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The increasing irrelevancy of feminism

Published: November 4, 2005
Section: Opinions


In a poll conducted by CBS News in May 2005, 17% of women said that being called a feminist is an insult. Moreover, only 48% think a stronger womens movement is needed. Why is it that women are still insulted by feminism and think that the movement should not gain in numbers? The answer is simple, the feminist movement of today is focusing far to much on fringe issues rather than issues that pertain to the advancement of women in society. The issue has become so bad that polls now show that only 25% of all women are willing to accept the title feminist.

At Brandeis, feminists have launched an attack against the word freshman, reducing it to a curse word on campus. When, with three of my friends one day, a freshman friend of mine referred to himself as a first-year student. Immediately, I asked him why he said first-year student rather than freshman. He did not know why, but he said during orientation, orientation leaders would literally yell at students who used the word, saying that it was inappropriate for the Brandeis community. None of us could answer why it was inappropriate until someone eventually suggested maybe because it is not gender neutral?

Feel free to call me a cultural traditionalist, but this is just silly. This is a word dating as far back as 1550, which is so ingrained in our society that no one even thinks of it on gender levels. I personally do not know any woman who feels oppressed when called a freshman. This word is a prime example of words that become gender neutral in the minds of people, even if they literally are not gender neutral.

As one orientation leader suggested, changing the language to be more gender neutral could help foster [different] ways of thinking. However, I fail to see how this has fostered anything. In a recent study of college applicants and graduates, the number of males applying and graduating from college has declined drastically since the late 1970s. Moreover, in the year 2002, 24.2% more women received bachelors degrees than men. A logical person can conclude that the word freshman has not created a barrier that disadvantages women. When asked to further defend their opinions, the orientation core committee declined to comment.

When feminists assume the role of the Brandeis PC-Police, they do nothing more than harm their cause in both members and respect. In the same CBS News poll, the top five benefits of feminism listed by women were 1) better jobs, 2) equality/more rights, 3) more choices, 4) better/equal pay, and 5) the right to vote. No where on that list is gender neutral words. Other polls suggest that issues that matter most to women are crime, the economy, child care, and education;

again, no mention of banning the word freshman.

If feminists truly care about recapturing the pulse of the female mind, they ought to start pursuing these relevant issues rather than trying to censor the English language. In the 2004 elections, 5% of women voters switched traditional party lines to support President Bush, inarguably winning him the election. This trend will only continue unless feminists refocus their agenda to match that of the American women, rather than that of a narrow, politically correct agenda.