Posted by: carolynjm | April 4, 2018

“Bad Feminist”

In a TED Talk that I found titled ” Confessions of a Bad Feminist”, Roxane Gay discussed how though she agrees with many of the values associated with feminism, which would technically make her a feminist, she does not consider herself to be a “good” feminist”. She believes that men and women are equal, women deserve to be paid at the same rate as men, and women are control of their own bodies among many other things. The aspect of feminism that she struggles with is how women according to the feminist agenda are supposed to fit into a specific mold, which is unrealistic considering that all women are not the same. Not every women wants a career, not every woman is deeply offended by songs on the radio and shows on television that perpetuate the stereotypes of women, some women actually like the color pink, some women love make up and do it for themselves and not to please a man… The list goes on and on. She considers herself a “bad” feminist because she does not follow all of the rules of feminism and does not match the description of the perfect women as described through feminist ideals.

Her perspective on feminism brings into question whether the feminist movement is actually beneficial for all women or is it just another way for women to be judged and/or condemned? Is it okay for a women to not mind songs or tv shows that play into gender stereotypes? Is it okay for a woman to like the color pink and to enjoy watching romantic comedies? Is it okay for a woman to want a family and not a career? Should all women be concerned with how their decisions effect other women and the feminist movement as a whole?

I do not have all of the answers to these questions. What I do know, however, is that life would be a lot easier for women if people weren’t constantly coming up with labels for them to subscribe to and then condemning certain woman for not subscribing to those labels. All women have other identities outside of their gender that play a role in how they decide to live their lives. No one should be afraid to be who they truly desire to be because they are afraid of the backlash of their peers and society as a whole.


  1. I think this idea that feminists only include or support one type of woman is a serious problem for the movement as a whole. Historically, encouraging all women to enter the workforce and leave the home, one of the defining factors of the feminist movement, may have been effective, because women weren’t working and the goal was to increase their presence in the workforce. However, we have many more women in the workforce now so this push is outdated. I think now we need to support women as individuals. This feminist movement should be about implementing societal changes that allow women to make these choices for themselves based on their prior experiences and unique situation.

    If the feminist movement wants to keep up with the 21st century, it needs to work on shifting its focus away from 20th century problems. Now, women are dealing with hyper-sexualization, rape culture, and second generation gender bias. These are very different problems than those that women were dealing with when the feminist movement came about. Implementing this shift is hard though because the feminist movement is not a formal organization that can re-write its mission statement or its manifesto. Realistically, I feel as though many self-proclaimed feminists, at least those in our generation, would tell you that they support women’s choice. I’m not sure how feminists can bring about and publicize this shift, but I think it’s definitely necessary.

  2. I think that feminist get a bad reputation because many people associate them with radicals or only supporting one type of woman, However, I believe that they true meaning of feminism goes beyond that. Still, this historic definition of feminist that has been set has made it hard for all women to jump on the bandwagon. I personally had a really hard time and long journey to consider myself a feminist. What I pictured as a feminist and what I learned and believe feminism is, are completely opposite things. I think what it ultimatley comes down to is labels. Our society loves to label people, because when we can put things into boxes it makes us feel in control. Well, not everyone fits in one box, and we cannot control everyone.

    This post reminds me at the beginning of the semester when a classmate (I think it was Lise?) said that in her high school they coined the term ‘equalist’ instead of feminism. While I think that is awesome, as that is what feminism is really about, it is sad to me that these gender coined terms have negative connotations ie. feminist, misogynist. I think the role of feminist and the feminist movement is changing for my gerneration. However, there are still a lot of people from other generations that will always see feminism as black and white in a negative life.

    I do not think Roxane should classify herself as a ‘bad’ feminist. I do not really think there is a good versus bad scenario. If we start doing that, then we add more labels to the already existing labels ie. bad teacher, good doctor, bad lawyer, etc. What I took away from this post is that labels are what is killing us, not the feminist movement. Luckily, labeling people is something we can all strive to not do, and hopefully things will change in the generations to come.

  3. I do agree with you that all women have other identities beyond just their gender. The fact that someone is female does not mean that they have to live a particular kind of lifestyle. Like you said, no one should feel afraid to be who they truly are just because they do not want to receive any hate from the people around them. Women should feel free to do whatever they want. If they want to be “feminine”, then let them be feminine. If they want to be more “masculine”, then let them be. Sometimes people get all wrapped up in the feminist movement. Some hardcore feminists in the past have gotten frustrated with women that choose to still wear makeup, curl their hair, don’t have jobs, stay at home and love romantic movies. But the reality is that many women do some of these things, and that is okay. It is also okay if they do not do any of these things too. I think our main problem is that society can be very judgemental at times. Everyone always has something to say, and that is what is holding us back.
    I think I am similar to Roxane Gay because I too would consider myself to be what she calls a “bad feminist”. I value equality and respect. I also think women should have the power to control their own lives. However, this also means that I think it is okay if a woman wants to behave in ways that match up with how a “stereotypical woman” would act. Everyone is different, and society should welcome this uniqueness.

