“I’m not a feminist, but…” and “I’m a feminist, but…”

13 02 2009

This person is the individual who always says smart and insightful things in your Women’s Studies, or not Women’s Studies, class, the one who comes to the Take Back the Night rallies and knows what to say and how to say it to captivate and move the crowd, the activist always organizing events or pitching in awesome ideas.

But then you hear s/he say, “I’m not a feminist, but…” and you cringe. Oh no. A feminist afraid of feminism.

The right wing’s attack on feminism along with the absurd way that the media has portrayed feminism has tremendously discredited the movement and has made people, men and women alike, to reject identifying themselves as feminists. Saying “I’m not a feminist, but…” is making a concession to the dominant paradigm by continuing to vilify the F word. Replacing the word “feminist” would not really remove the stigma – if we chose another word instead, that word would bear the stigma because feminism is a radical ideology that threatens to subvert the status quo.

Popular stereotypes of feminists iterated and reiterated by the media also harm people who identify as feminists but preface their sentence with, “I’m a feminist, but…”: I’m a feminist, but I’m not a lesbian (but what’s wrong with being a lesbian?) or I’m a feminist, but I don’t hate men. Hearing these statements reaffirms how pervasive, powerful and damaging these stereotypes that try to discredit feminism are.

It’s also disheartening how quickly people can be to reject feminism even if they don’t know what it is. Even celebrities are quick to deny that they are feminists, even though these denials contradict other statements they have made. In a recent interview Kelly Clarkson was asked, “Do you consider the record industry to be a boys club?”, she said:

I just know for a fact … why I said that was because I was actually on a phone call with two people who did not know I was on the phone, and I literally heard somebody I used to work with say, “Well, you know what, he can get away with it because it’s a guy. She’s a girl, so let’s just face it, it’s different.” And I was like, “Is this the 1950s?” I hung up and didn’t listen to the rest.

But then when asked if she was a feminist, she immediately said, “No, not at all…I’ve never had to even think like a feminist because no one around me even thinks one [sex] is higher than the other.”

It befuddles me… Feminists should not feel like they have to be afraid of, conceal, feel embarrassed about, or apologize for their beliefs.


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One response

28 02 2009
Melissa

Yeah, the whole stigma around feminism definitely results from the fact that most people lack an understanding of what feminism actually is. I blame a lot of that on the media and its portrayals of “feminism.”

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