Is “Feminist” a Four Letter Word?

I must have been out of town when this memo was passed around, so perhaps someone can clue me in. When did “feminist” become a four letter word?

I noticed this first earlier this summer, while reading “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan. My book began to cower in fear any time I attempted to take it out of my purse to do some reading public. While people can openly read Harry Potter books and trashy romance novels, my book was met with hostility.

“Why are you reading that trash?” my cousin scowled.

“What are you, becoming some kind of feminist?” a friend of mine asked, while I did some pool-side reading.

I thought to myself, if I had been reading a book about civil rights and the end of slavery, I wouldn’t get a second glance. But a book about feminism, one that applies to over half of our population, apparently offends people.

In everyday conversation and friendly debates, rarely have I heard the word “feminist” detached from the word “but.” As in, “I’m not a feminist, but…”

Let’s peruse the dictionary, shall we? Ah, just as I thought. It would seem that the word “feminist” means “of or relating to or advocating equal rights for women.” And how peculiar — contrary to popular belief, its synonym is not “man-hating miserable bitch.” So why is that what people hear when they hear the dreaded f-word?

Of course, we reap the benefits provided to us by the feminists that came before us. We go to school, raise children, or do one or the other or nothing at all. We yell at our boyfriends to clean up their dirty socks off the floor and then demand orgasms in bed. We make and spend our own money and don’t have to ask for an allowance from the man we choose to marry. We proudly call ourselves bitches and lovingly address friends with “hey, slut!” and no offense is taken. But if we’re so liberated, why are we still afraid to use the word ‘feminist’?”

Any thoughts, readers?

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