Will S. suggests that decreased talk of feminism marks not a weakening of feminist passion, but the complete victory of feminism. This is a very good point, and certainly seems to be what has happened with some other terms – “computer” for instance.
In reply, I should clarify what the point of this series of posts is. It’s certainly not to say that we can all just sit back and watch an anti-feminist revolution. Feminism is not retreating disarray. It has, as Will S. suggested, triumphed on a massive scale. But the energy that drove it forward has faded.
To say that something is merely institutional is not to say it is impotent. The Soviet Union in 1975 was merely institutional – hardly anyone really believed in it anymore. Still, its government was far from powerless. That’s an optimistic example, and not all things that have lost their living strength and ossified into hard institutions are overthrown in a mere 15 years, but it does show that when the passion for something has faded, and it has preserved itself through institutional authority alone, revolutionary changes can occur.
Feminism has failed on its own terms, in failing to make women happy, as the Soviet Union failed on its own terms, by failing to improve the lot of the working man. In 1975, trying to overthrow the Soviet government was a shockingly daring idea. If we have similar daring with respect to feminism, there is good prospect of success, perhaps not so dramatic success as the collapse of the Soviet government, but an improvement of circumstances.
Scott Locklin suggests that Google has failed to choose a random sample, and points to the corresponding increase and decline in usage of “female”.
As for the sampling, it’s difficult to find details on their methodology, but see here – they do claim to have used random sampling. As for the corresponding increase on the usage of “female”, of course it increased! So did the usage of “male”.
If there’s a rage over gender issues, it would be something of a miracle if the usage of “female” didn’t increase along with that of “feminism”; feminists talk about females a lot. It’s interesting that the usage of “woman” did not increase along with “female”, while “women” did (perhaps not surprising – feminism is a collectivist ideology, so emphasis on the plural is to be expected).
Scott also points out that the usage of “transgender” “fat acceptance” and “domestic abuse” – some of the new fads within feminism – has not declined. This is true. But compare their usage to that of “patriarchy”, and you’ll see that modern feminism is a feeble echo of older feminism.