It’s pretty hard to talk about feminism without using the word “feminism”, but that’s exactly what Emma Watson was asked to do in her UN speech about gender equality.
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Thankfully, she ignored the request and used it anyway.
In an interview with Porter magazine, Watson revealed that she was discouraged from using the word “feminism” in case it alienated people.
“I was encouraged not to use the word ‘feminism’ because people felt that it was alienating and separating, and the whole idea of the speech was to include as many people as possible,” she said. “But I thought long and hard and ultimately felt that it was just the right thing to do. If women are terrified to use the word, how on earth are men supposed to start using it?”
Watson features as one of seven “global role models” in Porter‘s first ever 100 Incredible Women list, celebrating women around the world who have had an impact on our lives and made us think differently in the past 12 months.
The word feminism shouldn’t need to be redefined: The meaning has never changed. But unfortunately, it has, over the years, become synonymous with negativity, with women and men battling each other and so-called “femi-Nazis” providing the world with (ridiculous but sadly unforgettable) sound bites like “all men are rapists.”
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Rather than be seen as what it should be — a positive movement for equality that will, ultimately, benefit both men and women — the word “feminism” has represented to many people nothing more than a bad attitude.
But really, is the word “feminism” the issue? Surely it’s the perception of feminism we should be concerned about — and that won’t change even if we decide to give it a different label. Coming up with a new word is easy — changing the views of those who don’t fundamentally believe in gender equality is a hell of a lot harder.
The word feminism isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So let’s focus on re-educating the public on what it really means. And be grateful that we have public figures like Watson who don’t shy away from using that particular F-word.
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