On Identifying as a Feminist

[Snark Warning]

It’s fashionable these days to align yourself with virtually every feminist cause but to shun the label “feminist.” It’s not “cool,” people protest. We don’t want to be associated with those mannish lesbians. We don’t want to ruin people’s fun. We don’t hate men. Blahblahblah.

Okay, here’s the thing. There is no identity out there, no label or group, that doesn’t have some negative stereotypes associated with it. Unless you’ve decided to forgo all labels entirely, you’re singling out feminism for some very special treatment if you refuse to call yourself a feminist, feminist beliefs notwithstanding.

For instance, if I tell people I’m agnostic, they may assume that I just don’t have the guts to pick a viewpoint. If I tell them I’m atheist, they may assume that I’m selfish, inflexible, and intolerant. If I tell them I’m Jewish, they may assume that I’m privileged and cliquey.

Or, they may not.

I’ve identified as all three of these things at one point or another, fully aware of the negative connotations that they sometimes have. But did I hesitate to call myself these terms? No!

Some liberals are whiny and naive, but I still consider myself a liberal. Some Israelis are harsh and uncompromising, but I proudly tell people where I’m from. Some Northwestern students are snobby, but I never hesitate to tell people where I go to school. Some psychologists are annoying and try to psychoanalyze you, but–guess what–I’m still going to become a psychologist, and I’m still going to tell people what I do.

If someone judges you based on one word that you use to describe yourself, that person is probably an idiot. It’s not your responsibility to ensure that no idiot out there ever misjudges you, because what idiots do is misjudge people.

To say, “Yes, this word describes me perfectly but I’m not going to use it lest anyone judge me idiotically,” is letting those people win. Because, unsurprisingly, the people who will still have the courage to call themselves feminists will be the radical ones. Love them or hate them, they don’t represent the majority of people who hold feminist views.

In other words, when you disassociate from an identity that describes you just because you don’t want to be associated with some of the people who share that identity, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Feminists are not all alike, just as atheists, Jews, Muslims, Christians, vegetarians, liberals, conservatives, Israelis, Americans, Democrats, and Republicans are not all alike. You can’t understand a person in their entirety just by knowing that they belong to one of these groups.

I am a feminist. I am not identical to every other feminist you have ever met, studied, or heard about. If I tell you that I am a feminist and your response is to smirk, roll your eyes, or ask me if I hate all men, then I’m probably going to consider you an idiot. Why? Because you haven’t bothered to take me seriously. You haven’t learned about my beliefs, but you’ve already decided that learning about them is a waste of your time. Because you’ve disagreed with me without knowing what you’re even disagreeing with. That’s idiotic.

If you actually learn about what I believe and then decide that you disagree, that’s fair. But that’s completely different. And don’t worry, I won’t think you’re an idiot.

As for people like my younger self, who refused to call herself a feminist for fear of ridicule, I only have this tiny suggestion–stop fearing people’s judgment so much. They can’t do anything to you. They come and go. Your beliefs are the core of your character and, although they may change with time, they will always matter to you. They will always matter more than some idiot who sneers at you and asks if you’ve burned your bra yet.

On Identifying as a Feminist

10 thoughts on “On Identifying as a Feminist

    1. 1.1

      I’m not sure what you mean; you’ll have to be more specific.

      In any case, I rarely make any absolute statements–or if I do, it’s for rhetorical purposes only–so that doesn’t sound like something I would agree with.

  1. 2

    This sort of thing is of course going to happen with left wing individuals, shunning uncool labels. They like being open to things and having freedom and if you call yourself a feminist you’re constricting yourself quite a lot. They have a distaste for arguments and substantive disagreements, and prefer to label themselves as non partisan knowers of the truth.

    Feminism is hugely partisan, and the big feminist organisations have a strongly defined truth which all must adhere to, which they teach young feminists about. That’s also quite unattractive to a lot of potential feminists. They may like some aspects of the official doctrine, but not other aspects.


    And as a third point, it’s perfectly fair for people to care about how people view them. Almost every feminist I’ve met has said she’s different from other feminists upon questioning, and then on further conversation has spouted traditional feminist doctrines like…

    Lotsa stuff about how the media has socialized masculinity to make it violent, encourage sexual assault, and sometimes stuff about men yearning for anorexic girls, some stuff about how feminism can help men by helping them avoid traditional gender roles and be more feminine, some abuse of statistics, some condemnation of men for being judgemental and not accepting fat/depressed/promiscuous/crazy women (whatever they are), lots of concern for female issues and no concern for male issues or female crimes.

    A few have some mild tolerance of basic anti rape safety measures like not getting drunk in strange places to avoid rape, most say they don’t hate men, some of their best friends are men,


    how they’re not female supremacists when they say sexist stuff but are just trying to equalize past oppression. Every feminist is unique, just like every other feminist.


    So a feminist telling men that she’s different from every other feminist is a warning sign, not some way to prove yourself. It normally means she doesn’t recognise the above as wrong in her fellow feminists and isn’t going to take any responsibility. Given that, most girls don’t want to have all the above baggage. A more attractive and kind partner is more important than a label.

    1. 2.1

      Given that, most girls don’t want to have all the above baggage. A more attractive and kind partner is more important than a label.(thesecond)

      I remember having a discussion with a feminist and making a remark about my girlfriend. Her response was, you mean your lady friend. Whhhatt ever do you mean? Girl means prepubescent. Oh really, and here I thought girlfriend was a term of endearment. 😉
      I guess we should be thankful you guys arent those type of feminists. 🙂

      1. I remember a conversation with a feminist where I said ‘my girlfriend’ and she got pissed at me for seeing women as possessions (My girlfriend? My girlfriend! So you own ‘your’ girlfriend?)

        It’s not worth trying to keep up with such idiocy.

        1. 1. That’s a linguistic feature called “inalienable possesion” and it’s not the same thing as “my cat” or “my phone”. You obviously don’t own your father but he’s “your father”, right?

          2. Most feminists realize that this particular criticism is silly, so I bet that the feminist in question was either feeling very frustrated about something unrelated or else very new to feminism.

  2. 3

    What a great post! Thank you for stopping by my blog and linking to this :). I really don’t like negative stereotypes, but they are definitely there. I think the key is to boldly identify as something (as a feminist, in this example) and prove to the people that you know that the negative stereotype associated with the label are not universal.

  3. 4

    I’ve identified as a feminist for years, and it was super scary at the start. ‘I’m a feminist, but I’m not scary and I shave my armpits’, I would say (quickly). but then I thought, screw it, if you assume I am a ‘radical’ you don’t know me very well and I look forward to enlightening you.


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