Shailene Woodley Is a Feminist, She Just Doesn't Know ItKit Steinkellner

Recently, Time published an interview with Shailene Woodley wherein she spoke about feminism, unfortunately spouting a lot of misinformation. 

When asked if she considered herself a feminist, she replied “No because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.”

It sucks that “feminism” and “misandry” are so often confused and their definitions have to be explained over and over and over again. If you are a misandrist, that means you hate men (likewise, if you are a misogynist, that means you hate women). If you are a feminist, that means you believe that men and women should be treated equally. That’s the definition. It’s about bringing women to power without taking it away from men. If anything, it’s giving men more power, because feminism is also about making sure that men stop being socially stigmatized for what is conventionally considered “feminine,” like being a stay at home parent or openly expressing emotion. Feminism is not about hating men. Feminism is about loving everyone.

The tragedy of Woodley believing she’s not a feminist (and she’s not alone in Hollywood) is that her lifestyle is possible because of the work of feminism. In Shakespeare’s time, women were not allowed on the stage and their parts were played by men. Woodley’s character Tris in this years blockbuster Divergent stands on the backs of so many female action-adventure heroes that came before her, a character that once upon a time did not exist. Read Moby Dick. There are no girls in Moby Dick.

And that’s just on the acting side of things. Woodley can vote because of feminism. Own property. Speak openly about her views without fearing she’ll be burned at the stake as a witch or stoned to death. Woodley can wear PANTS because of feminism. We continue to owe so much to the women that came before us for the fights they fought for us. We can’t turn our backs on those women by letting feminism become a dirty word. We have to keep fighting for this word’s honor. We have to keep up the fight so we can give as much to future generations of women as past generations have given to us.

Later on in the interview, Shailene says she believes in “sisterhood” as opposed to “feminism”:

“My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism. I don’t know how we as women expect men to respect us because we don’t even seem to respect each other. There’s so much jealousy, so much comparison and envy. And ‘This girl did this to me and that girl did that to me.’ And it’s just so silly and heartbreaking in a way.”

Again, I really think what we have here is a girl who did not learn her definitions correctly. Feminism IS sisterhood (and sister-brotherhood for our male allies). The reason there is as much “jealousy, comparison, envy” is because of outdated societal norms that led to so many women believing they have to base their looks and live their lives off of impossible standards. Feminism is women working together for a noble cause, and there’s no better way to build sisterhood than to have women working together to do good together.

I feel badly for Shailene. She’s spoken intelligently and eloquently on so many past issues. She’s a tremendous actress and seems like a straight-up doll of a human being. It’s unfortunate that she misidentified such an important word in such a public way. Fingers crossed we’ll get a retraction, or more importantly, a lesson learned.



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  1. Ha I mean “what makes me shun” at the beginning there. I hate auto-correct.

  2. What naked me shun the label of ‘feminist’ is that I’m so damn sick of people constantly going on about it all the freakin’ time. Now I love hellogiggles, but why do they have to condemn those to don’t always want to be all IM FEMINIST AND PROUD? My sister is a feminist big time, to the point where she argued with me because I downloaded Blurred Lines, as it’s “about rape”, sure the song is a bit dodgy at times but for flips sake, it’s a pop song, and I’m pretty damn sure Robin Thicke didn’t set out to write a song about rape, someone has taken it WAY too far analysing it. It’s catchy. I bought it. Shut up. I don’t need someone going on about it in my face because they’re feminist and I “damn well should be too”. It’s why I don’t believe in religion, it’s just another cult behaviour where some people ruin it for the rest by taking it way too far.

    Rant, OVER.

  3. There clearly needs to be more of an education of feminism in our society. I just happened to click on this article and, after reading what feminism is defined as, I’m surprised. I didn’t think it was “man hating” per se, but just a type of “girl power”, “women are awesome” movement that isn’t all that serious. All I see in the media is women who want to open doors for themselves and wear burlap sacks. Especially shows like Portlandia, even though that’s an over-dramatization. Having it explained, it does actually make since and it sounds like something to take seriously. I can think of people in my life who either have no idea what it is, don’t care about it, or think it’s degrading other people in some way. People should learn more about what Feminism is fighting for.

