This article continues from Part 1 of the same title.


Vocabulary and Terms Continued


Male gaze: When the world is presented by males, for males, and in relation to males, showing that the world, society, and especially sex, only has relevance when shown through the eyes of a heterosexual man. The prevalence of the male gaze in pop culture (especially movies) perpetuates the delusion and dismisses the relevance of a woman's’ view.

Note: Laura Mulvey coined this term in her essay which can be found in the Resources below.


Masculinities: By pluralizing masculinity, there is an understanding that masculinity is not the monolithic portrayal that often is shown the media; that there are many ways to “be manly”, and they are not all congruent with the stereotypes that men often feel pressured to live up to and follow. Addressing men’s issues is something included in many feminisms, as these issues stem from the same issues facing women: a patriarchal culture. An example of one of these issues is obtaining reasonable or equitable paternity leave for new fathers.


Micro-aggression: An unintended form of discrimination of any minority group, having the same effect as intended discrimination.


Micro-oppression: It seems that the public has not yet reached a consensus as to what this term refers to. For some, micro-oppression refers to a form of oppression that is so subtle or small that it cannot be overtly identified, and has an effect on people (whether or not they are conscious of it). For others, such as Roger. E. Olson, micro-oppression refers to a form of oppression that is not worldwide, systematic or deeply rooted like racism or sexism, but still has an undesirable effect on a specific group. Olson’s example of micro-oppression is about boys in the education system in the US. Olson reports that they are being largely ignored due to the industry’s attempts to focus on and address the macro-oppression of sexism towards girls.


Misogyny: Miso = hatred, gyny = women. So misogyny is literally the hatred of women.


Moff's Law: A social law that states that as discussion of feminism or social justice continues, the probability that someone will ask the question “Why do you have to analyze it? It’s just a _____ (book/movie/play/comic book/game etc.)” increases. A poignant response is: “The reason why the argument of ‘It's just a book/game/movie/TV show/etc.’ is wrong is that culture informs society, and a creative work that perpetuates hatred, misinformation, or other bad things can have an effect on a large amount of people, however subtle that effect may be, degrading society to some extent as a whole.” Source: Click here.


Objectification: When a person is treated as a sexual object and nothing more, detaching their sexual or physical characteristics from the rest of their character, regarding this person as nothing more than an object of pleasure for the viewer, this is objectification. People often consider catcalls a form of objectification (See Part 1).


Oppression: According to Iris Young’s theory of oppression, oppression occurs when there is a presence of any of the following: Exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and/or violence. See Iris Young’s Essay on The Five Faces of Oppression in the Resources below.


Othering: When a group of people are consciously or unconsciously seen as “alternate”, and another group is “default”. An example of unconscious othering is how children perceive stick figures. A regular stick figure without any traits is often seen as male, and a stick figure with an alternate feature such as eyelashes, a skirt, hair, etc. is seen as female. See Cordelia Fine’s book Delusions of Gender for more about this phenomenon.


Outing: Sharing the status of a person’s gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, etc. with others when they have not given you explicit permission to do so. Others, in this case,  include the general public, a person’s family, friends, colleagues, etc.


Patriarchy: A society in which any of the following occur:

  1. Men dominate forms of power such as social, political, and religious influence, or have political and economic control.
  2. Masculine traits or masculinity is valued more than feminine traits or femininity.


Privilege: An advantage enjoyed by those in a majority group, rather than being a part of a group that is oppressed. Having privilege does not necessarily mean being racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or any other way of being discriminatory. One can suffer oppression (such as being a woman) while also having privilege (such as being able-bodied and white). One way to be an ally is to be accountable for your privilege, and be realistic. Although there’s a high chance you undergo some form of oppression, checking your privilege is a way of acknowledging that, just as various oppressions interact with each other, oppression and privilege also interact (see intersectionality in Part 1). For a privilege checklist, see the Resources.


Pronoun preference: A person’s pronoun preference is their preferred pronoun to use, setting aside assumptions about someone’s gender identity. Often, by looking at someone and making a judgment or assumption about their gender, we use a pronoun without considering that perhaps their gender identity doesn’t match our assumptions. Asking for someone’s pronoun preference can be an indirect way to ask about their gender identity. If Alex has gone to the store, and someone asks where Alex has gone, pronoun preference is about whether we should say he, she, they, ne, ze, ve, or xe has gone to the store, according to Alex’s preference. Of course, it’s a good idea to also clarify their gender identity if you’re still unsure. For an article about using they as a singular pronoun, Click here.


Queer: Many people choose to identify as queer because it can be an all-encompassing term; one that denies the divisions evoked by the use of specific terms like lesbian or bisexual.


Queered: Something, such as an organization or a sexed class at a school, that has been amended to be more queer-inclusive.


Queering: Intentionally acting towards making something queer-inclusive.


Rape Culture: A term used to refer to a culture that fails to see rape as a problem, and views rape merely as something that will happen no matter what. It is through this logic that a rape culture perpetuates the idea that it is the responsibility of victims to alter their behaviour in order to reduce their risk of being sexually assaulted. People often fail to take rape seriously, making rape jokes, downplaying or mistrusting rape victims' accounts, and engaging in victim-blaming.

