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  1. Catherine
    Catherine December 5, 2012 at 11:13 am |

    I have a guess: The way the word is loaded. It’s crammed with some ugly old ideas and images that foster an overall notion of man-hating, aggressive bitterness. No one wants to harbor & express such darkness; no one wants to say “I am living an angry, anti-something life from day to day” That is what I’m guessing people think they would be doing, in spirit if not definitively, if they were to label themselves feminists.

    There is also some conflict of ideas – you’ve heard it – ‘What if I enjoy baking treats for my family & love helping my spouse feel happy? Isn’t that at odds with feminism?’

    The word also feels a lot like nylons, that time of the month, underwire bras, Breck ads, Ms. Magazine and the bellicose attitude of 70′s culture at its worst.

    No one wants to point to that and say, ‘That’s me!’.

    1. tomek
      tomek December 5, 2012 at 11:40 am |

      i dont understand some of things you are mention. but i think this comment good explainaton. when i hear word feminist in head i get image of woman very large and with dress going down to feet and praying to moon goddess and such. or i get image of woman in suit doing career. i think not woman of want to associate with these.

      1. jrockford
        jrockford December 5, 2012 at 11:58 am |

        Seriously? “Moon goddess?”

        1. Jill
          Jill December 5, 2012 at 12:09 pm | *

          We aren’t all large moon-goddesses by night and in suit doing career by day?

      2. jrockford
        jrockford December 5, 2012 at 11:59 am |

        This comment is seriously down the lane and into the mace.

        1. A4
          A4 December 5, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
      3. anna
        anna December 5, 2012 at 12:12 pm |

        If people think feminist equals manhater or kooky new ager that’s their own problem. You don’t see anyone going against equal rights for black people because the Nation of Islam is too radical for them. Feminism shouldn’t only be judged by its most radical members either. Furthermore you don’t see the NAACP trying to get a better image by swooning over white people and constantly talking about how much they love white people and trying to think of a name that’s less controversial than civil rights. So, no, feminists shouldn’t have to do the equivalent.

        1. Anon21
          Anon21 December 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm |

          You don’t see anyone going against equal rights for black people because the Nation of Islam is too radical for them.

          I am quite certain that someone, somewhere has trotted out that exact excuse for opposing equal rights for black people. The better point is that it is irrelevant what excuses such people give. If you are a misogynist or a racist, no one should be terribly interested in how exactly you rationalize that.

          Furthermore you don’t see the NAACP trying to get a better image by swooning over white people and constantly talking about how much they love white people and trying to think of a name that’s less controversial than civil rights.

          I think the NAACP and other groups representing marginalized people definitely know the strategic value of aligning their interests with the perceived interests of privileged groups. It’s hard to get anything done without indulging in at least some of that.

          So, no, feminists shouldn’t have to do the equivalent.

          This I agree with. But let’s not pretend that people of color have it easier in this respect. All marginalized groups are forced to accommodate themselves to majority expectations and demands in order to accomplish their goals. It shouldn’t that way, but there it is.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune December 6, 2012 at 4:01 pm |

          You don’t see anyone going against equal rights for black people because the Nation of Islam is too radical for them

          Or, you know, “you” could open a history book, and then “you” would see that all over the place.

        3. Grace
          Grace December 7, 2012 at 11:59 pm |

          Apparently my own father thinks that me calling myself a feminist means that I must be a manhater, because he refuses to let me call myself one. I told him that I was a feminist, and his immediate reply was ‘NO YOU’RE NOT! You’re an equal-opportunist!’ Awwww hell no dad. I refuse to let you tell me what I am and what I’m not. I believe in equal rights for everyone, whether they are male or female, gay or straight, etc. You can call me whatever you want, but I’m a feminist. Done. End of story.

        4. Pseudonym
          Pseudonym December 13, 2012 at 11:50 am |

          I’d argue that “civil rights” is in fact a name that’s less controversial than “black rights” or “black liberation” or “overthrowing white supremacy” or any number of possible alternatives. The former has the advantage of not making explicit in its name who is being denied those rights (or who is denying them), a feature the other options, like feminism, don’t share. (That doesn’t mean I dislike the name “feminism” however.)

      4. amblingalong
        amblingalong December 5, 2012 at 5:59 pm |

        Tomek: Poe? Performance art?

        1. Pseudonym
          Pseudonym December 13, 2012 at 11:51 am |

          Every time I read tomek’s comments I think of “How is babby formed?” This probably makes me a bad person, but it’s almost worth it.

      5. miga
        miga December 6, 2012 at 9:42 am |

        Then why are you here? This site is called feministe, you know.

      6. PrettyAmiable
        PrettyAmiable December 6, 2012 at 10:19 am |

        …I want a career…

    2. CisGuy
      CisGuy December 10, 2012 at 4:28 am |

      Catherine, your guess might be right.

      But that’s why more people need to say that they are feminists. I think little changes the view on feminism so deeply than finding out, that the “man-hating, aggressive, bitter” stereotype is simply plain wrong.

      The feminists I met in college were nothing like that, even the lesbian feminists were everything but man-hating.

      Yes, any woman declaring herself “not a feminist” is a win for the misogynists.

      Your average hetero cis-guy

  2. MFenn
    MFenn December 5, 2012 at 11:50 am |

    I really love the last paragraph on that article. It’s one of the reasons I’m happy to call myself a feminist. If people want to think I’m “living an angry, anti-something life from day to day” that’s their problem.

    1. konkonsn
      konkonsn December 5, 2012 at 6:47 pm |

      I am often angry and arguing against something.

      I’m sorry if that’s not polite.*

      I’m sorry if you just want to talk about something fun instead of something difficult.

      I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable.

      I’m sorry…no…no, I’m really not sorry.

      *Not directed at MFenn

      1. MFenn
        MFenn December 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm |

        Maybe not directed at me, but I find myself in the same situations quite often. And no, I’m not sorry either.

  3. Andie
    Andie December 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm |

    The reasons I usually find that people have for eschewing the label feminist are

    A) The not particularly valid trope of the angry, man-hating, strawfeminist. “But I love men!”

    B) The very valid complaints from groups (WOC, trans women) that have routinely been thrown under the bus by mainstream feminists ( Hi, Caitlin Moran *waves*)

    C) The notion that there is no longer a ‘need’ for feminism, because we totally fixed inequality. This seems to come from women in particularly privileged positions who directly or indirectly benefit from fitting with patriarchial ideals.

    1. FashionablyEvil
      FashionablyEvil December 5, 2012 at 9:34 pm |

      It’s too about Caitlin Moran, because How to be a Woman had me dying with laughter.

  4. anna
    anna December 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm |

    If you start using a different word than feminist to mean supporting equal rights for women, sexists will just start defaming that word instead. If people can’t see that the actual definition of feminism is “supporting the political, economic, and social equality of women and men” that’s their own fault. Have some feminists been racist etc? Yes, and so have some LGBT rights advocates and people who support other causes. That’s no reason to say you don’t support LGBT rights or feminism, just call out some particular activists/organizations.

  5. benvolio
    benvolio December 5, 2012 at 12:38 pm |

    I’ve always liked this essay from Sarah Bunting:

    1. benvolio
      benvolio December 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  6. MrRabbit
    MrRabbit December 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm |

    I’m a feminist and often angry. Nothing wrong with being angry. Or with worshipping a moon goddess, either, if that’s your thing.

    Some women refuse the feminist tag because of racism and white privilege in the feminist movement, or because of transphobia.

    But white, cis, hetero women who say, “I’m not feminist,” either have no clue what feminism is or are trying to score approval from “men” (feminist men not existing in their minds, of course). They are pretty much stepping on the necks of feminist women to get ahead in this world. Where there isn’t room for all women, competition gets fierce.

    1. Kasabian
      Kasabian December 6, 2012 at 1:15 am |

      I’m an optimist, but I would count it more towards ignorance and image perception rather than malice.

      Feminism is largely seen as the straw figure it’s enemies have set it up to be, “moon worshiping, man-hating women who don’t shave their legs”, etc, etc. It takes a certain amount of investment and research to peel back the stereotype and get to the simple, universal truths underneath.

      Most people just don’t know what ‘feminism’ really means. We do our best to educate, but we’re still fighting an uphill battle.

      1. MrRabbit
        MrRabbit December 6, 2012 at 2:00 am |

        I think it’s often an unconscious decision rather than a deliberate ploy.

  7. matlun
    matlun December 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm |

    …they just believe in everything feminism espouses…

    I would say that nobody at all does this. Feminism is a pretty broad church with different feminists espousing very different ideas. It would seem to be impossible to believe in everything feminism espouses.

    At least here in Sweden, the word is used very differently by different people. I have met people using the word in both the sense of
    1. “Feminist” is the same as “Radical Feminist”
    2. “Feminist” just means someone who believes in basic equality for women.
    (Personally, I would say that both of those definitions are pretty much nonsense, but YMMV, which just proves the point)

    Very many people using definition 1 understandably do not want to identify as feminists. While if you use definition 2 almost everyone is in fact a feminist, making the definition pretty much pointless.

    Let’s be honest: Would we even be able to find a definition of feminism that the commenters here on Feministe could agree on?

  8. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune December 5, 2012 at 1:10 pm |

    Short answer? Because when you’re rich, straight, thin, abled, attractive, famous and cis, you’re proximate enough to male levels of privilege that you think licking the patriarchy’s boots to a nice polished look will close the gap.

    And by the way, I don’t want to call anyone a feminist who doesn’t call themselves a feminist. If someone said “well, I’m not a gay ally but I think gay people are just as nice as straight people” I’d consider them to be a lying homophobic shit. If someone said “well, I’m not really anti-racist, I just don’t see colour as a problem in the world” I’d call them a racist fuckbag. If someone said “well, I don’t really like disabled people, but they’re just as human as normal people, yanno” I’d consider them ableist scum. And I will, as someone who is marginalised on all three of these axes, happily claw out anyone’s eyes who tells me different.

    Why, why, why the fuck are people so interested in drawing vipers into the fold? Is it because they’re pretty white women with their pretty white faces and their pretty white voices? Nah, can’t possibly be.

    1. pheenobarbidoll
      pheenobarbidoll December 5, 2012 at 1:15 pm |

      Bam.

    2. matlun
      matlun December 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm |

      That seems pretty ungenerous.

      I believe that for many people when they say “I am not a feminist, but I obviously want equality between the sexes”, they are perfectly honest and it is a true statement according to their definition of the word “feminist” (which may be incorrect).

