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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

question of the weekend: When did “feminism” become a dirty word?

I haven’t posted my review of Sucker Punch yet because, rather bizarrely, there’s an embargo in place for British press till Monday (the film opens in the U.K. next Friday, April 1), even though lots of reviews are already available out of the U.S., where the film opened yesterday. But I’m predicting that my review — and probably some of those by other critics, or at least by female critics — will be met by some readers with slurs of “feminist” hurled back at me.

And that word will be intended as a slur. Feminist and feminism are now lobbed about as insults, intended to suggest that there’s something hideously disgusting about pointing out the gender inequities of our culture, or that some sort of unfair “special privileges” are being demanded for women when the unfair advantages that men have long enjoyed are merely highlighted. And while of course men can be feminists and some men do espouse clearly feminist ideals, I’ve yet to see a man with feminist inclinations derided as a feminist. In the eyes of those who would use feminist as an insult, it’s an insult that can apply only to women… which suggests that it isn’t about the ideas being discussed but who is discussing them.

Not everyone uses the word feminist as an insult, of course, but enough do — and do so very loudly — that the implications are impossible to ignore. But how did this happen?

When did “feminism” become a dirty word?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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