Says Megan McArdle, and I completely disagree. I was going to explain my disagreement in detail but the second comment over there — by Julian Sanchez — is so apt that it instantly cured me of any propensity toward verbosity:
Why is it "their movement"? I didn't realize the analogy "Jessica Valenti : Feminism :: The Pope : Catholicism" held.And why must feminism be attached to that ugly word "movement"? Movement feminists can have and define their movement, but they shouldn't be allowed to claim feminism. You know, back in the 1980s, I used to be afraid to say I was a feminist because there were other, more active people out there defining the term and I didn't want to adopt by reference a set of beliefs that I wasn't able to control. By behaving that way, I was ceding the field to the most activist types. That's what Megan is talking about doing now. I understand the impulse to say: Okay, then you can have your word and make it mean whatever you want it to mean. I'll find a different word. But if a word has a grand history and tradition — and "feminism" does — then it deserves a wide usage and a continued struggle over its meaning. Don't give it away to the boldest aggressor.
ADDED: Elisa Camahort thinks I have the better side of this argument and says:
In a way McArdle's concession of the term is not much different than Rush Limbaugh painting feminists as Feminazis. It's saying: over there there is a group of people who hold beliefs with which I disagree, and I am going to decide that they represent the sum total of all people who might believe some of the same stuff.I do need to defend Rush here. In the time I've been listening to him (since January 2008), he hasn't said "feminazis" much, and when he does, it's always to bait a certain type of type of extremist feminist. He seems to support equal rights for women and similar individualistic feminist values.
In fact, I have heard him encourage young women not to marry, to go into business, and to compete with men. I have never heard him say women are inferior or that they should devote their lives to serving men and bearing children. So I suspect that he would concede that he agrees with feminism broadly defined.
The people to whom McArdle would defer are perhaps the same kind of extremists that Rush is talking about when he says feminazis. So if McArdle-style deference were to prevail, "feminist" and "feminazi" would come to mean the same thing but only because the category "feminist" will have shrunken.