"I'm Not a Feminist, But…"

“As you know in fashion, one day, you’re in, and the next day, you’re out,” Heidi Klum has ominously told the cast of Project Runway with every new episode.

The reality of being loved one day and hated the next extends far from fashion to nearly everything — we are, after all, a society collectively obsessed with trends and fascinated by the delicate art of staying relevant. And now it would appear as though feminism has joined the unfortunate graveyard of Uggs, landlines and Myspace — decidedly “out”. It simply isn’t “in” to be a feminist anymore, so why bother?

These days, well-intentioned suggestions of equality often follow in the footsteps of the phrase “I’m not a feminist, but…”, as if feminism is a disease we want to ensure everyone we don’t have before proceeding. As if feminism and being a feminist is something to be embarrassed about.

Perhaps to some it is, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying the privileges feminism has granted us, including our sexual and reproductive rights, which are slowly being taken away by conservative politics while our backs are turned and our mouths are denouncing the very movement that lets us speak so candidly. We have a situation.

“I’m not a feminist,” Lady Gaga declared in 2009. “I hail men, I love men.”

God forbid that loving ourselves ever get in the way of loving men.

I don’t know where the notion began that feminism and loving men are mutually exclusive, nor why the natural choice between choosing equality for yourself or “hailing men” would be the latter. Like many women, I have a boyfriend. Despite popular belief and his mysterious inability to replace empty toilet paper rolls, I do not hate him. I have no desire to exert power over him; I merely want to stand beside him instead of in his shadow where social, economic and political matters are concerned.

This will most likely never happen in my lifetime. I will most likely never walk through an unlit parking lot, or even down the street, with the same confidence in my safety that a man does. I will most likely never not remember what it feels like to be sexually harassed. I will most likely never not feel a unique burden to keep my body looking a certain way. I will most likely never be assured that the reason I am paid less than a co-worker or stop advancing in a career is not due to my sex. I will most likely never have the same stigma-free sexual escapades as a man. I will most likely never not be seen as “too emotional”, when what is really meant is that I am more visually emotional than a man, the “default” from which women as a whole deviate. Also, that movie was really sad and you weren’t there, so you don’t even know. Please.

Despite this, I still have opportunities and privileges that some women in other countries — some women in this country — will also most likely never have. This is why it is important that we recognize the need for universal equality and never stop fighting for it, never stop informing ourselves about what’s happening in the world, never stop learning and never stop teaching. Just because we are more equal than we have been in the past does not mean the battle is over and we can all go home to our overpriced studio apartments. Just because we are mostly comfortable in our day-to-day lives does not mean that everyone enjoys that luxury.

Even femininity in its simplest form is societally looked down upon in favor of its superior counterpart, the almighty masculinity. (Insert curtsey here.) Women today have the opportunity to choose between a more feminine skirt or more masculine pair of pants to wear, whereas men in skirts are widely shunned. While this might seem like a female privilege, it’s more of a testament to the universal acceptance of masculinity. It is more acceptable for women to seem masculine (but not too masculine, so watch your step, Hillary!) than men to seem feminine, because femininity at its core is simply not respected. It’s coveted, glamorized and sexualized — for the ultimate pleasure of men, of course — but not respected. There are very few worse blows to a man than to call him a “bitch”. There are very few worse blows to a man than to be thought of as feminine. There are very few worse things than to be likened to a woman — to be a woman. I know. How rude.

For some women, it seems different. Most of us like being women, whether we prefer pencil skirts or pantsuits, but the strife between wanting to embrace both femininity and feminism seems difficult at times. Questions like “I like wearing make-up, so am I really a feminist?”, “I’m really into fashion, so am I really a feminist?”, “I like to cook for my husband, so am I really a feminist?” or “I want to stay home with my children instead of work, so am I really a feminist?” pop up, and the answer is always yes. The interesting thing to note is that make-up, fashion, cooking and childcare are all traditionally female interests and activities. The reason they are often trivialized — not valued as highly as men’s work or men’s interests — is because, again, masculinity is the ultimate trump card.

