You keep using Humanism. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I have written this rant a thousand times. My children can recite it word for word. Heck, given the power of speech, I bet the first words out the cat’s mouth would be: For the love of catnip, stop squawking about humanism.

Nothing annoys me more than people disavowing the political theory of feminism because they want to be “humanists”. Honestly, does no one google anymore? Humanism has an actual political definition which is predicated on the notion of rational thought; and that “rational thought” excluded women because we’re all emotional and hysterical and shit. In fact, dating of the humanist movement usually starts around the Renaissance which is a period not known for its feminist writers. How anyone who grew up in a “Western” country with access to free secondary school education can get confused about the definition of humanism is completely beyond me.

For the last freaking time, and the welfare of my children:


It just doesn’t. It doesn’t matter what celebrity is babbling on about how they aren’t feminists because they are humanists and humanists believe in equality. They are wrong. And, frankly, their agents need to have a chat with them about their knowledge of history. 

These are the very basic definitions as outlined in Collins’ School Dictionary which I’ve borrowed from my primary school child:  
  • Humanism is the belief in mankind’s ability to achieve happiness and fulfilment without the need for religion.
  • Feminism is the belief that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men.

    Not even close. 

    This is the definition of humanism as taken from the Oxford Dictionaries Online:
    A rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.
    • (often Humanism) a Renaissance cultural movement which turned away from medieval scholasticism and revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought.
    • (among some contemporary writers) a system of thought criticized as being centred on the notion of the rational, autonomous self and ignoring the conditioned nature of the individual.

    If you feel the need to quibble with this definition of humanism, do feel free to google yourself. Wikipedia’s got a pretty decent history of humanism. Or check out the British Humanist Association definition:

    • trusts to the scientific method when it comes to understanding how the universe works and rejects the idea of the supernatural (and is therefore an atheist or agnostic)

    • makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals
    • believes that, in the absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe, human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.

    Not a word about feminism anywhere on their website.

    Because humanism is NOT feminism.

    Feminism, at least liberal feminism, is about equality between men and women. If you don’t want to use the word feminist, use equalist. That term sets my teeth on edge but by using you won’t be publicly embarrassed of your poor knowledge of history. [My feminism is about the liberation of women from male violence since we technically already have equality before the law in the UK but those laws are never enforced].

    To be clear, you can be a feminist and a humanist but not a humanist because you’re afraid someone might think you hate men if you call yourself a feminist. And, come on, if feminism is about equality between men and women, then men who think feminists are “man-haters” are clearly misogynistic losers.

    Do you really want to be taking the advice on your political beliefs from a man who thinks women are inherently inferior to men and lie about rape? 


    2 thoughts on “You keep using Humanism. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    1. Well said!

      I’d see Humanism as part of the shift in the understanding of women’s position in education. In the high medieval period, women were so strongly associated with education and books that it was an aphorism that women teach children their books. That changed so thoroughly that people have a hard time imagining that, prior to Humanism, women might well be more literate than their husbands and were often involved in education.

      I’d never thought about how redefining ‘rational thought’ feeds it that, but it makes it extra shit.

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