Monday, March 11, 2013

It Doesn't Mean What You Think

I was reading a post about feminism and how somehow a number of people seem to be under the impression that feminists think that females are better than males, or that females should have their shot at being the more dominant gender or some other thing other than people of all genders should be offered the same opportunities.  And I thought about the articles I've been reading about none's and unchurched people.  And started thinking of the number of people who say that they are spiritual but not religious.  And while I realize that these are entirely separate issues I think in both cases people are getting stopped up with the terminology. 
When little kids start trying to figure out how to describe less tangible things like pain, they will sometimes say things like I have a headache in my stomach. Because they've figured out when your head hurts you call it a headache, but they haven't figured out that the ache is the part that means pain. 
So, I think there's this sense that somewhere out there there are people trying to eliminate or subjugate males and that somehow these people are feminists (rather than chauvinists) and so instead if you just think that males and females each have things that they bring to the table, then you need some other descriptor for this.  I realize that some of these people might legitimately not be feminists, but right now I can't tell them apart from the people who are rejecting the word feminist while saying they want women to have equal opportunities.
And similarly I understand that when people say that they are spiritual but not religious they mean they spend time thinking about the kind of person they want to be, the universe they want to live in, possibly even ponder the afterlife, but don't do any of these things in a specific building on a regular basis.  But again, these two words mean basically the same thing.  But some of the folks who get a lot of attention for being religious lately are people with extreme views, and so people who don't want to seem like those people are searching for another word. 
And look if the word spiritual feels better to you, then, sure, go with it.  But, to get back to the issue of the feminist label, I worry that we're spending so much time backing away from the label instead of, well, reclaiming it. If people are confused about what a feminist looks like, to borrow from a campaign, then I would rather show them instead of spending time trying to come up with a different label.