The Balance between Accessibility and Truth

Rhetorical Analysis

The Balance between Accessibility and Truth:

A rhetorical analysis of professional research and popular articles

Popular science articles, by necessity, simplify research to be more accessible to the general public. However, during this process, writers may mislead audiences as facts are exaggerated, oversimplified, or misused. Take for example Julie Beck’s popular article, “Don’t Worry So Much About Whether Your Food Is ‘Processed.’” This journalist supports her argument, which is built into the title (that processed food is not bad), partly by citing the academic research article, “Review Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds” by scientists Joy C. Rickman, Diane M. Barrett, and Christine M. Bruhn.  Julie Beck uses the research article to elevate her own claim that processed food should be eaten the same as fresh foods. However, the writers of the research article would not necessarily agree with that statement. Beck leads the reader to believe that this research article supports her ideas when the researchers’ conclusions are far too nuanced and detailed to be used so irresponsibly.

Popular science articles, such as Beck’s, use rhetorical features that can differ greatly from the research article that it cites from. Ken Hyland, a Linguist professor at the University of Hong Kong, writes about the “writer’s control of rhetorical features” which is known as proximity (116). A professional research article and a popular science article can be compared based on three facets of their proximity- exigence, credibility, and stance. Though the research paper does contain information that can be used to support Beck’s claims, it is oversimplified, misleading due to omission of detail, and used in a way that overblows its findings for the sake of accessibility to its targeted audience.

When discussing the professional paper’s exigence, the researchers cite standards set by official, trustworthy organizations such as the World Health Organization (The WHO). They provided a large amount of background in exigence. They clearly let the reader know why their study is important. After analyzing several different health organizations’ diet recommendations, the researchers concluded that over all, “…the recommendation to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables is a global standard (932).” The USDA states that Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables and that the majority of produce consumed is processed. Considering the public opposition to processed foods and the quantity in which these are consumed, Rickman et al. stresses that it is important to find out the nutritional aspects of processed produce in comparison to fresh produce. Beck’s popular article goes through no such detail. Beck summarizes her problem with processed food with the opening line by the dean of a prestigious nutrition school, Dariush Mozaffarian: “To say all processed food is bad is a mistake (1).” They both have basically the same exigence- we need to eat more fruits and vegetables and there is debate on whether or not processed food makes a difference. The research paper does not conclude with a definite answer, but the popular article shows no doubt.

Julie Beck’s stance on processed food is clear from her title and tagline- “As long as people are eating fruits and vegetables, it’s not that important whether they’re fresh, frozen, or canned.” Audiences know to expect an article supporting the assertion that they should not worry about eating food that has been processed. In contrast, the research article did not come to such a specific conclusion- just that one should not encourage eating solely fresh produce. The researchers expressed the difference in nutritional value of processed food versus fresh food as ‘complex.’ The difficulty in assessing nutritional values and finding an adequate sample was discussed, showing that they were not committing to a definite answer. The research paper was not as assertive through the use of ‘hedges,’ choices used by the author to impart caution when coming to a conclusion (Hyland 123). Here is an example: “Depending on the commodity, freezing and canning processes may preserve nutrient value (930).” Rickman et al. use the words “depending” and “may,” which display a degree of uncertainty in their statement.  In contrast, Beck’s article, whose tagline claims “it’s not that important whether they’re fresh, frozen, or canned,” pushes toward the conclusion that we should not differentiate between eating processed or fresh fruits and vegetables. Though she chooses to use the phrase ‘it’s not that important,’ the “that” indicating a sense of uncertainty in professing that is completely important, the rest of her popular article only provides evidence that supports her claim; there are no counterarguments and therefore no leeway in her stance, unlike the scientific article. In contrast, Researchers are careful in their choice of language to maintain their neutral stance, awarding them credibility in the eyes of their colleges.

