Why Is Feminism A Bad Word?

Legs against a concrete wall

I usually try to steer clear of the celebrity drama. I will admit I indulge in some less than educational television series, and tabloid covers have caught my eye, but my mother always told me “that is not real life.” However, this week media has touched me in a real and positive way.

I have seen small bits on social media concerning Emma Watson lately but tend to ignore them until this Monday morning, when I decided to watch the full speech Watson presented at the United Nations about the #HeForShe campaign. My first thoughts were as she rightly guessed herself, “What is this Harry Potter girl doing speaking at the UN?” But as much as I found myself taken aback by some of the statements she made, many of them resonated with me and I promptly connected them to my own identity as a feminist as well as the thoughts of my fellow feminist writers.

Watson stated, “I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this had to stop.” With this I completely agree. I have found that while arguing some of my feminist views I introduce myself with having wonderful men in my life. I am not ashamed by saying this because my father has always been extremely respectful of women, my brother has always come to me inquiring about feminism, and many of my male friends identify as feminists themselves.

However, why do I feel the need to make sure other people know I am not man-hating? Why is that the initial reaction to feminism, and why do I feel like I need to protect myself first before sharing my thoughts? In my head that seems to connect to oppression, and the worries of being judged through a stereotype rather than my ideas, which happens in circumstances all too often. I identify as a ‘sexpert,’ but does that mean I am promiscuous? I identify as a democrat, but does that mean I hate republicans? I have short hair, does that mean I am a lesbian? So often others feel the need to place their peers in neat little boxes that properly categorize there many identities, while forgetting that these definitions are not black and white. Labels cannot properly encompass a person’s ideas, and should not shed a negative light on thoughts before they are even shared.

This question directly relates to a recent article posted on Obvi discussing humanism v. feminism, and the negative connotation with which feminism is often branded. Nobody should be ashamed or tormented because of what group or faction they identify with. I identify in this way because much like Watson, “I think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men.” However, also much like Watson sometimes my peers view me as too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men because of this identity.

I feel a setback for feminism in the essence of the word.  The mere association that feminism is a negative term and has undertones of being anti-men, when that is an overplayed generalization is troubling.  However, I am not going to let that nuance hinder my identity, and will continue to identify as a feminist AND a humanist, and much like Watson, “All I know is that I care about these problem. And I want to make it better.”


Sarah Maguire : Public Health guru specializing in sexual and women’s health issues. Usually spend my free time at dive bars, eating cheese, or in, on, or around large bodies of water.