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Linguistique féministe

Neologisms in contemporary feminisms: For a redefinition of feminist linguistic activism

Les néologismes des féminismes contemporains : pour une redéfinition de l’activisme linguistique féministe
Océane Foubert


L’activisme linguistique féministe (ALF) ne se limite pas au langage inclusif. Pour contrer la nature androcentrée du langage, les féministes ont également inventé de nouveaux termes pour mettre en évidence les expériences et les formes d’oppression des femmes. Cette approche, connue sous le nom d’approche disruptive, a été définie comme la création de néologismes qui soulignent la subordination des femmes et la domination des hommes. Les féminismes contemporains ont également introduit des néologismes tels que himpathy et misogynoir. Cependant, comme pour les néologismes des années 1970, peu d’attention a été accordée aux plus récents. Cette étude vise à mettre en lumière ces néologismes dans la littérature sur le ALF et à répondre à la question suivante : dans quelle mesure les néologismes des féminismes contemporains redéfinissent-ils le AFL ? En se basant sur une collection de néologismes dans un dictionnaire collaboratif, on constate que seule une petite partie de ces néologismes s’aligne sur la définition initiale. En demandant qui sont les femmes qui appartiennent à cette définition, la plupart montrent l’importance de nommer pour soi plutôt que pour les autres.

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1Gender representation in language is a topical question, albeit not a new one. It began to receive particular attention 50 years ago, with the emergence of feminist linguistics in the 1970s. One of the main observations of feminist linguistics about language is its male bias, and alternatives have been proposed to counter this bias. The best-known alternative is gender-fair language, as a way to counter masculine generics. This form of Feminist Linguistic Activism (FLA) received a lot of attention in the 1970s and continues to do so, both within and outside feminist spheres, both within and outside academia. While gender-fair language has been in the limelight, another form of FLA has been overshadowed.

2The androcentric nature of language has not only been observed in terms of the over-representation of men, but also in the absence of names to refer to women’s experiences. As women shared their stories in consciousness-raising groups, they realised that what they thought were individual issues, were in fact common to all of them. These were social issues, yet they were nameless. An example of these experiences is the inappropriate behaviour of men, especially at work, such as sexual advances. To counter this absence, women were encouraged to name these experiences, in that case sexual harassment. This form of FLA has been described as linguistic disruption, which includes “the creation of new words […] to highlight women’s subordination and men’s domination” (Pauwels, 2003, p. 555). Contemporary feminisms are also accompanied by the emergence of English neologisms. This article focuses on these recent lexical innovations. Examples of such neologisms are himpathy which designates the inappropriate sympathy powerful men often enjoy in cases of misogynistic behaviour, and manspread which is the practice of men spreading their legs, typically on public transport, thus taking the space of others.

3Linguistic studies on neologisms coined by feminists to counter the absence of (appropriate) terms to refer to common experiences remain sparse. Much of the focus on FLA has revolved around gender-fair language, to the extent that it might give the impression that FLA is gender-fair language. Although some accounts of linguistic activism mention the coinage of feminist neologisms (e.g. Mills, 2008), the definition of linguistic disruption does not capture recent linguistic changes. Studying the more recent neologisms allows us to: (i) reintroduce feminist neologisms as a part of FLA, and (ii) enrich and therefore redefine FLA, more specifically the linguistic disruption approach. The present paper aims at answering the following research question: to what extent do neologisms from contemporary feminisms redefine feminist linguistic activism?

4The paper has been organised in the following way. I will start by giving a brief overview of the literature on FLA, and more specifically neologisms to name experiences. The following section presents the crowdsourced dictionary-based approach that was used to collect the neologisms, which resulted in the collection of 24 feminist neologisms. Drawing on the mosaic metaphor (Delap, 2020), rather than the waves metaphor, some of these neologisms will be presented in more detail to show the plurality of contemporary feminisms, and consequently FLA today. The mosaic metaphor highlights how both sources of inspiration and points of conflict between feminisms, across and at the same time, can create a larger, albeit heterogeneous, picture of feminisms. More specifically, we will see that some neologisms do still correspond to Anne Pauwel’s definition of FLA, since they highlight women’s subordination and men’s domination. However, most of the neologisms question who are the women who belong to this definition, and highlight the importance of naming for oneself and not for others, and therefore show an intersectional understanding of feminism.

Literature review: neologisms as feminist linguistic activism

5Feminist research and women’s studies started to develop as women observed a gap between their shared personal experiences and academic knowledge. New subjects of study, once considered of little interest, emerged in order to understand the origins of women’s oppressions (Brooks & Hesse-Biber, 2006; Foubert & Boiteux, 2022; Messer-Davidow, 2002). It is in this new academic landscape that feminist linguistics developed in the 1970s.

6One linguistic aspect that has been of particular interest to feminist linguists is the observation of the androcentric nature of language. One feature of language has been widely commented on by feminist linguists for its overtly androcentric character: the masculine-as-neutral form, more commonly known as masculine generics (Bodine, 1975; Hellinger & Bußmann, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2015; Henley, 1989). As a response, feminist linguistics (mostly grounded in liberal difference feminism (Bucholtz, 2014)) has advocated for the use of gender-fair language – a type of FLA, also known as the equality approach (Pauwels, 2003). The considerable number of institutional guidelines shows that gender-fair language has also attracted a lot of interest outside of the feminist spheres (Elmiger, 2021). In fact, it is probably fair to say that when non-linguists think about issues of language and gender, they think of masculine generics and gender-fair language. However, this was not the only form of linguistic activism sparked by feminist linguists.

7The androcentric nature of language was not only observed in terms of the over-representation of men, but also in the absence of names to denote women’s experiences. Feminist linguists argued that men had the stranglehold on language, and for this reason, experiences of women remained unnamed (Spender, 1990).

8The activity of consciousness-raising groups played an important role in this realisation. Conscious-raising groups are:

a small group process composed of peers for a particular minority group. The purpose of the group process is to examine the socio-political structures that create and sustain discrimination and disadvantage. By becoming more aware of the ways in which those structures determine personal experience, to facilitate changing the members’ self-identity and well-being as well as mobilize them to change the sociopolitical structures. (Larson, 2014)

9They have been defined as a major form of activism of the 1970s feminist movement (Cassell, 1977). Before these groups, women had very few places to talk with each other outside of domestic spaces and without the presence of men. Jo Freeman (1975) argues that this is not incidental, the fact that women did not have such space was deliberate. The novelty of such practice can be revealed by men’s reactions. They wanted to know what women talked about, tried to prevent them from talking about their relationship or even from going to these groups (Cassell, 1977). Why was it so important to isolate women?

