Words matter. As a writer, I’ve very aware of that. There’s a subtle yet important difference between, for example, “girl” and “woman.”
One word that I’ve shied away from in the past few years is the word “feminist.” I’ve heard that younger women can’t relate to it. I’ve heard they don’t like it. They believe in equal rights for women, yet the word is so…so militant.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is 38-year-old Nigerian-born writer. She has encountered negativity around calling herself a feminist. When she was promoting her novel in Nigeria, a male journalist told her she should never call herself a feminist since feminists were unhappy women. They would never find a husband.
She decided to call herself the Happy Feminist.
Then a woman from academia told her that being a feminist was not part of Nigerian culture and that being a feminist was un-African. So then Adichie decided to call herself the Happy African Feminist.
Finally, after other’s advice, she was the Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men And Who Likes To Wear Lip Gloss AND High Heels for Herself and Not For Men.
Ridiculous? Absolutely. Because we have these preconceived notions about what a feminist is.
I wonder, though, how feminism got to be such a negative term. Is this another case of the number of nasty slang words for the female anatomy and the ,much fewer nasty words for the male anatomy? Is this a case of society subtly discouraging us women from advocating for ourselves?
Yes, I wonder.
Less than a month after the United Kingdom decided to drop feminism from the politics in their A-level courses, every 16-year old in Sweden will be given Adichie’s book We Should All Be Feminists. This book is based on her 2012 TED talk.
Notice that it’s not every 16-year old girl. Boys are included too. Because advocating for the rights of women is also important for men.
Maybe in the future the “F” word won’t be considered a dirty word.
Image courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons