I don’t really want to admit this, because it fills me with hot shame and makes my twin X chromosomes shake their little heads in embarrassment but, here it is: there was a time in my life when I readily did not identify as a feminist. I naïvely committed to this for several reasons. First, it was easier. I am a people-pleaser, and far be it from me to ruffle anyone’s feathers with my budding feminist ideals. Second, I was young and foolish. I thought painting myself as a female against feminism would make me seem more appealing to boys—someone like the mythical Cool Girl that Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl made so (in)famous. Third, I hated the word “feminism.” It rolled around my mouth aggressively. It felt unwelcome and angry and prickly and whispered in my ear that there should be more, I should want more. It garnered looks ranging from bemused to sneering to dismissive.
You’ll be thrilled to hear that I’ve since abandoned my puerile ways in favor of actually giving a damn and being a grown-ass woman. I am proud to call myself a feminist now, though that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to type or to say aloud. Feminism—both the thing itself and uttering the term—requires aplomb, perseverance, and a whole hell of a lot of explanation. To be sure, I’ve found myself passionately (read: drunkenly) engaged in at least five conversations over the last six months attempting to clarify and demystify feminism; the fact that these conversations were always with males in my peer group is both curious and unsurprising.
Maybe it’s just been my experience, but I’ve found that feminism has a bit of a branding problem. Millennial males realllllllllllllly do not like the word “feminism” nor any of its permutations, and, I’ve found, usually aren’t even sure what it really means. I’m going to let Emma Watson (you might know her as Hermione) clear this up for you:
“For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”
A couple things. First of all, I implore you to watch her UN HeForShe speech that I’ve included above. She is flawless in her delivery, her execution, her rhetoric, her middle part and power suit, and her emotion. That video made my dad cry. Second of all: we know that the word “feminism” kind of sucks, that it is an anathema to many people. I think there’s probably a conversation to be had about why the word “feminism” is so problematic, but in the meantime, I thought it might be useful and fun to think of some alternative names for this movement.
A Not-So-Definitive List of Potential Names to Call the Theory of Political, Economic, and Social Equality of the Sexes Instead of ‘Feminism’
Here’s a surefire strategy—let’s name it after something that everyone unequivocally loves. Other options include Pizzaism, Fridayism, and Meryl Streepism.
Nominal form: Beyoncéist (abbreviated to Beyist)
Slogan/Symbol: Scroll up to the beginning of this article. Be mesmerized by her power pose. As we know though, Bey is a busy woman—what with presiding over the known universe and all—so Blue would be her stand-in while she has attends to her hegemonic duties (as well as provide a unifying color for ribbons, outfits, and bumper stickers).
There already seems to be a halfhearted groundswell movement for this word, but I think this is an option that men and struggling spellers everywhere can get behind. This word really embodies the under-arching theory and takes it to a new level: grammatic equality.
Nominal form: Femenist (or if we want to get really creative, Femenista/Femenisto)
Slogan/Symbol: Honestly I just really want it to be Ron Swanson.
Society for the Promotion of Equality for Women (S.P.E.W.)
23482304 points to Gryffindor if you get the meta reference but who doesn’t love a good acronym? Or at least an acronym that pokes fun at itself?
Nominal form: SPEWer (lol)
Slogan/Symbol: Hermione would do speaking events but obviously Dobby would be the real MVP.
Mostly because he is a bottomless well of raw emotion and heartbreaking earnestness that the Internet and we at Thelma refuse to stop returning to, but also because how cool would it be to drop “I believe in Drake” in casual conversation?
Nominal form: Drake (masc.), Drakette (fem.)
Slogan/Symbol: Aubrey, in all his glory.
Let’s just neuter the word completely, erase any gendered connotations with it, and call it exactly what it is. Bonus points here for cultural sensitivity by implicitly acknowledging that gender is a spectrum, not just a binary, and that you deserve equality wherever you may fall on that spectrum.
Nominal form: Human being
Slogan/Symbol: The equal sign.
Listen: I know “feminism” is a heavy word, and I know that it often causes untold numbers of people—however they may self-identify on the gender spectrum—to suddenly find something very interesting on the ceiling to roll their eyes towards. But it doesn’t have to. There is power in names, certainly, but only as much as we are willing to assign. At the end of the day, it’s just a word. Use it or don’t, but maybe think twice about saying, “I don’t believe in feminism” the next time you’re around me and I’m two glasses of wine deep.