Posted by: jordanmassey12 | February 12, 2015

Aziz Anisari is a Feminist

A while back in class we were discussing the role of feminism when talking about women and leadership. Many classmates noted that they would rather not use the term because of the negative connotations that it has. Our culture has come to view the term “feminist” as more of a derogatory descriptor than a statement of belief. Many men see feminists as a “man-hating”, bra-burning lesbians and that stereotype, no matter how incorrect it may be, has led many women to distance themselves from a movement which fights for the rights of all people.

In this video, popular comedian Aziz Anisari discusses the term feminism and the meaning that it has. He addresses the audience and points out how many people would not identify as one, including many women. However, he is quick to point out that people who believe in equal rights for all genders shouldn’t feel like they need to distance themselves from a set of ideas simply because the word is too aggressive. He jokes “You can’t be like, ‘Yeah, I’m a doctor that primarily deals with diseases of the skin.’ ‘Oh so you’re a dermatologist?’ ‘Oh no, that’s a much too aggressive word, not at all.'”

In my opinion, women and men alike need to reclaim the word “feminist”. No longer should it be associated with the typically negative connotation, but instead should be a term that all people feel comfortable classifying as. A word is a powerful thing and allowing people to unite under a common purpose can give a movement momentum and drive.

Do you think that feminism’s connotation as a statement of ideology has been too negatively compromised to serve as an accurate term for those who believe in equal rights? If so, then what term would be better, in your opinion? Should modern feminists disassociate themselves with the early waves of the movement which caused these stereotypes to begin with? How should the modern feminist movement differ from those of the past?


  1. I completely agree that feminism has a negative connotation to it. Since being in this class I’ll notice things and mention the thing I saw and the class to my friends. We’ll joke around saying, “I’m a feminist!” loud and proud but once it dies down I explain the concept to them and they understand. I think the term equalist makes sense to use. I’m an equalist for gender, race, and anything else because we’re all human at heart. Upon doing one of the readings for class I had a thought that this whole gender thing is a circle. The earlier generations actually overtly discriminated and created this closed circle of male privilege. Even though there may not be as much discrimination now, we’re still paying the price for the closed circle and it’s too hard to break. That’s where people get this notion that we still have discrimination, the circle. I think identifying ourselves as equalists will help the campaign even if it’s just a little bit by changing the initial perception of the movement in the public’s eye and if it’s only one person at a time.

  2. Both men and women should be represented inseeking the equal rights of men and women. I think that he brings humor to the idea and makes the word much less harsh. It seems less scary and something that most people believe in. Most people believe and want gender equality, but I think it is time to find a new word for a new meaning. Historically, the feminist movement worked to obtain equal rights for women, but that is not the current definition of the word today. Now that feminism is including both equality of women and men, there needs to be a new term. The root of the word of feminism originates from the Latin word femina or femininus, meaning woman. If the root of the word is already excluding men, it sounds like it is going against its own definition. There needs to be a word that defines the movement. If there is a need for a new word, lest go back to the Latin language: aequalitatem or aequalitas meaning: equality, similarity, likeness. There needs to be a movement that includes everyone if we want everyone to be a part of the movement. I also love the Latin language (if you can’t tell) and think root words can define a word without a definition. Its important to think about how men see the roots of the word.

  3. Feminism definitely has a negative connotation with it. It’s to the point where many people give me a judgmental look when I tell them I am taking a women in leadership class. Automatically they assume that all we talk about is empowering women and giving them power. I’m often finding myself telling them that we focus on how we can empower both women and men and use our collaborated skills to benefit each other.

    Since I think the word feminism has such a negative connotation, I think we should try to eradicate the word be education society about the importance of both women’s and men’s skill sets. Instead of finding a new word, as has been suggested, I think that there should not be a word for this movement of establishing equality. I used to think that their needed to be a new word, but I have now come to the realization that a new word would just give people something to disagree over. Instead, I think that people should start encouraging others to implement the ideal of equality among men and women in their daily lives. Of coarse this will take quite a bit of tiime, but with persistence and determination, I think it is possible. This method is beneficial because then we can start inculcating equality into society just as inequality has been inculcated into our generation’s society. What better way to get rid of a negative ideal than to adopt the same successful method in which the negative ideal was pushed into society.

