Beliefnet Readers: Are You Really Offended by the Word “Feminism”?

Apparently employment negotiations broke down between Beliefnet and writer Kristine Holmgren because Holmgren wanted to use the word ‘feminist’ in her blog title, and one of their market analysts believed that Beliefnet readers found the word offensive.

Here are some things that are not surprising about this.

It’s not surprising that a media outlet wants to control its brand. It’s not surprising that a marketing analyst would devote attention to the preferences of a company’s customer base, and try to gather data on said preferences. It’s not surprising that a writer, even in these lean days, would refuse a regular writing gig which required her to adopt a very different voice than the one she’d spent years crafting.

What does surprise me is this: Evidently a non-trivial number of readers of Beliefnet out there are offended by the word feminist. They don’t just disagree with certain tenets of feminism (which is far from monolithic, btw). They don’t just think, “Eh, that’s not really my thing, but whatevs, I like the site anyway and there are zillions of other people to read there. Oh, say! I think I’ll take the ‘What religion are you?’ quiz again just to see if I’ve changed.” They don’t have an argument against its use. Apparently their fragile sensibilities can’t abide the appearance of the word itself on their computer screens.

Well, okay. That’s depressing. But it’s also the sort of informational tidbit worth keeping in mind for when someone complains that it’s so unfair you can’t say “mankind” without someone maybe possibly questioning your dated language; or whinges that people’s feelings are too easily hurt because the hideously offensive joke was just A JOKE YOU GUYS.

sarah.morice.brubaker@ptstulsa.edu'

Sarah Morice-Brubaker is an assistant professor of theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK. In addition to writing for RD, she’s also written for The Christian Century, Dialogic Magazine, and Faith and Leadership. She has a chapter in the forthcoming edited volume from Ashgate, Placing Nature on the Borders of Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics.