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"Woman of the Year" honoree, singer Katy Perry, attends Billboard's "Women in Music 2012" luncheon at Capitale on Friday Nov. 30, 2012 in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision, AP)

On Friday night, singer Katy Perry was named woman of the year at the Billboard Women in Music Awards. She accepted it graciously saying, “I’m not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.”

Millennial women often bewilder their feminist elders. I’m not supposed to say that out loud — it’s thought to be divisive — but it’s true.

We feminists stand there mystified, mouths slightly agape, each time yet another of these young women expresses egalitarian values in one breath, then uses the next to make sure we don’t accidentally mistake her for a feminist. They demand equal opportunity, rail against unacceptable beauty standards, and want control over their reproductive lives. Yet — they pre-qualify each feminist tinged sentiment with “I’m not a feminist, but…”

“I’m not a feminist, but women and men should absolutely receive equal pay for equal work.”

“I’m not a feminist, but the fact that she had been drinking doesn’t mean that she was ‘asking for it.’”

“I’m not a feminist, but women are just as capable of holding high political office as men.”

Saying, “I’m not a feminist, but…” is a proxy for “Please don’t see me as uptight or annoying.”

Who can blame these millennials? Spend a little time on Twitter, reading YouTube comments or listening to talk radio, and you will learn that feminists are fat, ugly, uptight, annoying, man-hating killjoys.

This is an off putting image for young women who live in a world that tells them that their value hinges on whether they are “cool” — wry, laid-back and spontaneous — and the extent to which they are “hot,” with luminous skin and a genetically improbable body that is both thin and curvy.

The caricature of feminism doesn’t do so well on this cool/hot meter. It is no wonder that so many young women keep the label at arm’s length. Saying, “I’m not a feminist, but…” is a proxy for “Please don’t see me as uptight or annoying.”

Furthermore, elder feminists should not be so stunned by millennials’ anxieties. We share them.

Some feminists could care less about how others see them, but plenty of us want to be liked, doing our own “feminist, but…” tango as we work to separate ourselves from the pernicious stereotypes that devalue feminist voices.

We can see this complicated negotiation in blogs with titles like Sexy Feminist and The Funny Feminist, in Jezebel’s pronouncement that it is “The Home of Shiny, Happy Ladies,” in the way feminist scholar Susan Douglas’s book “The Rise of Enlightened Sexism: How Pop Culture Took Us From Girl Power to Girls Gone Wild” is peppered with confessions about her love of cosmetics. Even Jessica Valenti, co-founder of Feministing.com and author of five books, has a tagline at The Nation that reads: “Feminism, sexuality & social justice. With a sense of humor.”

Feminists never were the stereotype foisted upon them, and there is nothing wrong with highlighting the hollowness of that construction.

The “feminist, but…” struggle exists because we recognize that it is socially acceptable to express feminist views, but that being seen as a feminist builds a wall between what we have to say and the audience we hope will hear it.

And so, many of us signal that we are “not-your-mother’s-feminists” when we want to be listened to outside of academia, the feminist blogosphere or the advocacy-group circuit. We showcase our physical attractiveness, sense of humor, light-heartedness, or love of sex alongside our feminist perspectives.

Feminists never were the stereotype foisted upon them, and there is nothing wrong with highlighting the hollowness of that construction. But ultimately the coalescence of the feminist caricature and the cool/hot imperative works to whittle away the range of acceptable ways to voice concerns about women’s issues. Talking about problems such as sexual harassment, stereotypes, and violence against women gets harder when anger is taboo. Satire is a wonderful form of social commentary, but it should not be the only one we have at our disposal.

Cool/hot feminism is a valuable tool for reaching outsiders, and is artfully practiced by many, but I can’t help wondering if it runs the risk of undermining some critical achievements of the women’s movement: the right to speak out, the right to be angry, the right to look as you look rather than as you are supposed to look. I’m not sure if this resourceful strategy for reaching out is to be celebrated or condemned, but talking about the pressures that inform feminist work might help to remind us that card-carrying feminists and reluctantly egalitarian millennials have much more in common than meets the eye.