  4. When we began to talk about the word “feminism” in class, I agreed that it was a word in which I would not want to be associated. It has a negative connotation and as long as there are generations that still remember what feminism was like in the past, then I believe it will be hard for the word to be reclaimed and looked at in a more positive light. I think our generation still associates the word to be “man-hating” and all of the other other negative images that come to mind when the word is said. I think it is getting better in our generation though and as long as there are people that are advocates for the movement and they continue to remind people what the word stands for, then hopefully we will eventually be able to move past the negativity of the word. I think that the more men that are on board with feminism, then the more perspectives and the more people there will be behind the movement. It was refreshing to hear Aziz talk about the word and make jokes about it, not to put it down, but to try to help uplift the word.

  5. Not only do I love Aziz Anisari but I love this argument! Jordan, I completely agree with you that our society needs to reclaim the term “feminist.” This term has gathered such a negative connotation that women don’t even want to be involved with it, and that is ludicrous. When people ask if I am a feminist I always respond with yes but lately I have found myself having to argue and clarify what I believe that means. I am a feminist because I believe in equal rights and opportunity for all people. I add in the opportunity part because even if a women has the same rights as a man she still is not provided with equal opportunities, more specifically in the work place. The way Aziz Anisari describes feminism is spot on. He shows that being a feminist is indeed not a bad thing and that it simply just makes sense. I love the examples he uses to simplify the term. I believe that this argument is very valid and should be brought up more in society. Someone who claims to be a feminist should not be disgraced in our American society where we strive for equality.

  6. The terms “feminism” and “feminist” carry a negative connotation, and although I think that they can be rebranded and eventually saved, the effort and money necessary to achieve such a goal would be staggering. Instead of using the term “feminism,” the feminist movement can be saved, if it is incorporated as a part of the postmodernist movement or even being referred to as postmodern feminism. Postmodernism is a movement that gained popularity during the late 1900s, and which highlights the skeptical interpretation of traditional art, literature, economics, and other aspects of society. Postmodernism has been applied to the feminist movement, specifically in the way that language shapes gender and in moving beyond modern conceptions of sex. Further, it looks at gender as a social construction, and as something which can be changed in society.

    It is not necessary for modern feminists to completely dissociate from the traditional movement. It would be a mistake to forget or refuse to pay respect to the women, like Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who paved the way for female leaders to rise to power today. Moreover, the stereotypes exist as a means of suppressing women’s rights. Further, regardless of the name, feminists and feminism will always be met with people opposition and attempts to apply negative connotations to the movements. Although I think that this will be helped by revamping the movement as more postmodernist in nature, the negative connotation will never completely go away. Modern feminists should work to embrace both men and women and fight against the conception of woman as greater than men. Further, it should also focus of issues regarding male rights.

  7. The word feminist does have a negative connotation. I think it’s hard to redefine a word that has so much history but I think it would do a lot of good to redefine the word for the future of women leadership. The meaning of the word now limits men from joining the conversation about female leadership. Feminism now by the societal definition makes men afraid to join in on the fight for equality of leadership between men and women. The true definition of feminism is equal rights not just rights for women. It is detrimental for the fight for the equality to have people not want to join because the word is associated with man hating. Do you think that because of the past with women burning bras that no one wants to accept the word? Do you think if men and women could accept and embrace the word that the fight for equal representation in leadership would be easier? Maybe we do not have to redefine the word but continue to do what Aziz does, he adds humor to it to make it more positive. Equal rights and equal representation in leadership can only be made possible with both men and women and right now we don’t have as many men embracing the word feminism because it is thought of as man hating.

  8. Feminism, to me, still has a negative connotation to it. I myself am a feminist, but I find myself hesitating to claim being so when talking to my friends, boyfriend, or father. It’s because of the “baggage” the term comes with that keeps me from admitting to others that I stand for equal rights.

    I do believe that society perceives Feminism as “man-hating”. I think our generation can create change and turn the word into having a more positive connotation, or a new word or phrase. It will be hard to change this stereotype, so perhaps creating a new phrase for this movement would be best.

