Contrary to popular belief, feminists are not – gasp! – a hive mind. Sometimes, it’s hard to stay knowledgeable about all the issues your fellow feminists are tackling, and it’s even more demanding when you want to put a name to them. For this post, I’ve decided to compile a short list of key terminology (along with their definitions!). We all know the really important stuff, like what the patriarchy is, but what is POC an abbreviation of? What is a microaggression? What is womanism?
DISCLAIMER: This is IN NO WAY a complete and exhaustive list. My intention is to create a separate page for terminology unique to the feminist movement and to social justice activism, which I can continuously add to in the future. This is just a (hopefully) concise list of words I’ve come across frequently (and occasionally had to Google).
Cissexism (x) – Cissexism is a type of discrimination, often referred to as a “subtle” form of transphobia. Cissexist assumptions enforce the gender binary and exclude trans people. An area in which I’ve witnessed a lot of cissexism is in discussions about menstruation – it’s quite common to hear “Men will never understand how painful periods are!”. The speaker ignores/is unaware that not everyone with a uterus is female.
Intersectional feminism (x) – a type of feminist theory which encompasses the “intersections” between different forms of oppression – where racism, homophobia (biphobia, transphobia, etc) and sexism connect. It operates with the awareness that women deal with unique challenges in daily life, not just based on gender. The historic sexualisation of Black and Latina women is one example; the stereotyping of lesbians as “butch” or bisexual women as “promiscuous” is another. See also: my kind of feminism.
Kyriarchy (x) – Kyriarchy is a social system (or group of social systems) that are constructed through oppression and domination. It’s essentially a broader term than “patriarchy” – a society ruled by men – and encompasses oppression from all privileged groups.
Microaggression (x) – microaggressions are actions/statements that exclude or denigrate someone based on their race, gender or sexual orientation. They can be verbal or non-verbal, and they are often unintentional. It can be in a business environment, such as a woman having her point interrupted in a meeting, then a male colleague being praised for the same idea. They can be racist assumptions, no matter how “well-meaning”. Essentially, they belittle and silence the targeted person/people.
POC (x) – acronym for “people of colour”/”person of colour”, a term used to refer to anyone who is not white and does not benefit from white privilege. It frames the description positively and it avoids the use of a degrading or outdated adjective, such as “coloured”. Martin Luther King first used the phrase “citizens of colour” in 1963. You may also come across “WOC” – “women/woman of colour”.
Problematic fave (x) – I’ve discussed this at length in another post (a post that I plan to rewrite, actually). A problematic fave is a favorite person (usually a character) who has problematic views and opinions.
White feminism (x) – white feminism is a term referring to feminist activism that, unwittingly or otherwise, excludes women of colour. The feminists involved may not be white themselves, but usually they are – white people don’t have to think about racial prejudice on a daily basis. It very much focuses on one-size-fits-all feminism, accessible only to white, educated women. It’s the antithesis to intersectional feminism. A prime example of this is Taylor Swift’s refusal to accept Nicki Minaj’s critique of racism in the music industry, or what the media chose to call “a feud”. Another is the queen of white feminism, Lena Dunham.
Womanism (x) – Womanism is a social theory based upon the lives and experiences of Black women, aiming to change the gender-based and race-based oppression they suffer. The term was first coined by Alice Walker in 1979. Womanism is, in some ways, a response to how the feminist movement has alienated minorities throughout its history – something that many of us want to change through intersectional feminism. Womanism has allowed Black women to celebrate their culture in a way that feminism, sadly, has not.
Hopefully this (not so brief) list is helpful and alleviates some confusion! The terminology page will be up and at ’em in the near future. 🙂