            When establishing their credibility, research paper authors tend to use previous research as evidence “to align [themselves] with a particular camp (Hyland, 122),” meaning they cite articles written by other scientists to prove themselves to be just as trustworthy. Rickman et al. critique the reliability of previous studies and give advice on how studies of nutritional comparisons should be conducted; for example, they ask that fruits or vegetables studied be all of same cultivar (931). These features make the research article seem sophisticated, thorough, and credible. Unable to use these methods, for they would be too difficult for their target audience to understand, popular article writers rely on the reputation of their sources. Starting with the claim that processed food and fresh food should be eaten all the same, Beck cites the FDA and research studies, and uses quotes from the dean of Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, a chef, the head of the public-health nutrition department at Nestlé Research Center, and other journalists who covered research papers to support her argument. She quotes from a variety of different sources, some of which are more credible (quotes by professionals in the nutrition field), while some have less authority on the subject matter (quotes by non-experts). In addition to including sources by non-professionals, it is noteworthy that one of her sources, the man who works for Nestle, may be a professional but most certainly has a conflict of interest as Nestle is a major manufacturer of processed foods. Typical of popular articles, the quotes are highly biased and are not necessarily based off of well-research evidence, or if they supposedly are, they do not directly point to any scientific facts. The reader is meant to ‘take their word for it’ because of a source’s apparent authority. Presenting a conversational tone, the majority of her article is written in quotes, rare in professional science articles, but common in popularizations. Rickman et al. quote from other scientific articles which one may consider more reliable because they are based off of facts rather than trust in a person. It is notable that both genres chose to cite government and world health organizations. The majority of sources used to display credibility are different for the professional research and popular science fields. Though sources used by popular articles are less credible, this is due to a balance of simplicity and adherence to scientific facts.

Though the results of the research article could be used to support Julie Beck’s argument, the research article’s quotes should have been inserted in a more appropriate way. The research report did not take into account fresh food that had been shipped from countries thousands of miles away in their definition of ‘fresh’ produce. Therefore, the quote that seemingly summarizes the report’s findings is misleading. Though Rickman et al.’s research article could have supported Beck’s argument, she did not accurately represent the findings; the citation was misleading. Professional research articles are more accurate, but will only attract other professionals; popular articles are much more accessible, but often sacrifice truthfulness for simplicity. Thus, popularizations are necessary but should be read with a grain of salt. The analysis of rhetorical features in research articles versus popular articles is important to consider when we search for truth and simplicity.

Works Cited

Beck, Julie. “Don’t Worry So Much About Whether Your Food Is ‘Processed’”The Atlantic. 28 June. 2015. Web. 22 July. 2015.

Hyland, Ken. “Constructing proximity: Relating to readers in popular and professional science.” Journal of English for Academic Purposes. 2010. Pg. 116-127. Print.

Rickman, Joy C., Barrett, Diane M, and Bruhn, Christine M. “Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. J Sci Food Agric 87:930–944 (2007). Print.

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Cover Letter

ePortfolio Cover Letter

Dear Portfolio Reviewers,

My definition of ‘good writing’ was writing that allowed me to achieve an A. Otherwise, there was no reason to care for a piece of work. I found it difficult to achieve what I thought was a perfect A paper in this course. This was partly because the writing structures I employed in high school were not at a college level course. I never divulged so deep into rhetorical features before; these literary facets were not focused on in high school or in my other writing intensive courses. My writing has always conformed to an essay structure that would be read by my teachers; writing for a different audience required a completely different structure and tone- a change I enjoyed in my problem essay.

I am much more emotionally attached to my problem essay than my literary narrative. Being able to choose the topic and audience of the paper gave intrinsic value to the assignment. The assignment no longer felt like mandatory schoolwork. I like to do research on random topics on my own time, so the problem essay was just a way for me to sort out my own personal feelings about feminism. Writing in blog format, I felt that the essay was something I could actually use in ‘real life’ to debunk myths about feminism and convince people that they should feel proud in calling themselves feminists. This paper could truly be a blog post that people who search for feminism would read. There is not much one can do with an academic paper unless it is somehow published. When I choose a topic and audience, and therefore another genre that I care about, the resulting work serves a higher purpose than just getting an A on a paper.

I learned about the importance of audience in this course. In my previous writing courses, my audience was always the same- other students and the professor.  This audience always required a formal tone. However, formality is not always the most effective way to present information. My problem essay was targeted at a high school or college-aged female demographic. I decided on this after I already started writing. At first, I typed in a formal tone. Then, I realized much of the information was presented in a way that would fit an academic essay which would never reach my demographic. Formality can distance the author from their audience- this was not good for the intentions of my paper. I wanted the readers to sympathize with me and be able to relate to what I was writing. To achieve this, I applied a more conversational tone, exemplified by my opening sentences: “Type the word ‘feminism’ into Google. The first thing that pops up is the definition. Notice that it mentions nothing about man-hating.” I addressed the audience as if we were having a conversation. I also used slang (“man-hating”) to relate to my readers. I learned that I should always decide on my audience before writing a paper.

When I did need to use formality, transitions made my writing seem much more adept. My professors of previous courses were perfectly fine with ‘first’, ‘in conclusion’, and ‘in addition’ as transitions. I learned that these phrases do not substitute as true transitions- something that connects the previous argument to the next one.  I learned to use this concept in my rhetorical analysis. I wrote about the exigence and purpose of a popular article and the research paper that was cited. I ended the paragraph with, “The research paper does not conclude with a definite answer, but the popular article shows no doubt.” In the subsequent paragraph, I wrote about how the popular article’s stance produced definite, undoubting claims. In this way, I was able to connect my ideas about exigence and purpose to the stance of the article.

My ePortfolio demonstrates my ability to think critically and articulate my thoughts appropriately and eloquently. In these two assignments, I was able to adopt the proper tone depending on my audience. Each assignment is on separate pages because they are in very different genres and look incongruent side by side. The images I chose for the problem essay were cultural examples to support my main points. I found that images were unnecessary for my readers to understand the rhetorical analysis and images for aesthetic purposes would be unprofessional. This ePortfolio not only displays my ability to write for a good grade, but to write about topics that are important to me.

Best,

Laura Chinh

Why We Should Call Ourselves Feminists

Why We Should Call Ourselves Feminists

NOTE: The problem I am addressing in this blog post is that the damaging misconceptions about feminism create fear for those who consider themselves feminists. During the writing process, I found that the conversation about feminism is much too nuanced to fit into a 1000 word blog post. I have included links throughout the piece so I can take the time to expand on an idea instead of taking up space just describing it. Many of my ideas and facts can use more information, so please feel free to do your own research.

Why We Should Call Ourselves Feminists

Feminism- celebrities

Type the word ‘feminism’ into Google. The first thing that pops up is the definition. Notice that it mentions nothing about man-hating. However, the first link that pops up, besides Wikipedia, is the Tumblr for a movement called Women Against Feminism. This page is filled with photos of women that accompany short blurbs about why they ‘don’t need feminism.’ Searching through these photos, it’s apparent that these women are not against the idea of gender equality, but some undefined ideology called ‘modern feminism.’ It appears they respond to some of the more extreme forms of feminism (finding a link to someone who actually harbors these ideas was enormously difficult, by the way) – but those ideas are considered extreme because a great majority of those who consider themselves feminists don’t hold these beliefs. Often, people will mistakenly put women in a category with the extremists when they say the words, ‘I am a feminist.’ It’s scary, but in this post, I’d like to convince you that saying those four words is important. To prepare you for that, let’s debunk some of the myths and misconceptions about feminism, starting with bra-burning.

Feminism- The Simpsons
The Simpsons, 20th Century Fox Television

Bra Burners

In 1968, outside a Miss America pageant, a women’s rights group called New York Radical Women took off their bras and burned them to draw attention to their feminist causes. Or did they? This group of women did protest the ideas of beauty imposed on women outside of the Miss America pageant, but there was no stripping of bras. They sarcastically crowned a sheep and threw female beauty products, such as high heels, cosmetics, and bras, into ‘Freedom Trash Cans’- but they didn’t burn them. A New York Post reporter linked the women’s rights protest to protests of the Vietnam War where people burned their draft cards. The image of a radical feminist publicly tearing off her bra and burning it is a prevalent but false symbol of feminism. The association between bra-burning and feminism were used by anti-feminists to invalidate their movement in the public’s eyes by depicting these women as angry, radical extremists. It is an image used to depreciate the women who fight for their rights and to trivialize the issues that they focus on. This is just one of many damaging stereotypes imparted on feminists that are inaccurate.

Feminism- suffragette

“Everyone works but mother: she’s a suffragette.”  

It wouldn’t be the first time those advocating for women’s rights had other definitions and ideas impressed upon them. Over a century ago, women who were fighting for the right to vote were often branded as unloved, manly old maids or mothers who neglected their families. One caption on an anti-suffrage advertisement reads, “Everyone works but mother: she’s a suffragette.” ‘Suffragette’ was a term invented to disparage female suffragists; the suffix –ette, denoting small sizes or imitation, was added as a way to belittle the idea of female suffrage. However, this term was reclaimed by suffragists. Hardly anyone today would consider the word suffragette’ to describe a woman who neglects their family or believes in domination over males. These women defined the word on their own terms, giving ‘suffragette’ a positive connotation that more truly represents their beliefs. These suffragettes were once depicted to be ugly, unloved spinsters- an inaccurate portrait of who they really were, similar to the way negative stereotypes are impressed upon feminists today.

Why do we still need feminism?

In the Women Against Feminism Tumblr I mentioned earlier, many women assert that we no longer need feminism in America. By this, they mean that America has already achieved gender equality; there is no need for the avocation of women’s rights when women already have all the rights previously only afforded to men. I believe we have made huge political and legal strides in the advancement of women’s rights in America. But we are not done yet. If women earn less than men for the same amount of work, then we still need feminism. If feelings of fear and vulnerability when walking alone down a dark street are prevalent in women, then we need feminism. Not acknowledging feminism is denying the problems that exclusively affect women.

How about calling it equalism or egalitarianism?

With the word ‘feminism’ having such a negative connotation, some ask: why not use another word to describe the fight for women’s rights and gender equality, say, the word equalism or egalitarianism? After all, that is ultimately what feminists want, right? Equalism is not a widely used term. In fact, Microsoft Word doesn’t even recognize ‘equalism’ as a word in their dictionary. Try typing it into google. Not much comes up. When identifying as an equalist, one would have to describe exactly what is meant by equalism, which defeats the purpose of having a term to encompass the idea of gender equality. Similarly, egalitarianism is a very broad term that can refer to social, economic, and other forms of equality. The ideas of egalitarianism are less specific than the term ‘feminism’; egalitarianism does not identify the actions needed to achieve equality (identifying a minority in need of advancement). Also, neither term refers to the advancement of females. Feminism acknowledges that women are the ones often marginalized in society. Feminism asserts that it is women’s rights that need to be advanced to achieve gender equality. It is not a fight to surpass men because equality does not allow one to be ‘more equal’ to others. Either way, the term ‘feminism’ has a history of struggles. If you acknowledge that the work of women’s rights continues to build on the work of previous activists and if you believe in what they fought for, then ‘feminism’ is the most respectful term.

In conclusion

Are there radical feminists who assert that women are superior to men? Yes. Are all rectangles squares? After some exploration into geometry, no. So do all feminists believe in female supremacy? After learning more about feminists, no. Despite claims to the contrary, feminism at its core still describes the belief in gender equality and the advancement of female rights. So do we need to call ourselves feminists? Is it important? Despite what the official definition of feminism is, some might argue that this extreme definition of feminism is what most people believe, so it is now the proper definition. Some might say that we might not like this, but because this is generally what people think feminism is, the definition has changed. The word has evolved. But only a feminist can tell you what feminism means. How can someone tell a group of people what they believe in? Often our actions do more than what we say, but reclaiming the word feminism is important also. The word ‘feminist’ is used to demean women but only because of the word’s misconceptions. When you say that you are a feminist, you have the power to make an example of yourself. So say it. Say, “I am a feminist and I believe in equal rights for men and women.”

Rhetorical Analysis

The Balance between Accessibility and Truth

The Balance between Accessibility and Truth:

A rhetorical analysis of professional research and popular articles

Popular science articles, by necessity, simplify research to be more accessible to the general public. However, during this process, writers may mislead audiences as facts are exaggerated, oversimplified, or misused. Take for example Julie Beck’s popular article, “Don’t Worry So Much About Whether Your Food Is ‘Processed.’” This journalist supports her argument, which is built into the title (that processed food is not bad), partly by citing the academic research article, “Review Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds” by scientists Joy C. Rickman, Diane M. Barrett, and Christine M. Bruhn.  Julie Beck uses the research article to elevate her own claim that processed food should be eaten the same as fresh foods. However, the writers of the research article would not necessarily agree with that statement. Beck leads the reader to believe that this research article supports her ideas when the researchers’ conclusions are far too nuanced and detailed to be used so irresponsibly.

Popular science articles, such as Beck’s, use rhetorical features that can differ greatly from the research article that it cites from. Ken Hyland, a Linguist professor at the University of Hong Kong, writes about the “writer’s control of rhetorical features” which is known as proximity (116). A professional research article and a popular science article can be compared based on three facets of their proximity- exigence, credibility, and stance. Though the research paper does contain information that can be used to support Beck’s claims, it is oversimplified, misleading due to omission of detail, and used in a way that overblows its findings for the sake of accessibility to its targeted audience.

When discussing the professional paper’s exigence, the researchers cite standards set by official, trustworthy organizations such as the World Health Organization (The WHO). They provided a large amount of background in exigence. They clearly let the reader know why their study is important. After analyzing several different health organizations’ diet recommendations, the researchers concluded that over all, “…the recommendation to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables is a global standard (932).” The USDA states that Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables and that the majority of produce consumed is processed. Considering the public opposition to processed foods and the quantity in which these are consumed, Rickman et al. stress that it is important to find out the nutritional aspects of processed produce in comparison to fresh produce. Beck’s popular article goes through no such detail. Beck summarizes her problem with processed food with the opening line by the dean of a prestigious nutrition school, Dariush Mozaffarian: “To say all processed food is bad is a mistake (1).” They both have basically the same exigence- we need to eat more fruits and vegetables and there is debate on whether or not processed food makes a difference. The research paper does not conclude with a definite answer, but the popular article shows no doubt.

Julie Beck’s stance on processed food is clear from her title and tagline- “As long as people are eating fruits and vegetables, it’s not that important whether they’re fresh, frozen, or canned.” Audiences know to expect an article supporting the assertion that they should not worry about eating food that has been processed. In contrast, the research article did not come to such a specific conclusion- just that one should not encourage eating solely fresh produce. The researchers expressed the difference in nutritional value of processed food versus fresh food as ‘complex.’ The difficulty in assessing nutritional values and finding an adequate sample was discussed, showing that they were not committing to a definite answer. The research paper was not as assertive through the use of ‘hedges,’ choices used by the author to impart caution when coming to a conclusion (Hyland 123). Here is an example: “Depending on the commodity, freezing and canning processes may preserve nutrient value (930).” Rickman et al. use the words “depending” and “may,” which display a degree of uncertainty in their statement.  In contrast, Beck’s article, whose tagline claims “it’s not that important whether they’re fresh, frozen, or canned,” pushes toward the conclusion that we should not differentiate between eating processed or fresh fruits and vegetables. Though she chooses to use the phrase ‘it’s not that important,’ the “that” indicating a sense of uncertainty in professing that it is completely important, the rest of her popular article only provides evidence that supports her claim; there are no counterarguments and therefore no leeway in her stance, unlike the scientific article. In contrast, researchers are careful in their choice of language to maintain their neutral stance, awarding them credibility in the eyes of their colleagues.

            When establishing their credibility, research paper authors tend to use previous research as evidence “to align [themselves] with a particular camp (Hyland, 122),” meaning they cite articles written by other scientists to prove themselves to be just as trustworthy. Rickman et al. critique the reliability of previous studies and give advice on how studies of nutritional comparisons should be conducted; for example, they ask that fruits or vegetables studied be all of the same cultivar (931). These features make the research article seem sophisticated, thorough, and credible. Unable to use these methods, for they would be too difficult for their target audience to understand, popular article writers rely on the reputation of their sources. Starting with the claim that processed food and fresh food should be eaten all the same, Beck cites the FDA and research studies, and uses quotes from the dean of Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, a chef, the head of the public-health nutrition department at Nestlé Research Center, and other journalists who covered research papers to support her argument. She quotes from a variety of different sources, some of which are more credible (quotes by professionals in the nutrition field), while some have less authority on the subject matter (quotes by non-experts). In addition to including sources by non-professionals, it is noteworthy that she included a source by the man who works for Nestlé, who may be a professional but most certainly has a conflict of interest as Nestlé is a major manufacturer of processed foods. Typical of popular articles, the quotes are highly biased and are not necessarily based off of well-researched evidence, or if they supposedly are, they do not directly point to any scientific facts. The reader is meant to ‘take their word for it’ because of a source’s apparent authority. Presenting a conversational tone, the majority of her article is written in quotes, rare in professional science articles, but common in popularizations. Rickman et al. quote from other scientific articles which one may consider more reliable because they are based off of facts rather than trust in a person. It is notable that both genres chose to cite government and world health organizations. The majority of sources used to display credibility are different for the professional research and popular science fields. Though sources used by popular articles are less credible, this is due to a balance of simplicity and adherence to scientific facts.

Though the results of the research article could be used to support Julie Beck’s argument, the research article’s quotes should have been inserted in a more appropriate manner. The research report did not take into account fresh food that had been shipped from countries thousands of miles away in their definition of ‘fresh’ produce. Therefore, the quote that seemingly summarizes the report’s findings is misleading. Though Rickman et al.’s research article could have supported Beck’s argument, she did not accurately represent the findings; the citation was misleading. Professional research articles are more accurate, but will only attract other professionals; popular articles are much more accessible, but often sacrifice truthfulness for simplicity. Thus, popularizations are necessary but should be read with a grain of salt. The analysis of rhetorical features in research articles versus popular articles is important to consider when we search for truth and simplicity.

Works Cited

Beck, Julie. “Don’t Worry So Much About Whether Your Food Is ‘Processed’”The Atlantic. 28 June. 2015. Web. 22 July. 2015.

Hyland, Ken. “Constructing proximity: Relating to readers in popular and professional science.” Journal of English for Academic Purposes. 2010. Pg. 116-127. Print.

Rickman, Joy C., Barrett, Diane M, and Bruhn, Christine M. “Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. J Sci Food Agric 87:930–944 (2007). Print.

Why Should We Call Ourselves Feminists

NOTE: The problem I am addressing in this blog post is that the damaging misconceptions about feminism create fear for those who consider themselves feminists. During the writing process, I found that the conversation about feminism is much too nuanced to fit into a 1000 word blog post. I have included links throughout the piece so I can take the time to expand on an idea instead of taking up space just describing it. Many of my ideas and facts can use more information, so please feel free to do your own research.

Why Should We Call Ourselves Feminists

Problem Essay- feminism REVISED

Type the word ‘feminism’ into google. The first thing that pops up is the definition. Notice that it mentions nothing about man-hating. However, the first link that pops up, besides Wikipedia, is the Tumblr for a movement called Women Against Feminism. This page is filled with photos of women that accompany short blurbs about why they ‘don’t need feminism.’ Searching through these photos, it’s apparent that these women are not against the idea of gender equality, but some undefined ideology called ‘modern feminism.’ It appears they respond to some of the more extreme forms of feminism (finding a link to someone who actually harbors these ideas was enormously difficult, by the way) – but those ideas are considered extreme because a great majority of those who consider themselves feminists don’t hold these beliefs. Oftentimes, people will mistakenly put you in a category with the extremists when saying the words, ‘I am a feminist.’ It’s scary, but in this post, I’d like to convince you that saying those four words is important. To prepare you for that, let’s debunk some of the myths and misconceptions about feminism, starting with bra-burning.

