“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.


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.


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. 


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.


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. 


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.