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

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.


  • Claire Lower

    I get what you’re saying, but it’s not up to you to decide whether she is a feminist or not. She definitely needs some education on the subject, but she’s still free to reject the label if she chooses.

    • Claire Lower

      Overall though, you make some excellent point about how people don’t really understand what feminism is!

  • Becky Haslam

    Oh great, more positive press for feminism :/

    A brilliantly written piece though, and here’s hoping Woodley learns more about this subject before spouting off again!

    • Amanda Aldous

      Agreed! It’s a bummer because if feminism didn’t get such a bad rap in the public eye, more people would be willing to stand up and say “I am a feminist!” instead of dancing around the word like it’s dirty when all it really means is “I’m into equality”. I get equally saddened by people who say “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist” because it doesn’t break the cycle of feminist being a bad word it just perpetuates it. I see what people are trying to do when they pull the humanist card, but it certainly isn’t fixing the problem, and if you look back at the humanist philosophy, I believe it isn’t actually what people think. . .

      Great article Kit! Hopefully Shailene will come to know more about what feminism is and choose to accept that label on her own.

      • Cheryl Studdy

        Is it the word “feminist” you like, or the concept?

  • Brett Ness

    “I feel badly for Shailene.”

    uhh… don’t. She is far more successful, recognized, reaches more people, and is better spoken than you Kit. Sorry, the facts are facts. Just because she acknowledges that a lot of outspoken feminists are also into misandry and she doesn’t want to be associated with that negative perspective, doesn’t make her opinions on the subject no longer valid.

    • Ale Topete J

      Well I feel bad for her too. I’m sorry but I’m allowed to feel bad for a person even when they’re richer or more successful than I am, look at Justin Bieber he’s probably even more successful than Shailene and a lot of people feel bad for him because of his constant mistakes and law-breaking accidents.

      Every girl should know what feminism means, every girl should be proud of being called a feminist because that means you believe in a better life and more opportunities for both men and women. I don’t believe that Shailene, or any celebrity for that matter, would ever say they’re against that.

      • Breezy Francois

        Every girl has the right to decide whether or not she wants to call herself a feminist.

        • Jesica Vaisman

          Yes, but she shouldn’t go talking about a subject that she is clearly confused about.

  • Elizabeth Clements

    There are no girls in Moby Dick? Why would there be?

  • Gina Vaynshteyn

    Awesome article, Kit. “Feminism” is a word that gets a bad reputation because many believe it equates to man-hating, bra burning, and every single “feminist” stereotype we’ve been fed. To say you’re not a feminist (which just means you believe in the equality of the sexes, versus the word “equality” which is great, but incredibly broad), regardless of how you say it, isn’t a positive thing, no matter what kind of spin you give it. Moreover, the term “feminism” and “equality” are two separate words (although the latter exists within the former), and you do a great job explaining this. I am totally disappointed when strong female celebrities say they are not feminists, such as Lady Gaga.

  • Elani Francesca Parker

    Its entirely possible to be grateful for the things feminism has done for women in the past without identifying with modern feminism.
    You can pull out a dictionary definition of feminism all day long. That has absolutely nothing to do with the loudest voices of the feminist movement. Her statement appears to be a reaction to those voices.
    If you have a problem with her statement, you should be challenging the loudest voices of the feminist movement to better exemplify the actual definition of feminism, rather than run around calling Woodley ignorant because she doesn’t want to be associated with the misandry that is so pervasive in modern feminism.

    • Caroline De Voecht

      I wholeheartedly agree!!

  • Caitlyn Barnes

    Feminism has a lot of negative connotations. For proof, poll people for their first thoughts on the word “feminism.” Feminism would be deemed a loaded term by most because of the emotionally charged response it creates in people. Therefore, I don’t blame her or feel bad for her not wanting to be associated with it. It is semi-humorous/sad that this post has shamed/berated her for not wanting to be associated with a term she doesn’t like. This goes back to the sisterhood she believes in and you claim feminism supports. Also, why does it matter there are no girl in Moby Dick?
    This entire post is an example of why people dislike feminism–pitting men and women against each other and shaming women who don’t identify as feminists.
    These are the reasons I also don’t identify as feminist.

    • Lindsay Stribling

      I agree! I also don’t think there’s any reason to call this a “tragedy.” There a great deal of negative and positive associations with the term “feminist” and if Miss Woodley doesn’t want associate herself with the term but instead chooses simply to uphold the ideals of human equality, all the more power to her. The most important thing is believing in EQUALITY, not whether or not you label yourself a feminist.

  • Tathiana Abreu

    Well that’s just it, feminism isn’t about hating men specially because it isn’t about men at all. It’s about women. We just need to stop using men as a parameter all together.

  • Chelsea Miller

    Well written article, Kit! Feminism unfairly gets a bad rap. She doesn’t have to be a feminist but hopefully she doesn’t make the same mistake again in speaking about the subject. Someone with such a public voice should set a better example for young girls by sending a positive message.

    • Cheryl Studdy

      She was asked whether or not she identifies as a feminist, and she answered honestly. I think that sets an excellent example.

      • Claire Hanrahan

        Yes she stated she didn’t identify as a feminist, however she said its because this is what feminism is and gave incorrect definitions of feminism. Yeah there are misandrysts (sp?) that call themselves feminism but that’s not what feminism is about. It’s about equality of the sexes.

  • Fiona Taylor

    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.

  • Renee Harleen Kohler

    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?

    • Susannah Kay

      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.

    • Dan Bullock

      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.

  • Jessica Novak

    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!

    • Jessica Hannam

      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.

      • Dan Bullock

        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.

  • Jennifer Barrios

    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.

    • Alexis Dietz

      “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.

  • Samantha Wright

    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?

  • Crystal Quinden

    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.

  • Fonseca Baroña

    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.

  • Matthew Do

    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.

    • Sarah Bolland

      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.

      • Dan Bullock

        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.

  • Hannah McGurk

    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.

    • Sarah Bolland

      Hannah. Yes. That is all. xx

  • Sarah Walton

    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.

  • Nick Quaintmere

    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.

    • Sarah Bolland

      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.

    • Dan Bullock

      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.

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