#HowToSpotAFeminist: She’s Writing This Post.

Dear Anti-Feminists on the Internet:

Hi. My name is Katherine. I hope this finds you well! I do, honestly. It was a beautiful day here, in the city where I live. There are dogs running around on leashes, kids drawing on the sidewalks with chalk, flowers blooming on trees. It made me feel peaceful and happy today, as I walked around and observed everything. I hope that some of this is true for you as well.

I’ve been thinking a lot about you, Anti-Feminists, because you made me upset last week. In case you are reading this and you’re not sure what I’m talking about: remember that social media maelstrom #HowToSpotAFeminist?

In case you missed it, it’s a hashtag created by a conservative radio host. And to be honest, Anti-Feminists, you said some things in there that were angry, hurtful, or misguided. Some of them were sort of laughably dated — I don’t wear pantsuits, for one thing; they’d look pretty terrible on my figure. Some were downright puzzling: I don’t actually know ANYONE who uses the word “phallus” in daily conversation. Do you?

And some of the things you said were hurtful, and said only (as far as I can tell) for the sake of being aggressively mean.

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Anti-Feminists out there, this was not surprising. This happens all the time. But it was upsetting, as it always is.  This kind of thing happens frequently and I am, like many women out there, a bit numb to the experience due to the repeated exposure. But reading hateful things is unpleasant. It’s always going to be a little upsetting.

But I really have to tell you, it was particularly upsetting to see so many women with misguided assumptions about what feminism is and is not. So many women who seemed to think that the feminist movement was a personal threat to them — who seemed to think that by stating “I am a woman who HATES feminists!” they were taking a stand against a way of life that they viewed as oppressive to their own.

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Anti-Feminist in that photo, I just wanted to give you a hug. I wanted to take you out for a coffee or a beer or a cocktail or a bite to eat, and sit down with you, and explain that we’re all on the same side. That of course men deserve rights, too.

I can’t do that, because that’s not how the internet works: I don’t know who you are or where you live or how I would invite you for a meal and a chat. So I wrote this for you instead. It’s for you, and for the angry or confused Anti-Feminists out there, and for anyone who seems to believe that feminists don’t believe in men’s rights, that we’re all militant and angry, that feminism is about wanting women to dominate over men. Those are harmful stereotypes, and that’s not what I believe, and that’s not what a lot of feminists believe.

I’m not asking you to change your mind overnight. But I am asking you to read, and to consider.

I’m writing this with love, my friend. I hope you can read it in the same spirit.


A Non-Comprehensive List of Some Things You Should Know About Feminism. 

Feminism does not mean that you cannot wear skirts and dresses and high heels.
Feminism does not mean that you must avoid lipstick and eyeliner.
Feminism does not mean that you need not shave your legs and armpits.
Feminism means that you get to choose how you wish to present yourself to the world, and you support the choices of other women to dress in whatever ways they wish. Even if you wouldn’t personally make those choices.

Feminism does not mean you hate men.
Feminism does not mean that you should buy a mug with the caption “Male Tears.” My god, that’s not what feminism means. Feminism means understanding that gender roles are harmful to both men and women. Feminism requires an understanding that men are harmed by the implication that is not masculine to express emotion. Feminism means that you understand that both men and women are people. Feminism should be about encouraging men to cry when they need to let it out. We’re all people. People have emotions. Let’s just get on board with that.

Feminism does not mean that you should avoid salads, or dainty finger sandwiches, or tea. Feminism does not mean that you are not allowed to order a Cosmopolitan at a bar. Cranberry juice is hella good for UTI’s, ladies. Don’t knock it just because Sex and the City made it into a stereotype well over a decade ago. Likewise, feminism does not mean that you need to drink beer, win a chicken-wing-eating-competition, or fold an entire pizza in your mouth in order to prove that you are just “one of the guys.” That’s also a harmful stereotype, albeit a delicious one.

Feminism means that you have the choice to do any or none of those things. Feminism means eating what you want to eat, when you want to eat it.

Feminism does not mean that you behave unkindly towards women who are conventionally thin and attractive. Feminism does not mean using the phrase “skinny bitch.” Feminism is recognizing that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. Feminism is about an awareness that our culture does not always uphold those values, and calling out bullshit – be it fat-shaming or skinny-shaming – when you see it.

Feminism is part of a larger movement of “-Isms.” Feminism requires a working knowledge that black people and Asian people and Hispanic people and all non-white people are treated differently than white people in our society. (It also requires an awareness that historically, white feminists have not done a very good job at listening to the needs of black feminists. White feminists should be aware of this, and think about what they can do to change that). Feminism requires an awareness that LGBTQ people are treated differently than straight people in our society. Feminism should be aware that all of this is really shitty, and that it’s unfair to treat people differently based on their gender or their race or their sexual preference. Feminism just wants to create an equal playing field.

Feminism does not require a joyless existence. Feminism includes being able to laugh at jokes, to appreciate entertainment, to consume media with a joyful spirit.  But if you spend a lot of time learning about feminist ideas, it might mean that you start to notice many of the things in our culture that are not kind to women. That doesn’t mean that “Blurred Lines” isn’t insanely catchy, or that reality TV like “The Bachelorette” isn’t goddamned delicious. They are, in the way that eating a lot of candy is both amazing as well as terribly bad for you. Feminism just wants you to check your entertainment for its nutritional value. Feminism just thinks that there should be more stories featuring women, more writers and directors and producers in Hollywood who are women, who are interested in telling women’s stories. Feminism just thinks you should analyze the messages of what we consume.

Feminism does not mean you should be angry when someone holds a door open for you. That’s a kind thing to do. Hold the door open for the next person, of any gender, race, or age. Pay it forward.

Feminism is not perfect. But it’s why women are able to vote, and hold property, and open their own bank accounts, and have jobs. It’s why women are able to attend college, to decide whether or not they wish to have children, or decide whether or not they wish to pursue a career. Feminism is about supporting a woman’s right to choose: be that in the form of an abortion, a lunch order, an outfit, or a job opening. To paraphrase a famous quote: You may not agree with the choices of other women, but you must defend to the death their right to choose so.

Feminism is not there yet. We’ve got a long way to go. And we can only get there by trying our very best to be human: to accept the fact that we are imperfect and flawed creatures, while simultaneously striving for something better. Feminists make mistakes, because they are people. That’s ok. It happens. It’s part of the message of feminism: women are human, and need to be treated as such. Feminists could sometimes stand to be a little kinder to other feminists, when other feminists make mistakes: shit happens, especially when you put people on pedestals, because people aren’t perfect. If we all learn something and move on, that’s an important thing.

Feminism wants this complex, unwieldy, and unimaginably beautiful world to be better for everyone in it, not just for those who have all the power.

Let’s work on that together.

With love — and hopefully, some understanding,


45 thoughts on “#HowToSpotAFeminist: She’s Writing This Post.

  1. #howtospotafeminist She liked this post and is standing on a table at Starbucks applauding while people stare.

  2. Yeah! AND this young lady in the photo may not know we only GOT THE RIGHT TO VOTE in 1920!!! Saying there is no patriarchy is like saying there is no racism. She’ll know when she’s trying to get promoted and all the guys she works with get raises and big titles.

  3. Thanks for adding to the conversation in a reasonable tone and with love. I’ve been working on my own post in response to #howtospotafeminist. I am encouraged there are so many of us out there that are past anger and coming together to represent what feminism actually is today.

  4. I absolutely love this. YOU GET IT! I get so frustrated when I hear friends (both male and female) hating on feminism because they’ve only been exposed to extreme feminists… the ones who claim that men are terrible creatures and that all sex is rape and all kinds of other crazy things. Feminism isn’t just extremists… it really is just searching for equality for EVERYONE. Perhaps the only solution would be to give this movement an alternate name, since feminism has such a bad rep. Maybe then it would be easier to get the world to see the truth about it.

