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Feminist glossary: ​​the short list of terms everyone needs to know

If you use the internet and social media regularly, chances are you have already come across some of the classic concepts of feminism – as well as more contemporary ones, incorporated into this vocabulary later on. But do you know what each of them means? In this feminist glossary, you will understand more about some terms to effectively participate in the debate.

What is a feminist glossary?

Our language is alive. It expands and adapts according to the evolution of society, as well as the new inventions and the new reflections we make around familiar subjects. Thus, other terms are created to expand and better specify the most varied subjects, and feminism is no different. But in order to follow a topic and speak properly about it, it is important to appropriate the vocabulary that has already been built around it. Thus, it is possible to express yourself more clearly and completely.

That’s what the glossary is for. Glossary is a list of important words within a topic, accompanied by their definitions. With it, it is possible to get to know certain concepts better and understand how they connect.

Now that you know what you’ll find here, follow her feminist glossary!

Terms you need to know to understand feminist debates

For you to participate in the debate on equal rights, to be able to reflect on the differences that still exist between men and women in our society and to protect yourself from strategies of control and domination reproduced many times without even realizing it, here are 15 important and very important concepts. contemporaries for you to meet.

1. Machismo

A fundamental term to start this feminist glossary, machismo is, in a very shallow way, a prejudice that values ​​men over women. According to Mary Pimentel Drumont, assistant professor at the Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy at the Institute of Letters, Social Sciences and Education at UNESP – Araraquara, “machismo is defined as a system of symbolic representations, which mystifies relations of exploitation, of domination, of subjection between man and woman”, that is, it makes a system of exploitation based on the biological sex with which people are born appear “natural”.

This system manifests itself in the form of a prejudice that opposes equal rights between the genders and favors the male gender over the female. In this sense, women are seen as “inferior” in many ways, such as physically, psychologically and intellectually. As a cultural thought, it manifests itself in the most diverse institutions of society, such as family, religion, media, arts, etc.


This term defines some behaviors that, being so incorporated into our daily lives, sometimes go unnoticed. An example is when the waiter delivers the strongest drink to the man when a man and a woman are at a table, without asking who ordered what. Or else, when “naturally” the woman assumes the domestic tasks, while the man is only willing to “help”, as if the woman had a natural aptitude for tidying the house and this was not also a male responsibility.

In the same direction, it is much more common to accept disorder in the house of a man who lives alone than in the house of a woman in the same condition. In her case, it’s sloppy, in his case it’s normal.

It is worth mentioning that saying that the term “micro” does not diminish the weight of such behaviors – the micro here only indicates that it is not as easily identifiable as other manifestations of machismo to which women are subjected every day, such as physical and sexual violence. psychological abuse, rape, among others.

2. Patriarchalism/patriarchy

According to Professor Thomas Bonnici, in his book Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism, “patriarchy is defined as the control and repression of women by male society and seems to constitute the most important historical form of social division and oppression”.

Literally, the word patriarchy refers to the authority of men through the figure of the father, reflecting a specific family model that was held for many years as the ideal and that was dominated by men. “Family men” set the rules, while women, children, domestic workers and slaves obeyed.

3. Misogyny

Another key word in a feminist glossary, misogyny originates from the Greek, coming from the junction of μισέω (miseó, “hate”) and γυνὴ (gyné, “woman”). Thus, the term literally means “hatred of women”. However, when it comes to misogyny, it is not necessarily a direct hatred of women. Misogyny is most often revealed as a structural aspect of society, something very much linked to machismo and patriarchy and that generates different types of animosity against women, whether large or small.

Violence against women is a consequence of misogyny incorporated in society, as well as objectification, micro-machismo, etc. Interestingly, even homophobia, especially against homosexual men who are “effeminate” also has a dialogue with misogyny, as explained by Felipe Adaid, in the article Homophobia and Misogyny in Modernity: Genealogy of Violence. The effeminate homosexual is hated for a certain approach to what is seen as the manifestation of what is understood as feminine in society.