  4. As the semester slowly comes to a close I reflect on all the topics I have learned in this class, and one of the most confusing to was feminism. The idea seems is pure, it’s about encouraging the plight of other women and ensuring that women have the same rights as the male gender. But, like all good things, there is a flip side. Feminism to most of the population is not necessarily about the equality of genders, but rather “women must have it all.” When we discussed this topic earlier in the year, one of my classmates brought an interesting term to the table, “equalist” which sounds a lot more endearing. If the feminist movement shifted its focus and reorganized there would be a much greater following. Now, I do not think it’s just gender that is the only problem. I think there are subgroups of ethnic minorities that are treat more unfairly than others, but banding together as one united front would certainly bring about change.

  5. I think this brings up a very good point. Recently in class we’ve been discussing more of the idea that women judge women more than men tend to do. I think this is connected with the idea of “bad” feminism. The feminist movement is meant to open up opportunities for all women, giving them a choice in their lives, whether their final decision be to work, be a stay at home mom, or juggle the two. However, as we’ve read in a lot of articles, their always tend to be a judgment no matter which decision is made. To a certain extent, our society, specifically women, need to make a choice that its okay if the woman beside them doesn’t agree on all topics, or chooses to be a stay at home mom instead of working. The movement is supposed to be about choice, not condemning those for making the “wrong” choice.

  6. I am still perplexed and confused about the idea of feminism. I heard it here and there in high school and then it become more prominent in college. I never had a true or definite definition of what it meant and what a feminist looks like. I had assumptions and ideas but I never truly knew. However what I thought it was, I would have to agree with Roxanne in that I saw or imagined women who never shaved or washed their hair and lived a minimalist and trash free lifestyle who never listened to degrading music and drank tea everyday.

    Yet, I would ask myself if I was a feminist? I believe in the equality and fair treatment of both women and men in the workplace and at home. However, I believe that everyone is different and has their own ideals and values. I don’t see myself as pursuing a career to be the top manager or CEO. I am someone who likes the background and would prefer to work in a lab than on the front lines as a doctor or nurse. I want a family and I do like makeup and looking nice like many other people do. I think the feminism movement is more focused on the opportunities for women and understanding that everyone should have the right to choose what they want to do and know that it will be fair treatment and pay. If a women wishes to stay home with her kids and be married to a man who works that is her decision and she shouldn’t be judged for it. If a man wishes to stay home while the woman goes to work they shouldn’t be judgement on either side of that equation. If I want to stay at home while looking after my kids later on in life while my wife works, we shouldn’t be judged. The same should go for any combination. People, humans, are more than their gender and so much of our lives are based on that one itty bitty label that we’re given at birth. All the other “labels” or qualities that make up a person are left in the dust. I may be a woman, but I am also a student, a dancer, a friend, a daughter and I like to do makeup and I want to have a family later in life.

    However I may live my life I know that there is a woman out there who wish the opposite and I need to support her and any others who agree. I feel the saying “to each their own” is very applicable here but its also the aspect of understanding and supporting the women and men who want to, what is now socially “unacceptable.” I feel that is what the feminist movement is or should be more focused on making sure and understanding the opportunities for women and men are equal. Not who is a good or bad feminist.

  7. i consider myself a feminist and I think at the root of feminism is to allow women to behave however they want. Often in our society, women are punished for being too feminine or too masculine or too slutty or too prude and I think women should behave and dress like however they feel comfortable and want to express themselves.
    Often people flinch when they hear the world or think we are all femi-nazis which I think is unfair. Every group has their group of radicals and I think what we’ve learned in this class is that stereotyping is very unfair and often not helpful in understanding a group’s belief.
    I have a hard time with women who just want to settle down. My freshman roommate and suitemate were talking one time and agreed that if they weren’t married with a kid by 23 that their life was meaningless. I’m very pro-choice for women to choose their path but it struck me as depressing and disappointing that women in this age still base their entire purpose and self-worth off their relationship with other people. So I’m slowly working on becoming more accepting and supportive of whatever life paths people choose.