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  • fedtech

    Feminism isn’t attracting hip new women because it’s not “cool” anymore to be a feminist. It is “cool” to be an equal rights activist. Modern Feminism has turned into hate group finding new way to generalize and demean men. Women have rights, men have rights, everyone has rights now. What people need to fight for is to keep the playing field equal. There are so many issues on either side of this fight, it seems dumb to fight for the rights of one while shaming another. Who wants to be part of a group that calls for men to be mutilated or even killed for the misdeeds of a few. Woman have issues and Men have issues why can’t we work together to fix them?

    • EvanMyers

      ExACTly.

    • lee

      because gail dines would put you up against a wall and have you shot

  • CG

    You really need to read Valenti’s “Full Frontal Feminism” before you lump her into this group. Seriously, you could have used chapter one to support your points in this article. She does not deserve to me lumped into this group.

  • Gretchen Powers

    If you don’t think Jessica Valenti is a “real” feminist, then you’re not in touch with contemporary feminism. Does the tag mentioning “a sense of humor” really preclude something being “real”? I mean, that’s playing into the stereotype of feminists being a bunch of dried up, humorless shrews—which they’re clearly not. My problems with some of today’s feminism lie in that that it tends to denigrate those things that tend to be typically “feminine” (in that they are biologically driven/forced things) like childbearing, breastfeeding and a need/desire to spend time with one’s children when they are very young. Instead of elevating these things and emphasizing their importance to the world, many feminists play only in the realm of capitalistic patriarchy putting wage earning and traditional male power positions above anything else. Not my kind of feminism.

    • femsoc

      I don’t think the author says Valenti isn’t a “real” feminist. She’s talking about the ways “real” feminists negotiate the desire to be liked (what’s wrong with that?) with the desire to be heard as feminist. Or how we struggle with the knowledge that in order to be heard we have to distance ourselves from those tired, narrow stereotypes of the angry, unattractive, uncool feminist.

      • Gretchen Powers

        How funny you should mention the desire to be liked…coincidentally, Valenti *just* wrote about that! http://www.thenation.com/blog/171520/she-who-dies-most-likes-wins
        I just really don’t think she belongs in this mix…

        • Meows

          The author never hinted at any sort of contest for ‘who is a real feminist?’. She was stating that even feminists had to navigate around the negative image of feminism that society holds. If Valenti is writing about it then I don’t see why someone else cannot state the fact that it does happen and that even well known feminists have to deal with the issue.

          • Tracheal

            It’s the negative REALITY that feminism earned the old fashioned way. Lying, cheating and stealing shamelessly is hardly the way to en-gender respect unless one can shut down free speech forever. Game’s up girls.

      • mike

        In a conversation, in order to be heard, you must also listen. I dont see much listening going on, only preaching with a megaphone from the proverbial street corner.

        Example: Women want combat roles in the military. Ok, that’s fine, men want the person next to them to be able to carry in a run their shot up 200lb frame back 200 yards under enemy fire to save my life, as I would carry you, to save yours.

    • Tracheal

      ‘Bigoted harping fool’ is more appropriate for Valenti: http://register-her.com/index.php?title=Jessica_Valenti_–_Bigot

  • BlueSky

    Perhaps young women don’t want to be identified as feminists because their feminist elders so horribly abused the ideals of feminism by overreaching. What was enlightened aspiration for equality became outright misandry trampling the rights of others in a shrill hostile tone as their power ascended. Many women look at their fathers, brothers and partners and don’t see the ogres their elder feminists insist they must be, rather they see humans not much different than themselves and choose to engage with a positive non-hostile approach.

    • Meows

      Funny, that’s what was said about feminists of the 1920′s when they wanted to vote…

    • http://twitter.com/lifeofherown Life of Her Own

      I’ve known a heck of a lot of feminists in my time and I’ve never been taught that men are ogres. I personally love men. But I sure don’t like sexist men, just as much as I don’t like women who pull down other women.

  • theo j. williams

    “I’m no feminist, but…” used to be a code phrase meaning “I’m no lesbian, but…” Evidently we’ve backslid to the point that women have to proclaim their non-threatening status publicly. Now THAT’s depressing.

