word in the allegedly enlightened western world - worst of all, from my experience, the USA.

What you have with this is the legacy of some unfortunate extremists who the reactionary conservative forces in America found and fell in love with.

The crazier the person willing to wear the title of feminism, the more some in the media were willing to curry a negative spectacle... to build a negative stereotype...

...and thus smear a quite legitimate, intelligent and moderate social movement. Fortunately, actions speak louder than labels.

The problem of word "feminism" results from self-identification. If someone calls you a name, intending that it be taken as a slur, whether it be "nerd", "geek", "feminist", "pagan", "fag", a five letter word beginning with n that I shall not even type for fear of being excluded from public discussion by a political correctness nazi, or any other, a common counter-tactic is to adopt that name as a badge of pride and force it to be redefined in the public mind.

Whether this is really effective is up to interpretation.

In any case, "feminist" is a bit different than most of the other words mentioned, as it was first used by a movement to describe itself, and then used as an epithet. When it became a potential insult, some people (see above) shied away, but others clung to it even more fiercely. This, along with the actions and positions of it's most notable holders (NOW, to point a finger) worsening its connotation, has created an interesting positive feedback loop.

So what does this mean? It means that the meaning firmly entrenched in my linguistic interpreter for "feminist" is "one that desires women to have additional power and freedom, and cares not whether this affects men", essentially because those most loudly proclaiming themselves to be feminists believe just that (finger pointing again). I also hold that many other people, say everyone aware of the stigma of feminism, at least partially subscribe to this connotation.

So, since I like to yell at people, when I can get away with it, I am a masculinist on the weekdays, and on the weekends and holidays, I'm an equalist. Thirty years ago, I would have been a feminist, but to use such a label now would associate me with some of my greatest political enemies.

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