Words to Avoid: Handmaiden

Women are victims of patriarchy, including those who have been brainwashed into supporting it.

We object to this term on several grounds:

  1. The targets of our criticism should be men
  2. It is our goal to liberate women, including those who are called “handmaidens.”
  3. It’s in-group language that marks us as fringe
  4. It’s mean, and mean to the wrong set of people at that

For more on the types of words we should avoid, click here.

For more on the ways that jargon is harming our cause, click here and here.


The Problem with Jargon

We must reject jargon, even if it’s ours, and speak in plain language.

Here are the major reasons:

  • Normalcy – Our position is reasonable, but certain activists have managed to paint us as a fringe faction of feminism with murky values. Let’s not use language that seems to reinforce that misconception.
  • Clarity – Jargon makes it difficult for disinterested third parties (unfamiliar with the finer points of the debates we find ourselves in) to follow what we’re saying.
  • Accountability – Jargon allows both sides to sidestep meaningful debate and rely on semantic trickery and obfuscation instead.
  • Refusal to Concede – Jargon defined by our opponents grants them too much power; they set the terms of the debate and we let them.
  • Kindness – Good debaters use the Principle of Charity, arguing as though their opponents act in good faith. To win over the general public and counter our undeserved reputation we must show that we’re compassionate.

Words to Reject: Transactivism/Transactivist

First, the fact that this is usually written as one word marks it as an in-group term, with all the aforementioned problems that entails.

Second, even as two words, it isn’t doing what you think it’s doing. You say “trans activist” like it’s a bad thing. But would observers feel like “minority rights activist” is a bad thing? How about “women’s rights activist?” Here’s one of those cases where plain language would convey a whole lot more. How about “a certain strain of activists, who have appeared on the scene in only the last decade or so, and are arguing for radical redefinitions of commonly understood words”? It’s a mouthful, but what else are you doing? Making the problem clear is your job as a feminist activist. In successive sentences you can say something like “these activists.”

Words to Reject: Gender

We recommend replacing this word with “sex stereotypes.” Gender enthusiasts will have a hard time explaining why “gender” is something more honorable, or even different, from “sex stereotypes,” and the onus will be on them to prove it’s something else.

Bystanders will be forced to consider exactly what is meant by “gender.”

And everyone will be prevented from confusing, or switching back and forth between, “gender” and “sex,” which sometimes occurs innocently (out of a belief that these are synonyms) and sometimes as a deliberate bait-and-switch (to convolute the discussion).

Words to Reject: Liberal Feminist

Besides reinforcing the dichotomy described in our article on “Radical Feminist,” this phrase doesn’t do a good job illuminating the problem with the belief system it describes. Most bystanders aren’t going to understand why stringing together two words they consider positive, “liberal” and “feminist,” should result in something negative.

Our Business

Our business is protecting the rights of women and girls.

That’s it.

More on this article is coming soon.