What makes a feminist in 2020?
We asked feminists all over the world to share their views on what we think are some of the crucial questions that we should be debating right now. The feminist movement is broad, diverse and sometimes divided. Is that a good or a bad thing? Please, share your opinion with us and your fellow feminists.
CAN YOU BE A FEMINIST AND DISENGAGE FROM DEBATES ABOUT RE/DE-GENDERING LANGUAGE?
No, because language and discourse are important tools in the oppression of women and non-binary people and help to reinforce the gender binary and men/masculine forms as the norm.
Yes, because engaging does not necessarily mean ultimate withdrawing. One can withdraw until they form a sold opinion yet it really depends on the language and how far unjust that language is.
For a lot of feminists (including myself) that is not as important as e.g. stopping violence against women, making sure girls have access to sanitary products, equal pay… I see that it’s really important to change language to be more inclusive, but it’s something that is so ingrained which makes it really hard. If you e.g. look at a language like Spanish you have female and male adjectives as opposed to English where you don’t have that. It can be difficult to change that. I think as a feminist you need to be aware that some people might be offended by “gendered” language and I think you need to be open to changes and debates (e.g. you need to accept that someone’s pronouns are they instead of he/she), but I believe it’s okay if that isn’t your main concern as a feminist.
Yes. Re/de-gendering language is a feminist issue, but everyone has to pick their battles. It’s okay not to put your efforts into everything, or we’d all just get burned out. Fight for what you care about most, and other feminists will do the same, and between us we’ll have everything covered.
Yes. Although I am not a linguist, as somebody who is trilingual, it is my understanding that language is gendered to different extents and in different ways in different contexts. For some, the debates surrounding gendered language are less potent, urgent, or even relevant. I would hesitate to say that this makes them less or not a feminist. For others, discussions surrounding language are central and unavoidable. Perhaps what wouldn’t be feminist is denying the space and recognition that those who must engage with these debates need. However, I would argue that different linguistic and/or material contexts may mean different levels of personal engagement with language debates and that that, in my opinion, is okay.
Those who have a voice or those who are taken more seriously (gender conforming) by the public have an obligation to assist with the debate to educate everyone.
Illustration by Hannah Wolny