Petrol Girls – ‘Outspoken Feminists’

I read this last week –

In it the writer Steven Farkas says “The quartet may be outspoken feminists and…”

I made contact with Steven.  He stands by his choice of the word ‘outspoken’.  I spoke to one other person and he saw no issue either.  Both agree that outspoken means forthright or vocal.

I took it as a bit of a dig… not necessarily deliberate (indeed Steven confirmed it wasn’t and I have not the slightest reason to doubt him.)

But “Outspoken” means “frank in stating one’s opinions, especially if they are shocking or controversial.” [my emphasis, first online definition I found].  There is nothing wrong with being “frank” (unless you’re that tosser trying to stop the kids having fun with drugs of course).  There is something wrong with the idea that there is something shocking or controversial about believing that women aren’t second class citizens.

I’m not a massive expert on feminism, but my take on it is that equality for women is not shocking or controversial.  Perhaps some ‘feminists’ do hold shocking and controversial views, but I suspect that if they do they are not really feminists, they’re an absolutely miniscule minority of man-hating bigots that, in the scheme of things, do nothing to off-set the misogynistic bullshit and patriarchal society all around us.

Imagine there are two people with very different views on bringing up children.  John is an outspoken advocate of beating your child if he even looks like he might be about to do something naughty.  Keith is an outspoken advocate of doing one’s best to support your child, love him all you can and give him the best possible start in life.  Only they’re not both outspoken advocates.  Advocating beatings is outspoken and (very) controversial.  Advocating supporting and loving your child is not outspoken, it’s fucking obvious.  Keith might be forthright and vocal but he isn’t outspoken.

By calling them outspoken feminists Farkas is (unwittingly) re-inforcing the idea that feminism is something on the fringes, something to be debated.  It isn’t, its fucking obviously right.

I dunno, maybe I’m making a fuss about nothing, but my gut feel is that “straight talking decent people who [obviously] don’t believe in oppressing people on the basis of sex (or race or sexuality for that matter)” is probably pretty accurate, without being loaded in any way.  “Vocal Feminists” likewise.  “Outspoken feminists” implies to me, whether intended or not, that standing up for women and active feminism is a little close to the edge, that people doing such a thing are doing something that can be questioned, can be regarded as pushy.

I’d be curious to hear people’s views, but more than that  I want people – especially those who write – to think about what they believe in, and try their best to fight for what they believe in when they write, or at the very least don’t cause harm.

I know that in the scheme of things this is a very small point but it isn’t without merit.  Steven would argue there is no harm, but sorry, there is.  Even if only 5% of people draw the inference I suggest, and only 5% of those subconsciously use it to help justify their prejudice against feminists, then it has helped moved society in the wrong direction.  Language in very important.


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