      And while the examples in the OP were referring to privileged women, I think that is a bit of distraction. For example: How many of all the poor WOC in the US are identifying as feminists? I would not have thought that was anywhere close to a majority.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune December 5, 2012 at 1:42 pm |

        Well, I’m sorry I’m not living up to your exalted moral standards of generosity. Have a pound of flesh in remorse.

        Think of the examples I gave you. Are any of these women actually espousing explicitly feminist ideals? Let’s see:

        Katy Perry: “I believe in the strength of women, not feminism!” –> Because Strong Black Woman ain’t a misogynistic trope or anything.

        Carla Bruni: “Feminism is incompatible with family.” Okay, then, way to hate on feminist mothers. Need I mention the long, long history of feminist mothers in the feminist movement?

        These people sound like feminists to you? Okay, dude, whatever. Read over my examples again, read over their comments, and actually respond to what I’m saying.

        1. matlun
          matlun December 5, 2012 at 1:59 pm |

          The examples you gave me? Where was that?

          Are you talking about the phrases in your post above about racism and ableism? They were not even about feminism, but arguments from analogy, so I do not see how that could be the case (?)

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune December 5, 2012 at 2:41 pm |

          In…the…comment you replied to? Just now? My analysis of Perry and Bruni’s comments? I’m really confused how you missed that.

        3. matlun
          matlun December 5, 2012 at 3:24 pm |

          The quotes in the same post? Your comment about “the examples I gave you” was before those quotes and phrased in the past tense, so it was not clear to me.

          I do not really know enough about either woman to have a strong opinion about whether I would see them as feminists or not, even though I suspect not.

          OT: Connecting Katy Perry’s comment and the “Strong Black Woman” trope seems pretty weak. If you want to give it a problematic reading, I would go with the classic “feminists are just professional victims who whine a lot”. Still not necessarily her true thought process, though.

    3. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune December 5, 2012 at 1:45 pm |

      On the other hand, and to be fair, if someone said they were a feminist, but not a radical feminist (with the transphobia and casual racism that tars that branch of the movement) or if they said they didn’t agree with every tenet of third-wave feminism, I wouldn’t tell them they’re not holding feminist ideals. Feminism’s big and sprawly, and not wanting to be part of a certain subculture of a movement, but identifying with the movement’s ideals in general, is fine. Kind of like how I consider myself Hindu without being one of those creepy Hindutva people.

      1. BoyOrHedgehog
        BoyOrHedgehog December 7, 2012 at 4:14 am |

        Yep. bell hooks’ line “I advocate feminism” is a really good one I think.

    4. Alara Rogers
      Alara Rogers December 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm |

      Actually, if I heard someone say “I’m not a gay ally, but I think gay people are perfectly nice”, I’d consider it very likely that they think “gay ally” means “I participate in pro-gay activism”, and they’re not an ally because they didn’t attend any pro-gay marriage rallies. If someone says “I’m not racist, but I don’t see color as an issue”, I see them not as a racist but as an ignorant person of privilege who has no fucking clue how the real world works because they have the privilege of being able to not know.

      Of course, if someone says “I don’t really like disabled people” everything else that comes out of their mouth is shit. One of these things is not like the other; demonstrating that you don’t know how the world works or you don’t know what a word means is very different from actively admitting that you dislike an entire group of people. I mean, I say “I despise pot but I will defend people’s right to smoke it”, but I would never say such a thing about pot *smokers*. You throw around words about disliking a group of people, and unless there’s an amazingly good reason for disliking those people (“I hate rapists” seems a valid thing to me, for instance), you’ve just shot your credibility to express any opinion and have me take you seriously.

      The person who’s not a gay ally, meaning not a gay rights activist, can be educated to understand that that’s not what the word means. The person who’s soaking in privilege could potentially learn better if presented with the right evidence. And no, I am not advocating that gay people or people of color have to go around providing that education or that evidence; frankly I think it will be more effective, in general, coming from allies who don’t belong to the group, because people tend to listen better to those who are like them. And because why the fuck should people in an oppressed group always have to do the educating anyway?

      But if someone says “I’m not a feminist, but I do believe I deserve equal rights to men”, then I assume that actually, they are a feminist. They just have a narrow vision of what the word means. If they then explain that their problem with the word is that white feminism doesn’t speak to the needs of people of color, that’s a different issue and I respect that, but if the person’s only issue is “Feminists aren’t allowed to shave their legs,” I will call bullshit and tell them that yes, they are. It’s the same with pro-lifers; if a person’s position is “I don’t believe anyone should have an abortion, but I don’t think it’s right for the law to impose that belief on other people,” then they’re not pro-life, because that group is actually defined by their willingness to impose their personal squeamishness about abortion on other people. Or, “I’m no liberal, but I do believe that taxes on the rich are way too low, and it’s the government’s job to keep the powerful guys from screwing over the little guys, and I do think government should do something about people discriminating against each other for no good reason”… you’re a liberal, sorry.

      Now there are gradations. “I do believe that women should get paid the same as men” followed by “women aren’t really suited for combat”… not a feminist. “My daughter should be able to have any career she wants” followed by “I threaten my daughter’s boyfriend with bodily harm and obsessively monitor her to make sure she’s not having sex”… probably not a feminist. “I do believe women should have equal rights to men, but abortion isn’t about a woman’s rights, it’s about a baby’s rights”… not a feminist.

      But if it isn’t associated with obvious misogynistic caveats, then I do think that expressing a feminist belief as one of your core values makes you count as a feminist.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune December 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm |

        Actually, if I heard someone say “I’m not a gay ally, but I think gay people are perfectly nice”, I’d consider it very likely that they think “gay ally” means “I participate in pro-gay activism”, and they’re not an ally because they didn’t attend any pro-gay marriage rallies.

        I have literally never heard anyone define “gay ally” as “participates in gay activism”. Seriously, by that count I’m not currently a gay ally either, ffs.

        If someone says “I’m not racist, but I don’t see color as an issue”

        And I agree completely that that statement shows ignorance not racism! The only problem is that it’s distinctly NOT what I said. My quote: “well, I’m not really anti-racist, I just don’t see colour as a problem in the world” has a whole other connotation, hm? If you want to argue with me, please do, but don’t completely reverse my statements so that you can come off more logical. It’s particularly silly given that a simple scroll up proves you’re not addressing my statement.

        I do think that expressing a feminist belief as one of your core values makes you count as a feminist.

        Again, holy shit, my comment was about not assigning the label of feminist to people who don’t want that label. I’m not the Feminist Police! I’m not going to tell people they’re not feminist when they are – and believe me, there’s times I dearly wish I could tell some Feminist Icons(TM) they’re not! – so your finger-waggling is neither valid nor appreciated.

        1. king ten butts
          king ten butts December 6, 2012 at 3:19 pm |

          The only thing with which I take issue on is the “gay ally” bit. “Ally” has been used to evade criticism & is a misnomer anyway. I’ve seen way too many people use the term to excuse some shitty transphobic comment they made and refuse to apologise for. They should be more concerned about their actions and letting LGBTQ people speak and less about what LGBTQ people call them. The fight has nothing to do with them anyway, which is why I say “ally” is a misnomer. They’re support (or that’s what they are if they’re not shitty jerks). Let an LGBTQ person decide to call you that if anyone.
          Sorry for this really bad attempt at explaining, though, I’m really hung over. I hope you understand.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune December 5, 2012 at 2:40 pm |

        But if someone says “I’m not a feminist, but I do believe I deserve equal rights to men”, then I assume that actually, they are a feminist.

        Okay, since this is like the only place where you actually seem to be responding to my comment: When someone says that to me, I tend to assume that they hold (some) feminist ideals. However, I wouldn’t call them a feminist because one of these options is true:
        a) they’re too ignorant of feminism to be assigned the label, in which case, who am I to tell them what they call themselves?
        b) too fucking stupid to actually understand the point of feminism, in which case, why do I want them in my movement?
        c) they’re part of a similar movement like womanism, in which case, again, who am I to tell them what to call themselves given their legitimate beef with feminism?
        d) they understand feminism but only so simplistically as to make some comment about “boys and girls being equal” in which case, why should I even bother?

        In any of these cases, it seems disrespectful, inappropriate or just plain ridiculous to assign them the label of feminist.

        Does that make more sense?

        1. DouglasG
          DouglasG December 6, 2012 at 7:53 am |

          Though these days what most tennis people recall about 1973 is Billie Jean King winning the Battle of the Sexes over the aged huckster Bobby Riggs, what sticks out for me is the little exchange when Margaret Court passed BJK’s record for single season prize money won. MC in an interview was much more interested in her winning record against BJK over the years, claiming relative disinterest in prize money as it was BJK who was the feminist, not she. In a later response, BJK pointed out that MC, who was earning the money while her husband accompanied her and took care of the baby, might not be a feminist but was Feminism in Action. That’s stayed with me as a useful phrase over the decades.

    5. gratuitous_violet
      gratuitous_violet December 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm |

      Perfect, +1, etc.

      I could give a fuck if rich white women don’t want to be feminists. They are not who will move this thing forward, they are not the voices a progressive feminism needs, and they usually only pay lip service to the “fuck you, I got mine” individualist feminism that sadly has been a key feature of Western feminism since the goddamn Suffragettes. My poor white ass doesn’t miss them, and because I’m extra grumpy this morning, I’ll go ahead and add that both Perry and Bruni’s music is crap too.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune December 5, 2012 at 2:51 pm |

        Well, I don’t think rich white women are feminist at more/less the same rate as the rest of the population (with the possible exception of LGBT women), I just think that they get about sixty more passes for NOT being feminist than any other group, and that people rush to gather them up in their arms and fawn all over them and give them cookies for attaining a D- grade in Basic Human Decency. It annoys the shit out of me.

        I mean, can you imagine the reaction if a consortium of poor WOC SAHMs declared that they’re not feminist but they believe in equality? I can just see the jeering and booing that would happen, with the lovely sides of racism and classism and hating on mothers. Fuck that.

        1. gratuitous_violet
          gratuitous_violet December 5, 2012 at 4:18 pm |

          Oh, Mac, you can basically see your grim prediction in action if you search the Feministe archives for “Fuck feminism” and feast your eyes upon one of the most shameful comment threads ever.

          I agree with you 100% about the getting a pass thing. That’s why I hate it when people are like “Guess what? You’re a feminist!” to people who choose not to ID that way. WOC and other women have perfectly good reason to reject the label and I’d never fault them for it, but those who reject it for less stellar reasons? I don’t want them around anyway.

