Tricky things, labels.

Be careful with them.

And not just those saying ‘salt’ and ‘sugar,’ or ‘Drip flush’ and ‘Digoxin.’  I’m talking about labels for people.  Try “Feminist” for size:

Feminism: The advocacy of women’s rights

on grounds of equality of the sexes.

I know this is right; I looked it up in the Old (deliberate error) English Dictionary.  Now that I am thus enlightened, I would be happy to get a label from my label-drawer, write FEMINIST on it and stick it to my forehead.  In fact, it has become my secret hobby.  I have that very label sticking to my forehead right now.  I am an advocate of women’s rights on grounds of equality for the sexes. 

Doesn’t sound too contraversial, does it?

Britain’s dear Prime Minister wasn’t taking the risk when he declined to wear a ‘This is What a Feminist Looks Like‘ t-shirt to be photographed for Elle Magazine last October.  Although later he appeared to have changed his mind

‘What I should have said is yes … If that is what you mean by feminist, then yes, I am a feminist.”

If that’s what you mean by a Feminist?  Where was it David Cameron went to University again?  Didn’t they have a copy of the Old English Dictionary there that students of subjects like Philosophy and Politics, could have borrowed? 

But I suppose he has a point.  People use the term ‘Muslim’ when they mean ‘terrorist’, as opposed to A follower of the religion of Islam (The religion of the Muslims, a monotheistic faith regarded as revealed through Muhammad as the Prophet of Allah)

Similarly, people will use the word ‘feminist’ when they don’t mean one who practises said advocacy of women’s rights on grounds of equality of the sexes.

So what the hell do they think it means?

Once upon a time, perhaps they thought it meant: 

The burning of one’s bra by mobs of angry ladies. 

Caitlin Moran, however, has dealt with this problem:

…to any idiot who says, “You a Feminist?  Do you burn your bras then, huh?  HUR?  You burn your bras, you feminist?”

You must reply calmly, ‘Fool.  FOOL.  Bra is my friend.  My bosomist buddy.  My inti-mate.  Except for the balcony-cup Janet Reger one that was one inch too small and cut off the circulation to my head.  Yeah.  That one, I covered that one in petrol and torched it outside the American Embassy.’   (How to be a Woman).

Bra-burning associations are old-hat now.

People view feminists as extremists.  Standing up for a cause can sometimes appear extreme.  Perhaps hate all men and are secretly planning to suicide bomb them….

OK so maybe I’m getting carried away.  But Lady Gaga once said she couldn’t be a feminist because she loved men. 

Gwyneth Paltrow famously suggested that the feminists would string her up because she had decided to work less in favour of spending time with her family.  Because a woman deciding to make her own decisions about her life / work balance couldn’t possibly be a feminist. 

And then we have the likes of Madonna, Demi Moore and Sarah Jessica Parker, who gets an extra point for knowing that playwright Wendy Wasserstein thought of this before it hit the popular culture:

I am not a feminist.  I am humanist.

Back to the Old English, then:

Humanism (mass noun) A rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.

But feminism isn’t a religion!  It means – aw, forget it.

The point, beyond nit-picking about definitions, is this: ‘Feminism’ has had a bad press for as long as the word has existed.  This is because, if you approach a dominant group and say: ‘I want things to change so that you have less control and we have more control,’ there are always going to be members of that dominant group who kick against it.

If you go into any aspect of any culture in the world – be it business, family, regiion, whatever – and say ‘I don’t want things done the way we’ve done things previously,’ people of all walks are always going to kick against it.

At least Carrie Underwood gets some points for honesty:  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am a feminist, that can come off as a negative connotation.

But is it really negative to want women to be treated the same as men?  No?  Well ,the word for that is feminism and if it has made people angry in the past, that changes nothing.

The other problem is that whenever you have thousands of millions of people all believing the same thing but coming at it from different angles, disagreements are going to arise. 

Worse, the core values of the cause are sometimes going to get completely misrepresented. 

Sometimes people kill innocent other people under the name of ‘God.’

Sometimes innocent people are killed under the name of ‘Allah.’ 

Sometimes you’re going to hear things on your local news station, like:  ‘The daughter of an Oldham sponsor has received rape threats from feminist campaigners if the proposed (Ched Evans) contract goes ahead….’ 

The difference between Christians or Muslims and feminists though (presuming that you are intelligent enough to work out for yourselves which is a value, and which a religion) is that no Muslim says, ‘Because people are killing innocents under the name of Allah, I am not a Muslim.’

No.  Surely the smart move is not to turn and run from a label, but to stand up for it.  I have great respect for people who say:

‘I am a Muslim.  And terror is not what we stand for.’

Likewise, I am not afraid to say: ‘This is what a feminist looks like.’

(Good link:


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