The linguistic aspect of feminism: The terminology of equality

Sunday 8th March is International Women’s Day, a day that celebrates of the acheivements of women around the globe. In addition, it is a day of marches and vindications with its origins in New York in 1909.

Sunday 8th March is International Women’s Day, a day that celebrates of the acheivements of women around the globe. In addition, it is a day of marches and vindications with its origins in New York in 1909. However, the International Day of Working Women, as it was called at the time, was not made official until 1975 when the United Nations (UN) gave official status to demands for women’s equality with men.

At BigTranslation, we want to celebrate this day and take an important look at the vocabulary that has come into use, and continues to be developped, in the fight for equal rights. Below, we describe some of this vocabulary.

Positive action

Specific measures that aim to correct situations that are clearly unequal in order to implement the constitutional right to equality. These actions should be reasonable and proportional to the objective pursued in each case.

Women’s empowerment

This term was coined at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. It refers to the increased participation of women in decision-making processes and in access to power. It is also currently used to imply the awareness of the power that each woman has and refers to the recovery of her own dignity and independence.

The feminisation of poverty

This term describes a situation which is widespread in most countries and highlights women as the greatest percentage of the population experiencing poverty. Each country’s adjustment policies impact on women’s participation in the workplace, and their access to economic and social resources.


The belief in social, political and economic equality between the sexes. The first wave of the feminist movement began in the late 19th century, and it sheds light upon the inequality that exists between men and women. Feminist thought is based on questioning why half of all human beings, all the women, do not to have the same rights recognised as the whole human collective.

Equal rights

Equality between men and women in the eyes of the law. In European countries after the First World War, the principle of equality in the eyes of the law was re-established as was a woman’s right to education, paid work and the vote.


Defines a form of social, political and economic organisation that arises in agrarian societies in which adult males are dominant over the women and children. Debates about patriarchy have taken place at different historical times and were resumed during the feminist movement of the 1960s.
The writer Gerda Lerner, author of ‘The creation of Feminist Consciousness’, defined patriarchy as “The manifestation of male dominance over the women and children of the family and the extension of this to women in society”.

Glass ceiling

Also known as vertical discrimination, this term defines the set of limits that affect women’s opportunities for promotion. Although there are signs of a democratisation of access to different jobs among men and women, the majority of posts that involve important decision making continue to be occupied by men.

Gender-based violence

Defined as violence based on a person’s gender, which may or may not result in physical, sexual or psychological injury or suffering, such as, threats of those actions, coercion, or loss of freedom. This type of violence is liked to power inequalities and the idea of one person ‘being the property of’ another. As such it also extends to sons and daughters who are under-age.


The process of exposing and incorporating the knowledge, in general, about women’s lives into our reality and into history. Recognising and revaluing the history of women, their role in the world and their equality with men.

The vocabulary of equality continues to grow in our daily lives. It is frequently used on social networks, and this terminology is no longer just used by organisations and groups. Today, educational institutions like universities share this terminology as part of their syllabus. Let’s take this article as an example, all the terminology that appears here is based upon entires in the following Spanish glossaries: GLOSARIO DE TÉRMINOS DE POLÍTICAS DE IGUALDAD (GLOSSARY OF TERMS FOR EQUALITY POLICIES) provided by the University of Valencia, and in PALABRAS PARA LA IGUALDAD DE GÉNERO EN LA EDUCACIÓN (WORDS FOR GENDER EQUALITY IN EDUCATION) by María José Pérez Francés, published by the University of La Rioja.

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