Feminism is anything but the rejection of femininity. It is about embracing that femininity and demanding that the world embrace it the way they have embraced masculinity for most of our history. It is about ensuring that women always have both a choice and a voice. It is about not being devalued because we happen to be women.

It’s not a bad thing to be a female, to be feminine or to be a feminist. There are no buts. If as women we don’t believe that, then who will? And frankly, why should they?

Featured image via José Gómez Fresquet, “Lipstick” c. 1970.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shaziyaniamh Shaziya Niamh

    Couldn’t agree more. I think its a shame that interests in clothes etc are trivialized and to be a man is like the greatest thing. Both sexes have there pluses and minuses and its about embracing it all a whole. If anything feminism is more important today than ever before because of the way its been trivialized, great article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jglloyd Jennifer Lloyd

    What a fantastic article. Very inspiring!

  • http://www.facebook.com/amolina8 Amanda Maria Molina

    Thank you for writing this!! In undergrad and now grad school, I have always come up against women (and men) who find my interest in makeup and fashion to be trivial and I think it’s bullshit! I am just as much a feminist as anyone else even if I use hair products and am obsessed with Urban Decay and Tarte. Sometimes I feel like saying, “Get over yourself!” Thanks again, and great article. Maybe I will send a copy out to my feminist theory class just to see their shocked reaction! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/carolineammurphy Carrie Murphy

    terrific post, and i think hellogiggles is the perfect place for it. so many young and younger women don’t associate or identify with feminism, and i think this can be very dangerous. i’m so glad you’ve presented this argument in this way; hope it will resonate with some women who will realize “oh right, i AM feminist…and everyone should be.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/CarolineEAnd Caroline Anderson


  • http://www.facebook.com/teahabd Teah Abdullah

    Absolutely anyone can be a feminist! Women, men, children! Feminism is an ideology that isn’t any different from being a liberal or conservative. I have always found it strange that some people resent it or are ashamed of admitting that they are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daisykez Kristin Zaubzer

    I don’t have cable so I don’t see a lot of commercials, but the other day while at my mom’s I realized that every single commercial revolving around a food product featured women doing the cooking/food preparing. They’re either in the kitchen, nagging their husbands to come to the table to eat or sweeping in the door apologizing for being late because the man “must be starving” as if he has absolutely no idea how to fix himself a snack. Honestly, I know more men than women who enjoy & do the cooking for the household these days. Hell, the guy I’m dating is a professional chef! Perhaps I’ve just been fortunate in this, but I feel as though society has actually (atleast somewhat) grasped the concept of “gender neutral” roles, but the media insists on shoving this old-fashioned, so-called “traditional” (ha!) way of thinking in our faces. These commercial executives need to step out of their 1950’s box & realize that, in the real world, people really don’t care that much about these sorts of stereotypes anymore. It’s now completely acceptable – and may I add, super sexy – for a man to cook a delicious meal for his lady. In my opinion, there’s absolutely nothing better. So, get with it Oscar Meyer & Scope (I know, not a food product, but seriously – have you seen the commercial where the guy puts practically an entire onion on his sandwhich?? Come on! He then tries to hide his bad breath so his wife/gf will still make him dinner, which she is late for.) I’m not a feminist but…jump on the bandwagon!

    • http://www.facebook.com/juliagazdag Julia Gazdag

      The funny thing is, on average, more household cooks are women than men, and more professional chefs are men than women. The second authority is involved, throw a man in there! Ugh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/golly.loli Lauren M. Blanchard

    I totally, 100% agree and couldn’t have said it better myself. In fact, I swear you took the words right out of my mouth

