I’m an Angry, Man-Hating Feminist

Posted in Identity

After a Friday night football game I walked home with some classmates who lived in the same general direction. We made small talk, mostly conversing about school. The last thing I expected from that night was to walk away in acrimony.
After talking about nothing in particular, two of my peers started making rape jokes. I found their amusement surrounding this subject insensitive and uneducated and expressed that to them by starting a conversation.
Disregarding my thoughts, I was immediately told I was “too serious” and needed to “calm down.” One of my classmates muttered under his breath I was just an “angry feminist.” Perhaps I choose the wrong situation in which to express my opinion and maybe the animosity in my voice was considered hostile.taliahandcuffs_white
However, through this situation and many others I have found that phrases like “man hater” ignore and undermine what I’m truly trying to say. Inherently, calling someone an angry feminist undermines an opinion and demolishes any potential learning and conversation.
When I got home, I was disturbed further when reflecting on the conversation. After making an effort to be more intuitive to people’s reactions, I started to realize that using loaded names as a defense mechanism is a well-worn argument strategy.
The problem with these names don’t necessarily have to do with the names themselves. Labeling someone as a “self righteous feminist” or billions of other such names stifles communication.
The negative stigma surrounding feminism gives people the false validation that they can ignore my words because I identify as a feminist. Instead of having a conversation with my peers, It felt as if I had been put into a box that I had to fight my way out of. The situation turned into me having to defend myself, instead of talking about the issue at hand.
The word feminist if used as an insult is essentially putting people in handcuffs. The stigma or connotation associated the word feminist forces people to conform to boxes filled with stereotypes they might not necessarily agree with.
I am not alone in my thinking. George Lakoff, a linguist at UC Berkeley studies the relationship between social and political arguments and specific words used. One of his theories is called “framing.”
Lakoff asserts that word choice can be used to communicate stereotypes and de-emphasize issues because of built up associations of specific words. These associations are called frames.
Think about the word liberal, or feminist or even teenager. When they are used to describe someone, the listener often identifies many meanings and images with these words. These words can be used deliberately and effectively to convey a message to the listener. And, in many cases, the associations made with these words are negative.
Lakoff believes that everything is framed in a certain way and thus it can be manipulated.
For example, conservatives skillfully use framing because they’ve built up a vocabulary of words over time that carry a premeditated connotations. Liberal is one term used frequently by conservatives because they have exquisitely created another meaning behind it.
When being called names such as man hater I’m forced to fight a battle because I’m framed as not credible and misandrist. Additionally, these names have deeply embedded stereotypes within them; stereotypes that others believe validates why they can ignore issues.
Denial plays a large role in many controversial issues. People don’t want to believe there is a problem and thus, may get defensive try to use words to protect themselves.
For example, saying “all lives matter” instead of “black lives matter.” Yes, all lives matter, but saying that undermines and essentially disregards deeply embedded racial problems.
“All lives matter” is framed to de emphasize that in reality, all lives aren’t considered to matter. This terminology is a defense for people who don’t like to consider racism.
Calling someone feminist, liberal or rightwing have an effect of pulling people apart instead of allowing for communication about tough and controversial issues.
For the sake of communication, let’s update our vocabulary.