I wanted to kill two birds with one stone in this video. The first thing I tried to address was the argument I’ve received since my video “What is Feminism?”, that if feminism is really about equality, it should be called something broader like “equalism” or “humanism”.
I’ve found people making this argument generally come from one of two places: one group believes work needs to be done on women’s equality but see it as part of a broader movement and might have a reluctance to call themselves feminists due to negative stigma (aka the “I’m not a feminist…but” crowd).
The other believes feminism is not necessary because men are equally or more discriminated against in society compared to women. Therefore they accuse feminists of talking about equality while ignoring male inequality. I think this video speaks more to the first group – it’s very hard to convince those who possess the intractable belief that men are disadvantaged that in fact women are still the marginalized ones, on the whole – no matter how many stats you throw out. But I will continue to throw out stats in other videos nonetheless.
The second “bird” I was trying to kill was the common misuse of the word “humanism” to refer to simply an extremely broad movement for equality for all humans. I know I get tired of hearing celebrities in interviews, not to mention friends and acquaintances say, “I wouldn’t call myself a feminist; I’m a humanist” to mean that they feel feminism has a negative connotation and that humanism is an adequate substitution that demonstrates their commitment to equality for all. In addition to erasing the specificity of fighting gender inequality, it misses the historical and current meaning of the term “humanism”, which also includes a commitment to the rational and scientific and a rejection of the idea of divine and supernatural powers. I’m sure some humanists get annoyed by this mischaracterization, too. At any rate, I h0pe this video helps to concisely clear that up.
I also wanted to give major credit to Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog, whose answer to this question helped me start writing my own for this video. They also address a range of other FAQs on their site that are worth checking out if you like these videos.
Transcript after the jump:
Hi I’m Jarrah Hodge, writer and editor at Gender Focus. Welcome to Feminism F.A.Q.s. One question I’ve heard a lot is about the term “feminism”. In my video, “What is Feminism?” I said feminism is about equality of the sexes. So why not another term like “equalism” or “humanism” some ask.
Feminists believe that our society’s gender inequality requires a specific lens. Because women are generally marginalized compared to men, they need narrative space for themselves and allies to discuss women’s issues and experiences.
Without naming the issue of women’s inequality, without analysis of and action on the systemic power structures that generally privilege men over women in our society, there’s the possibility that it might get de-prioritized.
But being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t be an “equalist” too or that you can’t focus on other forms of discrimination. I, for one, believe that feminism goes hand-in-hand with other movements for equality such as anti-racism, because feminist equality can’t be only for some privileged groups of women.
And if you’re using the term “humanist” to mean believing in human rights and equality, you might just want to make sure people understand what you mean.
The term Humanism arose during the Enlightenment in the 18th century and referred to a movement promoting reason, ethics, and justice while rejecting religious dogma and the idea of divine and supernatural powers.
There’s a strong and vibrant humanist movement today that draws its legacy from that time, combining a commitment to human rights with a secular and rational worldview. It doesn’t specifically focus on gender equality issues. So you can be both a humanist and a feminist like I’d define myself, but one doesn’t really substitute for the other.