        2. Donna L
          Donna L December 7, 2012 at 2:06 am |

          I went off and read the “fuck feminism” comment thread, and it’s everything you describe, including some lovely gender essentialism (not from Maia or Aminah). One thing that surprised me to discover was that I commented in the thread myself, more than a year before I started commenting regularly, in response to some of the gender essentialism:

          After someone commented on it, I just noticed, for the first time, S’s post (#83) responding to an earlier post of mine:

          Me: “I have been as much a “mama” (24/7), and have loved him as fiercely, as any woman who ever gave birth to a child.”

          S: “So, are we all going to agree that going through pregnancy, birth, and lactation for a child mean nothing? Parenting is parenting is parenting, but I’m not going to accept that raising a child is the exact same thing as birthing a child. Raising is hard, but you don’t usually have to confront death for it. You don’t literally have to give your body, and focus all of your self and your being on it. You don’t go through the experiences of labor, which are important and should not be dismissed.

          Women DIE giving birth to children daily. It’s one of the leading causes of death for women worldwide.

          Nurturing, teaching, co-parenting, yes, yes, yes. All of these are great, and wonderful. And a non-birthing/adoptive/substitute/etc parent is not less of a parent for having not birthed that child.

          But do NOT so blithely dismiss the sacrifices and experiences of pregnancy, birth, and lactation and say that raising a child is directly analogous to birthing one. They are not the same thing.

          But I never said they were the same thing, never dismissed the sacrifices or experiences of pregnancy, birth, lactation, etc. (blithely or otherwise), never said they weren’t important.

          All I said was that I’m no less a “mama” because I didn’t give birth to my child (and, instead, am his biological father), and love him just as much and just as fiercely as anyone who did. “As much as” does not equal “exactly the same.” I’ve known plenty of mothers, some who gave birth to their children and some who didn’t, some who are cis and some who are trans, some who also are (or also identify as) fathers and some who don’t. From everything I know, and from all the talking I’ve done with other women with children over the years, there’s no difference in how we feel about our children. None. I know I shouldn’t have to be defensive, and I know I shouldn’t care what you say, but please don’t imply that my experiences, or my intense love for, and closeness with, my son, are “less than” anyone else’s because I’m not his biological mother.

          And I can’t help detecting a hint of the kind of essentialist feminist transphobia that has made me feel like saying “fuck feminism” on frequent occasions. Childbirth and lactation do not equal motherhood any more than menstruation equals womanhood, womanness, or whatever word you want to use. Your comments remind me a little of one of the things that the proprietors of that women’s pharmacy in Vancouver said in trying to justify their policy of refusing to fill prescriptions for, or otherwise provide services to, trans women: “it’s all about the bleeding.” Actually, it isn’t.

          After that, I went off and commented elsewhere did something else for about fourteen months; that thread was way too much for me!

    6. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl December 5, 2012 at 3:08 pm |

      I agree with you 1000% Mac.

      Carla Bruni is in a similar camp to Sarah Palin. That is, a privileged and clueless one which actually still believes that sex is a commodity to trade for prestige and money and that performing overt femininity is the best route to cultivate and maintain that. Bruni even uses the French version of a dogwhistle by referring to herself as a bourgeoise. In other words, an upperclass woman who plays the part of sophsiticated and sexy coquette on the arm of her wealthy and powerful husband in exchange for her continued access to an unlimited bank account and the highest echelons of society.

      Feminism doesn’t need to claim these people, because they are not our allies and do not fit the definition of feminist. Nor do they want to be allies of feminism or its causes.

      1. kungfulola
        kungfulola December 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm |

        Feminism doesn’t need to claim these people, because they are not our allies and do not fit the definition of feminist. Nor do they want to be allies of feminism or its causes.

        So much this. Women who benefit so lavishly from systems of oppression are unlikely to set aside their self-interest for the sake of liberating less privileged people. The engine behind the smashing and restructuring of societal power will be women who are marginalized, unloved, and told they are undesirable. I am wary of women who relish feasting at the trough of male approval.

    7. EG
      EG December 5, 2012 at 8:52 pm |

      Why, why, why the fuck are people so interested in drawing vipers into the fold? Is it because they’re pretty white women with their pretty white faces and their pretty white voices? Nah, can’t possibly be.

      Nicely said. And I thoroughly agree. Katy Perry doesn’t want to be a feminist? Who the fuck cares? Sure she’s famous and can influence young girls, but her very mainstream success is what almost guarantees that she’s not going to espouse subversive or counterculture beliefs. It happens every so often–early Madonna comes to mind–but it’s far more common for mainstream pop idols to reflect mainstream values than not.

      Feminism has had a great deal of success, but it has never been a mass movement, I don’t think. Why aren’t more famous women feminists? For the same reasons that more people in general aren’t feminists: for the most part, it’s a critique from the right-wing or from general unthinkingness, and sometimes it’s a critique from the left.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune December 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm |

        No shit, right? You and Lolagirl both hit it right on the head. And less contemptuously than I did, even, lol.

        1. EG
          EG December 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm |

          Less contemptuously? I’ll have to work on that!

    8. igglanova
      igglanova December 5, 2012 at 9:54 pm |

      Why, why, why the fuck are people so interested in drawing vipers into the fold? Is it because they’re pretty white women with their pretty white faces and their pretty white voices? Nah, can’t possibly be.

      The reason we care about dumbshit statements from the likes of Katy Perry is not necessarily that we want to recruit the Katy Perrys of the world into our cause. We’re just acknowledging that the words of famous people have power. And it’s a real piss-off that those words are so often defamatory.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune December 6, 2012 at 11:50 am |

        In which case I have no problem with that article. It’s just not the one I read. Which is insisting that no, no, you really ARE a feminist even though you say anti-feminist things, I swear! when it comes to rich white women, and that pisses me right off.

    9. Kasabian
      Kasabian December 6, 2012 at 2:15 am |

      Agreed. The more important question than “Why don’t these particular rich, famous white women identify as feminist?” is “why don’t very many POC identify as feminist?”

      It brings up a host of ugly issues that feminism has to work through; but it’s certainly something that’s more important to talk about than inane shit like “why do women who benefit from the patriarchy support the patriarchy?”

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune December 6, 2012 at 11:51 am |

        inane shit like “why do women who benefit from the patriarchy support the patriarchy?”

        I love you.

    10. PeteyWheatStraw
      PeteyWheatStraw December 6, 2012 at 11:36 am |

      Short answer? Because when you’re rich, straight, thin, abled, attractive, famous and cis, you’re proximate enough to male levels of privilege that you think licking the patriarchy’s boots to a nice polished look will close the gap.

      No. Short answer: the attitude displayed in the above. When you start saying things like “licking the patriarchy’s boots” to normal people, they aren’t much inclined to identify with you.

      If people don’t have the perception of your brand you’d like them to, that’s not their problem. Ever. It’s only yours. It means your are doing something wrong.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune December 6, 2012 at 11:48 am |

        Lol. You have this idea that these people would identify with feminism if we Just Explain Nicely. It’s cute. Deluded, but cute.

      2. EG
        EG December 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm |

        Feminism isn’t a brand. It is a social and political movement, and it attacks some of the basic tenets on which our society is built, which means that those whose power is gained through those tenets are not going to support it. That’s the point. Changing it to appeal to such people would make it not feminism any longer. It’s not a flavor of toothpaste.

  9. Au Contraire
    Au Contraire December 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm |

    I am hesitant to accept the “label” feminist, mainly because of its past and ongoing race-fail and trans-fail (as mentioned above). I strongly support equal rights for all people, but I sometimes think that feminism, and its most basic definition of equal rights for men and women, feels too narrow (what about people who are intersex?), and results in the prioritization of oppression on the basis of sex and gender over other types of oppression.

    1. Jill
      Jill December 5, 2012 at 2:15 pm | *

      I am hesitant to accept the “label” feminist, mainly because of its past and ongoing race-fail and trans-fail (as mentioned above). I strongly support equal rights for all people, but I sometimes think that feminism, and its most basic definition of equal rights for men and women, feels too narrow (what about people who are intersex?), and results in the prioritization of oppression on the basis of sex and gender over other types of oppression.

      And that’s fair. But I sincerely doubt that’s why Katy Perry doesn’t consider herself a feminist.

      1. Au Contraire
        Au Contraire December 5, 2012 at 3:12 pm |

        Oh come on…any woman who sports a whipped cream bra is clearly rejecting the label feminism based on her incredibly cogent critique of feminist theory and activism. As ironically represented by said whipped cream bra.

        Just kidding.

        Some of the other comments got me thinking about my own feelings about being labelled a feminist, but I didn’t mean to derail from the main point of your article. I think that particular phenomenon boils down to (in most cases) white privilege and throwing other women under the bus (as macavitykitsune already pointed out).

  10. CorbinDallasMultipass
    CorbinDallasMultipass December 5, 2012 at 1:58 pm |

    No one wants to be a hippy.

    http://mediamatters.org/research/2008/11/10/media-conservatives-claim-america-is-center-rig/146094

    I always felt this is a large symptom of that than anything particular to feminists. But what do I know.

  11. Noname
    Noname December 5, 2012 at 2:03 pm |

    I too hate how the word feminist has been turned into an insult like it’s a curse word. Like many groups society wants the public to be against, they only show the bad ones that really stand out in the media.

    Not to mention there are some men that can’t stand the fact that women are equal to them so they try and demonize femist. And women who for some reason are against feminism as well.

    False rumors or stereotypes about feminism is why people are scared to called themselves such.

    1. matlun
      matlun December 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm |

      It is an interesting question why this has happened. My experience (from Sweden) is that in the 1990s and early 2000s it was pretty well accepted that anyone in favor of equal rights was by definition a feminist. For a mainstream politician to not call themselves a feminist would have been very controversial.

      Now the general consensus in society seem to have swung quite fast in the other direction. Calling yourself a feminist is still fairly mainstream, but by no means uncontroversial due to the associations with the radical fringe.

      It probably is mostly due to that we have had quite a number of high profile radical feminists in media and politics who have “poisoned the well”.

      I doubt this is applicable to the situation in the US, but I still find it an interesting phenomenon.

      1. Sam
        Sam December 5, 2012 at 6:17 pm |

        Matlun,

        Calling yourself a feminist is still fairly mainstream, but by no means uncontroversial due to the associations with the radical fringe.

        yeah, that’s interesting. I remember talking to a left-wing Swedish guy I met on a backpacking trip last Summer and he alluded to Sweden having become, not only in his eyes, but in the eyes of a lot of Swedes, almost a radical feminist dictatorship. I suppose he was intentionally exaggerating, but the sentiment is the same. In your opinion, as a Swede, whas there any particular policy that caused that reversal in public opinion?