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaymeglynn Jayme Glynn

    Thankyou SO much for writing this. I am actually having an intense disagreement with my boyfriend right now, because of his refusal and EMBARASSMENT to be labelled a feminist, even when I tell him a feminist is just someone who wants gender equality. It makes me so furious that there is such a stigma behind feminism when it isn’t even a radical thought! Sure, there are radical schools of feminism-like in everything, but the basis of feminism is just equality! When did equality become radical? I also believe that feminism is about breaking down the gender roles for men too, so that it’s widely-accepted for a man to still be a man even if he stays home to clean while his wife continues working and making the money for the family. This is becoming a more common thing in our society, so why do peole still think feminism is such a bad thing? I’m so grateful that you wrote this article! It seems omnipresent in my life lately and I just haven’t been able to find anything satisfactory to read about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=872025306 Wini Lo

    thank you for this. seriously. you’re amazing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/seandres Sean Andres

    Kristin Z, that’s something I noticed about commercials a long time ago, and it’s something I teach my classes. when we studying advertising: gender role. And it fires me up every time.

    As for me, my declaration as a feminist is weird to many people. Many people, even women, don’t understand feminism. It simply comes down to having equal rights for both genders and women knowing they have a choice of what they want to do in life: be it a housewife or a CEO. I get ragged on for being a male feminist (as most people, even women, don’t know that men can be feminists too).

    • http://www.facebook.com/juliagazdag Julia Gazdag

      We spent some time in my college gender studies class on gender roles not just in advertising, but objects as well. Boys are given trucks to play with, and girls little kitchen sets. Train them young! Blue and pink assign roles to infants, before they even have a choice. I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time, but as soon as I was old enough to make choices, I rejected pink and refused to wear it, ever. I grew up to be a straight girl with long hair and a love of makeup, so it wasn’t about rejecting femininity. It was just about rejecting a role merely for it being thrust upon me. Because it constantly is, on everyone, aggressively, and people don’t even realize it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/abbie.brinson Abbie Brinson Woodruff

    This is a fantastic perspective on feminism. I have been trying to stress this point to women (and men!) for some time. It’s so hard for some people to wrap their heads around the fact that feminism does not equal man hating. To me, being a feminist means having the freedom as a woman to do whatever I please. Love men, hate men, be feminine, be masculine, work outside the home, or be a stay at home parent. We all have this choice, and should continue to fight for these choices. I’m glad you could word this so eloquently in a space where plenty of girls and women can read it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/juliagazdag Julia Gazdag

    When did feminism become a dirty word, and why have we been asking ourselves this for at least ten years now? It means a belief in equal rights, it’s that simple. It makes me crazy when women like Sarah Palin are hailed as strong female leaders because of their politics, when all they do is try to reverse the progress we’ve made towards equal and reproductive rights. Meanwhile women like Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright and Condoleeza Rice are taken for granted and overlooked as female role models by a lot of people, because they don’t have a size 4 waist and wear half of Sephora on their face.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TrixieAteDarkChocolate Khanh Nguyen

    IDK if you got it but I sent you a link of a recent quote from Adele (Vogue UK cover story, Oct. 2010) where she said that she only wants to have boys because girls are mean and she’s only been friends with guys (because her music isn’t about a shitty ex boyfriend). It’s a sad fact that it’s internalized in female artists that the only way it seems to appeal and relate to their fellow female fans, is to proclaim they are one of the guys.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shannon.remanda Shannon Remanda

