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“Non-Feminist” Celebrities Who Owe Their Careers to… Feminism

Once Beyoncé herself puts the actual dictionary definition of a term right in the middle of a hit single, you’d think people would stop being so confused over what that term means. But nope, Patron Saint of YA Adaptations Shailene Woodley felt the need to simultaneously say she’s not a feminist and demonstrate that she’s not 100% clear on what a feminist even is. She’s hardly the first to do so, but ironically, the idea of women’s equality she claims not to subscribe to is what makes her box office success possible in the first place. Here’s a list of other self-identified non-feminists who wouldn’t be where they are today without what, as “***Flawless” tells us, is simply the belief “in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” Read ‘em and weep.

Divergent

The non-feminist: Shailene Woodley

Why she thinks she’s not a feminist: Because she <3s men!

Why she benefits from feminism anyway: She’s the world-saving, martial arts-doing female lead of a summer blockbuster action flick that’s netted a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide. Just look at the gender-role reversal on that EW cover!

Dita Von Teese

The non-feminist: Dita von Teese

Why she thinks she’s not a feminist: The term’s too “broad.” (She doesn’t identify as an anti-feminist either, though.)

Why she benefits from feminism anyway: A burlesque performer with a primarily female audience and complete control over her own act? Von Teese is the poster child for the sex-positive brand of feminism that gave us Samantha Jones and, much further down the line, Hannah Horvath’s perpetual toplessness. And if the photo above doesn’t scream #misandry, I don’t know what does.

Sandra_Day_Oconnor

The non-feminist: Sandra Day O’Connor

Why she thinks she’s not a feminist: She “didn’t go march in the streets,” and she’d rather be known as “a fair judge and a hard worker.”

Why she benefits from feminism anyway: She went from being a Stanford Law graduate who couldn’t land a single interview on account of her gender to being the country’s first female Supreme Court justice. Something changed in between, and it rhymes with “shmrowing acceptance of women’s equality, aka feminism.”

Marissa Mayer

The non-feminist: Marissa Mayer

Why she thinks she’s not a feminist: She has neither a “militant drive” nor a “chip on the shoulder.”

Why she benefits from feminism anyway: On top of being Google’s very first female engineer and making it to the upper echelons of a notoriously misogynistic field, she managed to begin her tenure at a massive corporation during a pregnancy and take a two-week maternity leave (though she worked straight through it) with zero concerns about how it’d affect her leadership. And while getting rid of telecommuting isn’t the most mom-friendly, feminist move, instituting 16 weeks of paid maternity leave sure is. 

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The non-feminist: Taylor Swift

Why she thinks she’s not a feminist: Because she was “raised by parents who brought [her] up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.”

Why she benefits from feminism anyway: That would mean they raised you feminist-like, dear Taylor. Slut-shamey anthems aside, Swift is a female artist who got to where she is on the merit of her own songwriting. Owning her image and using her public platform to Win the Breakup repeatedly are things that only happen when women are taken seriously as artists and narrators of their own personal lives.

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow arrives at the 2012 Vanity Fair Oscar party in West Hollywood

The non-feminist: Gwyneth Paltrow

Why she thinks she’s not a feminist: Because Gloria Steinem wouldn’t approve of her being (gasp!) a married mom. 

Why she benefits from feminism anyway: First off, Steinem was also married and also a (step)mom. But working to balance kids with her career, and her ex’s, rather than going with the ’50s-era default of leaving the workplace altogether? That’s a feminist mindset, like it or not.

Madonna

The non-feminist: Madonna

Why she thinks she’s not a feminist: She’s a “humanist.”

Why she benefits from feminism anyway: “Papa Don’t Preach” pro-life connotations outside, she owns her own entertainment company and, like Von Teese, rode the sex-positivity wave through the “Justify My Love” video’s ban from MTV. 

SATC

The non-feminist: Sarah Jessica Parker

Why she thinks she’s not a feminist: Another humanist! Whatever that means.

Why she benefits from feminism anyway: The entire message of the show on which Parker built her entire career is that women’s relationships with one another are just as, if not more, important than long-term partnership. It may not have passed the Bechdel test too often, but Sex and the City got a lot of mileage out of the independent-but-flawed women it made into a recognizable archetype.

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14 comments
justagirl
justagirl

The point of this article is to show that these women, like many others, have simply misinterpreted the idea of feminism. Feminism is supporting equality between men and women. Sure, there are many feminists who are extreme and give the term a bad rap. But overall, many people who don't identify with being a feminist in fact are since they simply believe in the equality of men and women, like these celebrities appear to due to their work.

michellecohrene
michellecohrene

I can agree with a lot of the principles and beliefs of Christianity, but it doesn't make me a Christian. I can even appreciate that Christian movements have directly impacted my life and well-being, or the progress or equalities I enjoy. I can even appreciate the impact it had on my own upbringing in the church. Even with all those things, that doesn't make me a Christan. 