    • Tracheal

      More like their non-man-hating status that is. Feminism is an utterly bigoted ideology…one which belongs back on the trash heap of history from whence it came…or so say Nathansan and Young who’ve done the best deconstruction of the core tenets of the secular ‘religion’. “I’m no feminist’ is liberating, intelligent and humane.

    • Chris

      Agreed!

    • EvanMyers

      If feminists would be willing to get rid of their large anti-male contingent, their angry, anti-male stereotype would start to erode over the course of time. But, they are bound and determined to continue to beat the male privilege, patriarchy, boy code, rape culture, etc. drum.

  • Hipparchia

    Sobeiraj is right on the money here. She is in no way suggesting that Jessica Valenti, Jezebel, etc. are not “real” feminists. To the contrary: she’s drawing attention to the conditions under which these cutting-edge women are working. Her point is that it’s incredibly hard for a feminist to to *name* herself as such without qualification or to present herself — in person or otherwise — in ways that don’t at least subtly affirm her femininity. The right-wing’s decades-old campaign to stereotype feminists as man-hating shrews continues to produce a certain chilling effect even on the best of the new feminists; it’s this effect that Sobieraj is — articulately and powerfully — spotlighting.

    • Tracheal

      Not just the right. Many left or center women have accurately characterized feminists as man-hating frauds. The chilling effect is perfectly reasonable for bigots like Valenti and company.

    • The Real Xena

      Define “femininity.” That’s a socially constructed idea. A woman shouldn’t care if someone thinks she isn’t feminine as defined by who is at the top of the social stratification structure. That’s the problem. Why are women such wimps these days? Why should we care? Where is all of this insecurity coming from? Do we actually believe the media standards? How stupid and shallow does one have to be? It is definitely setting oneself up for a huge disappointment to desire to be eternally young, sexy (according to “X”), catering to the white standard of beauty, not too intimidatingly intelligent, etc. The most exciting and interesting women are the one’s who are real and confident without fake lashes, boobs, and starvation. Joan Jett said it best, “I don’t give a damn about my reputation.”

  • femsoc

    The “I’m not a feminist, but…” and the work many feminists
    do to be cool/hot, ironic, and funny and to not be serious and angry about
    issues that are serious and enraging (rape, intimate partner violence, the
    sexual objectification of women all over the media, the gender wage gap),
    narrows the range of ways we can be feminist and belittles these serious issues.
    Why not have a conversation about this?
    Doesn’t it seem a little odd that we can say we think women should be
    able to wear what they want and go where they want and not be raped, that women
    and men should be paid equally, that women should be able to make their own
    choices about their reproductive lives, and that we should quit asking powerful
    women who designs their clothes, but we can’t be angry about any of these
    inequities? That we have to be funny and ironic and look good while we’re doing
    it? Oops – now maybe I sound like an
    angry feminist (and sometimes I am very angry)…Before you judge me too harshly
    I should tell you that I love shoes, wear lipstick, and can be pretty funny
    when I’m in the mood. Can you hear me now? Feminists are a diverse group – but
    we have an awful lot in common.

  • arlene

    I’m grateful to feminists who have insisted on my right to be angry at some pretty infuriating circumstances I see in the world, including gendered violence, persistent racism, ongoing and systemic hatred of queers, and more. Sure the world looks different than it did ten, twenty, thirty, a hundred years ago. And who made those changes? A lot of seriously angry women and men who didn’t find social inequality laughable and who fought for feminist social change. Thanks, Sarah Sobieraj, for reminding us of the importance of getting angry and risking others’ disapproval.

    • Chris

      As a Gen Exer, I wholeheartedly agree with you, Arlene! There is a time to be angry at injustice. Women, along with many other groups, were treated as second class citizens for a very, very long time. This is fundamentally unjust. In fact, we still are being treated as second class citizens in many ways (pay inequality, etc.), and this angers me. I am proud to claim the “feminist” title as my own. I think so much of the backlash against the term is grounded in homophobia and a time when “feminist” was synonymous with “lesbian.” I am a high school English teacher in a wealthy suburb, and I cannot tell you how many times I have had a female student tell me that she refuses to call herself a feminist because she is afraid people will think she is a lesbian. My first response is: “Who cares if people think you are a lesbian?” My second response is: “Ask yourself what that tells you about our supposedly “more inclusive” and “accepting” culture?” What frightens me most today is just how apathetic my female students are towards these issues.

