Number 1 friend and I were chatting about some bollocks or other, as is our way and during the course of the bollocks I happened to say: I’m not a feminist. “You what!” she exclaimed. “I’d say you are definitely a feminist!” So that was that.
Except it wasn’t, because of course, it got me thinking. I’ve known my friend for years. She’s that friend that has so much shit on you that you can never, ever fall out. Yet here we were disagreeing on a word. Evidently ‘feminist’ means something slightly different to the two of us. Well, make that three, because a few days later my number 1 New Zealand friend piped up on a Facebook feed in response to me mentioning that word again. ‘Pardon me for jumping in on your conversation, but do you not think you’re a feminist Al?’ Oh crikey, I thought. I really do need to give this one some thought. This basically means talking to partner about it – usually on a dog walk.
‘So, do you think I’m a feminist?’ I asked him. He thought I was. ‘But I hate that word’, I grumbled. ‘And besides, men often say they are feminists and it just sounds wrong.’
I was clearly struggling with this one. ‘We need a new word,’ I told him. ‘One that can be used by men and women, that doesn’t, as my friend number 1 New Zealand friend said, carry: ‘connotations of being bra burning, staunch, anti-men..when in fact a feminist can just be pro-women.’ She has a PhD in Linguistics, so I decided that she was the person for the job.
A little while later she messaged me: At the moment all my ideas sound like feminine hygiene products
This is my problem too. So now I am looking to a new word: empowerment. Because, you see, I know that I want my daughters to be empowered and I wrote about it in my post: Lionize the nice girl. I want them to have a voice and I know that it’s going to need to be the size of a lion’s roar to get heard. But we mustn’t forget the boys. They need to be empowered too: partly to keep up with the girls and partly because they too are not always equal to others. Take the recent news stories about the sexual abuse suffered by young football players at the mercy of their coach. Where was their voice? Where is the voice of the boy who is being bullied for being different? Where is the voice of the boy who thinks he may be gay? We need to make sure that all our children have a voice.
So, if I am not happy about referring to myself as a feminist, while men are quite happy to call themselves one. If being a feminist is actually as simple as equality for both sexes and if equality for all means ensuring that our kids are empowered, then we definitely need to come up with something more inclusive and encompassing. A word that excludes bigots, racists and homophobes. A word that eschews misogyny and bullies. We need a word that roars.
When we find this word, it will marked as a new turn in history. It will be known as the time when we realised that actually, things work a lot better when there is equality and that the world is a more equal place when everyone has a voice. When we find this word, I will use it.