Is Feminist a Dirty Word? - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog

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Is Feminist a Dirty Word?

How did this happen — and what can we do about it?


When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said she doesn’t consider herself a feminist, I thought, “how is it possible that such an intelligent woman could say that?” To be honest, I immediately lost a certain amount of respect for her.

Then I started thinking: why would she say that?

Is Feminist a Dirty Word?

Let’s start with this: What does feminism make you think of?

Is Feminist a Dirty Word?

Burning bras? Extremism? Hairy armpits? A jaded and unattractive woman in a pant suit? A beautiful women in a sundress?

For the past century, the male-run mainstream media has tried to make the association lie with the first four, but not the fifth.

Now, what does feminism mean?

A movement to help women be seen, treated and respected as equals to men.

What does a feminist really look like?

Me, my husband, and all of my friends–simply because I wouldn’t be friends with someone who thinks women are second class citizens and deserve less respect than a man. Women and men in all industries, who dress well and shave their pits–or don’t! To each their own!

How did we get this distorted idea of what a feminist is?

Put simply: the word feminism has been dirtied by the media. Media and advertising have traditionally –and continue to be– industries run by men. It’s a fact that when the male-dominated media is threatened by a movement or shift in culture, they find many ways to subtly (or not-so-subtly) demonize the movement and the people involved.

It’s a fact that the media is the most thought-altering force in humans lives.

I mean, God forbid women take over and stop perpetuating unhealthy beauty ideals, thereby threatening mainstream women’s magazine’s very business model (beauty and fashion advertisers rely on magazines and their ads to make women feel insecure and competitive with other women — it drives sales). Or what if women started demanding justice for the rampant sexual abuse these men dole out? Or the men started getting called out when ‘mansplaining’ and belittling women to make themselves feel powerful? What would happen to the ‘freedom’ that these old white men enjoy?? #SorryNotSorry

Their answer: systematically suppress ‘feminism’ by making it seem like an un-feminine, man-hating, ugly fringe movement.

What can we do?

Is Feminist a Dirty Word?

Be on the right side of history – join in the movement!

We can fight back by making it cool to be a feminist. Wear t-shirts stating that you’re a feminist, and post it on social media. Talk about it. Educate others.

Get the men in your life to agree to call out men who are sexist. Get them to

Watch films produced by women. Watch talk shows hosted by women (I never miss Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, or The Rachel Maddow Show) and see movies directed by women.

Speak out when you notice a man being sexist. Demand justice if you were sexually abused — and don’t stop until you get an audience.

Participate in women’s rights marches — or organize them!

Stop being jealous of other women. Stop tearing other women down, and instead find ways to lift them up. Life is not a zero-sum game.

Because only if we work together, can we move onward and upward.

Is Feminist a Dirty Word?

A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 145 Comments

  1. If feminism would work to clean its own house of extremists, it might not get so much blowback. But right now you have radfems advocating eliminating 90% of the men in the world and giving away free tampons. How is that "equality"? How am I supposed to tell my sons they need to get on board with that?

  2. Sibel Jenkinson

    I hate it when people confuse an ideology that frames all female suffering as the responsibility of all men (gender theory) with a movement toward equal access, but what can you do? Feminism has, indeed, presented itself as anti-male, anti-marriage, and anti-male sexuality for four decades, now, despite what feminists want to think everyone feels about them. Feminism has encouraged divorce, infidelity, paternal estrangement and other social ills in the name of equality, worked to stop men from organizing under our own issues and interests, and even mocks the pain and suffering as men as "ironic humor".

    You cannot separate the ideology from the actions of those who follow it. Yes, feminism IS a dirty word to millions. The fault is not with those millions for not "getting it", it's feminism's fault for not understanding what the problem is. Instead it blames "patriarchy" and "misogyny" like they were two medieval demons while blasting masculinity and men in general with every breath.

    And no, it's not that I "just don't know what feminism is". I was a Women's Studies major, and probably know more about feminism than you do. It's not a matter of ignorance . . . it's a matter of knowing too much. And what feminism is today is just . . . too much. We're rejecting it for a reason that has nothing to do with patriarchy or misogyny or rape culture. We're rejecting it because it stopped taking the happiness of men and women into account. When feminism can be used as a rationalization to attack men wholesale, is it any surprise you might get some resistance?

  3. I hate when people confuse feminism for "hating men" or whatnot. First of all, it takes a certain amount of misunderstanding to take a movement supposed to be about empowering women and making it about men. But it also delegitimizes feminist arguments, which damages the whole ideal based on the words of a few social justice extremists. Using the (relatively fewer) extremists as an excuse to disregard feminism just shows ignorance.

  4. I think there's different levels to feminism. I believe there's regular feminism and then extremist. But I guess I can be considered a feminist as well. Women aren't second class citizens, we are completely equal and capable of doing anything a man can. But in the media they place feminist as a unattractive, manly women who might be a lesbian (yes I heard stereotypes of this). But this is far from the case.

  5. Jen Spillane

    It's really refreshing to read something from this perspective. I have always felt like "feminist" should be an exceptionally inclusive term, something akin to simply being a humanist. But it seems that it's been manipulated to look like what is only a small fraction of the feminist movement. When you get right down to what feminists actually stand for, as opposed to this man-hating culture the media would like us to think is feminism, it seems like a pretty moderate point of view.

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