When women begin to talk to each other as they have done in [consciousness-raising groups], the image of supremacy of individual males is at risk. The stripping away of one male façade of superiority is not sufficient to threaten patriarchal order, but when multitudes of male are ‘exposed’ patriarchal order is at least temporarily at risk (Spender, 1990, p. 111; emphasis in original).

10And this is what happened. As women shared their stories, they realised that what they thought were individual issues, were in fact common to all of them. These were social issues, yet they were nameless.

11One example of such nameless experience told by women in consciousness-raising groups is the inappropriate behaviour of men in the workplace, such as making sexual advances or obscene remarks. After women shared these experiences, Lin Farley explains that “there was an unmistakable pattern to our employment. […]. Each one of us had already quit or been fired from a job at least once because we had been made too uncomfortable by the behavior of men” (ibid., 1978, p. xi). It was after discussing these experiences in consciousness-raising groups that the problem could be named sexual harassment. Other neologisms were coined in the 1970s. They could be formal neologisms, meaning that a new form was coined, as in date rape which is a “rape committed by a person the victim is dating” (OED, n.d.-a). Some neologisms were also semantic ones, i.e. new meanings for an established form, as in patriarchy defined as “the predominance of men in positions of power and influence in society, with cultural values and norms favouring men” (OED, n.d.-b).

  • 1 Linguistic disruption also encompasses other forms of linguistic creativity, which will not be the (...)

12The motivation underlying the creation of these new words was more than just filling a lexical gap. According to feminist linguists, because men had the stranglehold on language, women could either use men’s words, as “they have insisted that even those who do not share [their] experience should be obliged to use those names” (Spender, 1990, p. 189), or remained silent. Feminist linguists advocated for a third option that Mary Daly (1974) calls the “castration of language” which consists in limiting men’s power on language by bringing women out of their muted state. As women created new words to talk about their experiences, they were able to impose “a new order upon the world, the formulation of new categories and relationships between them” (Spender, 1990, p. 131). This form of FLA has been referred to as linguistic disruption which includes “the creation of new words […] to highlight women’s subordination and men’s domination” (Pauwels, 2003, p. 555)1. Feminist dictionaries, studied by Lindsay Rose Russell (2012), are a valuable source for bringing these neologisms to the fore. While the author focuses on their disruptive character in lexicographical terms, the words they bring together are also disruptive. The publication of feminist dictionaries is intrinsically linked to discussions about the absence of words to designate women’s experiences and the creation of neologisms to respond to this absence. As Russell explains, “an enabling assumption of any feminist dictionary is that women want to see words, phrases, and meanings that describe their own experience of life and language” (ibid., p. 12). Feminist linguistic disruption did not stop after the 1970s but carried on as feminism evolved. The creation of such names was only the beginning: “That such names can enter the vocabulary is itself a testimony to the distance women have travelled from their completely muted state; that more names will emerge from this stronger state is predictable.” (Spender, 1990, p. 186)

13The current feminist movement is also accompanied by the emergence of English neologisms. Among these neologisms are words denoting undesirable male behaviours or reactions to them. For instance, manspread refers to men spreading their legs in public, typically in public transport, thus taking the space of others. Another example is himpathy coined by the philosopher Kate Manne in 2017 which denotes the kind of inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy powerful men often enjoy in cases of misogynistic behaviour. These two neologisms correspond to Pauwels’ definition of FLA, and more specifically linguistic disruption, as they denote women’s subordination and men’s domination. However, most recent neologisms refer to experiences which are not encompassed in the original definition. That’s the case of cissplain which is the act of explaining trans issues to a trans person as a cis person, or misogynoir which is misogyny towards Black women.

14That FLA now differs from what it was in the 1970s is not surprising. Feminist linguistics is linked to the concerns of the feminist movement. In the 1970s, the feminist movement was overborne by the concerns of privileged women, i.e. white, middle-class, college-educated women. This does not mean that experiences named at that time like sexual harassment and date rape were only the issues of these women, but that experiences of women who were not privileged were not named. For example, the specificity of the experiences of Black women could not be expressed by white women, and this is exemplified by the fact that misogynoir had to be coined because misogyny could not encompass all experiences.

15As mentioned above on the equality approach, many studies have investigated masculine generics, and numerous guidelines have been published to encourage gender-fair language. When it comes to linguistic disruption, some studies have investigated the absence of names or use of inappropriate terms. Linda Coates and Allan Wade (2004) and Coates et al. (1994) have shown that acts of sexual violence are misnamed in trial judgements, by using terms which would be more appropriate for consensual acts, such as intercourse, or euphemisms, such as brief touching or fondling. Work done by activists reveal how the press uses terms related to the domains of love or passion to report on acts of violence against women (Gourion, n.d.). Despite these findings, the issue of the linguistic representation of women’s experiences has been largely overlooked by institutions. To the best of my knowledge, only one set of English guidelines has been published to encourage the use of more appropriate terms to refer to women’s experiences. The British charity Zero Tolerance has published a language guide for a more appropriate representation of violence against women and girls in the media, for example by using sexual harassment instead of sex scandal or affair (Zero Tolerance, 2023).

16Linguistic studies on neologisms coined by feminists to counter the absence of (appropriate) terms to refer to common experiences remain sparse. Reviews of linguistic activism since the 1970s do mention these neologisms, but focus largely on gender-fair language (Pauwels, 2003; Mills, 2008). As for neologisms from the 1970s, little attention has been paid to more recent ones. The few studies investigating usage in particular have focused on a handful of pre-selected neologisms, such as mansplain or manspread (see for example Judith Bridges (2017) and Ursula Lutzky and Robert Lawson (2019), see also Anne-Charlotte Husson (2017) for an analysis of French neologisms). Although references will be made to the usage of neologisms, the present study aims first and foremost to make neologisms visible in the FLA literature, and consequently to enrich and therefore redefine FLA.

17The study of neologisms is not only valuable from a theoretical perspective but also because of the motivations behind their creation. It is important to note that FLA should not be limited to the naming of women’s subordination and men’s domination, as its aim is to enable a more accurate classification of the world. As the study of more recent neologisms show, they do not only allow the experiences of women in relation to men to be placed at the centre. In addition to this holistic motivation, having a name for something reveals the social relevance of what is being denoted. This is highlighted by one of the testimonies reported by Dale Spender, as a woman explains: “I just would love to be able to say to him you’re being ‘X’, you’re behaving in a particular way that our society has labelled ‘X’.” (1990, p. 187; emphasis added). However, because there is nothing for this ‘X’, it becomes difficult for her to make herself intelligible. This is one of the manifestations of what Miranda Fricker refers to as hermeneutical injustice, which she defines as “the injustice of having some significant area of one’s social experience obscured from collective understanding” (2007, p. 156). Having a name can help to make one’s experiences intelligible to others, but also to oneself. According to Fricker, the primary harm of hermeneutical injustice comes to the construction of selfhood. Naming has an identity-constructive power, it can lead to a better understanding of such experiences, and can “amount to a confirmation of one’s world” (Spender, 1990, p. 98; emphasis in original). It is also for these motivations, whether holistic, social, or personal, that the definition of FLA should be updated.

