Lunchtime Poll: What Does It Mean to be a Feminist?

Jezebel posted an article on Saturday with a compilation of remarks from celebrities, commenting on what it means to be a feminist.

The range of definitions was vast. The comments ranged from Bjork:

Bust: Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Bjork: Umm.. no.

Bust: Why not?

Bjork: Because I think it would isolate me. I think it’s important to do positive stuff. It’s more important to be asking than complaining.

Bust: So you feel the term “feminism” is equated with complaining?

Bjork: A lot, yes. You could probably call my mother a feminist, and I watched her isolate herself all her life from men, and therefore from society.

To Madonna’s comment: “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist.”

Personally, I consider myself a feminist, based on bell hooks’ description from Feminism is for Everybody (2000), “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.”

What does feminism mean to you and what does it look like to be a feminist? Everyone has different interpretations, as you can see, and factors such as one’s social location (race, age, sex, sexual orientation, class, ability) can inform what feminism is to a person.

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Luann

Feminist, Pinay, coffee lover, boba aficionado and pop culture enthusiast. Current graduate student in Peace and Conflict Studies. Dwelling in the rainy city of Portland, Oregon but always California dreaming. You can also read more of her articles at browngirldecolonized.com

6 thoughts on “Lunchtime Poll: What Does It Mean to be a Feminist?”

  1. I do not personally identify as a feminist most of the time either because, in a nutshell, mainstream feminisms largely have been inadequate to downright oppressive with regards to my needs as a woman. I appreciate and identify many ways with various woman of color feminisms, womanisms, and transnational feminisms. But, ultimately I don’t feel entirely comfortable with the label, and only use it in a hyphenated way when I do use it.

    That said, I support and actively engage in bringing about the liberation of all women from oppression however specific women or groups of women may articulate that.

    1. Marena: I agree that mainstream feminism (and if we want to put an academic term to it, liberal feminism) has been inadequate and a lot of times oppressive when attempting to represent all people. When I was studying women’s studies during my undergraduate years, I was always uncomfortable with using the word “feminist” knowing that it came out of the 2nd wave of feminism which was largely devoted to white liberal feminists and white middle-class feminist issues. I still use the word feminist as a descriptor but in conversation I’ll probably use it with a caveat (think, Beyonce when she used “modern day feminist). I instead use Pinayist (strand of feminism through the perspective of Filipinas oppression) or I’ll specifically use transnational feminist since it is more inclusive of woman of color feminisms/third world feminism.

  2. To me, it’s about fighting for equality in all its forms. If I can’t actively fight, at the very least I can speak up when I hear people saying messed-up stuff.

    It’s a lot more nuanced than that, and I know there are problematic aspects of parts of the feminist movement, but that’s what the belief system means to me.

    1. Liza: Definitely! At the core of feminism and being a feminist, I also believe that it’s about fighting for equality in all its forms. And you make a good point too, it’s also about knowing how to be an ally when you hear or see people oppress others.

  3. It irritates me somewhat when people say, “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist.” because I *am* a Humanist, as in the whole philosophy/belief of living without deities or the supernatural. That said, I think Humanist can encompass feminism (see the Amsterdam Declaration: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amsterdam_Declaration ).

    As for: What does feminism mean to you and what does it look like to be a feminist?

    I don’t know. I’m still figuring this out. I will admit that too many incidents with the more difficult views of some feminists have affected how I view the term.

    1. Juniper: Yeah I feel as though most people misunderstand humanism when they prefer to use it over feminism. Feminism, at least how I understand it, means that you are against sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression – which doesn’t have a whole lot to do with humanism. When people prefer to use humanism it makes me think that the understanding of feminism (from their point of view) means that there is an exclusivity of a specific gender, when really feminism believes in embracing all genders (and of course, breaking the binary).

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