  4. feminism isn’t about taking away from men, it’s about making sure women get what men get, like equal pay for doing the same occupation. that doesn’t mean taking away from men, it means putting women on an equal footing. you don’t have to bring the male gender down to get women to the same level – by raising women up, no one goes “down”.

  5. So I am reading a lot about what Shailene Woodley has recently said in a interview about her not defining herself as a feminist. I have a huge issue with the backlash she is getting. Now please note do I define myself as a feminist, yes I do. Do I feel the need to jump down her throat for not labeling herself this, no I don’t. Why do you say? I say this because as HUMAN BEING I understand she has the damn right to label herself whatever she wants or not label herself. She is an actress who is actually a somewhat decent person, well at least that’s what it seems from all her interviews. Now for everyone saying “oh she is a fucking idiot doesn’t understand what feminism is”. Let me tell you something not too long ago I was the same way meaning I hated feminist because I just always saw it as a group of man hating women. I am sorry but unless you do your research that is what feminism is because the media and radical feminist have made that what it is. So I don’t know if she is ill informed or whatever, but how is jumping on her for saying this make you a feminist? Feminism is one that believes in support for all genders and the minute someone says something you don’t like you lash out? You’re not a feminist if you feel the need to put someone down. If she doesn’t feel the need to define herself to one thing she doesn’t have to. We have such a need to label what we are we forget sometimes this labels make us forget at the end of the day we are all human and most of us mean well. She shouldn’t have to explain herself to anyone. I am not even a fan honestly, but I felt like this was unwarranted backlash. There are many women out there in the media who claim to be “feminist” but do nothing to support that claim. In fact they tend to do a lot that makes them look like they could careless if men and women are equal to each other, yet people are okay with them because they called themselves a feminist publicly. Calling yourself something doesn’t mean that is what you are. We can obviously see she loves people in general and does the best to be kind, so why all the hate to her? She is a young actress who isn’t exploiting her body, mind, or soul to make a quick buck. Instead she speaks up for the things she believes in and does the best to do good in this world while making films, yet people want to throw hate at her. So one needs to ask the question why do we feel the need to label ourselves so much? And doesn’t are actions speak louder than a label?

    • I didn’t think most are calling her an idiot, I think most wanted someone to define this to her. A good journalist would have been able to subtly point out that her views were based around feminism, and that it’s not something to be afraid of.

      Once again, a lot goes down to the media and how they react or portray these kind of stories to the public.

      What ‘Time’ did was know they had a story, of a strong, young woman with a positive effect on people her age, and ignore that she wasn’t quite right but decided to put it out there anyway. I just find that the most irresponsible part.

      I agree that she can either label, or not label, herself as anything she chooses to but I still don’t know if the American media (specifically) portrays feminism in a ‘man-hating’ thing (which of course it isn’t), or that’s how you view it if there’s no basic research.

      The backlash was created by Time, they knew what they were putting out there and that concerns me more than a clarification of views and belief.

  6. WOOOPS wrong article

  7. I have little opinion about Woodley, other than that I would not like to run into her at Trader Joes, but I would suggest to Kit to do her research before she makes flippant comments about women, and I am talking directly about her comment about Beyonce and how even though this article is very recent, she referenced a clip of a song that was released more than a year ago as a teaser for a full length song that was featured on an album released at the end of 2013. The track, titled “***Flawless” is not a direct contrast to the BanBossy campaign, but in completely the same vein. It is a song that not only features a snippet of a speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on feminism, but also fully preaches the values of taking ownership over yourself, your desires and your actions without allowing anyone to belittle you for them. In “***Flawless” Beyonce tells her listeners to be assertive, confident and dominant in life, and the BanBossy campaign is all about encouraging young girls to do the same through the elimination of gendered terms such as Bossy that would otherwise discourage girls from taking leadership roles. I’m not sure where you see the contrast in that. So yeah, I definitely think Shailene Woodley should be taking a page out of Beyonce’s book.