Methodology: collecting feminist neologisms in Wiktionary

Crowdsourced dictionaries as a source for collecting neologisms

18While most studies of neologisms use a corpus-based method to collect neologisms, the method discussed in this section, and adopted in the present study, uses crowdsourced dictionaries as a resource of neologism detection. These dictionaries are often defined as amateur, collaborative, and populist dictionaries, in opposition to professional, institutional, and traditional dictionaries.

19The legitimacy of such crowdsourced resources, such as Wikipedia, have been at the heart of much discussion since their creation. As pointed out by Franck Sajous et al. (2014), the question of relevance of using crowdsourced resources should take over the question of legitimacy, and these resources are particularly relevant to the study of neologisms. The main advantage of crowdsourced dictionaries is that they are based on technology allowing constant and fast updates (Penta, 2011), which gives them the “potential of never being out of date, and can as such represent the ultimate dynamic repository of knowledge” (de Schryver, 2003), a necessary condition to collect neologisms.

20In addition to legitimacy, another concern expressed when addressing crowdsourced dictionaries is their neutrality. It does not take long before coming across racist or sexist definitions on Urban Dictionary. However, while it might not seem as blatant, definitions found in traditional dictionaries also pose a problem in terms of neutrality. Annick Farina (2005) addresses the misconception of dictionaries as guardians of the Truth, the author argues that:

  • 2 French in the original : « Parce que le dictionnaire est une référence pour tous les locuteurs d’un (...)

[b]ecause the dictionary is a reference for all speakers of a language, because it is a tool for learning it, because it is consulted like an oracle that alone can discern what can and cannot be said, it is difficult for us to imagine that it could say anything other than the Truth. (ibid., p. 1)2

21Among the studies addressing the lack of neutrality in traditional dictionaries, Eva Nossem (2018) reveals the heteronormative dominant discourse present in dictionaries by analysing lexicographical decisions. For example, by relying on earlier works, lexicographers can maintain outdated realities. A recent illustration from February 2020 is what was called the Larousse gate in France, as it was brought to attention that the feminine form of baker boulangère was still defined as the baker’s wife. Farina (2005) shows that definitions can be discriminatory when they are not specific enough, as it is the case with job titles definitions starting with ‘homme’ (man) or ‘celui’ (the one; m.). They can also be discriminatory when they are too specific, by specifying information which do not add anything to the definition. She finds, for example, that menopause is defined as a critical time for women. Similarly, looking at the definitions of nouns referring to gender, such as girl and boy, Rosamund Moon (1982, p. 84) observes that “where distinctions according to gender are justified, the female is very often defined in terms of the male, and the male is treated as the norm”. The notion of neutrality has also been studied in crowdsourced dictionaries by Franck Sajous and Nabil Hathout (2017) in Urban Dictionary and in French Wiktionary. When it comes to the latter, the authors find that contributors do not necessarily express their own opinions in definitions but rather present a plurality of opinions to reveal the lack of consensus around specific notions. However, points of view might be expressed in the examples chosen to illustrate these concepts. As for Urban Dictionary, personal points of view in definitions are encouraged.

22Overall, the main advantage of crowdsourced dictionaries is that they are never outdated, making it a relevant resource for neologism collection. The use of crowdsourced dictionaries is relevant to collect neologisms in general, but especially feminist neologisms. As we observed above, traditional dictionaries have offered a limited representation of gender. Crowdsourced dictionaries, on the other hand, have the potential to offer an open and unlimited space for the expression of current gender representations and feminist ideas.

23It should be noted, however, that behind the common term “crowdsourced dictionaries”, these can operate in different ways. This aspect should be taken into account when choosing a dictionary. There are two types of crowdsourced dictionaries: collaborative-institutional and open-collaborative dictionaries. Given the treatment of gender in traditional dictionaries, collaborative-institutional dictionaries, such as the MacMillan Open Dictionary have been excluded. There are two main open-collaborative dictionaries: Wiktionary and Urban Dictionary. The former has been a resource to study a specific type of neologisms, namely misogynistic and anti-feminist ones (Ging et al., 2020). A recurring theme in misogynistic definitions, often describing sexual violence, is disgust for women, particularly their genitals. Feminists are also described as childish and irrational. Given the content of Urban Dictionary, it has been excluded to collect feminist neologisms. In the end, Wiktionary has been selected for both its content and its form (see Christian Meyer and Iryna Gurevych (2012) for a description of Wiktionary).

Selection criteria and output of the collection process

24Three types of criteria have been defined for the collection of feminist neologisms: (i) semantic, (ii) temporal, and (iii) morphological criteria. The semantic criterion requires neologisms to denote a new meaning. Since the research question is to observe how neologisms coined in contemporary feminisms can redefine FLA, neologisms which are new forms for established meanings have not been selected. This is the case of homophobism which is a synonym of homophobia.

25A temporal criterion has been established because Wiktionary both includes established terms and neologisms, which means that there can be more or less conventional feminist terms from the 1970s, or the 1990s. However, this study is restricted to neologisms from contemporary feminisms, which means that a year of coinage had to be defined. Questions have been raised about the beginning of the current feminist activisms. In the present study, the year 2010 has been selected as the cut-off point for the creation of neologisms. This was chosen more for practical reasons, rather than claiming that 2010 is indeed the beginning of contemporary feminisms, even though some do identify this year as a turning-point (Rivers, 2017). Indeed, the usages of these neologisms are studied in the NOW (News on the Web) corpus, which starts in 2010. This gives the possibility to observe their conventionalisation around the moment they were coined, and for over a period of 10 years. Because it is impossible to know when exactly a neologism has been coined, several sources have been used: the inclusion dates and quotes from Wiktionary, Urban Dictionary, and the Oxford English Dictionary. For example, this means that if a term was added in Wiktionary after 2010, but that quotes were found in Urban Dictionary or in the Oxford English Dictionary before 2010, the term was not collected. It should be noted that, despite the use of these multiple sources, some neologisms have been coined before 2010, such as transmisogyny, which has been coined by Julia Serano (2007). However, such neologisms have been kept for two reasons. The first reason is they seem to have been coined only a few years before 2010. The second one is the fact that the absence of records prior to 2010 in the three sources above (and their low frequency in the NOW corpus) shows the neological character of these terms.

