Tuesday, April 17, 2007

FAQ: what do you mean by "Not my Nigel"? (feminist abbreviations/jargon)

Updated 03May07

Like any other field of debate and controversy, a lot of issues and positions in feminism end up being discussed so often that they are abbreviated for convenience into acronyms, initialisms and shorthand phrases that make up a jargon.

"Not my Nigel" is shorthand for the common reaction of many women to feminist observations and explanations of sexist activity and sexist motivations i.e. "Not my Nigel! He'd never do anything like that" or more invidiously "well sure, my Nigel says/does that but he doesn't mean any harm by it".
(The feminist response is that truly one has no idea what sexist activities one's Nigel engages in when performing manliness to impress other men (you think all those gropers and harassers tell their wives/mothers/sisters what they do?) and that not meaning any harm because "boys will be boys" is exactly the root of the problem.)

Below are a few common abbreviations/jargon terms. There's a more formal academic list of terms at Feminist Lexicon, and you may find some of the differences/distinctions between their entries and this list instructive (for more on differences/distinctions see the Feminisms FAQ).


- different periods of feminist activism with different priorities. An Anglo-Americocentric description of feminist history, although largely generalisable.
First wave feminism : the advocacy of basic legal (de jure) equality: suffragists, property inheritance and contractual agency rights. Historically a movement for wives of the propertied classes, but a broader movement today in those countries where women are still denied de jure equality.
Second wave feminism : working for the implementation/enforcement of de jure equalities but also concerned with de facto (unofficial) inequalities: finding the political in the personal and fighting for changes in long-standing sexist prejudices and traditions - socioeconomic equality not just legal equality, and for more than just the propertied classes.
Third wave feminism: a challenge to essentialist views of femininity (as biologically reductive) and feminisms (as homogenously directed) combined with an emphasis on the intersectionality of oppressions.
MRA - male rights activist (an extreme masculinist example)
patriarchy - one of the most misunderstood critical-theory concepts ever, often wilfully misunderstood. Patriarchy is an ancient and ongoing social system based on traditions of elitism (a hierarchy of inferiorities), privilege and the subjugation of women via strict gender expectations which constrain individualist expressions. Some societies are more patriarchal than others, but patriarchal social traditions are universal in human societies. [more in the Patriarchy FAQ]
"the personal is political" - a radical 1960's concept that there is a politics of sex/gender based on power relationships in families, and that describing family power imbalances as "personal" was simply dismissive and condescending. First cited in an essay by Carol Hahnisch in 1970 defending consciousness-raising from charges that it was merely "therapy": Hanisch states "One of the first things we discover in these groups is that personal problems are political problems. There are no personal solutions at this time."(the term has since been adopted by other protest movements).
PHMT - Patriarchy Hurts Men Too. Men are also constrained from full individualist expression by strict gender expectations. (Corollary: FBMT - Feminism benefits men too - thanks Helen)
privilege - advantages that some groups have over others in the social hierarchy. Some privileges are situational and temporary (parent over child, employer over employee) and serve a pragmatic social purpose but other privileges are societal and traditional and serve to perpetuate elitism. Some elitist privileges are de jure (e.g. South African racial apartheid, rules against the ordination of women as priests) but most are de facto (informal discrimination against "others" in the workplace, education, financial transactions (e.g. exclusionary "mates' rates") and social recognition/reward). [more in the Male Privilege FAQ]
radfem - radical feminist
rape culture - a constellation of behaviours and attitudes embedded into patriarchal society. These attitudes, socialised from birth and often wielded unconsciously, enable and encourage the subordination of women by maintaining a environment that is pervasively hostile and threatening to women. The behaviours include a spectrum of acts which function to keep women in an object role and perpetuate their fear. They include (but are not limited to) certain aspects of "chivalry", victim-blaming, leering, intimidation, sexual harrassment and coercion, domestic violence, assault and rape. (defn from lauredhel) [more: Biting Beaver]
sex-pos - sex-positive feminist
strawfeminist - a false construction, created to scare people away from the juicy crops of equality, equity and the end of female subjugation (See "strawman fallacy" and our "spot the strawfeminist" category)


empowerful: used to reveal how sexist marketing appropriates "empowerment" in order to persuade women into yet more sexual displays for male titillation [Twisty's post coining the term]
godbag - religious authoritarian, theocrat (not used to describe tolerant believers who respect the rights of others to make their own choices)
"I'm not a feminist, but" - a common utterance by those who notice and are disturbed by instances of sexism, and totally agree that something should be done to combat such sexism, if only they could argue against such sexism without perhaps being mistaken for one of those humourless, hairylegged, manhating feminists. (i.e. folks who have been intimidated by the strawfeminists(see above)). Often women who disdain feminism while describing the benefits of feminist-earned rights to work, child care, education, vote etc as "basic rights".
“Nice Guys™” - There are two types, which often overlap in one individual:
1.a guy who believes that the simple act of being decent means that the universe owes him a girlfriend.[defn from Mickle]
2. men who are looking to date a woman with the appearance of a supermodel, and yet they continually whine about how "women don't like nice guys - they only want good-looking assholes" [source] [more at the NiceGuy archive at Heartless Bitches International]
pornulated/-acious - extremely sexualised women's fashions, usually uncomfortable and impractical as well as emphasising the vulnerable flesh of female secondary sexual characteristics.
PUA - Pick Up Artist. Sexual predator as serial scorekeeping seducer. [link from theriomorph] The goal of PUA as a sport is to defeat the minds so inconveniently attached to ladybits rather than treat women as people who could enjoy sexual fun together with egalitarian men. A growing movement designed to persuade both men and women that this reduction of gender relations to a hunt for sex is a reasonable and sane model for human interaction.

The list could go on and on, and that's where you, dear readers, come in. Please add more abbreviations/jargon in the comments of terms you've had to explain most often, or requests for explanations of abbreviations/jargonisms that have been puzzling you. (Update: thanks for all the suggestions so far!)

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