Example: If you didn't want that kind of attention then you shouldn't have dressed like that.


Refuge restrooms: A refuge restroom is a public bathroom that is for any gender. It’s considered a refuge for people who don’t identify with either side of the gender binary: man or woman.


Reproductive Health Care: For many feminists, this is a central focus that centres around sex-education, and a woman’s right to have and have accessibility to abortion and birth control.


Sex vs. Gender: Although sex and gender were traditionally considered equivalent, the distinction between the two (as discussed in Part 1) is one of the fundamental points for many feminists who focus on queer theory.


Sex-ed: Short for “sexual education”; refers to the formal sexual education classes in schools, ranging in curricula from abstinence-only to queer-inclusive.


Sexism: Discrimination based on someone’s sex, gender, or both. Can describe behaviour, beliefs, policies, etc.


Sexual orientation: Sexual orientation refers to the type of sexual and/or romantic attraction a person has for others, based on gender.

Some examples are: Bisexual (attracted to men and women), heterosexual (attracted to the opposite gender), homosexual (attracted to the same gender), pansexual (attracted to all genders), asexual (no sexual attraction), or queer (see definition above).


Sexual politics and “The personal is political”: Political issues involving reproductive health, child care, etc. The phrase “the personal is political”, popularized in 1969 by Carol Hanisch, discusses how personal matters like sex, appearance, abortion, child care, and household division of labour are inextricably linked to politics given that the government has direct influence and impact on these issues.


Social constructionism: The theory that gender roles and gendered characteristics are not determined by one’s biology; rather they are determined by socialization, as an effect of living in a culturally entrenched world.


Traditional gender roles/gender norms: The traits, habits, values, roles, and talents traditionally associated with one’s gender, often regarded as though these characteristics are innate and biologically connected to that person’s sex.


Trans: Refers to a person who is either transgendered or transsexual.


Transgender: A person whose gender identity directly contradicts the sex of their body, and has decided not to pursue any physical change to their body (such as hormonal or surgical transitioning).


Transsexual: A person whose gender identity directly contradicts the sex of their body, and has pursued one or many of the steps of transition: social, hormonal, or surgical. See Sex vs. Gender in Part 1.


Transphobia: A fear and hatred of transgendered or transsexual people.


Transmisogyny: A hatred of transgendered or transsexual women.


Unicorn law: When there is a woman who is intelligent, witty, and beautiful, or one of the leaders in her industry, and she is treated as being a rare phenomenon or a rare miracle, much like a unicorn. Some feminists refer to this social habit as the Unicorn Law, with the connotation that it is such a frequent and/or probable occurrence that it is almost guaranteed, like a mathematical or physical law: When there is a successful woman leading her industry, the chance of someone treating or referring her as if she is miraculous increases.


Victim blaming: The act of blaming violent acts on the victims. They are blamed for not preventing it through a variety of possible methods, or for not dressing differently, changing one’s habits, etc.

Example: If you didn't want that kind of attention, then you shouldn't have dressed like that.


Wage Gap: When there is a notable difference in earnings between men and women in the same job role, there is a wage gap.


Hopefully this guide to feminist terms in English paints a more detailed and complex picture, rather than what people often think of as being associated with the word feminist: perhaps hairy-legged, bra-burning, man-hating women? Understanding the terminology used in feminism will help you to appreciate the diversity of feminisms, feminists, and issues upon which feminists focus. Equipped with an understanding of these terms, you are now all set to engage in conversations or with material about any of these issues, or feminism as a whole, at a deeper level.


Put your new knowledge to the test! Try reading one of the resources below, or try striking up a conversation with a friend about any of the feminist issues mentioned here.


Or, share this article on Twitter and mention your favorite new word or phrase!

Some key figures

Adrian Piper

Andrea Dworkin

Andrea Smith

Audre Lorde

Barack Obama

Bell Hooks

Betty Friedan

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Cordelia Fine

Elisabeth Badinter

Elsa S. Henry

Emma Goldman

Erica Jong

Gloria Steinem

Helen Keller

Joss Whedon

Lierre Keith

Mary Wollstonecraft

Maya Angelou

Patrick Stewart

Simone de Beauvoir

Stephanie Woodward




Privilege Checklist

Geek Feminism Wiki

Feminism 101 Blog

Other Feminism Definitions

More on the Male Gaze: Visual Pleasure Narrative Cinema (1975) Essay by Laura Mulvey

Iris Young’s Five Faces of Oppression

The Personal is Political Wikipedia Entry

On “They” as a singular pronoun

The Gender Book

On Moff’s Law

Roger E. Olson on Oppression

Pronoun Preferences

10 Reasons why Ableist Language matters

An article about how some feminisms leave the disabled behind

How mainstream feminism perpetuates Ableism

How to be an ally with someone with an invisible disability

Eco-feminists of South Korea

To see if your favourite movies pass the Bechdel test, or to learn more

About white privilege


Image Sources

Hero Image by kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) (CC BY-SA 2.0)