  • 3 For example, a common pattern for terms referring to gender or sexuality is the following: [morphem (...)

26In order to facilitate the collection of feminist neologisms, a morphological criterion has been established. One of the main aims of feminist neologisms is to address matters related to gender and/or sexuality, and this can be indicated in the source words used to constitute such neologisms. As a result, the morphological criterion requires one of the source words to denote gender, sexuality or established terms related to feminism. At this point, it is important to stress that I do not claim exhaustiveness, for the simple reason that it cannot be reached. Since neologisms are being coined on a daily basis, categories referring to gender and sexuality also emerge at a fast pace and “[n]o single individual can keep up with the situational generation of new words across all communities” (Enke, 2012, p. 4). For this reason, several sources have been used to compile the list of words referring to gender, sexuality, and feminism that serves as the basis for the morphological criterion. These sources include a guide to gender and sexuality terminology (Killerman, 2019), a study on trans and identity labels (Zimman & Hayworth, 2019), as well as Wiktionary entries of established terms categorised under gender, sexuality, and feminism. After the selection of source words, these have been truncated in order not to limit the collection to a certain type of neologisms, more specifically not to exclude blends. Blending is a word-formation process which consists of combining at least two words to create a new one, typically by using parts of the source words. In the case of feminist neologisms, keeping the source word feminism in its full form to collect neologisms would exclude blends such as femonationalism. The method used to truncate source words is based on the one developed by Daniel Kjellander (2019) to collect blends with some adjustments3. This method uses the notion of selection point, which is the cut-off point where a candidate word (in our case a source word) will be truncated (Gries, 2006). To find this selection point, a frequency-based analysis is carried out. More specifically, “the [selection point] of a lexeme is located at the point at which a specific truncation generates a top frequency ranking of the [candidate word] in question” (Kjellander, 2019, p. 10). Only neologisms with, at the onset, one of the 42 truncated forms have been kept to compile a first list of neologism candidates (see the appendix for the list of the truncated forms and their corresponding source words). While this might seem restrictive, the benefit of this approach is to limit manual work, since there are over 1,000,000 entries in English Wiktionary.

27Wiktionary entries can be categorised under certain topics. Rather than selecting neologisms from the whole list of entries in Wiktionary, the list of topics has been consulted and some have been selected. Entries have been selected from the following topics: female, feminism, gender, intersex, LGBT, male, masculinism, romantic orientations, sexism, sexual orientations, sexuality, transgender, and women. For these entries, the abovementioned criteria have been applied. Because not all entries are categorised, the WIND (Wiktionary Inclusion Dates), a database collected by Sajous et al. (2020) of all the dictionary entries up to 2019 along with their inclusion dates, has also been used. Here again, the three criteria have been applied. This resulted in the collection of 24 feminist neologisms, which are: acephobia, allonormativity, brocialism, brogressive, broflake, ciscentrism, cisgenderism, cispatriarchy, cisprivilege, cissplain, cissupremacy, ciswash, femonationalism, heterocracy, himpathy, hislam, intersexphobia, LGBT/Q/Iphobia, transmisogynoir, transprejudice, trans-exclusionary, misogynoir, transmisogyny, and manspreading. All 24 neologisms are defined in the appendix and mentioned in the analysis, but for reasons of space, a more detailed account is provided for seven of them, namely acephobia, allonormativity, femonationalism, himpathy, misogynoir, transmisogyny, and manspreading. The choice was made to ensure that at least two neologisms are discussed in each sub-section of the analysis, that they vary in terms of degree of diffusion (based on frequency values from the NOW corpus), and that neologisms with and without identified coiners are represented.

Laying the tiles of mosaic feminism

28Even without looking at their meaning, this list of neologisms reveals the multiplicity of contemporary feminisms. It is for this reason that I do not use the waves metaphor, contested since its emergence for drowning the diversity of feminist activism (Pavard, 2018). Not only does it give the impression of a “singular” feminism, it also makes gender as the dominant category of analysis (Laughlin et al., 2010). This aspect is challenged by these neologisms, which question the political subjects of feminisms.

29As we will see in this section, these neologisms do not present a necessarily simple or homogeneous image of feminisms. Some are built on feminist neologisms from the past, others are not. They describe both points of divergence and convergence between different types of feminism, which can be over and at the same time. They are inspired by the bits and pieces of feminisms from different time and space, from experiences of women living different kinds of oppressions. For these reasons, these neologisms are like tiles of a mosaic, a metaphor suggested by Lucy Delap (2020).

‘[M]osaic feminism’ [is] built up from inherited fragments but offering distinctive patterns and pictures. Like mosaics, the view from afar and the close reading of feminisms may give a very different picture. And like mosaics, feminist coalitions were built up from the bits and pieces available – other movements, committed individuals, actions and ideas. Some mosaics have been long-lived; others have crumbled, and their tiles have been reused, or have disappeared from view. (ibid., p. 20-21)

30Some of the neologisms listed above will be presented in the following sub-sections. Even though they are organised according to different themes, it is necessary to point out that not all of these neologisms fit into the boundaries of a neatly-defined type of feminisms, because of the many overlapping ideas. The first sub-section corresponds to neologisms which fall under Pauwel’s definition of FLA, since they “highlight women’s subordination and men’s domination” (2003, p. 555). As we will see, these neologisms belong to the minority, and most of them fall under a more capacious definition. More specifically, most neologisms highlight the importance of naming for oneself rather for others, and illustrate a more intersectional FLA, as discussed in the second sub-section. These neologisms can be categorised into two main types: those addressing the problems of and with white feminisms, and those who are linked to trans- and queer feminisms.

Denouncing men’s behaviours

  • 4 This opinion is shared by about half of men in France (Haut Conseil pour l'Egalité, 2023, p. 23).

31Whenever I tell anyone about my research, they are ready to tell me what they really think about feminism. Among these very original/unsolicited opinions, there is the idea that feminists go too far nowadays4. They agree with (dead) feminists who fought for equal rights, but disagree with (living) feminists who now see everything as problematic. “Feminists: looking for problems. It is as if these problems are not there until you point them out; it is as if pointing them out is what makes them there” (Ahmed, 2017, p. 39). Among the problems feminists point out are acts which are commonly perceived as so trivial and harmless that they are no longer noticed, also known as ordinary sexism. But the issue is that:

when sexism is routinely presented as harmless, its harms become difficult to see and speak of, even as they accumulate around us. […] Naming sexism matters because language and action go together: sexism is open to challenge only insofar as it is visible and representable. (Calder-Dawe, 2015, p. 90)

32It is in this context that manspreading was coined. It refers to the ordinary act of men taking space by spreading their legs, especially in public transport, thus taking up multiple seats. Metalinguistic comments on this term reveal that this act is indeed perceived as harmless by some, and naming it as unnecessary.

