I've been seeing these kinds of statements in use a lot lately, and they're irritating me enough that I almost just made a rant thread about them. Instead, I figured it was worth trying for some rational discussion and debate to see what other people thing of these sentiments and the thoughts behind them, so here we go. In all the explanations I've seen of these sorts of statements, it seems to come down to a matter of people having decided to redefine the key words to mean something that is more fitting for their opinions and cannot be used against them. For the two examples in the thread title, the basic gist of it is that the definition they're using is that sexism/racism are defined as something along the lines of “power + prejudice against people based on their sex/race.” The prejudice part by itself has been the standard definition of these words for ages, and although some dictionaries would include side bits like “especially against women” for sexism, the overall meaning was that any prejudice based on race/sex was racism/sexism. These altered definitions apparently originate from the quote “Racism = Prejudice + Power” from a 1970 book titled Developing New Perspectives on Race by Pat Bidol, and in that book the author used that definition to make a case as to why black people in the United States could not be racist against white people. This reasoning seemed to appeal to feminists, so it led to a redefinition of sexism, and more recently there are other words with similar definitions I've seen tossed around (such as people saying it's impossible for a female trans person to be transphobic against trans males). This definition essentially means that the words cannot be applied when a person of the less socially powerful/dominant group is prejudiced against someone of the dominant group because they lack social power, therefore it's just prejudice rather than one of the -ism words. The argument used to back up this usage of the words is generally a form of circular logic: women can't be sexist against men because the definition of sexism is power + prejudice because so-and-so source says sexism is about power so women can't be sexist against men because the definition... and the cycle repeats ad nauseam. Apparently we are to assume that the fact that these definitions have been used in textbooks for various social science classes means that they are the true and absolute definition of the words. The above things annoy me largely for linguistic reasons. The vast majority of people who give a damn about English linguistics have agreed that definitions ought to be descriptive, meaning that they should describe actual use rather than trying to posit the "true" meaning; this is why English dictionaries tend to give a main definition and a bunch of secondaries that are also valid. This is in contrast to prescriptive definitions, where some sort of authority prescribes the meaning of words and then that meaning is the only legitimate one; for example, the Académie française exists to decide what the correct usage of the French language is. These redefinitions of the words are an attempt to force niche prescriptive definitions to be a thing in English to support the biases of various groups. That second bit is the other major reason this pisses me off. It's not just a matter of people thinking a certain definition is the right one, they're pushing it for their own benefit. They want to capture all the power of the rightfully negative connotations of these words and make sure they cannot be used against their own people. Here's a fun example of someone throwing around the weight of the word "racism" for their own benefit, just to show you what I mean. The "you can't be racist/sexist against minorities/women" thing is used similarly, sometimes offensively to prevent claims of racism, other times defensively after making prejudiced statements against men or white people. For instance, here a woman dismisses someone as a "white trash meninist," gets called out, goes for the "lol nah" defense of implying it was fine because racism against white people isn't a thing. It becomes a shield for prejudiced behavior rather than a way to clarify and focus the discussion about prejudice. These people seem to operate under the assumption that there's some kind of binary going on here where sexism/racism are bad and everything else is not bad, therefore they can claim not to be sexist/racist to instantly declare that they've done nothing wrong. It's just fucking awful. Now that I've gotten my semi-rant explanation of things out of the way, I want to know what you guys think. How do you feel about the “prejudice + power” definition of these kinds of words? Have you seen it in use as well, or is this news to you? Do you agree with me that it's self-serving nonsense, do you think it makes total sense, or something in between? For those who think it's bad, do you think it should be countered by denying the definition or by accepting this new framework and instead calling applicable offending people out for plain prejudice rather than using the fancy -ism words? For those who think this power definition is fine, how do you feel about people using it as a defense for prejudiced statements and behaviors and what, if anything, ought to be done about it? That should be enough to get some discussion and debate rolling. Disclaimer: I realize that things like feminism and race relations will come up in this thread, and that's totally fine, but try to keep it all on point about the topic at hand instead of devolving into a debate specifically about those related but separate things. If you wanna argue about feminism in particular and how you feel about it, for example, I'd suggest making a separate thread instead of derailing this one and probably getting it locked.