Feminism isn’t a dirty word

On the red carpet at the MET Gala on Monday, Shailene Woodley told reporters that she wasn’t a feminist because she loves men and she thinks that “the idea of ‘raise women to power, take men away from power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.”

So that’s problematic. The star of the Divergent series featuring a pretty badass female lead, thinks feminism means that you hate men.

Sadly I don’t think that Shailene is the only young woman to feel this way. Somewhere along the way feminism became a dirty word, something young women wanted to distance themselves from lest they be viewed as hairy, bra burning man haters. Kind of career and love limiting you know?

It’s OK though; there’s a super simple solution to this problem. Shailene, you just need to read Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman.


Caitlin Moran is a British columnist who decided to write about what it’s like to be a modern woman. It is a hilarious book, often compared to Tiny Fey’s Bossypants. She manages to cover puberty, breasts, fashion, why you should have children, why you shouldn’t have children, strippers and weddings. Maybe not in that order.

She also manages to boil down the whole feminism thing to one very simple thing: do you want equality between the genders? If you answer “YES!” (and why the hell wouldn’t you?), congratulations, you’re a feminist!

This book is possibly a little full of the c-word for some people. It doesn’t bother me but I thought maybe I should give you fair warning in case you dislike books with a lot of swearing. I thought she was pretty creative with her vocabulary – I learned a lot of new words. Different strokes for different folks though right?

I think Moran managed to strike the right tone between the completely ridiculous and the totally serious. She discusses the way we tear down our female pop stars for entering rehab but don’t even blink when it’s a man, because he’s doing the right thing and getting help. She freely admits that it’s all very complicated and you may not be sure if what you’re experiencing is sexism or just bad manners but that there’s an easy way to check: ask yourself would this happen to a man?

I found myself getting pretty into this book, exclaiming “exactly!” or things along that vein multiple times. There’s a point in the book when she says that boys too should be getting up on chairs and yelling “FEMINISM!” because until they get on board nothing is going to change.

Whereby I turned to my fiancé and asked him if he was a feminist?

He replied with “obviously.”

Let’s all read this book and remind ourselves how feminism works. Someone get it to Shailene Woodley because I want to still be able to like her.

15 thoughts on “Feminism isn’t a dirty word

  1. This post is so important. It’s so sad that so many people think that being a feminist equals hating men or taking away men’s rights. I wish more people would understand that feminism = pushing for equality for BOTH sexes! There’s still such a negative connotation to the word “feminist” that even those who believe in its core values are reluctant to call themselves feminists.I hope one day that label won’t even be needed; it’ll just be second nature to everyone.

  2. I agree about the double standard between men and women…it’s a real thing. Unfortunately, the true basis of what feminism is, is not what society has made feminism out to be. Overall it has been carried way beyond the idea of simple equality and populated with overbearing woman who trash men. As the first commentor above said may be the case, I wouldn’t claim to be a feminist (and trust me, I wear the pants in my family, so to speak) because of this view society has perpetuated.

    • The double standard is for sure a real thing. Equal pay is still a myth even though most people think it exists. I’ve definitely been in a situation earning less than my otherwise-equal male counterpart. I think it starts with changing the definition, taking it back. Feminism is equality for all. Done. I am a feminist and I will gladly explain to others where I stand.

    • I think that’s what makes Caitlin Moran so amazing, that she has described a version of feminism that makes sense to most people, which is really important in cutting out some of the unfortunate results of feminism, such as you describe in your post, Jennine. In fact, it could even convert me, and I do feel hesitant to describe myself as a feminist for similar but not exactly the same reasons – I don’t feel “good” or “committed” enough to be a feminist, as a result of what I have read or seen from feminists.

      • Denise, that’s a good point too. I don’t feel “good” or “committed” enough either. I might like to read this book just to get a grasp on that original meaning.

  3. I wasn’t that familiar with Caitlin Moran before I moved to the UK, and let me tell you, she is everywhere over here. I like her stuff – funny but with a real point.
    On the issue of feminism, my mom came of age in the 60s and she sees my generation as being lazy feminists. Her generation worked so hard to get jobs, then to get equal pay, to do it all. And now she sees people like me, who were once on the fast track to success, as taking the easy route by staying home with our children. It’s an interesting dynamic.

    • I’m not so sure that staying home with one’s children is the “easy route” but the workplace is the obvious feminist battleground. I do think raising our children properly is incredibly important – teaching our sons and daughters to be feminists will move things in the right direction. And feminism can apply to the home as well. Staying home with the children isn’t automatically the domain of women just like going out to be the breadwinner is automatically the man’s job.
      But we do seem to have plateau’d and that must be incredibly frustrating for your mom’s generation.

  4. So sad about Shailene. You (and Moran) make a good point in stating that feminism is about believing in equality for the sexes. Everyone’s interpretation of equality is going to be different based on what they want but cannot get, but equality is the key. For some girls, equality is simply the right to go to school or not live in fear, for many others equality is about the right to make our own choices about our bodies, our clothes, our jobs, our last names etc. You state correctly that what’s important is that women around the world, in varying degrees, are still not being treated equally and that has to change.
    But, feminism has become a dirty word and I think one of the ways we launder it and make it “clean” again is to keep having awesome people like yourself describe themselves as feminists 🙂 -Tania

    • Equality for both sexes is key. Those women that belittle men and the contributions they make in the home aren’t furthering the cause any. We have so much work to do to ensure that our sisters around the world are considered equal. This isn’t about taking power away from men, it’s just levelling the playing field. It’s ensuring that our sisters and daughters have access to the same education as their brothers, being able to make decisions that are right for their bodies and not being afraid that they will be hurt by men for their choices.

      We have to clean up the definition. We have to own it again! I think Moran’s book is a really great, relateable way to get there!

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