  8. I believe in equality, I don’t believe in feminism. I don’t believe in feminism the way that Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem, and Betty Friedan believe in feminism. I believe in rights of women, without suppressing the rights of men. I believe in equality for women but I don’t believe the nonsense that those three female activists (I mentioned just a moment ago) spout off. Feminism, has become a dirty word in America, when I look at youtube videos on feminism, or talk to feminists, they mention words like “equality” but their other words and their actions are anything but supportive in equality. There are feminists who want to suppress men, who hate men and the things men are able to do. But what kind of equality are feminists really trying to achieve? Equality of achievement? Because that will only work with equal protection under all laws, while everyone is able to do the best they can with what they have. Equality of results? That will only work if all members of society are held to the standards of the weakest link in society. Equality of ability? That’s a myth. Sure, there are plenty of things that women can do just as great, if not better than men (and vice versa) but in no way is a woman able to do everything as great as a man (and vice versa), that’s not ever going to be physically possible as long as natural men and women exist. (this does not apply to basic American rights and abilities (e.g. voting, wearing pants, etc. And i’m not going to go off on a scientific tangent to further delve into this particular extension.) It is ok for men and women to be different, to be naturally unequal. What hurts society is when WE (a collective group of people) do not recognize that.

  9. Just read this fantastically well worded article that makes a very simple and honest statement, nice one Kit, and then I read the comments. I cannot believe how many people are so ready to make cutting angry sweeping generalisations about feminists like they are some diseased breed of person, it is just plain weird seriously. It is pretty ignorant too as it goes.

    A feminist is someone who wants equality. You know that money you earn ladies that you get to keep in your bank and spend on what you want? Well that is thanks to feminists both male and female, the people who fought long and hard to get equal rights. Your money, not so long ago, would have gone straight in the pockets of husbands everywhere, women did not have the legal right to their own earnings. Oh and that vote you get, well same goes. In fact you have your education, your ability to choose your own life partner, your whole lifestyle and world to owe to feminism. Without feminism (the desire for equality) you would not be allowed to even express your opinions on here. I can’t believe because of a small minority of angry voices pretending to be feminists that you would dismiss real feminism, therefore equality, instead of making sure people understand what it means and why we still need it in this society, and we really need it people just look around you.

    What blows my mind the most is that Zooey Deschanel who founded this very site is a self proclaimed feminist so why if you are so anti feminism are you even here engaging with a pro feminist site…

    • and it’s one thing to support a woman’s profession, blog, outlook. It’s a completely different thing to agree with everything she says and does. We’re all going to have different opinions, that’s ok.

    • You know, women still don’t receive equal pay compared to their men counterparts. (that doesn’t so much have to do with feminism)

  10. I think this article misses the point somewhat. The term “feminism” is in itself misandrist at a semantic level. If feminism was about solely about equality, it would called equalism. All the things that you list that women are rightly allowed to participate in today are not down to “feminism”, but down to the efforts of a few (who had never heard of the term feminism) to secure rights for the disenfranchised. I think Shailene has made a valid point. The term feminism is forever going to be tainted by the radical feminists of the eighties who really caused a great deal of harm to the cause they were trying to espouse (as one of the commenters so rightly pointed out: just go onto certain forums and see if you can separate the feminists from the misandrist). So I don’t think you should “feel badly” for Shailene for “misidentifying” the word. Maybe we should feel sorry for you for your condescension and arrogance.

    • No, Nick, it wouldn’t be called ‘equalism’ because that’s a ridiculous notion and ignoring the basics of feminism.

      In fact, that would be the typical response to ignoring the facts, and disregarding the movement that’s been out there to bring equality for women, to be equal with men in the work place, at home, wherever, this isn’t about ‘power’ – or whatever that means.

      The only people ‘tainting’ the feminist meaning would be the ignorant, I really don’t think it gets much deeper than that.

      At a very basic level, if you want the change the meaning of something and you believe in the positive nature of it, you’ll share that belief and point out to anyone who says something misguided that they’re incorrect. But do it in a positive, informative way.

      As I said in another reply, the concern I have here isn’t necessarily for what Shailene has said but more for the way ‘Time’ sold it, and how the stupid media have lapped it up to attack her. That’s the wrong aspect and it’s all led by media sway and portrayal.

    • Nick seriously you accuse someone of being condescending and arrogant but have a skim over what you are actually saying.

      It is called feminism because it is seeking the same rights for women as there are for men. Equalism means equality for race, gender, age etc overall.. It is too general to use in replacement for feminism but feminism is under the same umbrella.