  • Gonerill

    Jessica Valenti’s fans should not read this as some effort to brand her as somehow not a “real” feminist. Soberiaj is arguing, first, that women with, if you like, “objectively feminist values” are under pressure to ritually deny they are feminists, but also—and perhaps worse—even those who embrace the word “feminist” speak in a world that pressures them to distance themselves from it in specific, gendered ways.

    The sociologist Erving Goffman has the nice idea of a “disidentifier”—a symbol or signal used by members of a group to say they aren’t “that sort” of group member. He uses the example of a psychiatrist who wants to establish a rapport with patients, and whose loosened tie and unbuttoned top shirt button are subtle disidentifiers. These are signals that say “I’m a real doctor, just not ‘that sort’ of (unfriendly, difficult, stuffy) doctor”. Soberiaj is arguing in part that feminists—real feminists, like Valenti—are nevertheless pushed to employ disidentifiers in this way, to establish a rapport and legitimacy with their audience.

  • Mom, Ph.D.

    This piece makes an excellent point — the label “feminism” has become so demonized that even feminists feel compelled to give disclaimers. It may be irrelevant whether or not the slams against “feminism” are true because they are
    unrelenting. I’m a feminist who’s wondering if we should be investing energy in saving/reclaiming “feminism” or if we should focus our energies on feminist/anti-sexist/pro-equality causes, regardless of the label. Posts like this one are key for moving this conversation forward.

    • Tracheal

      They are true slams because feminism as currently ‘en-gender-ed’ is utterly false and bigoted to boot. Feminism is dead. It just doesn’t know it yet. And that’s because feminism has always been false…less so back in the suffrage days but even then women were never the disposable sex and never had to do equal dying for equal rights. Today, we have an utterly tyrannical situation in which men do 98% of the dying in combat to protect the rights of female bigots to impose female supremacism by law.

    • mike

      I’ve also wondered why disclaimer feminists do not put more energy into recapturing their cause, rather than simply watching it burn. After all its only women who have any influence over the women’s issues/rights/etc “movements”, the common man regardless of his support, has no voice.

    • hannah

      If you’re going to give up every time the opposition wins, how the fuck are you ever going to get anything?

  • http://twitter.com/TheSexyFeminist The Sexy Feminist

    Great piece, and an important topic! It’s so true that our name — Sexy Feminist — gets right at this conflict. We always say that our name is actually redundant (people often like to joke with us that our name is an oxymoron). We think it’s important for feminists to be proud of the label “feminist” — otherwise it goes against the very nature of what we’re fighting for. On the other hand, we welcome anyone with feminist values — the values are more important than the label. Alas, yes, see … it’s complicated.

    • hannah

      Slyly saying you’re feminist until it upsets men. Ugh. Why don’t you call yourself The Sexual Feminist, huh???

      • Joe America

        Feminism is a disease, Quarantine and avoidance is really the only good response.

  • http://twitter.com/lifeofherown Life of Her Own

    Well, Katy Perry is probably NOT a feminist. I think that there is a difference in believing in the strength of women and wanting equality. On another note, any time that I hear younger woman say “I am not a feminist but”, I say, “Well, I am a feminist and I’m proud of it”. Sooner or later it seems that they start identifying themselves as feminist too. They have been brainwashed to think that being feminist is a bad thing, but the more that some of us proudly identify as feminist, then they learn a different perspective.

    • fedtech

      You “proud” of what happened at Toronto University?

      • Meows

        You just took something unrelated and tried to relate it to her saying that she is proud to be feminist. And yes, it is unrelated because she didn’t once mention that event and it is stereotyping to lump everyone into a shiny little package of ignorance.

        • Tracheal

          Dead-headed denial is the coin of this ridiculous realm. No other hate group in West would ever get away with the kinds of things feminists bigots routinely get away with. Clearly the slimy ocean of feminist ignorance/indifference needs to be channeled into the nearest sewer.

      • http://twitter.com/lifeofherown Life of Her Own

        Not sure to what you are referring to regarding Toronto university nor how it relates to anything that I said=)

  • Grow Up Katy

    All I can say is as a 62 year old woman who loves katy perry i was horrified to hear her comment. All I could think was, “Dear, do you even KNOW what a feminist is? Look up the definition in the dictionary. Don’t think stereotypically, and for God’s sakes, be careful throwing the term “feminist” around.”

    • EvanMyers

      Actually, she has seen and heard what feminists are, which is why she doesn’t’ want to ID as one. Same with Marissa Mayer and others.

  • didud

    What is mind boggling to me is why we care about what entertainers say about feminism. Katy Perry is not a feminist. Yawn. Why is this such a big deal? She sings songs and dances around……and?
    Let’s pay attention to what the writers are saying, the academics, the working women with children, Madame Secretary, Hillary Clinton. These are the women who live in the real word, who are not (in many cases) receiving equal pay for equal work, who struggle with antiquated attitudes from the all-knowing males in their work places, and who actually do a days work employing their skills, as oppose to flashing their bodies around for millions. Women of the working world (mothers included), we are all feminists! If you’ve ever worked a day in your life, you’re a feminist! It can’t be helped. Who doesn’t want equality?

    • Tracheal

      True equality, as a glance at Steve Moxon’s The Woman Racket shows, is something that most women would run from in absolute horror. You desire to be the disposable sex then be my guest but please please please don’t babble about pigheaded female supremacist feminism as ‘equality’. Nothing is farther from the truth.

    • http://twitter.com/lifeofherown Life of Her Own

      Apparently the women who vote for people who trample over women don’t want equality.

  • Professor Feminist

    This is right on. We can try to change the culture, and perhaps we can carve a niche that’s comfortable and welcoming for feminist voices, but so far we haven’t been able to change the larger culture, where women are routinely devalued and feminist voices are so easily dismissed by dropping a few stereotypes. It’s still not safe out there for a wide swath of women to feel good being feminist.

    • Tracheal

      Thank goodness bigoted anti-male hatred is still unpopular…and that isn’t because of a few stereotypes either. It’s thanks to the evil ideology and the loathsome laws that flow from the coven that is gender-feminism.

  • edeslee

    As a millenial myself, I have to admit that I am very ambivalent about the word “feminism”. I’ll also admit that when I saw the title of this article I thought, “Oh no, it’s going to be another old school feminist blaming us young women for not acting or thinking the way she thinks we should.” It was refreshing to find that it was actually an insightful article that doesn’t place all the blame on us. In my (admittedly very limited) experience, feminism has been associated with divisiveness. My first experience of people calling themselves “feminists” was a group of girls marching around my college campus shouting slurs and carry signs demeaning my religion. I’ve learned since then that “feminism,” like any other label, encompasses a broad spectrum of attitudes and ideals. However, I think to a lot of women my age the word itself strikes us as somewhat divisive. We’re a generation raised on the “everyone is special” philosphy, and I think many of us are uncomfortable with words that imply that any particular group is “more special” than any other (as feminism does, with “feminine” at its root). That’s why I think many of us are more comfortable being called “equal rights activists” – it’s a broader, all-encompassing term. I think what we call ourselves is not as important as what we believe, however, and I think most people (men & women) in my generation do believe that all people should get the same respect, treatment & opportunities, no matter what their gender is.

    • Tracheal

      It’s really no matter what their SEX is. ‘Gender’ is how feminists rape logic to steal female supremacist entitlements from males. Gender is NOT sex. Sex is NOT gender. Social constructionism is feebleminded feminist fantasy. The science shows that biological determinism still rules. Nature can’t be ‘deconstructed’ just to create some stupid feminist Utopia.

    • CDonovan

      True feminism doesn’t proclaim that women are MORE special but rather that women are AS special.

  • Tracheal

    I wouldn’t want to be tagged ‘feminist’ either: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iARHCxAMAO0

    • Meows

      Ah yes, because that video must explain EVERY feminist in the world!

      • Tracheal

        Pretty much. You sure don’t see decent feminists (an oxymoron in all but rare cases like Daphne Patai or Christina Hoff Sommers) shutting down their Twisted Sisters or calling for an end to loathsome totalitarian travesties like VAWA

        • Angela

          So….. you know every single feminist, feminist ideology, feminist issues, feminist talk, etc. in the world, right? You must have frequent flyer miles up the roof!