        1. matlun
          matlun December 5, 2012 at 7:17 pm |

          I would not say it is a reaction to any specific policy. It is just that their politics and ideology have become more visible. There have been a couple of documentaries and exposes on television that were debated quite a lot, and since 2005 there has been a political party (which has had no success, but still have been in the debate). The end result has been that there has been a lot of visibility for the more radical feminists so that the association of the word in the public debate has changed. And radical feminism has never had any strong support in public opinion – just in academia and among the political elite (especially within the more left wing parties). So “feminism” has gotten more of a negative association and fewer people identify as such.

          Just in case it was not obvious, I would like to point out that even here “radical feminist dictatorship” is a huge exaggeration – overblown hyperbole you might get from MRA types and anti-feminists. This radical feminism has been and is still a powerful political force in Sweden, but it is but one influence among many. Still, as mentioned above it is really out of sync with public opinion so the more visibility it gets, the more you get pushback.

          Now you have a situation where for example our Minister for Gender Equality Nyamko Sabuni explicitly chooses not to identify as a feminist.

        2. Sam
          Sam December 6, 2012 at 9:49 am |

          Interesting, thanks for the explanation :)

  12. matlun
    matlun December 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm |

    if someone said they were a feminist, but not a radical feminist [...] or if they said they didn’t agree with every tenet of third-wave feminism, I wouldn’t tell them they’re not holding feminist ideals.

    Neither would I. As I stated above, IMO saying that you need to accept radical feminist theory to be able to call yourself a feminist is nonsense. But on the other hand I do not think I could phrase an exact minimum definition of what I would call a feminist either. (So I do not even have a well defined subjective opinion. Much less an “objective” definition)

  13. Joze
    Joze December 5, 2012 at 2:51 pm |

    When famous successful women say they aren’t a feminist the word means that women are equal to mean and should be treated that way. How can any sane person not be a feminist.

    When women (or men) who agree with that defintion but have policy disagreements with ‘mainstream’ feminism call themselves feminist the discussion is about how no *true* feminist could ever think that. The first example that comes to mind is Megan Mcaadle.

    1. GudEnuf
      GudEnuf December 6, 2012 at 4:42 pm |

      When famous successful women say they aren’t a feminist the word means that women are equal to mean and should be treated that way. How can any sane person not be a feminist.

      If every sane person was a feminist, there would be no need for a feminist movement. The sane people already agree with you, and the insane will never be convinced.

      The other possibility is that “feminism” doesn’t simply mean “equality for men and women”, but includes a bundle of other beliefs (abortion rights, affirmative action ect.) that some sane people disagree with.

  14. Joze
    Joze December 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm |

    Sorry about the type. I meant Megan Mcardle.

  15. Marni
    Marni December 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm |

    But white, cis, hetero women who say, “I’m not feminist,” either have no clue what feminism is or are trying to score approval from “men”.

    The approval thing. When you’re in a totally male environment, which means misogynists are never called out on their abuse, then male approval is key to survival. How many women would choose certain poverty and ostracism over ongoing privilege and comfort? But I’m not blaming them in general, because they know not what they do. Some part of their brain sees how the ‘feminists’ are treated by the elite, and the fear takes over their ability to reason about the subject.

    1. A4
      A4 December 5, 2012 at 6:52 pm |

      When you’re in a totally male environment, which means misogynists are never called out on their abuse, then male approval is key to survival.

      Thank you for putting into words part of the reason I never feel comfortable with all male environments.

  16. xzaebos
    xzaebos December 5, 2012 at 6:22 pm |

    Well, if it means anything, there were two reasons I thought “Feminist are crazy”. When I was a young teen and I learned that there was a thing called feminism, everything feminism seemingly stood for wasn’t unique. Like, this was normal everyday life for me and “equality” was already in my vocabulary. So I associated feminism with “castration day”. It only took a few months of education to come around.

    So basically, I was aware/believed in several pillars of feminist theory and it wasn’t ever called “feminism”.

    The other is because of interactions between some feminists and my victimazation.

    But it was mostly the lack of education. I wouldn’t think that these women are bad, but rather, do not understand feminism.

  17. snorkellingfish
    snorkellingfish December 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm |

    Personally, I’d rather not claim as feminists people who refuse the label because of ~negative stereotypes~ but believe in equality – they’re hurting feminism, and the fight for equality, by reinforcing those negative stereotypes. They’re reinforcing untrue ideas that feminism is anti-family or whatever else and thus making it harder for feminists to achieve equality for women. They’re also reinforcing the idea that it’s bad to be any of the things that feminism is associated with: that it’s bad to be a lesbian or fat or have unshaven legs or whatever else. When someone – especially someone with the audience these women have – says that they’re not a feminist, they’re discouraging others from calling themselves feminists and they’re providing ammunition for the anti-feminists in the world. Why are we so desperate to claim them if they don’t want to be claimed?

  18. saurus
    saurus December 5, 2012 at 8:02 pm |

    There are a lot of valid reasons to not be a feminist, and if you really can’t think of any, it’s because you’re in the top half of supremacy in this so-called movement.

    1. EG
      EG December 5, 2012 at 8:46 pm |

      And that’s true, but do you honestly think that those reasons are why Katy Perry, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, other famous white women, and the young, privileged, white women at the private college I used to teach at reject the term “feminist”?

      At least when it comes to that last group, I can guarantee that it’s not. When I last taught them, say, ten years ago or so, it was still because although they were pro-choice and pro-equal-pay and believed that men and women should care for children equally and and and, they didn’t want anyone to think that they hated men or didn’t shave their armpits or didn’t wear lipstick.

      1. saurus
        saurus December 6, 2012 at 3:23 am |

        I never speculated on those women. I’m just saying that you don’t even need to be in one of feminism’s “Throw Under Bus” groups (people of color, trans women, genderqueers, disabled women, asexual women, etc) to have awful experiences with it.

        I also think that one doesn’t need to have that much hands-on experience with feminism to sense that there’s stuff about it as a scene/subculture that’s annoying. For example, the stereotype that feminists are shrill – they may not be “shrill” exactly, but there sure is a lot of performed outrage, ego-boosting deconstructive play, politics-policing, etc. In other words, I think a lot of mainstream stereotypes about feminists are sexist interpretations of genuine flaws in the subculture that most feminists refuse to acknowledge.

        Also, I think that the preoccupation some feminists have with the use of the feminist label is a reason unto itself to not be feminist. I think it says a lot that there are so many posts on major feminist websites stretching back to the inception of sites like these about this topic.

        It’s like, all these feminists clamoring to know whether this pop idol or that pop idol identifies as feminist – because identifying as a scene member is so important I guess. When I have done race work offline – not in the social justice scene – they’re never like BUT DOES THAT PERSON IDENTIFY AS AN ANTI-RACIST? DO THEY USE THE WORD ANTI-OPPRESSIVE FOR THEMSELVES? They just don’t want you to act like an asshole and that’s what matters. Feminists invest more interest in the use of their label more than any other scene I know.

        I mean, putting aside what it “says” about society if people don’t want to identify as feminist – why does it matter if they call themselves feminist or not? Who gives a shit? What is the real-life consequence of women choosing – or not choosing – the “feminist” label? Why are we interested in this subject?

        I think it just boils down to subcultural territorial behavior and feminism as an “identity” or a decorative political badge instead of a behavior that arises out of needs.

        In any case, there’s work for women being done all over the globe by people who don’t use or prioritize the label feminist, and they seem to be doing ok without it.

        1. EG
          EG December 6, 2012 at 10:56 am |

          I never speculated on those women.

          But those are the women the OP is about, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that your comment is referencing them as well.

          I also think that one doesn’t need to have that much hands-on experience with feminism to sense that there’s stuff about it as a scene/subculture that’s annoying….there sure is a lot of performed outrage, ego-boosting deconstructive play, politics-policing, etc.

          Sure, like in every other social and political movement in the past few hundred years. Feminism is no different. But it’s feminism that gets called out for it, and feminism that gets rejected for it, as though women have to be perfect to be worthwhile. I’ve heard that song before.

          It’s one thing if other people don’t call themselves feminists because the movement’s history of racism and transphobia, for example, is too hurtful; it’s a reasonable position to take. I do care if young women are too frightened of being perceived as hairy-legged manhaters to declare themselves feminists, because that’s the result of a hatchet job done on feminism by the right wing.

          But I also notice that I don’t see progressive people saying that they don’t support the labor movement, because of its history of racism and sexism, or because labor activists can be really unpleasant (of course they can; everybody can).

    2. mxe354
      mxe354 December 6, 2012 at 1:07 am |

      There are a lot of valid reasons to not be a feminist, and if you really can’t think of any, it’s because you’re in the top half of supremacy in this so-called movement.

      Or maybe because there aren’t any valid reasons to not be a feminist. Ever consider that?

      1. saurus
        saurus December 6, 2012 at 2:58 am |

        …like I said. If you believe there aren’t valid reasons for anti-feminism, you can’t be very experienced with it as a “scene” (which I think describes it better than “movement”).

        1. mxe354
          mxe354 December 6, 2012 at 3:19 am |

          Assuming that feminism is minimally about equal respect and equality of opportunity for women, I fail to see any valid reasons for being anti-feminist. Of course, I detest some feminists, such as transphobic radical feminists and feminists who ignore intersectionality for their own purposes, but that doesn’t mean that feminism by itself is an ideology I should reject.

          But go ahead and provide those so-called valid reasons for being anti-feminist. I’m also interested in understanding why you insist feminism is not a movement.

        2. saurus
          saurus December 6, 2012 at 3:34 am |

          mxe354 – see there’s where we disagree. I don’t think feminism is “minimally about equal respect and equality of opportunity for women”. I think it certainly purports to be as simple as that, but I think it’s actually about a whole lot of stuff – including some insidious stuff, depending on which feminist scene you’re in.

          The typical well-off college educated white girl American feminist scene is about gender, sure, but it’s also about supporting capitalist structures and the subjugation of women of color (for one example).

          If it’s not obvious but what I’m saying, I personally can’t just look at the feminist ideology in a vaccuum and take the label/identity based on that, as though the feminist scenes and behavior of feminists and manifestations of that ideology don’t matter. For me, that stuff is just as relevant as the ideology.

          And for that matter, a lot of the ideology is messed up to me.