4. Objectification

Objectification happens whenever a person is reduced, for some reason, to the status of an object. In the case of female objectification, the woman is disregarded as a complete and plural human being, and taken only by her physical body and sexual attributes. Furthermore, seen as an “object”, the woman can very easily also be seen as a possession.

In this sense, for a long time the advertising media “possessed” the female body with the aim of selling the most varied products, from drinks to cars, passing through cigarettes and even audience on television programs. Furthermore, many men, when approaching a woman who is committed to a man, apologize to the man – subliminally understood as the woman’s “owner”, rather than apologizing to the woman.

5. Femicide

Femicide is a homicide committed against a woman – and centered on this specificity. In other words, in femicide, the woman is killed for being a woman.

In this type of crime, the woman is often the victim of a man with whom she has had some kind of relationship, whether affective or kinship. In other situations, she can be killed precisely for not wanting to have an affective relationship with a certain man, who, by objectifying her, believes in the right to take a woman’s life for not doing what he wants.

According to a survey published in 2019 by the newspaper Estadão, based on police reports from the Public Security Secretariat (SSP), a woman is a victim of femicide every 60 hours in the state of São Paulo alone. The prison sentence for this crime is 20 to 30 years of imprisonment, but even so, Brazil is still in 5th position among the countries with the highest rates of femicide.

6. Rape culture

According to researcher Rita Segato, rape is not about sexual desire. It’s about power. And this imposition of power on (mainly) female bodies is directly related to other terms in this glossary – machismo, patriarchy, objectification.

The term “rape culture”, despite being old, has become popular based on the understanding that rape, or what leads a man to commit it, cannot be considered as something “natural” – since “culture” presupposes something created by society, therefore, something that can be changed.

According to a 2022 publication by the Brazilian Public Security Forum, if we divide the number of rapes that occurred in 2021 by the days and hours of the year, the result would be equivalent to saying that a woman was raped every 10 minutes in the country.

In 2016, for example, a teenager was raped by 33 men in Rio de Janeiro. Children and adolescents are raped, including by people who should defend them. When talking about a rape, phrases that try to blame the victim are often used, such as “she was drunk” or “she wore short clothes”. All this is part of rape culture and needs to be fought and changed as a cultural aspect of our society that needs to be overcome.

7. Slutshaming

This term comes from English and is composed of the word “slut” (“bitch”, “slut”) and “shame” (“shame”). It is used to identify a specific type of discrimination against girls and women who have some behavior considered promiscuous from what is imposed by machismo as the ideal behavior for women. This prejudice can come from men and women (because women can also be sexist) and usually criticizes short or low-cut clothes, a freer behavior in relation to their sexuality, etc.

Slutshaming is also linked to rape culture, and is revealed in phrases such as those mentioned above: “she was drunk” or “she wore short clothes”.

8. Gaslighting

Gaslighting could not be missing from this feminist glossary. Very serious, because it is subtle, it is a form of psychological manipulation, when the victim is led to believe that he is wrong or crazy, even with evidence pointing out that he is right. This can happen between the most diverse people, but it often happens between couples – and most often from the man to the woman.

Because this manipulation is usually carried out by someone the victim trusts and has affection for, it is difficult to notice, and often the person needs psychological help to break free.

9. Mansplaining

Mansplaining also originates in the English language and unites “man” and “explain”, that is, “man” and “explain”. It is a practice where a man implicitly underestimates a woman’s intelligence, trying to explain something to her that he assumes she doesn’t understand.

The topics that a man considers himself more knowledgeable and able to explain are the most varied, but they often come up against the so-called “more masculine topics”, such as cars, sports, games, technology and science, which many men consider themselves to be more deeply knowledgeable than. than any woman.

A version of this practice is the questioning of a woman’s knowledge when she likes a subject, for example, when a woman wears a band X shirt and a man starts questioning her about the band’s albums or any kind of knowledge. related, as a kind of “test” or “validation” of the woman’s knowledge on that subject.

10. Keep breaking

This practice consists of the frequent interruption of a woman’s speech by a man, so that she is unable to complete her reasoning and becomes destabilized. Maintainrupting often appears linked to mansplaining, since in many cases the man interrupts the woman because he believes he is capable of…

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