    I myself am also an equalist for gender, race, and everything else. I recall a particularly moving comment my 6th grade Social Science teacher told us. We were learning about the “separate but equal”, discrimination acts, and Jim Crow laws that were placed on the black population in America. At the end of our lecture he told us to look at our hands, and we would see the shape of the letter M, and that M stood for “huMan” race. This encompasses every human being in the world and that we should respect each other, because we don’t understand every ones personal background or hardships.

    If the world were perfect, we would see each other as one “huMan race”, but we unfortunately do not. I think if we identify ourselves as equalists, like Sarah said, maybe everyone would be more comfortable with admitting to and joining this campaign for equality. Perhaps more men, like Aziz Ansari, would help the cause as well. If I were a man, I wouldn’t want to join a “man-hating campaign”, because that is what feminism is stigmatized now as. Perhaps there is time for change.

  9. This is an interesting debate and one that I find myself thinking about a lot. I think that the cause of this problem is that there are so many different types of feminism with very different definitions. While I would be comfortable saying I am a feminist who identifies with the Suffragist movement or the Equal Rights Amendment, I would not feel comfortable identifying myself as another type of feminist who may believe that men are inferior to women. I think that the blanket term feminist covers too wide of a range of different philosophies and we must start making more narrow terms before people are comfortable identifying themselves.

  10. I definitely think that the term “feminist” is understandably scary to some people because the word itself singles out a certain group. The word itself is aimed toward females and femininity, but the concept supposedly is in support of gender equality. I think that there are really not that many people out there in America who are against equality of the sexes, but because “feminists” are seen as unattractive, a lot of women try to avoid that term so they will not be considered unattractive. Femininity in males is already considered unattractive so I think that the term drives men away from the movement. Likewise, masculinity is unattractive in females, and so a woman demanding her rights in a strong and assertive way is also considered unattractive. The only way that the movement will be truly seen as a movement for gender equality as a whole would be for the name to be changed to something that actually appeals to all genders. I think a more general name would be a lot more effective and would scare fewer people away from the concept.

    I think, in the past, women were so harshly oppressed that their extremism could’ve been effective and useful to them. Now, women are oppressed in much more subtle ways and I think the only way to respond to those subtleties is by approaching it in a more calm way. I also think it should be more opened up to all genders because they play an enormous part in the oppression of women.

  11. I think there should be a more re-branding of the term ‘feminist’ because in today society it does have harsh connotation and create it into a word that is respect and that young female and male want to identity with. We should think of it as man hating but want equality between the sexes, take it back to if roots. I want to be a feminist because I look up to women such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and even Alice Paul; who weren’t man bashing but trying to attain the right to vote and started this whole revolution. So I don’t think we need a new word, but take the old word and give it a rejuvenation to mean equality.

  12. The word feminism is a difficult term to distinguish. Unfortunately, the word does have a negative connotation from past history. I appreciate the approach Emma Watson took. She didn’t eliminate the term, but reformed the term into a movement that is it’s own separate identity. I like the term ‘equalist’ better than feminist because the obvious implicated meaning behind it. However, should we alter the term? I think we should change the term in order to push forward to the general public what the message of the movement is actually about. Although feminists are not all man-hating, the extreme feminists have ruined that associated meaning to the term, making it difficult for the movement to move forward.

    However, it’s essential to remember the history of the movement and not let those who fought for these right to be in vain. Those speeches like “Ain’t I Woman Enough?” should be remembered in order to keep the passion and respect for history alive. Without the past, good and bad, it’s difficult to improve the future. Although I personally have no issue with the word feminist, some of the outer society does, even from the lack of knowledge or awareness of what the term actually means. A new word shouldn’t be exterminating the past, but transitioning the mindset into the appeal for all to fight for equality.

  13. I love that we are able to relook at things we have discussed at the beginning of the semester, such as the term feminism. I think it’s so interesting that feminism has what feels like so many different meanings and connotations. For those who know what it is, it takes on one meaning, but those that haven’t been educated about what it means, it means something totally different.

    I love that celebrities are starting to stand up for this movement (especially comedians it seems – maybe because women aren’t seen as being “funny”). I think it’s possible to take back what the word and the movement it stands for really means, and we can get rid of the connotation, but that would take so much work and so much publicity – and of course there will still be those who are against it, but I think in 50 years, those efforts could make a huge difference.

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