        3. mxe354
          mxe354 December 6, 2012 at 3:54 am |

          @saurus
          Yes, some manifestations of feminism are reprehensible, such as the transphobic variant of radical feminism and feminism that ignores intersectionality, as I have already alluded to. But in any case, the basic, underlying ideology has always been about gender equality, regardless of any vile additions to the ideology such as racism and transphobia. Hence, my point that calling oneself anti-feminist is silly if one actually knows what all feminisms have always minimally stood for.

          But I do agree with you in regards to the label itself. All that really matters to me is what exactly it means for a particular person to not call hirself a feminist. If it means that this person is opposed to equality and equal respect for women, then it’s necessarily problematic. If not, that’s a different story.

          Anyway, why do you keep calling feminism a “scene”?

      2. Alexandra
        Alexandra December 6, 2012 at 5:01 am |

        I think I get why saurus is calling feminism a “scene”. I remember when I was sixteen, I first started getting interested in feminism, and because I was raised by the internet, and because my local library didn’t have much past Betty Friedan and Susan Brownmiller, I wound up getting my answers from livejournal communities, blogs, websites, and discussion forums.

        My first experience was getting summarily rejected for membership from a feminist community, and when I asked why, it was because “they didn’t know if I was genuine, or a troll.” Clear insiders and outsiders.

        The next comm I tried to participate in, I lurked and read for three months straight, and when I finally did begin commenting I would get repeatedly shot down, month after month. Sheer cussedness rather than any sort of positive reinforcement kept me interested, given that women two or three times my age were calling me a moron and a terrible person for being ignorant, and telling me to educate myself when – as a sixteen-year-old with a small local library – my best bet for getting an education was relying on the wisdom and generosity of those older and more experienced than me.

        This was a kind of hazing.

        1. Alexandra
          Alexandra December 6, 2012 at 5:07 am |

          Ugh, I got cut off before I could finish my comment.

          Feminism is completely unintuitive for the sort of person who broadly agrees that women are people and should be treated the same as men, that sexual violence is bad and that girls should get to play with power rangers and robots, too. Feminism is full of jargon (patriarchy, hierarchies of oppression, intersectionality, for example). Newbies and the uninformed are often told to go educate themselves, and very little nurturing is done in online spaces. If the big ideas at the heart of feminism weren’t so critical and vital, the interactions I have had in feminist spaces online would have been enough to sour me on the whole movement.

          Branches of feminism are scary and cultish, I might add. I really liked a lot of the early 1970s radical feminist authors I read when I was sixteen – Kate Millett and Susan Brownmiller made a big impression – but the real-life versions I’ve encountered in the new millennium have been absolutely horrible parodies of themselves, bigots so self-righteous they’re incapable of any form of self-criticism.

        2. EG
          EG December 6, 2012 at 10:46 am |

          But feminism is far more than an internet phenomenon. I was a feminist long before I’d heard many of those words, because feminism is in activism, is in real life groups, and real life mentors as well. The internet may not be very welcoming–and I’m not sure why that would be different for feminism as opposed to anything else–but that’s not the sum total of feminism or feminist experience. It can be, as in your case, but it’s really only one aspect of it.

        3. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl December 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm |

          But feminism is far more than an internet phenomenon.

          I get what you’re saying EG, but for people in Conservativeland (aka the U.S. midwest and the south especially) the internet may very well provide the sum total of their exposure to actual feminism. I mean, I myself grew up hearing tons of negative messages about all the bad things feminists supposedly were, until I went to college and got out of that environment. Even today, Feministe is pretty much the only place where I discuss feminist issues, because (save for the spouse and a couple of friends) I just don’t have a lot of like minded people with which to discuss them irl.

          I think that was the point that Alexandra was making in her comment above. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, Alexandra?)

        4. EG
          EG December 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

          Yeah, I hear that, I do. I just think that the problems Alexandra is identifying with the feminist internet scene are actually problems with all internet scenes, not ones endemic to feminism or that can be overcome as long as the internet is your only source. Which is better than no source, I agree, but it can’t be all things to all people, not because people have other resources, because, as you and Alexandra point out, many don’t, but because it actually can’t do it.

        5. EG
          EG December 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm |

          I mean, I think, in an ideal world, NOW would spend less time and money on political advocacy and more time and money on community organizing, like the NAACP did, and may still do for all I know (I should look into it). That’s how the labor movement made headway, and it’s what made the Civil Rights movement come together. NOW should use its money to set up local centers that provide things that the women of the local community need (daycare is something that comes to mind), have organizers make local connections, and then, as SNCC used to say, put themselves out of business by making the organizers’ presence unnecessary.

          But they don’t; the feminist organizations with the power and money to do that kind of thing have chosen to go the lobbying and legal route. Which can be effective, but leaves women relying on the internet only for feminist experience, and is part of what lets feminism’s image be destroyed.

        6. Alexandra
          Alexandra December 7, 2012 at 12:08 am |

          @EG — I have to admit, my only real-life involvement in any sort of feminist “organizing” was at college. This organizing consisted of six or seven other college-age women and I – all of us privileged and white – getting together to talk about how horrible our lives were because of sexism. It got old really fast. Oh, and an incredibly shitty production of the Vagina Monologues, aka my least favorite play ever (seriously: are there no other feminist playwrights out there?!).

          What energy and time I have now for politics is mostly wrapped up in local environmental work, which has its own issues.

  19. Lasciel
    Lasciel December 5, 2012 at 9:00 pm |

    Why is Carla Bruni-Sarkozy even being mentioned? Her excuse seems perfectly valid; she knows she’s upholding upper-class interests at the expense of working class women. Isn’t part of being a feminist attacking all forces of oppression? If she recognizes that you can’t practice feminism and exclude poor women, WoC, queer women, or any other group of women, then she’s probably the only one rejecting the actual modern meaning of feminism, rather than rejecting the stereotype of feminism.

    1. Stella
      Stella December 6, 2012 at 7:29 am |

      I was under the impression Carla Bruni was more a trophy wife than anything else.

      1. matlun
        matlun December 6, 2012 at 8:24 am |

        Well, she is independently wealthy and with her own successful career(s). So “trophy wife” does not seem fitting.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl December 6, 2012 at 4:06 pm |

          What?

          Of course she can be wealthy and successful in her career (as a model and pop singer) and still be a trophy wife. The point of the term, sexist and odious as it may be, is that the male counterpart of the relationship won her, the most beautiful woman in the room, as his wife because he was the wealthiest and most alpha of all her potential suitors.

        2. Henry
          Henry December 6, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
        3. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl December 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm |

          Still no, Henry.

          Just because a person already has some money/prestige/success of their own doesn’t mean that they might not still want more and that they use another person in order to do gain access to it. Carla Bruni can be considered a trophy wife if she is living off Sarko’s bankroll and further benefiting from the professional and social prestige of being his wife. And she is, make no mistake on that. While it’s true that she was well known in France before she married Sarko, it was their marriage and his becoming the French President that launched CB onto the international scene.

          Look, I’m not trying to do a huge takedown of CB. But Jill’s post is specifically about an article that uses CB as a example of woman who denies being a feminist even though the author believes she actually is. I and others here are taking issue with that for various reasons.

  20. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan December 5, 2012 at 10:21 pm |

    Maybe it’s not necessary to immediately label certain people as feminists, but we can absolutely label the things they say or do as feminist. Katy Perry says and does many feminist things, and a fair number of anti-feminist things as well. (Which makes her indistinguishable from your average “actual” feminist anyways.) So where’s the line before we say “well, you walk like a feminist and you quack like a feminist; you’re a feminist.” If someone behaves like a feminist but calls themselves a blorkatron, can’t we correct them? It’s at least an evidence-based approach to “labeling” feminists, which is better than the vague things some people have advocated above. :p

    1. saurus
      saurus December 6, 2012 at 3:38 am |

      Or maybe nothing bad will happen if we don’t label everything as either feminist or unfeminist.

      Maybe it’s not that important to figure out a labeling system.

      1. Alexandra
        Alexandra December 6, 2012 at 5:17 am |

        I think calling someone a feminist doesn’t make much sense unless they either explicitly identify as one or have done substantial work with or for an explicitly feminist organization or body (like, say, NARAL). Feminism is considerably more than a few vague affirmations of women’s personhood. Feminism is a genuine political movement – more than a philosophy, often ideological (but containing many sub-ideologies).

        1. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan December 6, 2012 at 1:51 pm |

          I disagree with that definition; I’m more a fan of the “radical idea that women are people” definition of feminism, which Katy Perry (for example) seems to meet.

        2. mxe354
          mxe354 December 6, 2012 at 3:43 pm |

          I’m more a fan of the “radical idea that women are people” definition of feminism

          Word.

        3. Alexandra
          Alexandra December 6, 2012 at 11:56 pm |

          Okay, so: you’ve decided that feminist – as a label – should be intentionally broad and intentionally vague. What’s the point, then? I could ask any random person off the street if women are people, and I’m willing to bet that person would say yes. That doesn’t mean that, say, they understand what rape culture is or care; or that they support access to birth control and abortion rights; or that they support equal work for equal pay, or broadening parental leave.

          I mean, if you asked Rick Santorum if he thinks women are people, I’m certain he’d say yes. Rick Santorum is so magnanimous about his definition of personhood that he’s willing to extend it to the unborn! He just doesn’t give a shit about people having things like, oh, equal rights, or health care, or good food.

        4. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date December 7, 2012 at 6:41 am |

          I’m not so certain that Rick Santorum would say yes if you asked him if he thinks women are people. And he certainly doesn’t act as though he thought women were people. Men are people. Fetuses are persons. And women are women.

    2. miga
      miga December 6, 2012 at 10:30 am |

      I like that idea. I have the same idea with ally-ship. Sometimes people aren’t allies to every movement all the time. For example, I just had a bad argument with my ex. He was very important to me and helped me acknowledge and get over the effects of my rape (it happened before we met), so he was an ally then. But his friend did some fucked up shit to me, and he couldn’t understand why what his friend did was part of rape culture. He was not an ally at that moment because his actions (he didn’t understand so he tried to get his friend and me to reconcile) perpetuated rape culture. It doesn’t mean he’s a bad person, and it doesn’t erase his previous good actions. He just hasn’t gotten to a more nuanced level of deconstructing privilege and oppression, and it’s not my job to get him there.

