Saturday, September 24, 2016

Why is the word "Feminism" demonized? By Sandy Semerad

          As a writer I know the power of words, and I’m constantly searching for the right words to make my stories live.

But recently I discovered the word “feminism” has been misunderstood. I had no idea until daughter Andrea received a rude response after she admitted she was a feminist. Made me wonder, why has this word been demonized?

Dictionary.com defines feminism as “advocating social, political, legal and economic rights for women equal to those of men.” Merriam-Webster has a similar definition.

          The term feminism originated in 19 century France, I learned. A second-wave began in the United States during the early 1960s with Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique.

Friedan wrote this book after talking with friends, who had given up their careers to become housewives. These women felt unfulfilled in their domestic roles, Friedan claimed. She blamed women’s magazines, run by men, for encouraging women to become mothers and housewives, rather than career women. A different scenario existed in the 1930s, when women’s magazines featured confident and independent women with careers, according to Friedan.

More recently Harvard MBA and radio host Samantha Ettus wrote The Pie Life to inspire working mothers and help them let go of the guilt. All women should keep their feet in the workplace, according to Ettus.
          
          Regardless of what Ettus and others have written to encourage women, I found a plethora of negative on-line comments, misconstruing the meaning of the word feminism. Many were under the impression that feminists were men haters, and these same folks left vile comments.

I had to stop reading these negative remarks or they would have poisoned me. Words can poison as Japanese scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto has proven in his experiments. Our bodies contain mostly water, and with that premise, Emoto filled several bottles with distilled water. Then he taped words to the bottles. When he read the words aloud, the molecules in the bottles reacted.

Emoto photographed these molecules and discovered that positive words like “love” created beautiful formations. Negative words like “I hate you” produced ugly, violent images. Emoto has written about his experiments in his book The Hidden Messages in Water.

Other researchers have confirmed Emoto’s research. Words have the power to change our lives, they say. 

For example, in a Psychology Today article, authors Newburn and Waldman used several examples to prove this theory. They mentioned an experiment by psychologists at Missouri State University who designed an exercise for patients in pain. They asked the patients to identify their deepest values and meditate on them. When the patients did as instructed, they were able to reduce their pain and distress. 

Everyone can do this exercise, the article said, and we can involve our family and friends by asking: “What is your deepest personal value?”

Before we can adequately answer this question, however, we must relax completely, close our eyes for 60 seconds and listen for the word or words that express our sincerest values, according to the Psychology Today article.

Words like “peace” and “love” reduce physical and emotional stress, they discovered.

          I tried this exercise several times. Each time I came up with different words: Love, creativity, family, peace, health/fitness, faith, determination, bliss/happiness, achievement, patience, respect, compassion, growth, optimism, education, sincerity, abundance, inspiration, excellence, strength, trust, justice/equality.

          But getting back to the word feminism, Andrea wanted to know if I considered myself a feminist. I told her I didn’t like labels, but given the meaning, I had to say, “Yes.” I believe in equal rights for everyone, and regret this word has been demonized.

When I asked daughter Rene, “Are you a feminist?” she didn’t hesitate. “Yes, women should have the same social, economic and political rights as men,” she said.

It pleases me to know my daughters understand the true meaning of this word and identify with it, but others don’t apparently and need a clarification, which is why I like what actress Martha Plimpton has said:

“I take a lot of pride in calling myself a feminist, always have,” Plimpton wrote in an e-mail. “We’re going to have to insist on correcting bigotry as it happens in real time. And fear of women’s equality, or the diminishment of it, is a kind of bigotry. I think it’s important to remove the stigma associated with women’s equality, and as such, yes, normalizing the word ‘feminist’ and making sure people know what it means is incredibly important…”

My latest book, A Message in the Roses, is loosely based on a murder trial I covered in Atlanta. You may get a copy here:

                           A MESSAGE IN THE ROSES



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