I am always surprised by women who describe themselves as ‘not a feminist’ … because to me if you are a woman, how can you not be feminist? I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t a feminist, if I am truthful. It isn’t like a religion where a conversion or awakening was needed for the transition to take place. I was just raised to believe in the equality of women.

Notice I used the word equality there … not supremacy! Feminism isn’t about proving women are better than men — it’s about expecting to be viewed, socially, politically and economically, as equal to men. On the same level playing field. It’s about not being treated like a second-rate citizen or accepting a subordinate status.

It’s also not about blaming men for everything or putting men down. Any feminist who does that is as misogynist as any woman-hating man. Patriarchy is a word bandied about by many women as the root of all evil, but let us not forget that as many women as men supported patriarchy. It takes two to tango as the saying goes. Women have historically also been culpable of oppressing women. It isn’t about addressing a sex imbalance as a societal one.

Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is something that both men and women participate in. – Ashley Judd


I found a great quote for a friend of mine who claims not to be political or a feminist (she is actually both) which said

A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men – Gloria Steinem

And for me that is one of the best definitions I have come across. It’s true that the label “feminist”has become pejorative for modern women who cannot identify with the militant, perceived as predominantly gay, feminist movement of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Many modern men, though, have little trouble in accepting the label, and will happily call themselves ‘feminist’ …

So why are modern women so sure that feminism is not something that should concern or worry them or that they cannot identify with? Should we be trying to rehabilitate the ‘label’ or are we working towards an era where labels seek to exist. As Soren Kierkegaard once wrote:

‘Once you label me, you negate me.’

As a scholar in feminism and gender studies I can see the damage that some schools of thought have done, building barriers instead of breaking them down. Feminism should be something that is accessible and that women of all sexualities, ethnicities, cultures and political persuasions can identify with. Yes, a lot of damage has been done, though arguably it was necessary for women today to be enjoying the rights that they do … so has our comfortable status (achieved by the previous actions of other women) made us, as women, apathetic to what are forebears suffered, that we may enjoy equality? (Though that equality is still often arbitrarily bestowed and not world wide – there is still plenty to be fought for, other wise there would be no need for demonstrations such as One Billion Rising.) Can it be argued that feminism has achieved so much that the fear of what previous generations suffered has receded into the annals of the past, and no longer motivates their children?

Is feminism a 21st century issue or a thing of the past? Is it time to redefine ourselves as humanists? Individuals? To forget the sex-divide? I fear that even though progress has been made, the attitude of a society that can still call its females things like ‘slut’ still needs to be changed. A society where a woman is still judged by her sexual history is still prejudicial. A society where the heterosexual norms are still given higher social status than the non-heterosexual needs to change … Any society that imposes judgements on the way a women dresses, and punishes them for non-compliance needs to reassess their priorities.  Whether that be in court after being assaulted or in the street for not abiding by an imposed religious or political dress code.


But what we forget is we ARE society. It’s not anyone else. It is each individual that makes a difference. The personal is the political and together, we can affect change. For the better. And maybe there is still a real need for people to be proud to call themselves feminist. I know I am. But even if you eschew labels … be the best person you can be, uphold the values that you value and fight, when necessary, to make the world a better place, regardless of what sex you are or what labels you hang on your sleeve.

And, just incase you were wondering,  THIS is what a feminist looks like … I hope you all have a feminist sort of a day!


2 thoughts on “When is a feminist not a feminist?

  1. I love this post and the only thing you will here me shouting at the computer is ‘yay’. Your friend’s quote is the best one I’ve come across. I’d really like to reblog your post on my blog – with your permission of course. Let me know. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to reach a time when we truly can redefine ourselves as humanists or individuals.

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