      1. miga
        miga December 6, 2012 at 10:32 am |

        To clarify: his friend didn’t assault me- but he did pull the “nice guy” thing with me and got mad when I called him on it. It’s complicated…sigh…

  21. Gareth Wilson
    Gareth Wilson December 6, 2012 at 5:12 am |

    When this topic comes up, I always think of three women. Alisa is a ruthless corporate CEO who believes all taxes are theft and all welfare is parasitism. Leni is a stone racist who believes only the paler kind of Europeans are fully human. And of course Sarah believes that human life begins at conception, and killing a zygote sends you to Hell, just like premarital sex. But they all genuinely believe in equal rights for women, and all claim to be feminists. It’s perfectly acceptable to shut them out of feminism, if you think their views are too odious. But that just makes feminism into a specific political movement, and there’s nothing remarkable about someone saying they’re not part of it. If it really is a universal recognition of women’s rights, then you have to grit your teeth and accept some real jerks as real feminists. If those three women seem contrived, maybe I should add a fourth, “Margaret”.

    1. Alexandra
      Alexandra December 6, 2012 at 5:24 am |

      Yes, very well stated.

      What amuses me about this kind of conversation is that we’re all suddenly under the mass delusion that feminists are lumpers – that we take people of all sorts and stripes and faiths and ideas about life and call them FEMINISTS, and hug each other and affirm our faith in the goodness of human kind. In fact, feminists (small f) of the type who spend a substantial amount of time and energy thinking about what equality and justice for women would really mean tend to be splitters.

      Your Alisa gets split off from true feminism because of course she doesn’t get how capitalism women. Toni gets split off because she’s a racist, and Sarah gets split off because abortion rights has become the defining political battle of American feminism.

      Who else gets split off? Well, according to the radfems, trans people are the third rail of patriarchy; libertarian feminists hate marxist feminists, supporters of Occupy get into it with old school labor union folks… it can feel like joining a cult.

      1. Tamara
        Tamara December 6, 2012 at 9:46 pm |

        Well, whether or not Sarah gets split off depends on what she does with her belief. If she does not require her belief to be implemented as anti-abortion policy then she gets to stay. If it leads her to push for anti-abortion policies that restrict women’s rights then she goes. In the case of the latter she is is not actually recognising women’s rights. She does not genuinely “believe in equal right for women”. (quoting Gareth Wilson)

        1. Gareth Wilson
          Gareth Wilson December 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm |

          Sure, that’s a coherent argument. But millions of America women have the same opinion as Sarah, and want it reflected in public policy. Rule them out as feminists, and you’ve given up any claim to universality.

        2. Alexandra
          Alexandra December 6, 2012 at 11:14 pm |

          And I don’t think there’s really anything wrong with not being a universal movement, either. Go too broad, and you wind up being incoherent, or else endorsing the worst wishy-washy choice feminism nonsense.

  22. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca December 6, 2012 at 6:06 am |

    I’m hesitant to post what I’m about to post because it’s not strictly on the topic of the OP and also my thoughts on it are still a bit inchoate in my head. But I want to briefly say something because I myself may be slowly becoming a woman who’s scared to call herself a feminist, and I wanted to explore why that might be.

    In an ideal world, feminism would be something that benefited all women, helped all of us fight against our oppression, and struggled to put all of us on an equal footing with men. But of course, this is the real world, not an ideal world. . .and poor women, women of color, and trans women, among others, have never been adequately advocated for by the feminist movement. I guess what I’ve been struggling with lately, as a trans woman, is whether it’s better for me to try to help change the feminist movement from within or to personally disinvest from the movement.

    Ironically enough, when I was publicly identifying myself as a man and nominally thinking of myself as male I was very gung-ho about feminism, much more so than now. Supporting feminism was a self-imposed responsibility that I had. I very deeply sensed that my having to live as a man was something very horrible, and the only way that anything redemptive might come of such a fate was if I could use my privilege responsibly to benefit those who were worse off. And at that time, it was right for feminism not to be about me, for me to take a supporting role, for me to talk less and listen more, and so on. I seemed to play this role well, and contrary to popular stereotypes, I didn’t see feminists as man-hating, at all. Rather, I felt highly respected, valued, and validated as a feminist “man.” In fact, me living up to the feminist standards for being a male ally was the first time in my life I’d ever felt that I’d lived up to any sort of social expectation for appropriate male behavior. That was kinda intoxicating, actually.

    So it’s been rather stunning for me to come to understand, that now that I’m identifying and living as a woman, I’m actually less welcome in feminism than before when people thought I was a guy. Because I thought feminism was supposed to be ABOUT women, right? But in my experience, many feminists may say they’re not interested in the male perspective on things, but that’s simply not true in most cases. We’ve all grown up in the same patriarchal society that tell us men’s words are more important that women’s words. Back in the day, virtually everyone I came across in feminist spaces seemed very interested in my personal “male” perspective, once I had demonstrated I wasn’t a complete jackass, at least. On the other hand, I’ve found most feminists appear much less interested in trans women’s perspectives than they claim to be. I can never shake the feeling now that I’m a sort of temporary guest in feminist spaces who is being conditionally tolerated.

    But so many of the things that cis women struggle with I now see how I’ve struggled with my whole life, too, just without fully recognizing it at the time. My whole life I’ve compared myself to the ideal image of feminine beauty presented by the media and felt inferior. My whole life I’ve felt I’ve had to be polite, nice, and demure–not take up too much space. My whole life I’ve felt I had to listen quietly to what men said even if I disagreed, be whatever they wanted me to be, and take care of their emotional needs for them. I internalized so many of the same messages as cis women and used those messages to oppress myself in a similar way. And lately, I’m also being intentionally oppressed from the outside in many of the same ways cis women are–being sexually harassed on the street, being patronized to and treated like an incompetent ninny, and so on.

    And it takes a lot of resources to deal with the oppression I face on a daily basis. And I don’t know if I have it in me to convince people that feminism should represent me also. So I might have to direct my activist energies elsewhere, if I can find another movement that better represents the interests of trans women (of course, there may be no such movement, I don’t know).

    P.S. I just wanted to clarify I’m not primarily speaking about Feministe here. I’ve had a lot of experiences in a lot of different feminist spaces, both online and in real life.

    1. mxe354
      mxe354 December 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm |

      Maybe my perspective is ill-informed, but I personally noticed that more and more feminists are advocating for trans* women, women of color, etc. I mean, the fact that many feminists, especially on the internet, are adopting an intersectionalist perspective of feminism is a good sign. And given that, despite many flaws in earlier feminisms, feminists have done a lot to at least help certain groups of women (which isn’t to say that their exclusion of non-cis women and disregard for women of color were ever okay), I personally believe that it would be better if I just stayed with the movement and decided to change it from within, as many are already doing. Just my thoughts.

      1. LotusBecca
        LotusBecca December 6, 2012 at 3:29 pm |

        I agree with that to a certain extent, but I also think that a lot of the efforts to include trans women and women of color have been image-conscious ass-covering. To make a rough analogy, it’s no longer politically correct in the wider culture to declare oneself as racist or say whites are a superior race. And yet less out and proud forms of racism continue both in the thoughts and the actions of most white people. Likewise, I think it’s become fashionable within feminism to talk about including trans women and women of color, but that doesn’t mean these women are actually being included. That’s not to ignore the fact that plenty of cis feminists been have great allies to trans women. I just feel that the general atmosphere of feminist institutions is still highly marginalizing to trans women.

    2. EG
      EG December 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm |

      On the other hand, I’ve found most feminists appear much less interested in trans women’s perspectives than they claim to be. I can never shake the feeling now that I’m a sort of temporary guest in feminist spaces who is being conditionally tolerated.

      I’m so sorry, Becca. I did notice that you’d been posting a lot less often since you began to live as you felt, but I had optimistically assumed/hoped it was because you felt freer to enjoy the non-cyber world and just had less time to kill. For what it’s worth, I have missed your voice.

      1. Jadey
        Jadey December 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm |

        co-sign.

        It’s anecdotal, but I do always feel like that spaces like Feministe cycle through certain marginalized groups of commenters a lot faster than anyone else, and that to me is the worst, most insidious problem that *any* of our social movements, feminism included, is facing – the people we need most are the people from whom the most is taken, and we become self-defeating movements because of it.

        Sorry, I’ve been in a pessimistic funk lately, but that’s where I’m at.

        I miss you too, Becca, though I’d never begrudge you your space.

        1. LotusBecca
          LotusBecca December 9, 2012 at 5:53 am |

          Thanks EG and Jadey! And you know EG. . .lately I have been feeling freer to enjoy the offline world (especially in the past couple months, as I’ve also started taking antidepressants, which have helped me with some issues of mine that caused me to withdraw from life).

          I’m just having to a shift to a more mature understanding of many things, including feminism. I’m realizing that I need to unlearn a lot of the “male ally behavior” that I picked up in my initial years in the movement. I’m starting to get that it’s OK for me to really criticize feminism (and not just Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys, but also the “good” type of feminism) and to expect that it won’t merely allow me to participate as a sympathetic ally but will actively support me and advocate for my interests. And even if the movement’s not perfect, the fact is I’m a woman, and I care about what happens to myself and other women very deeply. I care that people have a right to choose an abortion and have control over their own reproductive system. I care about rape survivors being supported and rape culture being dismantled. I care about women getting equal pay to men for a day’s work. And I care about helping more cis feminists really understand issues specific to trans women, too! So even though I’m super conflicted, I can’t just walk away from feminism. . .that’s the conclusion I’m startomg to come to. This is the movement against sexism in our society, and I care too much about these issues to not be involved.

        2. EG
          EG December 9, 2012 at 10:57 am |

          lately I have been feeling freer to enjoy the offline world (especially in the past couple months, as I’ve also started taking antidepressants, which have helped me with some issues of mine that caused me to withdraw from life).

          I am so glad to hear that! You know, antidepressants completely changed my life; I’m glad they’re a good way for you to help yourself as well.

          And I’m glad your understanding of feminism is evolving, that you’re realizing you can expect more from it and hold it (and all of us) to a higher standard. I hope we meet that standard.

    3. Donna L
      Donna L December 7, 2012 at 2:37 am |

      I can never shake the feeling now that I’m a sort of temporary guest in feminist spaces who is being conditionally tolerated.

      I think I know how you feel, Becca, because I sometimes feel the same way myself, here and elsewhere — like feeling that I always have to be patient, and a “good” trans woman (a credit to my people!), and can never (for example) get really upset or angry in the same way a cis feminist can, because there are so many people out there who would be ready, willing, and able to think to themselves, “see, just like a man!” It’s a lot of pressure, and it’s exhausting. So, for purely selfish reasons (in addition to the fact that I always like to read what you have to say), I hope you stick around — the more of us the better! But I understand why you might not want to.