    I think a lot of people just miss the point when it comes to feminism. Everyone one wants men and women to be equal but WE ARE NOT THE SAME! Men are men and women are women. You cannot expect your whole 116lbs to go to a construction site where 200lbs men are lifting 60 pound bricks and make the same amount when you cannot do the work. Thankfully, Most construction sites no longer hire women because; sadly. every time they time they do someone gets accused of sexual harassment. That’s not to say it doesn’t ever happen but you know what. Sometimes it doesn’t and she says it did anyway. Companies don’t look into it and fire the GUY anyway. God Frobid they try to fire her! It’s always “wrongful dismissal” “Well, they fired me because I’m a woman!”. Unfortunately, THESE are the types of women that make a bad name for all of us. And who holds the power in this situation? WOMEN! A woman goes out dressed like a hooker, gets completely drunk, gets into a car with a guy she doesn’t know & then gets “raped”. I am in no means sticking up for men who are overly sexually aggressive or rapists but men are attracted by what they SEE!! When you dress like a slut, GET INTO A CAR WITH A GUY. He’s thinking “I’m getting laid”. Then you make out with him and then claim you got raped. Then the guy goes to jail. So who holds all the power?: WOMEN! Now the guy pays the price for YOUR poor decisions. We all know that if a woman is wearing a short, short skirt a guy is going to look. So can we can him a jerk or a pervert? NO! We can call ourselves stupid for going out dresses like a skank. We are not trying to assert ourselves. WE are trying to change men to be something they are not and asking them to do the impossible. This is how their brains work! Men are wired to think about sex every 30 seconds. So how do all you feminists intend to change that? Then you want men to stop making fun of women because they are emotional. Well we are! Do you intend to change that also? I am not tired of feeling unequal to men. I am more tired of people not realising that we are men and women, and thus completely different! Instead of trying to make men more caring (wear skirts, etc) Why don’t we appreciate all the hard work that they do for us, stop complaining, stop nagging and stop demanding things of them that just aren’t possible. Then why don’t we as women stop trying to fill both roles as man and woman and husband and wife and do what we love to do without caring about what anyone think about it? People forget that the sexual revolution happened to women. Men are the same as they have always been. I’m tired of hearing woman put themselves down, talk about how lazy or stupid their husbands are or complain about their kids. Men LOVE women & everything about them (even our tears during sad movies) and the only men who don’t love women; have been screwed over by one. Do men get child support? NO Do men get special tuitions or grants because they are men: NO! Do men have anyone sticking up for them when a woman treats them like crap: NO!. If you want equality…you might want to start there.

    • http://www.facebook.com/juliagazdag Julia Gazdag

      Just because I can’t lift the same amount as a man DOESN’T mean I deserve to earn 75 cents to each dollar he makes. And it is never, NEVER acceptable to have sex with a woman who doesn’t want to, no matter how she is dressed. In fact, the contradiction of what media feeds us every day in terms of how we’re “supposed” to look and how the more we try for that, the more we look like a “slut” is mind boggling.
      And have you ever READ the statistics of how many rapes go unpunished? Women do not hold the power there, most rapists are never convicted. WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING AND DID YOU LIGHT IT WITH YOUR VOTER REGISTRATION?

    • http://www.facebook.com/michellewoe Michelle Woehrle

      Controlling for factors such as education, age, experience men make more money than women for the same jobs. Why haven’t you factored this into your analysis of the situation since you also mentioned preferential treatment? Also: I like men enough to give them credit and acknowledge that they, as humans, can control themselves. They aren’t merely rape machines and I should be able to wear any damn thing I want / go where I please with no fear of retaliation.

    • http://www.facebook.com/amilee.copeland Amber Copeland

      No. Just…no.

    • http://www.facebook.com/shannon.remanda Shannon Remanda

      But you are still saying that you should get hired for a job that basically only a man can do but you can’t? Because otherwise the company is sexist. You are saying that if a woman seduces a man (dressing provocatively & then hitting on him) then it is HIS FAULT not hers if it goes farther. You seem to think that all “rape” cases involve force and not just a mistake on the womans part. I DO believe thattrue rae exists. I’m not a moron. What I am saying is that I know of at least 20 “rape” cases where it could have been prevented had the girl taken responsibility for HERSELF. Why should a guy get punished for that? Whatever ideals media plasters on us they do the same to men! Do they pay any mind to it? NO! Those are limitations we impose on ourselves, not forced on us by men. How many times have you complained that you looked fat in something or that you hated your hair only to have your significant other tell you that you look great? Shanna you say that woman are being FORCED to give birth in hospitals is not true. We are able to do anything we want. The last part of your post I totally agree with but It needs to be said that if you are proud of what you do whether it be stay at home mom or whatever why do you feel that you need to constantly assert yourself. Just Be1 It just sickens me how everyone can come on here and cry about how we are treated unfairly when we seriously have no concept of how women were treated in the 1800s. Really? you are trying to tell me that you feel like a mans’ possession? More than likely in this day in age. He is yours. BTW I am a stay at home mom of a little boy. My husband works 60 hour weeks as a welder. He busts his ass for us. I have no problem cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and dishes for him because he deserves it. He is amazing!! I worry about someone accussing my son of sexual harasssment for accidentally brushing a girls breast in a bar or looking at someone the wrong way. This day in age a man has to watch EVERYTHING he does least he’ll be charged with something. I am not saying this is ALL cases but as women we should take responsibility for our actions FIRST before blaming a man for his.