  • Tracheal

    “Thinking that matters”

    To talk about feminism as ‘thinking’, much less as thinking that matters, is to insult the most moronic of monkeys. Feminism is feebleminded feeling (that is Woman’s Way of Knowing) packaged as profound philosophy. It’s telling that so many educated (or is that indoctrinated) women take it so seriously.

  • http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/ Frannie Carr

    Hi all —

    We encourage conversation and debate in this space. We want you to engage our commentators and each other. But remember, please be civil.

    You can read WBUR’s community discussion guidelines here: http://www.wbur.org/community/rules

    Frannie Carr
    editor/producer, Cognoscenti

  • mike

    “it is socially acceptable to express feminist views, but that being seen as a feminist builds a wall between what we have to say and the audience we hope will hear it.”

    I think this really hits the nail on the head, as my conversational experience is that the self identified feminists most frequently do not have conversations, but rather just talk at you about what Im supposed to agree with. Its this experience that I know that they aren’t listening or making any effort to dialogue, I think is the wall referred to in the quote and why I wont bother to listen to any message they care about let alone go out of my way to support their causes even when I agree fully.

  • Dan Hole

    I think that too many assumptions are being made by Sarah Sobieraj here. Disassociating from the feminist label is not necessarily merely to associate from negative stereotypes associated with it. It may to disassociate with the inherent sexism present in the term itself.

    That said, it is unfortunate that people feel a need to prefix their views like this. If feminists would give up ‘we’re just egalitarian’ escapism and simply have the moderates call themselves egalitarians, this wouldn’t happen so much.

    To disassociate egalitarian stances from feminism, you must call them egalitarian.

    This leaves behind with the ‘feminist’ label all the bad extremisms that have infected it. Let them have it, because their biases match well with the term’s female-based construction.

    • hannah

      I will be an egalitarian when men are feminist

      • http://www.facebook.com/richard.hussong Richard Hussong

        Hannah, you shouldn’t be so dismissive of Dan’s attempt to explain his discomfort with the term “feminism”. If feminism names a philosophical or political position, it sounds like it advocates the ascendancy of either women over men, or of the feminine over the masculine. I don’t think either of these is a goal of most feminists; I think the desire for justice, political equality, equality of opportunity, and a generally less “masculized” society are more like it.

        If those are your goals, it is not absurd to resist the label of “feminist”, even though your goals are precisely the goals of the largest stream of feminism.

        By the way, I do not claim to know what Katy Perry or any other public figure is thinking when they disavow the feminist label; I just wanted to make the point that there could be a good intellectual reason for doing so.

  • nia

    The best quote on feminism I have heard in a looong time, by Caitlin Moran, in How to Be a Woman:

    “We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’
    back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American
    women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British
    women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What
    part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote?
    The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal
    pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR
    NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”

  • http://profiles.google.com/shava23 Shava Nerad

    The generational tragedy of cultural change and reform is this: as the “water level” changes, the change becomes invisible, by nature. I saw this growing up in the civil rights movement and as a young woman in the 60s and 70s, My father worked as clergy with MLK and the SCLC as night security on the summer marches. Most people who were not adults at that time can’t begin to imagine what that was like — how the people had to hold together to keep the violence from allowing the authorities from running over the marchers with impunity, just shredding lives — that’s the real challenge of nonviolent action.

    When I teach about nonviolent organizing to adults I define it as a strategy for civil warfare meant to minimize casualties and also minimize the time needed to reintegrate society after hostilities have ceased, with a strong principle-driven charismatic leadership. Very few people remember the nonviolent movement that way; nonviolence is not for wimps.

    Likewise, feminism was a warrior path in the 60s, and it was vilified and spat on just as much as the leaders of the civil rights movement were vilified and spat upon.

    We hardly remember how the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. was considered public enemy number one by a great deal of the populace (white *and* black — for endangering things and mixing things up) and by a great many people in our own government. It wasn’t only a few rogue and villainous FBI agents. It was most of the established authorities in this country for a great many years, and it took a long time for the consensus to change, just as it did in South Africa. People were hurt, lives were ruined, families broke up over opinions over activism, and some people died for their beliefs.