(1) Manspreading: Men don’t need another disgusting-sounding word thrown into the vocabulary to describe something they do... You’re just taking too much room on this train seat, be a little more polite... (ABC News, 31/12/2015)

33In Example (1), the act is depoliticised; it is not sexism but simply being rude. But for others, manspreading is representative of men feeling entitled to own the space, also metaphorically, as shown in Example (2):

(2) But to many people, manspreading is about so much more than manners. It’s another example of the arrogance, disrespect and microaggression men inflict on women. ‘It’s a metaphor for that larger space-taking that happens,’ Lyndsay Kirkham, an English professor at Humber College, told the Toronto Star. (The Globe and Mail, 10/01/2015)

34Terms mentioned when commenting on manspreading, such as “assertion of male authority”, “patriarchy”, “engrained misogyny” or “male privilege”, show how this act is understood as part of a broader issue.

35Experiences of manspreading can be read among the many stories of ordinary sexism shared by women within the Everyday Sexism Project. This project, which first took the form of a blog, was founded by Laura Bates in 2012. With more than 50,000 thousand stories uploaded within two years, and the blog being taken up in 25 countries, what started as an individual initiative turned into a collective project (Bates, 2014). With the affordances of digital technologies, this feminist catalogue of instances of sexism revealed the scale of the problem, as individual stories were connected to experiences of others, similarly to consciousness-raising groups in the 1970s (Ahmed, 2017, p. 30). Naming manspreading is in line with the feminist neologisms created in the 1970s; the term corresponds to Pauwel’s definition of linguistic disruption. Commenting on experiences of everyday sexism, Bates says that before starting her project, she thought that “these events were normal. They hadn’t seemed exceptional enough for me to object to them because they weren’t out of the ordinary” (2014, p. 16, emphasis in original). Creating a collective account of such experiences shows that they are indeed not out of the ordinary, but that they should be. And naming them makes it easier to object to them.

36The second half of the past decade has been marked by a series of sexual assault allegations against celebrity perpetrators. With more of these stories emerging, patterns in the reactions could be identified. One example of such pattern is that “the perpetrator is such a good [replace by perpetrator’s occupation], and these accusations are going to ruin his career”, ignoring the impact of the perpetrator’s acts on the victim’s life. This kind of reaction can be described as himpathy, a term introduced by the philosopher Kate Manne, which she defines as “the excessive sympathy sometimes shown toward male perpetrators of sexual violence” (2017, p. 197). Another problem which, she argues, is so common that it is regarded as business as usual, and yet, it had no name.

37As for the coining of sexual harassment in the 1970s, which allowed the development of studies, in sociology or psychology among others, on female-male relationship in the workplace (Farley, 1978, p. 14), himpathy offers a new analytical lens for the study of mechanisms of misogyny. As Manne explains, himpathy can be understood as “the flip side of misogyny; its understudied mirror image; its natural (albeit highly unjust) complement. Misogyny takes down women, and himpathy protects the agents of that takedown operation, partly by painting them as ‘good guys’” (2020, p. 35). Examples of such studies are Karen Boyle (2019) and Alessia Tranchese (2023) in Feminist Media Studies and Feminist Critical Discourse Studies, respectively.

38Among the examples Manne (2017) uses to illustrate himpathy is the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, a police officer in the United States accused of several cases of sexual assault. As for other cases of himpathy, people talked about how his future career was going to be ruined. What is notable here, however, is that he specifically targeted Black women who were highly marginalised (e.g. being sex workers or drug-users), and who would be less likely to be believed. In the end, “The white women on the jury judged that Holtzclaw was guilty–to their credit, given the evidence. Even so, they wept for him and his bright future in law enforcement, before his victims” (ibid., p. 219). Additionally, Manne notes the silence of white feminists in the mainstream media. She uses this case to illustrate how misogyny and racism work together to the detriment of marginalised women, by drawing upon the notion of misogynoir, a term which will be presented in the sub-section below.

  • 5 According to the Wiktionary, a brocialist is a socialist man who downplays women’s issues and/or wh (...)

39The neologisms presented so far, manspreading and himpathy, both refer to men’s behaviour or reactions to men’s behaviour. It is also the case of three other neologisms collected from Wiktionary, which are brocialist, brogressive and broflake5. They correspond to Pauwel’s definition of feminist linguistic disruption insofar as they highlight men’s domination, and the source words of the neologisms alone, man, him and bro, are evidence of this. In the following sub-section, we will see how the majority of neologisms expands this definition, informed by the evolution of feminism since the 1970s.

FLA and intersectionality: naming for oneself rather than for others

  • 6 Excerpt from a speech delivered at the 11th National Women’s Rights Convention (Watkins Harper, 186 (...)

40In the revised and expanded version of Language and Women’s Place, Robin Lakoff explains “that men once had the unquestioned right to make meaning for women, we can now clearly see as unjust”, and subsequently asks: “but how are feminists to deal with the temptation to make meaning for other women?” (2004, p. 23). A question which has been repeatedly asked before and after its first publication in 1975. As early as 1866, Frances Watkins Harper pointed out the differences and divergences in women’s demands and means of expression: “You white women speak here of rights. I speak of wrongs6.” More than a century later, Frances Bael published the pamphlet Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female (1969) in which she refers to the “very specific problems that have to be spoken to” faced by Black women. What Bael names “double jeopardy”, has also later been labelled “multiple jeopardy” or “matrix of domination”, and is now commonly referred to as “intersectionality” (Crenshaw, 1991).

The central idea of intersectionality is that any liberation movement [...] that focuses solely on what all members of the group concerned have in common is a movement that will best serve those members of the group who are least oppressed. Thus, a feminism that focuses only on ‘pure’ cases of patriarchal oppression will end up serving the needs of rich white or upper-class women. (Srinivasan, 2021, p. 17)

41This is also at the heart of most of the neologisms coined in contemporary feminisms. Rather than trying to name experiences that are common to all and for all, these neologisms acknowledge differences.