      “The term feminism is forever going to be tainted by the radical feminists of the eighties who really caused a great deal of harm to the cause they were trying to espouse (as one of the commenters so rightly pointed out: just go onto certain forums and see if you can separate the feminists from the misandrist).”

      I don’t write off all men because I have witnessed or met some total dickslaps in my life, and I don’t write off all christians, or muslims, or atheists, or lesbians, or red heads, or people who eat pot noodles, or anyone just because I have seen people with similar distinction or beliefs behave badly so hey how about trying doing the same. I am a believer in equality for women if that makes me a feminist then fine. I love and respect men equally with women and take them all on an individual basis.

      For someone clearly very intelligent and articulate I am surprised to see so many sweeping statements about others.

      “All the things that you list that women are rightly allowed to participate in today are not down to “feminism”, but down to the efforts of a few (who had never heard of the term feminism) to secure rights for the disenfranchised.”
      Yes the term had not been used back then before but you have no evidence that the people fighting for equal rights for women would not have embraced the term and actually when it did get used they did exactly that. It has been around longer than you seem to realise. and securing rights for the disenfranchised is absolutely what real feminists are trying to do.

      Why is it so bad to you that people want to try to reinstate the word feminism and bring it out of the misinformed puddle its been laying in?

      Women feel they need it right now because objectification, the glass ceiling, sexism and rape culture has risen to a horrifying state and we are just sick of it and so are tons of guys I know. They consider themselves feminists without shame because they get it, I wish you did too but maybe no one you know has suffered on the end of sexism, harassment or inequality.

      There are more offensive articles out there to rip apart surely this is waste of your talents.

  11. Moby Dick? That is your example? What about the Decameron?? There are many strong women roles in there. The Lais of Marie de France?? WRITTEN by a woman in the middle ages. Of course there were no women in Moby Dick they are on a whaling vessel! Maybe quote the Bible for some anti-feminist stuff next time because you just sound dumb.

  12. I think you guys are missing the point… feminism is simply the belief that men and women ARE equal, and therefore should be treated as such… that is it. Nothing more, nothing less, there are no rules about anything else you believe in. So to say you’re not a feminist only means you don’t believe in equality of the sexes, not that you don’t agree with abortion, etc. Similarly, just because some women claim to be feminists but are actually misandrists does NOT MEAN THAT all feminists are misandrists. I hope I’ve made that clear.

  13. Get on tumblr and tell me how misandry and feminism are different. When it comes to many more vocal feminists, there is no difference between the two.

    • With every belief there are always extremists that give a wider group of people a bad name. If you write off millions if not billions of the population because of a handful of tumblr posts dude think again. Those people are angry and probably had some bad shit happen to them who knows but I will say it again and again the larger majority of feminists do not hate men, you are so wrong.

      • As Sarah says, there’s a massive difference and extremists in any situation.

        If you can’t define, or acknowledge, that difference then I’d be worried about how easily you’d be swayed by anything with two sides.

        Tumblr isn’t exactly a representation of life, there’s more to the world outside the bubble of the internet.

  14. personally, i don’t think it’s her fault that she’s unfamiliar with the term. she is probably more well-informed in other things just not with beliefs or ideologies such as feminism. it’s like you being very much acquainted with this topic and being less knowledgeable perhaps on other topics . it is just unfortunate that she is a public figure and that there are certain expectations from people.

    i can agree that this is a lesson not only for her but for all of us – to learn what is correct from what we now know is wrong. however, she doesn’t have to always say or know the right thing. good if she does but she’s a human being like us and she just happened to misuse a term.

  15. Maybe we should be less concerned about feminism and be more human conscious. I personally do not believe in feminism or gender equality because I don’t believe someone’s…erm….”parts” should indicate whether you show them respect (whether it be more or less). I understand why she does not want to claim “feminism” because it comes with so many negative connotations and a latent disregard, not hatred, I understand the difference between misandry and feminism, of a man’s role in the world and the lives of women.

  16. No because she explicitly states that she is not a feminist and then goes on to misdefine the term. Also, sometimes it’s not about “labeling” people. Sometimes we just use terms to help us describe our thoughts, beliefs, etc. That is what language is all about, is it not?

