It’s time for a rewrite.
Emma Watson’s recent speech to the UN has garnered a lot of attention. A lot. Countless teen and 20-something Harry Potter fans have clicked on the link that swept across social media and watched spellbound as Hermione took on a room full of (incredibly prestigious) Muggles. Viewers from around the world listened to her quavering but determined delivery as she announced her He for She campaign… and internet trolls left rape and death threats wherever they hoped she’d see them.
Let’s leave them to one side for a moment, or preferably in a dark room without an internet connection. It’s more interesting to focus on Watson’s thoughts about what He For She is all about.
The F word
What struck me most as I listened to the speech was Emma’s discussion of the term ‘feminism’ and how “fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating”.
She’s not wrong. In conversations with women of all ages over the last few weeks, I’ve found that a startling number of them are uncomfortable with what the term connotes, although they utterly back the movement it represents.
So why don’t we find a new term to describe it?
Watson seems keen to do so: “If you still hate the word,” she urges, “it is not the word that is important but the idea and the ambition behind it.” The idea and ambition is equal rights for everyone, regardless of their sex, the gender with which they identify or their sexual preference.
Time for a Re-Write
The ‘fem’ is the problem – because it is suggests that equal rights for all only matters to women, and it therefore propagates (wrongly) that women are seeking some kind of preferential treatment, perhaps to the detriment of men. Wrong. Really and totally wrong. Let’s scrap the term ‘feminism’. It just isn’t working. Instead, let’s go with the plainest and simplest description of what the movement wants – for everyone. It’s equality.
So let’s use that instead. Let’s call it equalism.
One can only imagine that men would be happier to align themselves to the fight for equal rights for men and women around the world (professionally, academically, socially, psychologically), if we adopted the term equalism over feminism. It implies, to quote the language of the law, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It does exactly what it says on the tin.
“I’m an Equalist”
Even the trolls might struggle. Surely they – so keen to point out their democratic right to free speech, to express an opinion in an open domain – can’t argue that they don’t want equality? Because simply by changing the term, everyone is involved. Everyone. Who in their right mind is going to be able to utter, or type, the words, “I think inequality is right”?
Some will, of course. Naturally. But they will have their own personal reasons (and demons) for so doing. In one fell swoop, we move away from the obsessive debates around the symbolism of a short skirt or an oven glove, and we edge towards where we need to be: challenging entrenched cultural prejudices and practices that damage men and women, wherever they may be in the world.
That’s all there is to it. Equalism.
Photo credit: BrAt82 via Shutterstock.