      In any event, if I’m going to participate online anyplace besides venues that are strictly trans-related (and as the years go by since my transition, I feel less and less like disclosing my history in real-life spaces), I don’t think there’s a realistic alternative to progressive feminist spaces like this one, Shakesville, etc., where there already are a lot of cis people who are trans allies, including, not least, the moderators. Even though, God knows, I have no illusions that I can do anything to “change” feminism in general to be more positive towards trans women, from within or without, it’s still rewarding whenever someone says that something I’ve said, or you’ve said, or any trans person has said, helps them understand trans issues a little better.

      1. LotusBecca
        LotusBecca December 9, 2012 at 6:10 am |

        Yeah, that’s something I worry about, too, Donna, that if I come off as too angry or “pushy” then people will just think “OK: guy.” Well, sorry y’all! I’m just a passionate person! Underneath the mild-mannered male facade it turned out there was quite the female firecracker. Deal with it!

        So yeah, Donna, odds are I will keep popping into Feministe every now and again. I agree it’s super satisfying whenever we can help someone understand trans issues a little better. And I wouldn’t want to leave you and the other trans ladies here by yourselves. You’re right–the more the merrier! (or at least, the less exhausting).

        P.S. I always like reading what you write, too.

    4. Briznecko
      Briznecko December 7, 2012 at 11:48 am |

      I’m so sorry Becca.

      While I can’t speak for other lurkers, I want to personally thank you and Donna L for your comments here. I am still working out my own cis-privilege, but reading what you have to say has taught me so much and gave me the tools to be a proper ally. I sincerely wish you the best and lots of jedi hugs.

      1. LotusBecca
        LotusBecca December 9, 2012 at 6:37 am |

        Awww. . .that’s very sweet of you to say Briznecko!

        When I write stuff on here about trans issues, I can often feel very self-involved, just because it’s such deeply personal stuff for me. I express myself because after years of being in the closet I will never go back there; after years of blaming myself for my “situation,” I will never let cissexism go unchallenged whenever I see it. It makes me so happy to know that my comments benefit others besides just me. . .that people read them and learn something important! For most my life, being trans was something I was so ashamed of that I could never talk to anyone about it at all. To talk about it openly and have it be a positive thing that helps other people increase their knowledge. . .I can’t even put into words how meaningful that is for me. *hugs* :-)

  23. Stella
    Stella December 6, 2012 at 7:28 am |

    The better question would be, why do men feel feminists should be avoided? Because ultimately thats the reason many women do not self identify as feminists. The libel done against feminism needs to be undone.

    1. Stella
      Stella December 6, 2012 at 7:33 am |

      Also did feminism ever distance itself from people like Valerie Solanas? If feminists whom did not share their views just observed that kind of vitriol silently in the minds of the public it is a part of feminism as much as anything else that or whom labeled itself feminist.

      1. matlun
        matlun December 6, 2012 at 9:00 am |

        Because ultimately thats the reason many women do not self identify as feminists

        Is it? Are you not denying women agency with that assumption? There are certainly some women for whom that is true, but I do believe it is more common that they simply have made their own decision.

        Also did feminism ever distance itself from people like Valerie Solanas?

        “Feminism” is not a centrally controlled organization. There is no way the movement as a whole could distance itself from anything. Perhaps more feminists could take a clearer position on this, but many already do.

        The SCUM manifesto and other misandrist garbage is indeed playing a huge role in damaging the reputation of the rest of the feminist movement. But what could be done? Taking away the feminism membership badges of the people in question?

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve December 6, 2012 at 4:26 pm |

          “Feminism” is not a centrally controlled organization. There is no way the movement as a whole could distance itself from anything. Perhaps more feminists could take a clearer position on this, but many already do.

          The SCUM manifesto and other misandrist garbage is indeed playing a huge role in damaging the reputation of the rest of the feminist movement. But what could be done? Taking away the feminism membership badges of the people in question?

          Obviously this view of feminism as monolith is much of the reason why independent women would not want to be defined as feminist.

          I disagree with your view on the SCUM manifesto, though. Firstly I wouldn’t characterize it as ‘garbage’ as I happen to find it quite interesting from a literary perspective. Secondly, it isn’t even realistic to say that a tract which very few people have read and far fewer take seriously damages and/or is indicative of feminism, at least according to that parameters of what a majority of feminists believe.

        2. matlun
          matlun December 7, 2012 at 7:07 am |

          Secondly, it isn’t even realistic to say that a tract which very few people have read and far fewer take seriously damages and/or is indicative of feminism

          It does not exist in a vacuum, and it is indicative of a certain small subset of feminism. Man hating feminists are a stereotype, but they really do exist. In fact they represent a not negligible portion of the self identified feminists visible in mainstream media. They are not representative of feminism as a whole, which is why it is a stereotype, but it is not a prejudice conjured out of thin air.

          Regarding the quality of the SCUM manifesto:
          I guess it could be seen as interesting from a historical perspective, but to a lesser extent than for example Mein Kampf. I would say that the literary quality of both works is pretty bad, though. And in both cases the ideology is utterly repugnant.

        3. EG
          EG December 7, 2012 at 11:09 am |

          Matlun, I take real offense at that comparison. However much media play Solanas may have gotten, she never led a national campaign to round up and exterminate men. It’s really not an apt or acceptable comparison.

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune December 7, 2012 at 11:45 am |

          I guess it could be seen as interesting from a historical perspective, but to a lesser extent than for example Mein Kampf. I would say that the literary quality of both works is pretty bad, though. And in both cases the ideology is utterly repugnant.

          Did….did you just Godwin?

          o_O

          Also, well, I guess you really do think that demanding equal rights is exactly like invading Poland, lol.

        5. matlun
          matlun December 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm |

          I apologize. that was a very poorly chosen example by me without qualifying it in the above post.

          I implied, and do believe, that the ideologies are equally repugnant. IOW if you compare some contemporary person holding Solanas’ views with a Neo Nazi, I would judge them to be on a similar moral level.

          However, Hitler did not just write a book, and as persons he and Solanas are clearly not comparable.

        6. EG
          EG December 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm |

          Thanks, matlun. I appreciate it.

    2. Dan_Brodribb
      Dan_Brodribb December 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |

      I think a lot of us find feminism a scary and intimidating idea at first because we don’t know exactly what it is, but it sounds threatening.
      It sounds like it might involve work and making changes we don’t necessarily want to make and the No Fun Police coming down on us with both feet.

      So there’s an element of the unknown to us.

      For me it was also coupled with an element of willful blindness. If I’m not aware of the issues then I can’t be expected to take responsibility for them, right? On the other hand, if I know about them, I’ll feel expected to do something and I worry that whatever that responsibility is, it might be too much for me to handle.

      It’s easier to deal with that cognitive threat by demonizing the feminists.

      Over the years I’ve found pretending something isn’t there doesn’t make it go away.

      I’ve also really learned the value of education. Learning more about feminism helped me feel less overwhelmed by the whole thing. It’s a lot easier to make a decision on something when you actually know what that thing is.

  24. Angie unduplicated
    Angie unduplicated December 6, 2012 at 9:01 am |

    Feminism gets bad press for economic reasons. Women are worldwide cheap labor in the paid economy, free labor in the home, and conspicuous collective conformist consumerism, also known as compulsory fashion. Yuppie Dudebro, LLC will not let go of this without violence, ridicule, and blacklists.
    Some women may not get the concept of feminism, but The Man sure does. If, by cosmic fiat, the spokeswomen of the movement were suddenly all morphed into tall blonde fleshy Barbiebots, the male sexual ideal would be subjected to a brunette sales job by media’s corporate propaganda reps.
    Public displays of nonfeminism are bootlicking/boorlicking attempts to maintain position at the top of the heap.

  25. Valoniel
    Valoniel December 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm |

    I have literally never heard anyone define “gay ally” as “participates in gay activism”. Seriously, by that count I’m not currently a gay ally either, ffs.

    Mac, I’m betting that the reason you’ve never heard that is because you’ve never been in a position to confront the ‘I’m not a gay ally’ statement. I’ll lay you dollars to donuts that if you ever are, that’s exactly the answer you’ll get.

    Basically, what’s going on is that there’s a branding problem, where those not actively involved really only wind up with the loudest participants as their ‘face of the movement’. People have these weird ideas about what things mean, and while I’m not for trying to tell anyone that they’re something with which they’ve chosen not to identify themselves, asking why a person doesn’t want to identify as X will probably get you some really interesting and enlightening results.

  26. GudEnuf
    GudEnuf December 6, 2012 at 4:33 pm |

    Everyone’s assuming Katy Perry is too stupid to know what feminism is, or too scared to say what she really thinks. That is patronizing.

    Don’t you think there’s a teeny-tiny possibility that Katy Perry knows what feminism is about and doesn’t like what it stands for? Maybe she’s opposed to Roe v Wade or Title IX, and doesn’t want to be associated with people who support them.

  27. sheriji
    sheriji December 6, 2012 at 6:41 pm |

    At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll quote Ani DiFranco:

    “Why is it all decent men and women don’t call themselves feminists, out of respect?”

    These women ARE feminists, they’re just too stupid to know what it means. Too caught up in the femi-Nazi, we-hate-men and refuse-to-shave-our-legs 70s view of “feminism” (not that there’s anything WRONG with that). Why can’t everyone realize that to be a feminist just means that you claim your right to be exactly who you want to be and refuse anyone else the right to try to define you by what THEY think a woman should be?

    Sheesh.

    1. Alexandra
      Alexandra December 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm |

      Maybe these women are claiming their right to be exactly who they want to be, and are refusing to let anyone else define them as women. Carla Bruni isn’t stupid; she knows where her bread is buttered – by being the perfect beautiful trophy wife. Katy Perry knows what she’s doing too: she gets to pretend at being radical and fearless, but all she’s doing is wearing a whipped cream bra, not standing up against bigotry. And what does she get for writing a song called Ur So Gay or I Kissed a Girl? She gets a bloody award from an organization dedicated to preventing LGBT suicide!

      If you’re going to criticise women for making political choices you disagree with, go after them from a political, moral, or philosophical point of view – don’t just dismiss them as dumb.

      Calling people stupid when they make decisions you don’t like is… let’s fill in the blank here… STUPID!

      1. Alexandra
        Alexandra December 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm |

        I’m sorry, the comment above came off very harsh. Just for clarification: sheriji, I don’t think YOU’RE stupid. I just disagreed with what you said above.

        Also this comment will undoubtedly come out of moderation before the first reply I made.