The problems of/with white feminism

42Among the terms referring to the very specific problems Bael talks about is misogynoir, coined by Moya Bailey. It refers to “the uniquely co-constitutive racialized and sexist violence that befalls Black women as a result of their simultaneous and interlocking oppression at the intersection of racial and gender marginalization” (Bailey, 2021, p. 1), and was first used in the Crunk Feminist Collective blog in 2010. While it was originally used to refer to the treatment of Black women in US digital and visual culture, its usage expanded beyond this domain and geographical area, as shown in the examples below.

(3) It’s why misogynoir was created, because for black women misogyny was, at best, half their problem. It’s why a great female comedian such as Amy Schumer is often seen giving many fucks about the perils of being female but zero when it comes to those poor and/or brown. It’s why we celebrate Equal Pay day to highlight the additional four months (in the US) it takes for a woman to make what a man makes in a year. But that’s for a white woman; for black women it’s an additional seven months. (The Guardian, 17/02/2017)

(4) People in and outside the community weren’t aware of the levels of systemic, institutional racism, and sexism - and then the combination of the two which specifically affects black women - so, misogynoir. There is a myth that we are subject to the same hurdles as everyone else, as white women, black men, white men, even Asian women, Asian men. It’s not better or worse, it’s different. You can’t empower yourself if you don’t know what you’re subject to. (Al Jazeera, 01/09/2018)

43In these examples, the neologism misogynoir is considered useful because it highlights the type of misogyny Black women experience, a difference which has not always been recognised. Indeed, white (academic) feminists have been criticised for their failure to recognise this difference. Commenting on the origins of this term, Bailey (2014) explains the importance to find “precise language” and concludes by saying : “Find the language that works for you but please don’t redefine the terms we create for ourselves.” Audre Lorde stresses the importance of not only recognising, but also defining and naming these differences for oneself:

And certainly there are very real differences between us, of race, sex, age, sexuality, class, vision. But it is not the differences between us that tear us apart, destroying the commonalities we share. Rather, it is our refusal to examine the distortions which arise from their misnaming, and from the illegitimate usage of those differences which can be made when we do not claim them nor define them for ourselves. (2009, p. 17)

  • 7 Françoise Vergès (2019, p. 102-108) cites several examples of how this issue is being addressed in (...)

44According to Papusa Molina (1990, p. 330), the difficulty to accept and celebrate differences comes from the valorisation of “sameness” in society… but sameness in relation to whom? This question is addressed every summer, at least in France7. And the answer is: “certainly not to the ‘Muslim Woman’”, similarly to the ‘Third World Woman’ addressed by Chandra Mohanty (1988).

45In her paper, Mohanty analyses the production and representation of the ‘Third World Woman’ as a singular homogeneous group, more particularly by (western) feminist discourse. She argues that “[i]t is in the process of discursive homogenization and systematization of the oppression of women in the third world that power is exercised in much of recent western feminist writing, and this power needs to be defined and named” (ibid., p. 63). This power is closely related to what has been named femonationalism.

46Coined by Sara Farris and developed in her book In the Name of Women’s Rights: The Rise of Femonationalism (2017), femonationalism is a blend of feminist and femocratic nationalism. Similar to misogynoir, it reveals conflicts between feminisms, since it refers to the involvement of certain feminists in the framing of Islam as a misogynistic religion, with, at its core, the representation of Muslim men as “dangerous Other” and Muslim women as “victims to be rescued”. Femonationalism, however, does not only refer to this kind of feminist discourse, but also to what might appear an unexpected convergence with the anti-Islamic and immigrant discourse of nationalists, as well as neo-liberals. For Farris, introducing this neologism “aims to provide a theoretical concept to capture the political-economic agenda informing the invocation of women’s rights by a range of different actors” (ibid., p. 5). While her book illustrates this by analysing France, the Netherlands and Italy, the term femonationalism has also been used to describe political campaigns in the UK, as illustrated in the following example:

(5) In this respect, UKIP is adopting an increasingly common approach by populist anti-immigration parties: it is using the rhetoric of women’s rights to make racism look progressive. The defence of women’s rights is used to denounce immigrant communities. We’ve seen such practices before in other European countries, such as the Netherlands and France; Liza Mügge and Sara de Jong label this “femonationalism” […]. (The Conversation, 13/04/2015)

  • 8 Another term which has been coined with relation to feminism and Islam is hislam. The definition pr (...)

47The homogenisation of Muslim women as victims of male oppressions is epitomised by the reduction of “diverse situations and attitudes of millions of Muslim women to a single item of clothing” (Abu-Lughod, 2013, p. 40): the veil. In her book Do Muslim Women Need Saving?, Lila Abu-Lughod calls into question the rhetoric of salvation, and asks: “What presumptions are being made about the superiority of that to which you are saving her? Projects of saving other women depend on and reinforce a sense of superiority, and are a form of arrogance that deserves to be challenged.” (ibid., p. 48). A first step in that direction is to name it, as femonationalism does8.

  • 9 As asked by one of the reviewers, one might wonder whether this is similar to choosing one’s pronou (...)

48Neologisms discussed in this sub-section show that naming for oneself9 is a concern of contemporary feminisms. This can be achieved by naming the appropriation of other people’s voices, an idea which is present in the notion of femonationalism. By doing so, naming for oneself includes naming the women who have been doing the naming for others (especially those who defend different forms of hegemonic feminism: white, western, academic, etc.), as it is the case with misogynoir. Importantly, naming for oneself also means defining who are the women in Pauwel’s definition of FLA, and subsequently, who is included within feminism more generally. This aspect is also central to the neologisms presented in the following sub-section.

Feminisms, queer and trans studies

Feminism requires supporting women in a struggle to exist in this world. What do I mean by women here? I am referring to all those who travel under the sign women. No feminism worthy of its name would use the sexist idea “women born women” to create the edges of feminist community, to render trans women into “not women,” or “not born women,” or into men. (Ahmed, 2017, p. 14-15)

49The exclusion of trans women within feminism is one of the motivations behind the coinage of transmisogyny by Julia Serano. It also highlights the specificities of the experiences of trans women, which cannot be encompassed by transphobia or misogyny (Serano, 2012). These two motivations are present in the following examples:

(6) Bob agreed, adding, “I do think the issue with trans lives -- especially in the Black community -- doesn’t necessarily lie within racism, but it does lie within prejudice and misogyny, specifically trans-misogyny”. (E! Online, 23/07/2020)

(7) This criticism has its roots in the ugly history of feminism, with more than its fair share of racism, classism, ableism and transmisogyny. (Canada, 26/02/2013)

(8) Transmisogyny in movements that purport to be feminist is particularly egregious given the pioneering work of women such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson, activists who were instrumental to the Stonewall Riots. (The Guardian, 19/01/2015)

50While this neologism is often used to reveal the divisiveness among feminisms (as done in Examples (7) and (8)), it also serves a more general purpose for Serano, which is to reclaim femininity.

