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Taking back the f word

Hermione Granger defining feminism by holding up her wand and saying feminist, not feminazi

Ahh, the f word. Where to begin? At The Feminista, we feel good about calling ourselves feminists. It’s a label we claim with passion and pride. But that’s not a universal thing.

Here, we get to the bottom of what stops people from identifying as feminists and joining the movement… and what we can do to change it.


So what is a “feminist” anyways?

Let’s start by clearing the water and defining feminism:

Feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunity. It’s the theory and advocacy of political, economic, and social equality on the basis of sex.

It really is as simple as that. Still, there are plenty of people who are unwilling to embrace the term, including some pretty notable female role models who seem to support feminist values (we’re looking at you Katy Perry, T. Swift, and Lana Del Rey). So what gives?


Why are we afraid to say it?

Unfortunately, feminism is often associated with its most radical representatives—those man-hating, bra-burning rebel-types. The PC-obsessed, Twitter-policing snowflakes. The cold career woman. Extremists and killjoys and bitches, oh my!

We could go on with the stereotypes, but the point is: those negative connotations run deep and can be hard to shake. So let’s lean in and break it down by the three biggest misconceptions people have about feminists and the meaning of modern feminism.


Misconception #1: Feminism is just for women

In her 2014 UN speech for the HeForShe initiative, Emma Watson said that “fighting for women’s rights has become synonymous with man-hating. If there’s one thing I know for certain it is that this has to stop.” Amen, sister.

Hermione—ahem, we mean Emma—goes on to formally invite men to join the cause. We like to say that men of quality don’t fear equality and that everyone should be a feminist. Because feminism is not a zero-sum game andwe’ll say it once more for the ladies in the back—voicing your support for the movement has nothing to do with man-hating and everything to do with giving women a fighting chance!

Women don’t want pity. Women don’t want handouts. We just want respect, rights, and opportunity. And who can’t get down with that? 

Maya Rudolph impersonates modern feminist Kamala harris and asks “oh, is this a debate?” 


Misconception #2. Feminism is unattractive

Look, we hate to break it to you, but there are feminists who don’t wear makeup or shave their legs or wear deodorant. There are also feminists who wear pink and paint their nails—just ask Lizzo or AOC.

Feminism has evolved a lot over the years, but our collective memory seems to be stuck in the 70s, when second-wave feminists were challenging traditional gender roles and refusing to adhere to conventional standards of beauty.

Admittedly, those black and white photos of women burning their bras and giving the finger to the patriarchy are iconic, but we’ve got to move on from that narrow view of what a feminist looks like. (And, if we may, let’s also examine why so many of us are resistant to being categorized with those who deviate from that beauty standard?! Maybe we’ll save that for another day…)

Modern feminist Leslie Knope says “I guess some people object to powerful women with awesome ideas”

Beyond that, there seems to be some fear around being perceived as too strong, too loud, or too aggressive. For speaking up and upsetting the status quo. That fear is both frustrating and legitimate because let’s face it: voicing your opinion can have very real consequences. It’s not unheard of for women to lose jobs, relationships—you name it.

Still, the fact that women are made to feel censored in that way is all the more reason to jump on the feminist bandwagon. Let’s level the playing field and make sure women feel comfortable and secure expressing themselves.


Misconception #3: Feminism doesn’t include me

Many women have trouble embracing feminism because, historically, the term has excluded them. For a long time, it wasn’t all that wrong to say that feminism was defined by and for middle class white women.

Luckily, more modern third- and fourth-wave feminism have been far more successful in their attempts at inclusion and intersectionality—largely due to the efforts of the very women who have been marginalized in the past on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, and beyond—but it’s clear that we have to be better moving forward. 

Modern feminist Janet Mock says “womanhood can look so many different ways”

There’s also some concern that feminism is really just for high-brow, liberal elites. That those feminists are too radical, too focused on identity politics and political correctness, too apt to play the victim card.

Or maybe it’s for women who don’t embrace family values, who are trying to “do it all” and look down on those who don’t have the same kind of career-minded, multi-tasking intensity of a glossy, made-up woman in power suit.

It would be silly to pretend that these people don’t exist—they do! And with good intentions, we might add. We need women out there intellectualizing the movement and engaging with feminist theory! We need others to be breaking glass ceilings and pushing back on the gender pay gap!

But feminist steps forward should never belittle other women along the way. Hell to the no. When it comes down to it, feminism is about choice. The opportunity and equal right to choose how we want to live our lives. And being a baker or a seamstress or a stay-at-home mom needs to be recognized as equally stellar examples of our feminist values.

 Mindy Kaling holds up a modern pink baby onesie with the word “feminist” on it and hugs it


So where do we go from here?

Okay, let’s take a breath. Yes, those misconceptions are pretty common. And yes, they’re all very real problems for the way feminism is propagated and perceived by modern women. But here’s why we’re hopeful…

We know what honest feminism looks like and we know how simple it is to get behind! We also know how broad and expansive our coalition of feminists really is and can be. And guess what? We’re the ones that decide the future of this movement.

It’s driven by love. It’s radically inclusive. It’s not going to be perfect. And that’s okay! The work has always been trying our best, fighting for what’s right, and getting right back up when we stumble along the way.


Let’s reclaim the word “feminist”

At The Feminista, we’re feminists to the core and we’re not sorry about it. But we also understand and recognize the many reasons why people have shied away from the f word in the past. So here’s our open invitation to that group: Take it. Reclaim it. Make it represent you.

If you believe that men and women deserve the equal rights and opportunity, you’re a bona fide Feminist. Capital F, baby. And anyone who puts you in a box or thinks that word is the only thing that defines you? Well, eff ‘em.

Emma Watson describes the meaning of feminism with “sorry to tell you quote”


And reconnect with The F word weekly

Scandalous, we know! But seriously, there is one last thing… Our feminist blog, The F Word, exists for unapologetic, intellectually curious feminists like you. And you can sign up for our weekly email newsletter or check back on Mondays for the latest in feminist (and The Feminista) news.

Think of it as our little fireside chit-chat, during which we’ll talk your ear off about feminist icons we love, popular feminist issues and current events, and the endlessly inspiring intersection between style and substance.

Modern feminist Jessica Day says “I hope you like feminist rants because that’s kind of my thing”

So put on some lipstick. Or burn your bra. Rock a hijab. Flip someone off. We’re here for whatever flavor of feminism you subscribe to, as long as these four truths remain true:

We’re feminists. We’re intersectional. We come in peace. And we’re not fucking around :)

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