There are some words and phrases that get so over-used or detached from their true meaning that they themselves become a cause of controversy, contention or just plain irritation.
For example, 'healthy lifestyle' is a term that is bandied around a hell of a lot these days. Or more specifically phrases like "it's a healthy lifestyle, not a diet" or a 'lifestyle change'. All true, but I can't help but cringe at how incredibly cliche and gimmicky they sound (to me, at least). If everyone promotes a different variation of a 'healthy lifestyle' what does it mean to actually live one? The term becomes almost meaningless. Unless, of course, you count confusion and conflict. I can't help but notice how demoralising it sounds when some one tells you: "it's not that you can't eat [insert food] for the next two weeks but for the rest of your life". Fab. 'Cos that's just what I wanted to hear! Talk about a lack mentality. This kind of conversation certainly isn't going to motivate many people to be healthier!
We need to reframe this by finding new words or rediscovering old ones that express our meanings more effectively.
Take the word 'positive'. Have you ever tried to tell a person with depression to be more positive? Well, I wouldn't recommend it - it's not likely to go down well. It may be true that a more positive mindset will be very helpful for them but when it is tossed in their direction out of frustration, misunderstanding or pity on a regular basis it's unlikely to have the desired effect. I'm not saying that just by choosing another word you will solve their problems for them, but you might not piss them off so much! And, in case you think that this is just a matter of semantics or clever word play, I'd like to refer to the greatest authority (a.k.a Google) to find the plethora of scientific support for linguistic programming and positive psychology.
So. Where does feminism come into it?
If you follow social media you'll probably have witnessed the cross-fire between feminists and their critics in almost every form. One minute Beyonce is proclaiming that women "run the world" and the next women around the world are refusing to be identified as feminist due to its elitist, man-hating connotations.
At it's core feminism is about equality of the sexes. Clearly their is gender difference, but surely it is possible to be different and equal? I think Emma Watson was on to something when she remarked that, as problematic as the word feminism may be, it's message is very worthy in her recent speech at the UN headquarters. I mean, the word itself is sexist and suggests the elite nature of being female. I think most people agree with the main message of feminism, but we need to find a word that unites us instead of muddying the water further with a negative connotations.
I'm open to suggestions! Jump in the comments with your thoughts or suggestions of words that you feel are better reframes. Or...
P.S. Feminism is not my usual remit but I'm sticking my neck out here with a post that might ruffle a few feathers because I hope you'll see the value in the words we use and reframing them.
P.P.S. The image above is Instagram-friendly (though, of course, it won't object to being use on another social media platform)! Instagram It/Pin It/Tweet It/Share It on Facebook!