As US politicians and pundits debate whether to reinstate “gynophobia” as an anti-discrimination law, a new term has emerged: “gypophobia”.
“Gypophobia” is an online term that’s gaining popularity in the US and has already been coined by several prominent feminists.
“It’s like the phrase ‘you can’t be racist if you’re a feminist’,” said Sarah Bly, a New York-based activist who is also a former member of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Gender & Sexuality Task Force.
The APA, the organisation that administers the US’s “sexual orientation and gender identity” policy, launched a task force to define the term in 2015, in response to growing reports of sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The task force, which was made up of a number of prominent gay and lesbian rights advocates, called on the US government to establish a federal definition of “gendered” sexual orientation and identify “graphic manifestations” of “gender identity disorder”.
The new term “gymophobia” emerged in response, Bly told Al Jazeera, after the APA’s task force made the announcement.
“It’s not just the LGBT community, but other groups as well who have experienced harassment and discrimination at the hands of employers,” she said.
Gynophobes are those who think “women can’t work with men” or “women are a ‘problem’.”
In a blog post in October 2017, the APAA said it was aware of “the growing use of the term gynecophobia” and that the term was “misleading”.
Bly, however, said that her group has “taken issue with the word ‘gynophobic’ for years”.
“I think it’s a really useful term,” she told Alja.
“In the last few years, I’ve seen it used to describe the reaction of some people when people try to identify the ‘gendered’ sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“The fact that people are using it to describe their own experiences of sexism is incredibly troubling,” she added.
Bly told Human Rights Watch that her movement has used the term for several years to “defend women’s rights”.
The term “feminophobia” also gained popularity in other parts of the world in the late 1990s, when women’s organisations and activists began to call for the end of “male supremacy” and the use of “feminist language” to describe how society deals with issues like violence against women.
Byl said that “gyspophobia” has also been used to identify “gender-specific sexual abuse” and “discrimination against people who identify as female”.
In the UK, the National Union of Students (NUS), which represents around 100,000 undergraduate students, launched its own “gender equality” campaign last year.
Its goal is “to help ensure that all women have the right to be treated equally on campus and at work”.
It says that the “definition of gender equality and the right of all students to feel safe and supported at university is based on the fact that all people are equal and all are created equal.”
“We want to ensure that we’re creating a society that supports women’s ability to feel empowered and included, as well as being supported and valued for their contributions,” NUS president Alistair Darling said in a statement at the time.
In a statement published by the NUS on its website, the association’s president, Sally Morgan, said: “Gynophobic is a term that has been used by many in the community to describe behaviours and attitudes towards women that are harmful and sexist.”
Bly said that while the term “genderqueer” may be a more appropriate term, “people can still think of themselves as “queer”.”
It is important to recognise that this term is used to refer to people who do not identify with the sex assigned at birth, or who do identify with a gender that does not correspond to their assigned sex at birth,” she explained.
Brynn Hill is an international media and communications student at University College London.
Follow her on Twitter: @brynn_hill.