    But it was easier for part of the population to point and say, “That’s just *those people* over there.” when it was white people and black people. It wasn’t so easy to feel at ease when it was men and women. You couldn’t segregate those people from each other. You couldn’t make them eat separately, or sleep in separate facilities.

    The feminist civil rights movement was profoundly uncomfortable, and it lasted for at least as long as from Emancipation (the Sufferage movement, “Give us Bread but GIve us Roses,”…) to the modern day when we still haven’t settled things out — just as we have not yet come to live in a “post-racial” society even though some people have wishful thinking going on.

    And these young women are part of that — they are part of the post-gender society wishful thinkers. They want to set aside the struggle their mothers and grandmothers went through, the elders who cat-fought through their lives to get the rights for these young things to have what comfort they have to NOT have to claw their way every moment through their careers and relationships. Their elders who were strident and unpleasant, overt and unsubtle. Who worry that their daughters and granddaughters will lose ground if they are not vigilant — and because of the ground they gained their heirs find them haggishly paranoid.

    Cassandras, every one of us.

    It’s a sad thing. Shakespeare said it –

    If she must teem,
    Create her child of spleen, that it may live
    And be a thwart disnatur’d torment to her!
    Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
    With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
    Turn all her mother’s pains and benefits
    To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
    How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
    To have a thankless child!

    No doubt.

  • dust truck

    Easy answer: Rush Limbaugh is winning the culture wars.

    (I’m saying this as a man who doesn’t really have a stake in this anyway.)

  • JonFrum

    God – excuse me, Goddess – forbid you should use the opportunity to look in the mirror. Because you know, this is a great chance to do that thing feminists love to do and pick at scabs. It’s those OTHER people who are at fault, not us.

    Put on your big girl panties and take some responsibility. The ‘fragile flower’ victimhood thing is exactly what turns off so many women.

  • gcrea

    interesting piece. in the last paragraph, you question whether this approach should be celebrated or condemned. personally, as a father of three daughters, i think it should be celebrated. in my view, a woman can believe in equality and still like to look pretty, make herself attractive to men, be a stay-at-home wife and mother, etc. in fact, a strong argument could be made that this approach may be a better and more effective way to influence people.

  • Patrick McCann

    I’m sure The Onion could run a hilarious “American Voices” segment about this topic.

  • The Real Xena

    If these women are happy being as deep as the crack in their asses and if they are fine with their fulfillment being dependent upon whether or not they are fit for the gaze of others, then there really isn’t much that a feminist can do or say to get the point across, is there? In this decade, I see women even denying their ethnic diversity to gain the acceptance of the rich white male population who remains at the top of the social hierarchy. How many Asian girls or famous black women are sporting mousy brown and blonde hair? They don’t even know why they do it half of the time. SOMEONE told them that the Aryan standard was the true standard of beauty, and like sheep, they followed. Unlike when I was young during the grunge era, girls and women nowdays are such wimps. They are more interested in pleasing others than being real. That’s why Katy won’t call herself a feminist, and that’s fine with me because SHE ISN’T.

  • EvanMyers

    The difference is that non-feminists can be positive about women without negative about men. Feminists can’t manage to do that.

  • womenarevalued

    There’s no reason to over analyze what she has said. Every day I read the news and find articles about the patriarchy, rape culture, pay gaps and so on. However these authors do not seek to provide answers, they just villianize men and society and do anything to protect their ideology. Women already have equal rights and that was accomplished by first and second wave feminism. Whats left? a hate group that doesnt understand the issues. It looks ot me like Katy Perry can think for herself and for that she has my respect.

  • kaioti

    Saying, “I’m not a feminist, but…” is a proxy for “Please don’t see me as uptight or annoying.”

    BS. It is code for I’m sick of ANYONE telling me what to think or how to feel. Independence and treating men and women EQUALLY. Something that, despite frequent insisting to the contrary when confronted, MANY (not all) feminists do not actually want.

    That often expressed opinion, particularly online, has no bearing based on appearance. Implying as such and the phrase above pretty easily sound like derision poured on anyone who won’t tow the line.

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