A Feminist Glossary: Part Two

GlossaryUnderstanding feminist terminology is vital to addressing our cultural issues with sex and gender.  In a previous post, I began with basic terminology; although some of the concepts in this week’s installment are also relatively basic (such as ally and slut shaming), I’ve included some more advanced terms here, the kind that you only bandy about after you’ve been immersed in feminism for a while.  I’m sure I’ll think of some more terms tomorrow, and the next day—feel free to add your own in the comments!

Here’s the second part of the Feminist Glossary:

  1. Ally:  A member of a privileged group who advocates for the needs and concerns of one or more oppressed groups.
  2. Cisgender:  A person whose biological sex matches her/his gender identity and expression; others accurately perceive the person’s gender.  (See this list of cisgender privileges on Everyday Feminism.)
  3. Cultural Appropriation:  When a person from a privileged/dominant group adopts the dress and mannerisms of an oppressed group.  For example, models wearing Native American headdresses.  (See this great Everyday Feminism article about the difference between appropriation and cultural exchange.)
  4. Gaslighting:  A form of emotional abuse in which the abuser makes the victim doubt her own perception of reality. Often used against women, relying on stereotypes about femininity (weak, hysterical, emotional, incapable of rational thought, etc.).  Gaslighting has been used against feminists on the internet to undermine their arguments and their sense of self.
  5. Heteronormative:  The aspects of our society that assume heterosexuality is “normal” and other approaches to sexuality aren’t, limiting our cultural understanding of sex and gender to a heterosexual perspective.  For example, the cultural definition of virginity—and the loss of virginity—assumes a heterosexual perspective.
  6. Informed Consent:  Voluntary, positive agreement to a specific sexual act.  Silence is not consent.  A person who is asleep or mentally or physically incapacitated (for example, due to drugs or alcohol) cannot give consent.  Understanding consent and emphasizing positive, healthy, voluntary sexual interaction are ways to battle rape culture.
  7. Intersectionality:  The lived experience of people who are part of more than one marginalized group, such as people of color, women, homosexuals, people with disabilities, etc.   Lived experience might include several forms of institutional and cultural discrimination.
  8. Intersex:  A person who is born with anatomy that doesn’t fit into society’s standard conceptions of male and female.  Intersex people struggle with societal misunderstanding, discrimination, and unwanted surgeries.  See the Intersex Society of North America for more information.
  9. Marginalization:  The cultural assignment of a group of people to the margins of society.  Trivializes their concerns and issues, shuts down their conversations, assigns them “less important” status by default.  A form of discrimination.
  10. Slut Shaming:  Using the word or concept of “slut” to shame a woman for experiencing sexual desire, acting on her desire, or expressing her sexuality.  A form of victim blaming, connected to rape culture.
  11. Transgender:  Anyone who accepts a gender identity (including androgynous, hermaphroditic, intersex, transsexual, or otherwise non-conformist) that does not match her or his assigned gender.  Not all transgender people are transsexual.
  12. Transsexual:  A person who is transitioning or has transitioned from one sex to the other. 

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