Observations on the Word “Feminism”

“According to Merriam-Webster’s “feminism” was the most searched-for word in its online dictionary, up seventy percent from 2016. But who in 2017 needed to be told what “feminism” means? Upon searching, these people would have learned from Merriam-Webster that “feminism” is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Some number of them where probably relieved to learn that it is still just a theory.”

From The New Yorker – Jan 8th, 2018 – Talk of the Town – Words of the Year (Louis Minead)

There are some words that are confusing by their very sound and came to life in a way that in the end does not serve humans or the word well. “Feminism” is one. “Net neutrality” is another.  Wordsmiths and politicians conjure up others. Citizens United, the law that allows corporations to be treated as citizens is another and should really be called Corporations United to Screw You Over. But once a word takes life it is hard to undo the confusion and damage.

The reason why people were probably looking up “feminism” is because for many it conjures up an image of the feminine – perhaps lipstick and high-heels, but originally it was not meant to mean that at all, but I digress and am “mansplaining”  – a word that is quite good and accurate – way better than “feminism.” But I hope the people who looked up the word “feminism” are satisfied with the Merriam-Webster’s definition. That is how I have always had it defined in my head.  Equality. Maybe it should be “equalitism,” but that almost sounds like a mathematical theory.

It is strange that the UCLA feminist magazine and website Fem is staffed entirely by woman. https://femmagazine.com/about/staff-2015-2016/. I think it may have to do with the confusion about the word “feminism” and perhaps a feeling by men that they are not welcome. Surely nothing could be further from the truth. One of my friend’s kids that is off to college joined the  school’s Latin Dancing Club and is loving it. Very few men and a lot of woman who are eagerly looking for dancing partners. Smart guy.

Anyway, this little essay ,Words of the Year, is extremely well written and also pretty funny. I have been exposed to the New Yorker since I was young. When I was a little kid, I would eat my bowl of cereal and page through the single pane cartoons and never get a single joke. Now I look at the cartoons and marvel at how they came up with such great ideas. Usually the Talk of the Town is all about the dreary state of politics. It is good that they mix it up from time to time.

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