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. Renee Griffith

    “What makes a woman a feminist is not the specific choice she makes but rather that she believes she has the right to choose in the first place.”

  2. Edith Glover

    It’s so true that “feminist” carries a negative connotation for a lot of people, and I think stereotypes, either from others and/or the media, has a lot to do with it.

  3. Muriel Vargas

    I resist feminism simply because it’s called feminism. But don’t get me wrong, I support what it stands for: equality and freedom of choice, irrespective of gender, sexuality or race.

  4. Dianne Copeland

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I think the influx of women disregarding the title of ‘feminist’ raises a worrying question over whether the true meaning of feminism is understood.

  5. Melba Harrington

    We can’t deny the fact that feminism is powerful, however, lately there seems to be a shift in the society’s view of ‘feminism’,

  6. Lillian Arnold

    Feminism is NOT a dirty word but has been out of favor for some decades.

  7. Margaret Palmer

    I think that the most disheartening phrase that can be strung together, is the proud declaration that one is not a feminist.

  8. Raquel Wilkerson

    As a little girl, I always hated that I wasn’t allowed to do certain things because it was set aside for boys. Feminism IS NOT A DIRTY WORD!

  9. Juana Fox

    Empowering women does not mean belittling or punishing men.

  10. Jean Perry

    A primary purpose of feminism is to empower women, but it does not mean feminists view all women as weak and oppressed. Feminists are not aiming to make women stronger; they already know they’re strong. They just want society to see that too.

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