Bra Burners

In 1968, outside a Miss America pageant, a women’s rights group called New York Radical Women took off their bras and burned them to draw attention to their feminist causes. Or did they? This group of women did protest the ideas of beauty imposed on women outside of the Miss America pageant, but there was no stripping of bras. They sarcastically crowned a sheep and threw female beauty products, such as high heels, cosmetics, and bras, into ‘Freedom Trash Cans’- but they didn’t burn them. A New York Post reporter linked the women’s rights protest to protests of the Vietnam War where people burned their draft cards. The image of a radical feminist publically tearing off her bra and burning it is a prevalent but false symbol of feminism. It is an image used to depreciate the women who fight for their rights and to trivialize the issues that they focus on. This is just one of many damaging stereotypes imparted on feminists that are inaccurate.

“Everyone works but mother: she’s a suffragette.”  

It wouldn’t be the first time those advocating for women’s rights had other definitions and ideas impressed upon them. Over a century ago, women who were fighting for the right to vote were often branded as unloved, manly old maids or mothers who neglected their families. One caption on an anti-suffrage advertisement reads, “Everyone works but mother: she’s a suffragette.”  Hardly anyone today would consider the word ‘suffragette’ to describe a woman who neglects their family or believes in male domination. Just because someone takes a word and claims it means something else, doesn’t mean that the first definition no longer exists. A suffragette simply described a woman who believes in her right to vote.

Why do we still need feminism?

In the Women Against Feminism Tumblr I mentioned earlier, many women assert that we no longer need feminism in America. By this, they mean that America has already achieved gender equality- their no need for avocation of women’s rights when women already have all the rights previously only afforded to men. I believe we have made huge political and legal strides in the advancement of women’s rights in America. But we are not done yet. If women earn less than men for the same amount of work, then we still need feminism. If feelings of fear and vulnerability when walking alone down a dark street are prevalent in women, then we need feminism. Not acknowledging feminism is denying the problems that exclusively affect women.

How about calling it equalism or egalitarianism?

With the word ‘feminism’ having such a negative connotation, some ask: why not use another word to describe the fight for women’s rights and gender equality, say, the word equalism or egalitarianism? After all, that is ultimately what feminists want, right? Equalism is not a widely used term. In fact, Microsoft Word doesn’t even recognize ‘equalism’ as a word in their dictionary. Try typing it into google. Not much comes up. You would have to describe exactly what you mean by equalism, which defeats the purpose of having a term to encompass the idea of gender equality. Egalitarianism is a very broad term that can refer to social egalitarianism, economic egalitarianism, gender egalitarianism, etc. The ideas of gender egalitarianism are less specific than the term ‘feminism.’ Also, neither term refers to the advancement of females. Feminism acknowledges that women are the ones often marginalized in society. Feminism asserts that it is women rights that need to be advanced to achieve gender equality. It is not a fight to surpass men because equality does not allow one to be ‘more equal’ to others. Either way, the term ‘feminism’ has history of struggles. If you acknowledge that the work of women’s rights continues to build on the work of previous activists and if you believe in what they fought for, then ‘feminism’ is the most respectful term.

In conclusion

Are there radical feminists who assert that women are superior to men? Yes. Are all rectangles squares? After some exploration into geometry, no. So do all feminists believe in female supremacy? After learning more about feminists, no. Despite claims to the contrary, feminism at its core still describes the belief in gender equality and the advancement of female rights. So do we need to call ourselves feminists? Is it important? Despite what the official definition of feminism is, some might argue that this extreme definition of feminism is what most people believe, so it is now the proper definition. Some might say that we might not like this, but because this is generally what people think feminism is, the definition changed. The word evolved. But only a feminist can tell you what feminism means. How can you tell a group of people what they believe in? Often your actions do more than what you say, but reclaiming the word feminism is important also. The word ‘feminist’ is used to demean women but only because of the word’s misconceptions. When you say that you are a feminist, you have the power to make an example of yourself. Say it. I am a feminist and I believe in equal rights for men and women.