  8. I loved reading what you had to say because I feel like it really resonates with me and some of the opinions I have that I have noticed through taking this course. I definitely think that we as a society have the wrong definition of what a feminist should be. I think when most of us think of a feminist we think of a hard core female who wants to do it and not be stopped. I agree that some women have this drive but others are comfortable with how some things go. For example, I do not get offended when men hold the door open for me or ask if I need help carrying something. This would offend many people and that’s okay the point is we all of different opinions on the issue. Just as the TED talk mentions one of the most important things to me is that more so than just all women, I want everyone to be treated equally. However, I think even equality has a different definition for all of us. For example, I want to be able to have the same chance to play sports but am not offended that most teams are separated by gender. Honestly, when playing intramurals, playing against some of the guys on my team made me nervous because they are so much bigger than me! I guess my overall point is that we all have different expectations and that is okay, I think the way to fix the issue overall is just acknowledging that we should all be treated equally and have the same opportunities if we wish too, but they should not be forced on us.

  9. First, thank you for sharing this video because I find myself aligning with similar beliefs Roxane spoke about and it empowered me to embrace my own outlook of the term “feminist”. I believe there are different levels of feminism. There is a teer at the top where Roxane describes in the video as “hairy and man hating” and then there is a category lowest on the teer that acknowledges women should be equal, but does not embrace their livelihood to ensuring a change occurs. No women should judge other women on which level she is on. There are things in each female’s life that impact her ability to be all in or partially in. From my perspective, I do not believe there is such thing as failing as a feminist. If you completely disregard the statistics, or do not care about equality and making a difference for women in society, then you are not a feminist to begin with, but even if you are on the lowest end of the spectrum and believe equality needs to happen you align with this movement.

    I think women whether or not they want to be a stepping stone or one to face the glass ceiling head on should support others who are striving to reach this goal. In order to succeed women need to stand together rather than bash each other for certain opinions or how we choose to live our lives. Around the question being asked of, “is it okay?” … I don’t care if it’s not okay or not to embrace the rom coms or LOVE the color pink, I’m gonna do it because it brings me happiness and because it is ME. In the long run I feel being me will go further in society in all terms including running for leadership positions, than pretending to be someone I am not. The feminist movement surrounds the idea of women being able to do what they want and not be criticized by others of society for making this choice. In this movement, women are trying to escape societal labels that people have placed on us over many generations and if women begin to create a new stereotype of each other not only are we entering back into a never ending cyclical cycle, we will never accomplish our overall goal because we are turning against one another.

  10. Feminism is about striving for equality, so if one believes in these ideals, I do not think they can be considered bad. I think a “bad” feminist would be someone using the feminist label to boost ulterior motivates; for example, a feminist who pushes males down for the benefits of women is one who I would consider “bad.” I never considered a feminist mold that defines the movement. I also consider feminism as freedom to choose what the women wants. Under this definition, no one is limited by who they are, and everyone can choose a life based off of their facets. Furthermore, under this presumption of feminism, the women can choose between wanting to work and wanting to stay at home; wearing pink or wearing blue; or dressing for themselves or for their significant other. They can be whoever they want, and a feminist should strive to be able for all women to choose without facing reprimanding actions. The goal should not be to place everyone into molds. Another aspect of feminism, however, is to also making sure that men are given the choice to whatever they want to be too. Like women, they should be able to pick to be anybody that they want to be without facing scrutiny and disapproval.

    This article represents the hardest part of being feminist- the lack of clear definitions. Every person holds a different definition, so it is hard for people to support the movement. Under a clear denotation definition of feminism, the movement is beneficial to all. Its motives only have to be questioned as it adapted into other movements and definitions.

    If a women wants to play into their stereotype or follow a completely masculine role, then they should be allowed to without feeling like they are letting their gender down. The most important part of feminism and the definition that should be obliged by is the equal opportunity for both genders to choose to live in whatever life that they want without facing backlash. If this definition is followed, the movement will reach new parts of its potential, and feminism will be beneficial for everyone—not just females.

  11. Roxane Gay makes a good point that all women are different. It is hard for all women to fit into the “ideal” feminist mold. Since men can also be considered feminists, are they good or bad feminists based on her ideas? I think that feminism is defined in many different ways. If she describes a bad feminist as someone who identifies with enjoying typically feminine activities like putting on makeup and watching romantic comedies, then I am probably considered a bad feminist. The “F” word has so many connotations depending on who is in the conversation. I’d rather the feminist movement was renamed the equalist movement. More people would understand the overall movement. It reminds me of the post about considering males… is the term equalist just dragging women out of the spotlight and including men in the conversation about females? I feel that it is important that men and women have equal opportunities and options.

    Roxane Gay’s point about music is interesting. I, too, choose to listen to music that degrades females. As I listen to the lyrics, I always wonder why I support these artists. She is right that in order for a change to occur, we need to stop contributing support to those artists with degrading lyrics about women. Her quote, “I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all,” is very interesting and relatable.

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