I had an argument with my husband while we were dating. We were watching the news and some talking head had called a politician “liberal.” He groaned about such an epithet being thrown around a candidate he liked. “An epithet? Since when has ‘liberal’ been an epithet?” I asked.
“Since always,” he answered.
Someone had left me out of the loop when I learned the word “liberal.” I had always understood it as a fairly neutral term to describe anyone left of center politically just like “conservative” describes anyone right of center. You might have warm and fuzzy feelings or angry bile rising depending on your own political feelings, but the terms themselves are plainly descriptive.
Apparently I was wrong. Apparently “liberal” was still a terrible thing to call someone (there is an argument that it has become more acceptable since President Obama’s first term). I can’t figure out why. Is it tainted with communism or far-left extremism? Liberal, to me, always meant caring for children and older folks and generally not looking to go to war. Which seems pretty fine.
The same goes for the term “feminist.” I’m sure that as soon as I learned the word I began applying it to myself. I wasn’t a particularly political or man-hating eight year old, but I liked wearing pants and I wanted to play whatever sports I wanted to. Because that’s all that feminism meant to me, fairness. If boys were allowed to do something, I wanted to be allowed to do it. Feminism is still fighting for equal treatment of men and women, girls and boys.
But many people see the label “feminist” as toxic. I have a hard time imagining what people are afraid of, maybe roving gangs of braless, angry, mean-girls who take all the good jobs and walk around being sexy without ever letting a man touch them? Women getting pregnant just so they can have the joy of enduring an abortion? Rampant cosmetic surgery to make women look like men? Because that stuff happens all the time.
I’d really like to know how these labels got such a bad rap. Honest answers, not just the crap made up by people who are going to hate women and Democrats no matter what. You know, nothing from Phyllis Schlafly or Rush Limbaugh.