    Anyway, awesome post.

  5. This is such an amazing post written so perfectlY! Yep you’ve explained feminism beautifully!! The basic problem today is people don’t understand the meaning of feminism. Rather they just wanna stand up and participate in the fight without knowing what the fight is about!

  6. “Feminism means understanding that gender roles are harmful to both men and women.”

    Absolutely, this. While it’s entirely valid to have feminism *without* asking, “what does this do for men?” social conservatives do an excellent job of confusing “promoting women” and “devaluing men.” It’s very hard for me to see girls like the one in the photo. If she thinks there’s no place for feminism in the modern workplace, I would encourage her to research the rates at which pregnant women have been losing their jobs in Washington, DC and New York in the past ten years. It’s shocking.

    Excellent post!

  7. Whatever you write, whatever you think MRAs are not going away. Men and women are going to stop feminism for our childrens’ sakes.

    • Ian, it’s great that you want to stick to your guns, it really is. But please, take the time to read this article and give it some genuine consideration. Her points are all reasonable, and take into account men’s rights — which is what MRA’s are supposedly fighting for. Instead of trying to eliminate opposing views, why can’t we all try to understand one another?

  8. I swear you must be my daughter, from theatre to Ferguson to Feminism, if she wasn’t asleep in her bed, I would swear you are her. I loved this post. Of course I do, I raised my daughter with feminism on the brain, so why would I appreciate this post? I love that feminism is around everywhere, although I wish it was not just around, I wish it was accepted and ingrained everywhere with everyone. When I was the only feminist in the room growing up, I took a lot of shit. I wish I had the ability to explain it as well as you have. More power to you and to all women out there.

  9. Thank you for this. Beautifully stated. Its a shame that more people don’t understand the definition of feminism the way that you do.

  10. This was amazing. I think one key thing to think about, especially on the internet, is that peoples’ views are always going to be expressed differently. One feminist might believe some things that another person who identifies as feminist does not. One feminist might be compassionate and understanding (like this post is) and another feminist might be sick of the bullshit and right a spiteful thing on comment section. I think it’s the latter that turns a lot of people off to feminism, and it’s terribly sad and I think largely due to the way we communicate online. There’s often a scorched earth policy when it comes to discussing things online and it scares away people while also reinforcing stereotypes. Just the other day, I posted an unpopular opinion about wearing tights as pants (a relatively benign conversation) and I felt attacked by people I typically identify with (feminists) who said I was missing the point, that they don’t wear their clothes for me, etc. For every 10 feminists who are well spoken and compassionate there’s going to be 1 that someone sees as combative and that’s going to be the person that anti-feminists think of when they read “feminist.”

  11. Pingback: #HowToSpotAFeminist: She’s Writing This Post. | Pepper O'Brien

  12. I love this post! I used to be one of those people who believed we no longer needed feminism and I bought into some of those erroneous stereotypes. But as I get older I see how much we truly need feminism. I love the new generation of feminists like Roxane Gay and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, they have helped me see how feminism isn’t only about rights for women, it’s about justice for everyone. Thank you!

  13. Pingback: #HowToSpotAFeminist: She’s Writing This Post. | umpqua Unites

  14. you are so good – I just love reading your posts – thank you so much.

    Feminism is inclusive – it’s about making right what is wrong for any and all of us. And it is all about love first and foremost.

    A very famous singer once said that women are the n**$&$^s of the world – and it is so sadly all too true – too many women everywhere are treated as throw away – and as a whole are belittled and not cared for and so many men are so intimated by us because we don’t need them. We love them… but we don’t need them – very often because they leave and it is left to women anyway. Isn’t that ironic?? 🙂 How can half or more than half the population of the world be treated as less than and it is okay? I don’t get it at all.

    I have 6 sisters and have been with the same awesome man for 40 years this year – of course I love men and women – I just don’t want to be treated as I don’t matter… we all matter.