Feminists need to stop trying to "own" all progress in gender equality. Feminism has its own (diverse and varied) belief structures and its own particular lenses through which to see the world. To treat all women as if we have to either identify with these belief structures and lenses or be hypocrites for having vaginas while not identifying as feminist (and benefiting from its historical gains) is itself hypocritical and vain.


The lens of feminism doesn't work for me as a human being. For me, it relies to heavily on the gender binary and still has too much invested in the politics of being oppressed as women. Most of the visible feminists in my world also strike me as highly proscriptive and ready to tell me and other females how we need to think or act in order not to be acting 'against" our own interests, which are apparently assigned to us based on our genitals. I think that's a big part of the problems surrounding gender and I don't want any part of it.

Does that mean I believe that gender equality has arrived and there are no more social issues around gender, or that I don't think feminists have done or currently do good for things that are important to me? Of course not. It means feminism as a movement doesn't work for me personally:  I'm not a friggin feminist and you can't make me one. Please live and let live and stop telling me I'm doing "female" wrong because I won't join your movement.

Jem S
Jem S

I understand why they wouldn't think they are feminists. It's become so hard to define because so many schools have risen out of it. Some, I hate to tell you, are rather misandrist. Those are fortunately on the fringe but extreme enough to bring connotation to the "other f word" as a whole.  

But then again, you can be a socialist without being a communist and a Christian without being Westboro or a snake-handler. Sad fact that people will usually associate the umbrella term of your ideology with its wacko step-cousins.

CynthhiaMaribel
CynthhiaMaribel

You know what, the problem with these ladies is really simple. They haver never been out there working in a real job or (let's exaggerate things up) living in a third world country (and yes I know what Im talking about because I live in one). They have never experienced sexual harassment, insinuations, objectification, being beat up by her husband, being raped constantly by your father or husband and being to afraid to report it with authorities because they wont help you, being paid a lower salary, don't getting the job because you are divorced or because you have children... I can keep going  but it wont matter because they dont know the struggles of being a woman. Most of these celebrities were raised in a wealthy family with values or doesnt

come from a dysfunctional household, they don't know where they coming from when they try to articulate their words. It is as simple as it sounds, you as a public figure have a responsibility with your words to inspire people in order to restructure young minds in order to create new ideal or principles 

Carshono
Carshono

Why does someone have to be a feminist to benefit from it? There are a bunch of male feminists too, are you telling me that they aren't feminists because they don't benefit from it? I thought the idea was equality, that means that everyone is equal, whether or not they realize why they are equal or if they helped cause that equality.

Sparky
Sparky

So you're basically saying that these women don't have a right to define themselves.  You'll do that for them, based on your pesonal understanding of history and societal and cultural tropes. 


Sounds to me like the anti-feminist here is you. 

irish_koffee
irish_koffee

@Jem S so they are feminists, despite not wanting to be? because you said so? ahh beautiful feminism, always shoving women out of the way, stifling their opinions and speaking FOR them and always ignoring men. also, Westboro isn't Christian, what a lazy, ignorant comparison to make. you feminists do NOT have a right to decide what these women are for them. they don't support your sexist movement, so they are not feminists.

IdaNo
IdaNo

@CynthhiaMaribel  I've experienced every single one of those examples, except for rape(though I almost was) and divorce/children.

Oh, and I'm a man. I didn't know that these unpleasant experiences were gender-exclusive. Least now I can start buying the right underwear.

Bubbllys
Bubbllys

@Sparky They can define themselves all they want, but saying things like "I'm not a feminist because I love men" or thinking feminism is about "boys vs girls" as Taylor Swift has said in the past, is a clear indication that they do not know what feminism actually IS.

irish_koffee
irish_koffee

@Bubbllys @Sparkylol whatever. will the real feminist please stand up? coz you third wavers, second wavers, Catholic fems, radfems, you all disagree yet all claim the other people dont know what feminism is. feminism is catering to women and shaming them when they dont support your sexist agenda, that's all, so clearly you dont know.

AriaHeArtEarth
AriaHeArtEarth

@Bubbllys @Sparky  You clearly didn't understand what Taylor Swift actually MEANT. She doesn't think of people based on their gender. She doesn't think in terms of gender and doesn't want to associate herself with that word. Granted, she didn't articulate it very well, (she really didn't, I was slightly disappointed with that, even though I understood what she meant to say) but that doesn't mean she doesn't know its meaning.  She's said tons of stuff about women empowerment and feminism in various interviews, and she's certainly not one of those ridiculous 'I love men, so I'm not a feminist' types. Besides, you don't get to be friends with Lena Dunham or Lorde without being a feminist. :P  Whether you like it or not, feminism has become a dirty word, it has been stigmatized, because of the number of man-hating-psuedo-feminists everywhere (seriously, what's up with the rising number of misandrists?) and when women distance themselves from the word, that does in no way indicate that they don't understand it's meaning (such as in the case of Marissa Meyer) or don't genuinely believe in equality. You want people who don't understand the meaning, look at Katy Perry, Farrah Abraham and Shailene Woodley.