    • http://www.facebook.com/juliagazdag Julia Gazdag

      I cannot, for the life of me, wrap my brain around why you are arguing so vehemently against an already marginalized social group. And out of all the comments on here, both of yours are the longest, while they defend a socially oppressive group against the oppressed one.

    • http://www.facebook.com/svnnh Savannah Pendleton

      This comment almost seems like trolling. I get what you mean when you say men and women aren’t equal because all the arguments you make are biological. Every “argument” you provide I have seen fail in front of my own eyes. I’ve seen badass construction working ladies that haul ass and do the damn thing right along side men. My brother, who is a male, receives child support for his son from his ex wife. You’re making broad (BROAD, BROAD) generalizations and assumptions.

    • http://www.facebook.com/annemari Anne Mari Donato

      Excuse you. Biological disparity is no reason for anybody to treat anyone like a lesser being. You seem to be lucky enough not to have experienced marginalization, but some people aren’t.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mishel.s.herrera Mishel Herrera

    well spoken, sister.

  • http://www.facebook.com/meschulte20 Megan Schulte

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this article!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/shanban13 Shanna Proctor

    Really Shannan? This is why rape goes unreported. A woman could be prancing around naked and rape is NEVER ok… Uggh, see, that’s not embracing being a woman, that’s blaming a woman. No, all men do NOT love women… there are bad men out there just like there are bad women… so don’t make sweeping generalizations.

    I support women’s rights to choose. If a woman wants to be a homemaker, a stay at home mom, and a housewife I support her right for that. If a woman wants to be a mechanical engineer I want her to be able to do that too. I support equality. I also support recognizing your limits. A woman shouldn’t be discriminated against merely for being a woman, but she also has to recognize what she is capable of as a woman and that differs across the board. :)

    Our rights for a lot of things are being stripped from us. Personhood laws are going to DESTROY birth rights in this country. Women are being forced to birth in hospitals and have cesareans for the “sake of the baby”. Our choices are being taken away one by one. As a WOMAN, I embrace my femininity. I also embrace equality. I hate the double standards, I despise remarks saying that they way you dress is why you got raped. I absolutely hate the fact that kissing a guy = sex= lying about rape.

    I am woman, here me roar. I embrace it. We are powerful, strong, and beautiful and we have a choice. We can wear skirts or pants, we can go to work or stay home, we can be whatever we want to be and being a woman isn’t a hinderance. Feminism is not evil, we all need to embrace it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/justuskats Katy Wolfe Brandes

    In one blog post you have summed up a definition of feminism that I wish all women, especially other young women such as yourself, can appreciate. I long for the day when people telling little boys “you throw like a girl” is a good thing and when pictures of little boys are included in the Easy Bake Oven insert.

    “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” — Gloria Steinem (She would be pleased with this post, too!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000219527463 Ana Beires

    Thank you for your article. I always get suspicious whenever I listen/read something about Feminist. You see, I am a feminist and, probably like many os us, have also read/listened to people talking about Feminism in such awful ways. Reading something about the topic is always some sort of surprise box, ’cause you never know what you gonna get. It is sad that many celebrities see Feminism as a bad thing and, when I started to read your article, I swear I was fearing you’d make some sort of post-feminist approach and say “oh, Feminism doesn’t make sense anymore ’cause women have achieved everything they fought for”. But, lke you said so well, we haven’t. And, even if we, western women, did achieve that, what about our sisters in other countries? As long as there’s one woman being abused, we should all unite to help her. :)

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