  15. So much love and support for this post! I just wrote a similar post on my blog as well. I’m definitely sharing this with my friends! Thank you for such an insightful message!

  16. This is awesome! This really spoke to me because growing up, there was a very bad stigma tied to the word “feminist” and it wasn’t until I grew up and started to educate myself that I realized how uninformed those people in my life were. Posts like this encourage me and I hope one day the word “feminist” won’t be so hurtful or bring up such confusion and hate! Thank you so much for sharing this!

  17. Pingback: My Response to an Anti-Feminist | Quill Aquiver

  18. Hi Katherine, Nice post and nicely put. I agree with pretty much everything you say, especially the bit about being polite if someone holds a door open, and that women should be equally polite to men! I am not anti-feminist, but I have to say that I do disagree with one thing: I have lost count of the number of times I have read or been told that feminism is struggling for equality for all. It just isn’t. Many feminists, like yourself, believe in equality for all, but the the movement itself actually only fights for causes where women are disadvantaged. As you say, men do have disadvantages, and suffer from discrimination and sexism too. I won’t go into details, but I have a few examples on my blog if anyone is interested (ambividete.com). In many ways I think we need a new movement, with a new name, that genuinely fights for equality for all. Feminism is fine, but it is what it says on the box and is only part of the story. Good luck – I’m sure your mother would be more than happy with your blog…

  19. YES!

    I’m a feminist and an art nerd and recommend for your viewing pleasure Nicole Eisenman, Sarah Cain, and the Alien She exhibition at the Orange County Museum of Art. #RiotGrrrl

  20. What people often get CONFUSED with feminism is misandry, which means the hatred of men. The feminist movement does not, and has not ever, acted as a mechanism to depose men of all power. This is simply incorrect. Feminists just fight to divide the power more equally.

  21. Re: the tweets in this post- the last one was “They Dont Suck Your Dick They Just Bitch About Shit.” Wouldn’t that automatically make a lot of “men” feminists? Ha!

  22. It seems to me like it’s almost inevitable, when people feel identified with any ideology, to take the isms as a part of themselves. Even more: as their own selves.
    I fully respect what you wrote, but what if we talk about us as individuals? Beyond gender, we should all have the same rights. Although I know protest has changed things over time, I stand for the right to speak for ourselves and stop being supported or identified, even offended, by isms.
    Our rights are being violated every day, not only for women, probably in the same way we violate (consciously or not) the rights of others. Why don’t we speak for ourselves, instead of creating a world of sides, anti-somethings and isms? Raise awareness of our actions.

    Any reply, from anyone, could be nurturing
    Greetings and love from Mexico

  23. Pingback: My opinion on ”isms”. | Emilia Kriev

  24. I love that you put to words how I have been feeling! I know that I’m a feminist but I’m not always the best at articulating why. I’ve tried to have this conversation with some ladies in my parent’s generation and they just don’t get it. I’ll tell them that they are feminists. And ask them “You think that women should get equal pay for the same work as men, right?” and “You think we’re smart enough to vote right?” Of course they always agree. But seeing your well thought out logic is so refreshing! Thanks for sharing!! PS. this really hit home: it doesn’t mean “that we’re all militant and angry, that feminism is about wanting women to dominate over men”

  25. Katherine — I really love this blog entry — it’s a keeper, and I say that from the perspective of someone who grew up in the ’70s and always took Gloria Steinem-style feminism for granted. Today, though, I worry about the backlash and the misunderstandings and the knee-jerk comments about “man-haters.” Recently, I watched Emma Watson give her UN address regarding the HeForShe campaign, and her words, like yours, really resonate: Emma says feminism is simply “… the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” Keep up the insightful writing on salient issues. Glad that your presentation at Press Publish in Phoenix led to my following your blog!

  26. This is the thing I’m showing every person who claims to be an anti-feminist from now on! Thank you so much for this beautiful conversation starter between myself and my anti-feminist friends

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