  17. My question is: why do we have to label everything and everyone? Who cares? What if she doesn’t want to be labeled? Did you ever think about that? It’s hard enough that she has to deal with Hollywood constantly judging her and prodding her, and now she has to speak about what she is and what she believes in. What if she wants to keep that private? Why do you feel the need to judge her? Sigh – feminism gets a bad rep because of articles like this. I’m don’t care if people think I’m a feminist or not. At the end of the day, there are things that are more important than a label.

    • “Labels are bad” really isn’t the point. It’s about misinformation, and whether you support it or not, there are people who heavily define themselves as supporters for women’s rights. Victims of violence and rape, women who feel discarded or overly sexualized. You’re missing the blazing irony that the very definition of feminism is made to seem dirty and wrong in our culture. It makes women afraid to align themselves with feminism all together. Look at the values BEHIND the label if the label bothers you so much. The point of the article is that she is technically a feminist, but she doesn’t know even the most basic meaning of feminism AT ALL, and why the meaning is important. Articles like this aren’t what’s wrong with feminism. It’s people trying to make women quiet and afraid to even call themselves feminists or stand up for themselves that’s wrong.

  18. In my opinion, the ones who have done the most harm to the label of “feminist” have been the feminists themselves. I have been told, on more than one occasion, by people who proudly declare themselves “feminists”, that I absolutely can NOT be a feminist, since I believe life begins at conception, and, therefore, believe abortion to be an act that takes an innocent life. In fact, I was told my beliefs “set feminism back by decades”. Well, forget the fact that I DO believe women should get equal pay for equal work, that women should have the same access to opportunities that men do, that women should be free from violence perpetrated on them simply because they are women, forget ALL of those other “feminist” things I DO believe in… if I have to sacrifice that belief in order to be considered a “feminist”, no thanks, you can keep your label!

    • I totally relate to this! I am a feminist, and a Christian who believes that abortion is murder. I’m sure this confuses people, but I don’t care. I believe all people, regardless of gender, age, beliefs, sexual identity, and ethnicity, are of equal value and should be treated in such a way. It frustrates me that true feminists are supposed to be cheer on a women for “taking control of her reproductive rights” by killing her unborn child. Since when is taking away another person’s rights a right that we have? It’s such a contradiction. Wow intense rant, that must have needed to come out! lol. I am aware my words may seem harsh but they are in no way meant to shame anyone who believes differently to me or has had an abortion. I’m just over being told my views are invalid because they don’t fit the feminist mold.

      • Hi Jess, I think that’s because it comes across as a little contradictory.

        You should have the choice to choose what your own body does. But I think you’re adding morals to the process, or what you or anyone believes is moral, beyond feminism or Christianity.

        No view is ever invalid, it’s just what you’re saying is a little mixed up between the two beliefs, I think that’s why people would react to that being said.

  19. Unfortunately there is a bad side to Feminism, that is purely focused on ‘women over men’ but it is hardly the majority. Yet, the bad side is what is focused on more intently. I identify as an equalist, because that can’t be misunderstood and isn’t recognised as negatively as feminism often is.. Perhaps that was Shailene’s thinking process also?

    • The term ‘equalism’ doesn’t really relate in the feminist context, as it’s a separate belief that moves towards race, age, anything else in fact.

      With the feminism side, for me, it’s about equality. I don’t think you should be scared of saying you’re a feminist though because of outdated preconceptions.

      It’s how you understand it that’s important, and how you change the views of others with the reality of what it is. There’s an extremist side to every belief, religious or not and being worried about backing what you truly belief is would always let (whoever they are) win.

      I’m an atheist and sometimes people would react to that in the same way as it’s something bad but really, we should just all accept that different views all exist and the less crazy are usually valid.

    • Except that many “feminists” wouldn’t agree with your definition of feminism. I agree, but it’s hard to label oneself as a feminist when there are so many mysandrists and nitpicking reactionaries who label themselves that way. I’ve been told I am not a feminist simply because I won’t ignore the way that gender roles harm men and because I won’t focus just on combatting this problem in regards to females.

  20. She’s not alone (unfortunately) in misunderstanding what feminism is about, but since she’s a role model to young girls, it’s unfortunate because she’s spreading misinformation.

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