As femmes, we can do one of two things with our power: We can celebrate it in secret within our own insular queer communities, patting ourselves on the back for being so much smarter and more subversive than our straight feminine sisters. Or we can share that power with them. We can teach them that there is more than one way to be feminine and that no style or expression of femininity is necessarily any better than anyone else’s. We can teach them that the only thing fucked up about femininity is the dismissive connotations that other people project on it. (ibid., p. 183)

  • 10 These neologisms are: ciscentrism, cisgenderism, cispatriarchy, cisprivilege, cissplain, cissuprema (...)

51This idea is in line with transfeminism, which goes beyond the discourse of the oppositional relationship between trans and feminist studies. In transfeminism, trans studies are not an add-on, or afterthought of feminist studies, but calls for the recognition of interconnections and new ideas which can emerge from them. It puts trans experiences at the heart of feminist concerns. This should also be reflected in our understanding of FLA. The output of the neologism collection process shows that neologisms denoting trans experiences and relationships between cis and trans people represent the majority of neologisms in contemporary feminisms10. Because these neologisms are at the forefront of FLA, one could more accurately speak about trans FLA.

  • 11 In Wiktionary, cisgenderism refers to attitudes and beliefs privileging cisgender people and experi (...)

52However, there is an ambivalence in the way these neologisms are used. A common usage is to present terms such as transmisogyny (but also cisgenderism11, intersexphobia and LGBT/I/Qphobia) along other forms of oppressions, more specifically in the form of lists.

(9) Both “Thrive” and “Twelfth Night” draw on a similar performative style, a buoyancy, a comedy, and tropes around love and gender and seafaring and ‘cross-dressing’”, Feldman said in a release. “But where ‘Twelfth Night’ stops, ‘Thrive’ hopefully continues, subverts, and interrogates in terms of gender, feminism, misogyny, transmisogyny, queerness, sexuality, identity, mis-gendering, mis-categorizing and what the very real historical costs of these are. (Staunton New Leader, 02/03/2020)

53These lists show that these neologisms denote oppressions which are recognised along sexism or homophobia, for example. At the same time, they are rarely the first ones to be presented, thus giving the impression that they are still understood as add-ons, rather than central. It also means that people using such lists do not engage with the specificities of what is being denoted, but that the differences which are named and central to these neologisms are concealed in a series of oppressions.

54A central challenge for contemporary feminisms is to find the balance between recognising differences and finding points of convergence. Commenting on the category of women, Sara Ahmed argues that “feminism begins with a premise that is a promise: we do not have to live by other people’s assignments” (2017, n8, p. 270). Not living by other people’s assignments and expectations is a central point of convergence, between feminist and trans studies, but also asexuality studies.

  • 12 One of its Wiktionary (n.d.) definitions is “a society influenced by heterosexual values”.

55There are two neologisms related to asexuality, which are acephobia and allonormativity, which respectively refer to discrimination against the asexual communities and the assumption that all human beings experience sexual attraction to other people. Asexuality studies is both a queer and feminist project. It is a queer project in the sense that it “[makes] sense of the social marginalization and pathologization of bodies based on the preference to not have sex, along with exploring new possibilities in intimacy, desire, and kinship structures” (Milks & Cerankowski, 2014, p. 3). This queer project is also a feminist one because it challenges expectations of sexual desire, as also done by the term heterocracy12.

We need to interrogate the expectations and pressure that coerce people, especially women, to want more sexual desire, just as the feminists before us, such as the early twentieth-century sexuality and birth control activists, challenged the idea that women should overcome sexual desire in order to be truly womanly. (Chasin, 2013, p. 416)

56As for transmisogyny, it puts the experience of marginalised communities at the heart of feminist concerns, to question other people’s expectations. Where feminist, trans and queer studies converge on the idea of not having to live according to the assignments and expectations of others, they also converge on the idea that one’s experiences should not be named according to the experiences of others. That is naming in contemporary feminisms.

  • 13 The original question is: “What happens to feminist pedagogy when feminist trans-people of color na (...)

57When Lakoff raised the question of feminists making meaning for other women, she continued by asking: “Is it ever right? If so, when?” (2004, p. 23). Neologisms from contemporary feminisms show that it is not. These neologisms also give the answer to another question inspired by (Muñoz, 2012): What happens to FLA when feminist trans people of color name the world13? Then, neologisms like transmisogynoir can be coined.

Conclusion: so what is FLA today?

58The literature on FLA has mostly focused on gender-fair language, to the extent that some might think that FLA is gender-fair language. This paper has focused on another form of FLA which are neologisms coined to name experiences, like sexual harassment did in the 1970s. This type of FLA, also known as the disruptive approach, has been defined by Pauwels as “the creation of new words […] to highlight women’s subordination and men’s domination” (2003, p. 555). Investigating neologisms from contemporary feminisms, the aim of this paper was two-fold: (i) to reintroduce feminist neologisms as a part of FLA, and (ii) to answer the question: to what extent do the neologisms from contemporary feminisms redefine feminist linguistic activism?

59The present study is limited by the fact that the collection of neologisms is restricted to selection criteria, particularly the morphological criterion, in order to reduce manual processing. This study does not claim to be exhaustive and, given the neological nature of the linguistic phenomenon studied, it cannot claim to be. On the other hand, the study covers 24 neologisms, seven of which are analysed in more detail and which challenge feminist linguists to rethink the definition of FLA. The disruptive approach is not monolithic; its definition cannot simply be reduced to female-male relationships, but should reflect the variety of perspectives offered by contemporary feminisms. It is also for this reason that it is important to emphasise that, although each neologism is present in one type of feminist activism, they are not necessarily limited to it, as transmisogynoir epitomises.

60The neologisms from contemporary feminisms make it possible not only to name women’s experiences in relation to men, but also to place at the centre the experiences of people who are minoritised or marginalised because of their gender, sexuality, as well as because of their race or religion. FLA today does not pretend to name universal experiences, but favours an intersectional perspective. It does not name for others (even though it does name the experiences of feminists having done so), instead, it privileges naming for oneself by recognising differences and defines who belong to the category ‘women’ of the initial definition.

61Many neologisms of the past, such as misogyny, sexism or intersectionality, have marked feminisms, and the neologisms of today show that they continue to do so. Similarly to Patricia Hill Collins (2017) commenting on the term intersectionality, feminist neologisms are not an end point nor a point of origin, but a turning point. Contemporary feminist linguistic activism does not wipe the slate clean. Like a mosaic, it uses bits and pieces of the past to reconstruct and enrich what it means to name as a feminist today, and potentially tomorrow.