    2. AMM
      AMM December 7, 2012 at 12:56 pm |

      These women ARE feminists, they’re just too stupid to know what it means.

      Or maybe they’re put off by being called “stupid.” And by being told they don’t know themselves as well as some stranger does.

  28. AMM
    AMM December 6, 2012 at 9:03 pm |

    I really appreciate Saurus’s way of putting it (http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/12/05/why-are-women-scared-to-call-themselves-feminists/#comment-555582)

    Feminist ideas and concepts have shaped my worldview for most of my life, and when I’m alone in my apartment with the blinds drawn I’ll call myself a feminist. But not in public.

    I’d say it’s the way so many people who label themselves “feminist” act and treat other people, including (or especially) other feminists, that makes me not want to be associated with them. I’m sure I’m not the perfect Feminist, but that recognition doesn’t mean I’m willing to be treated with hostility and contempt when I fail to live up to someone else’s standards of Teh True Feminist, or to watch it happen to others. Better to say “I’m no feminist” right off and save myself a lot of grief.

    And not calling yourself “feminist” doesn’t keep you from living a life that is consistent with feminist principles or from advancing feminist goals. Most of the people I know are like that. “Deed before creed” and all that.

    If you’re looking for examples of what I mean, you need look no further than this blog, or even this thread.

  29. Natalie
    Natalie December 6, 2012 at 9:50 pm |

    As someone who described myself as a feminist for many years and no longer does but also hasn’t changed any of my actual beliefs, here are my somewhat garbled two cents:

    I was a lifelong self-described feminist until a year or so after I became a sex worker. For a while I could deal with the dehumanizing way many feminists talk about sex workers. After all, some self-described feminists say all kinds of shitty things– transphobic, whorephobic, racist, classist things — and others say wonderful smart not-awful things, and I felt that the worst things I saw weren’t reflective of feminism as a whole or at the very least could be changed from the inside out.

    I don’t know what it was that finally did it, but it probably had something to do with reading too many comment sections on feminist websites. I can’t. I just can’t. “Feminist” is a good description of my political views and if you saw my internet history you’d assume I was a good little feminist but nope. I will not longer identify myself as a feminist.

    The only time I do identify myself as a feminist is if I’m talking to a misogynist and want to piss them off.

    Reading the comments in this thread have confirmed that I made the right choice.

    1. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan December 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm |

      Reading the comments in this thread have confirmed that I made the right choice.

      There are comments on this thread about sex work?

      1. Natalie
        Natalie December 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

        No, but there are a lot of ragey condescending comments directed at people for the crime of not identifying their politics the same way and I really don’t like it.

      2. gahanon
        gahanon December 7, 2012 at 8:46 pm |

        The point, I think you missed it.

  30. Radiant Sophia
    Radiant Sophia December 7, 2012 at 1:28 am |

    I, for my part, hesitate to identify as a feminist without a clear definition of feminism. Where I live (central Iowa) the word “feminist” has anti-LGBT connotations, and one cannot call themselves a feminist without automatically being labeled bigoted.

  31. im
    im December 7, 2012 at 11:31 pm |

    The anti-T connotations are particularly bad in some circles. One possiblity though is that some feminists have a tendancy to throw some moderates out of the movement while refusing to distance themselves from reprehensible extremists. I no longer identify as a (male) feminist ally because I didn’t like being crushed between a faction that demanded strict obedience and a certain measure of self-hatred if I took the label, and a faction that demands that everyone who agrees with the most moderate, benign group take the label.

  32. Lady A
    Lady A December 8, 2012 at 6:40 pm |

    Because we still live in a society that still operates through patriarchy. Anything that even feels or seems like it’s making men less than dominate, we feel it’s our duty to embarrass and persecute anyone who’s trying to move away from it. Feminism isn’t a woman hating group but a group of women TIRED of being restricted and put into a box by society because we HAVE to conform to the biased roles handed to women unfairly in which just so happen to be the subject and orchestrators of the things we speak out against. Feminism is no different than any other rights movement in society in which the offended group of individuals feel like they’re being castrated, ostracized and belittled for no reason at all. Imagine how far behind the world would be if we shamed gays, people of color, the religious and other discriminated groups for their movement against inequality whatever they may be? We shouldn’t even have to have rights movement of any sort to begin with imo. Equality should be apart of our human DNA unfortnately it isn’t.

    Women are still underpaid compared to their male counterparts, women are still sexualized and not valued for our intellect, there are still areas in society where women are still trying to make breakthroughs, areas people feel only men should dominate. It’s ironic because in the past regarding ancient civilizations, you had King and Queens. Men and women both adhered to roles that allowed them to rule and be authorative. I don’t know how it became what it is today.

    Women are shamed in fear or being alienated for associating themselves with the feminist movement while women across seas in places like Pakistan would love to have the freedom to march against ill treatment against women. Some women over there aren’t even allowed to read, but we’re letting opportunity pass by because we don’t want to step on toes? Doesn’t make sense, lets progress not move backwards.

    1. Laura T
      Laura T December 21, 2012 at 6:15 am |

      So well said. I agree!

  33. jose
    jose December 9, 2012 at 6:21 pm |

    Lots of workers refuse to call themselves labor. “Oh no, I’m not labor, I just work, you know, and I’d like to do some collective bargaining and have a right to strike and minimum wage and stuff like that. But ‘labor’? Nah, I’m not a communist, lol!” Yeah.

  34. Michelle
    Michelle December 12, 2012 at 9:08 am |

    Being a feminist is joining the side of the slaughter. Men have already, using all the above tactics committed 100% public suicide. This feminist crap is fighting with the same loosing weapon the have never stopped fighting with.

    Role model family? That makes me sick. What now with a bunch of females being just as small as the men, leading more women into prisons, danger to self and others committed, criminal populations, public failures, homeless,addicts just like the men have?

    So now what are the women supposed to do take on this “Perfect” Role modeling that destroyed the men? More of the Perfect White Race, Perfect Asian Race, Perfect Government Race, The Perfect Gender Race? Being a woman with ability I am supposed to follow what: the Perfect Female Race? “The Perfect Family Race” Not this kid. The “Perfect Anything” will loose in today’s climate and the Perfect Female Race never had a prayer fighting the losing male embarrassing way of “The Perfects..” It is Racism no matter how you take it up and crimes do not put down crimes. Crimes only bring on more crimes for the Oh so “Perfect Races and Models”.

    The “Perfect anything” is a death lead. It’s is molding into something again that looses all meaning for our future generations. I say “Stop the Perfect” racism. The only cure. This type of “perfect ” activism will lead to public suicide itself. Take your “Perfect Ways” and die with them. I will fight against them. You want to get perfect, respect human self choice ability, compliment it for what it is and move on, and stop bashing it every where you go.

    I personally will do everything possible not to take the total male example of what not to do. They didn’t commit public suicide with intent. So find another way to help your “Perfect Family Race” populated with the “Perfect Male Populations in Public” and live with them. I choose to fight it another way. If it’s not criminal, it’s good.

  35. Lyanna
    Lyanna December 12, 2012 at 12:06 pm |

    It’s continually amusing to me how so many people who call themselves Christians, Americans, liberals, conservatives, moderates, environmentalists, anti-racists, or socialists won’t call themselves feminists

    …because some feminists have said and done such horrible bigoted things in the past.

    Right.

  36. Laura T
    Laura T December 21, 2012 at 5:55 am |

    To me, being a feminist is a way of life. It means having confidence, fighting for equality, not allowing anyone to demean me, or any other woman, and securing the same rights and privileges given to men. I think the term feminist is still a dirty word for different reasons. One of those reasons is the tangling of the word into different political areas, which doesn’t seem to happen with any other cause. This seems to operate as an excuse to dismiss the movement, or distance oneself from the word feminist.
    I’m sure there are gay/lesbian and transgender people who support the NAACP. There may even be some gay/lesbian people hiding in an NRA closet, somewhere. However, the NAACP is a powerful force in ensuring the political, social, and economic equality of minority citizens. That is the unwavering, primary focus.
    The NRA has such a ridiculously strong lobby; for the longest time it has even silenced presidents. Unfortunately, it has what the feminist movement doesn’t have; it has unwavering loyalty.
    Regrettably, racists are in every facet and faction of society. Racist statements have come from different individuals belonging to different movements. But those movements themselves, whatever they are, remain strong and steadfast in their missions.
    I think another reason the word feminist is dirty is the fact that women are indoctrinated into believing they have less value than men. I could go on for pages and pages about that.
    How will we ever make the word feminist and the feminist movement acceptable if we, those of us who call ourselves feminists, don’t identify ourselves as such and don’t work together as a strong united front?

    1. tomek
      tomek December 21, 2012 at 7:06 am |

      How will we ever make the word feminist and the feminist movement acceptable if we, those of us who call ourselves feminists, don’t identify ourselves as such and don’t work together as a strong united front?

      mabe because woman is not united front? most woman find feminism not compatible with internal desire and life experience. and so have cognative dissinance. you can see this with many woman go to college, do some feminism but eventually grow out of when contradictions are realize

      1. Jadey
        Jadey December 21, 2012 at 10:56 am |

        No, tomek.

        No.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune December 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm |

          I think we’ve reached the OH TOMEK NO point, Jadey.

  37. Laura T
    Laura T December 21, 2012 at 9:04 am |

    I would also like to say I identify myself as a feminist, privately and publicly, and always will.

  38. LibraryGander
    LibraryGander December 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm |

    Females abstain from using the word feminist because they think the word sounds distasteful to men and shudder to think of a life without a husband or boyfriend. The tricky part is getting females to a place where they can see themselves as independent and not reliant.
    The culture forces females to invest in men and see themselves as less than, in the same way my Black brothers and sisters were forced into a life of slavery. The difference is, my people refused to see themselves as inferior and resisted in different ways. They ran away, joined rebellious groups, even stole away at night and taught themselves to read. We empowered ourselves, saw the great in our activist leaders, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
    My people didn’t wait for the White race to free them. We liberated ourselves. In the same regard, females should not wait for a man to free them. I can’t hand my sister, aunt, and niece liberty on a silver platter. They have to fight for their own liberty and demand the same respect that is given to males.
    Females complain about living as second class citizens; yet, when they are presented with the task of defining themselves, they choose to define themselves as anti-feminist.

    1. LibraryGander
      LibraryGander December 24, 2012 at 2:34 pm |

      *

    2. PF
      PF December 24, 2012 at 3:31 pm |

      ditto

    3. genericone
      genericone December 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm |

      **

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