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Truncated forms and their corresponding source words

Truncated forms

Source words




allosexual, allosexuality


androgyne, androgynous, androgyny, androphilic, androsexual


asexual, asexuality


asexual, asexuality


bicurious, bigender, bisexual, bisexuality






butch, butchness




cis, cis female, cis male, cis man, cis person, cis woman, cisboy, cisdude, cisfemale, cisfeminine, cisfemininity, cisgay, cisgender, cisgirl, cisguy, cisheterosexual, cislesbian, cismasculine, cismasculinity, cisness, cisqueer, cissexual


drag king, drag queen






female, feminine, femininity, feminism, femme




gender, gender expression, gender identity, gender variant








heterosexual, heterosexuality






homosexual, homosexuality












masculine, masculinity




misogynistic, misogyny




pansexual, pansexuality


polyamory, polyamorous, polygender, polysexuality






sexual, sexual attraction, sexual orientation, sexual preference, sexuality




trans, trans man, trans woman, transgender, transfeminine, transmasculine, transsexual




woman, women

Collected neologisms


Wiktionary publication date

Wiktionary definition

Date of first occurrence in NOW



Fear, dislike, or hatred of asexual people and/or human asexuality.




The assumption that all human beings are allosexual, i.e. that they experience sexual attraction to other people.




Socialism or progressivism which downplays women’s issues or reinforces masculinist attitudes or ideas.




An overly-sensitive man or boy who is easily upset or offended, especially one upset about loss of male privilege.




A male progressive, socialist or leftist who downplays women’s issues or displays a macho or patriarchal attitude.


cis privilege


The social advantage enjoyed by those who are cisgender/cissexual.




Centering on or overemphasizing cissexuality and/or cissexual people.




cisgender attitudes and beliefs generally




The assumed dominance of cisgender men.




To explain transgender issues, people or behavior to a trans person (as a cis person) in a condescending manner, presuming the listener’s inferior understanding.




The ideology that regards cis people as superior to trans people, or diminishes the rights, concerns, etc. of trans people.




To ignore, deny, or minimize the gender identity of a trans person or trans people, or the role that a trans person or trans people played in an event.




The association between a nationalist ideology and some feminist ideas, especially when having xenophobic motivations.




A society influenced by heterosexual values




Inappropriate sympathy given to men or boys, especially those who are guilty of sexual transgressions.




Islam which reinforces masculinist attitudes or ideas or downplays women’s issues.




Discrimination against people with intersex conditions.




A negative attitude towards LGBT people.




To splay one’s legs open whilst sitting on public transport, thus occupying more than one seat.




Hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against black women.




Excluding trans people (especially trans women).




Hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against black trans women.




Hatred of or contempt for transgender women.




Prejudice against transgender people.


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1 Linguistic disruption also encompasses other forms of linguistic creativity, which will not be the focus of this paper, such as breaking morphological rules (e.g. herstory) or using alternative spellings (e.g. wimmin).

2 French in the original : « Parce que le dictionnaire est une référence pour tous les locuteurs d’une langue, qu’il est un outil pour son apprentissage, parce qu’on le consulte comme un oracle qui seul permettrait de discerner le dicible de l’indicible, il nous est difficile d’imaginer qu’il puisse dire autre chose que la Vérité. » [translated by the author]

3 For example, a common pattern for terms referring to gender or sexuality is the following: [morpheme referring to type of gender identity or sexuality] followed by {gender} or {sexuality}, as in cisgender or homosexuality. When that is the case, the morpheme referring to the type of gender identity or sexuality could be kept as such.

4 This opinion is shared by about half of men in France (Haut Conseil pour l'Egalité, 2023, p. 23).

5 According to the Wiktionary, a brocialist is a socialist man who downplays women’s issues and/or who reinforces masculinist attitudes. Brocialist and brogressive are close synonyms. A broflake is an over-sensitive man and who is easily upset, especially about his loss of male privilege.

6 Excerpt from a speech delivered at the 11th National Women’s Rights Convention (Watkins Harper, 1866)

7 Françoise Vergès (2019, p. 102-108) cites several examples of how this issue is being addressed in France, including the banning of the burkini on beaches and in public swimming pools by municipal orders. The summer of 2023 was no exception, as the return to school in September was marked by a ban on the wearing of the abaya, a long, loose dress worn by some Muslim girls and women.

8 Another term which has been coined with relation to feminism and Islam is hislam. The definition provided in Wiktionary (n.d.) is as follows: “Islam which reinforces masculinist attitudes or ideas or downplays women’s issues.” Based solely on this definition, it seems to reinforce the association between Islam and misogyny, as discussed above. However, this term is used (and coined?) by Susan Carland in her book Fighting Hislam: Women, Faith and Sexism (2017) about Islam and sexism, based on interviews with several Muslim women active in the fight against sexism within their religion. More precisely, this term is used in the title of the book, since it is not used nor defined at any other point. All occurrences in the NOW corpus are references to the book title.

9 As asked by one of the reviewers, one might wonder whether this is similar to choosing one’s pronouns. Although it is beyond the scope of this article, it can be noted that this practice, which has been discussed more extensively in recent years, especially through neopronouns, can indeed be interpreted in a similar way, i.e. as a form of linguistic agency.

10 These neologisms are: ciscentrism, cisgenderism, cispatriarchy, cisprivilege, cissplain, cissupremacy, ciswash, transmisogynoir, transprejudice, trans-exclusionary, transmisogyny (see Appendix for the definitions in Wiktionary).

11 In Wiktionary, cisgenderism refers to attitudes and beliefs privileging cisgender people and experiences. It is related to the meaning coined by Y. Gavriel Ansara which describes “the individual, social, or institutional attitudes, policies and practices that assume people with non-assigned gender identities are inferior, ‘unnatural’ or disordered and which construct people with non-assigned gender identities as the effect to be explained” (2010, p. 190).

12 One of its Wiktionary (n.d.) definitions is “a society influenced by heterosexual values”.

13 The original question is: “What happens to feminist pedagogy when feminist trans-people of color name the world?”

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Océane Foubert, « Neologisms in contemporary feminisms: For a redefinition of feminist linguistic activism »GLAD! [En ligne], 15 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2023, consulté le 23 avril 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Océane Foubert

Océane Foubert is a PhD student in English linguistics at the University of Lille and LMU Munich. Her research interests lie in linguistic representations of gender and focus on the conventionalisation of feminist linguistic innovations beyond feminist spheres. In addition to linguistic change, her research also focuses on the influence of these innovations and feminist discourses on society.

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