OPINION: 7 reasons why women aren't using the F-word anymore.


Lately, it seems like feminism is a dirty word. No one wants to be caught dead wearing such an unfashionable brand.

Last week, Salma Hayek received an award in recognition of her work as a women’s rights activist. She took the opportunity to distance herself from feminism, saying: “I am not a feminist. If men were going through the things women are going through today, I would be fighting for them with just as much passion. I believe in equality.”

And Salma is not alone – there are plenty of high-profile women who have come out recently and said that they are not feminists, including Australia’s most senior female politician and Harper’s Bazaar Woman of the Year, Minister Julie Bishop, who said “feminist” is “not a term that I find particularly useful these days” and encouraged women to “stop whinging.”

So why are so many women apparently rejecting feminism?

I think it boils down to seven things.

1. Some people say they’re not feminists. But, they support gender equality.

The curious thing about what Salma Hayek said is not that she said she isn’t a feminist. Salma Hayek can call herself whatever she wants. It’s that what she said – that she believes in and will fight for equality – is feminism.

The definition of feminism is “the advocacy of equal rights and opportunities for women, especially the extension of their activities in social and political life.”


Do you think men and women should be equal? Do you think our genitals shouldn’t determine how much we get paid or whether we can hold senior leadership positions? Then you’re a supporter of feminism.


2. Some people don’t like to be labelled.

That’s cool. No one is forcing a label on anyone. But it doesn’t mean that your actions and beliefs aren’t consistent with feminism. Whether or not you call yourself a feminist, your attitudes and behaviours can be feminist. And if your behaviours are feminist, there’s a good chance we are going to claim you and celebrate you whether you like being called a feminist or not.


3. Some people think that being a feminist means hating men.

But that’s true. In fact, feminism not about how women feel about men at all. It’s about women having a their fair share; women having access to every right and every opportunity enjoyed by men. Feminists are lovers AND fighters. Feminism hates the game, not the player.


4. Some people think feminism is over. It happened already. And we don’t need it anymore.

Some people think that women are already free from discrimination. That we are already equal to men – so feminism is now irrelevant.


Women get paid less than men for the same work – even when you discount factors like child-rearing and part-time work. Straight out of university, men get paid more than women. One in five women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime.

While gender inequality is so entrenched, we still need feminism. Not just as a concept or a flag or a tshirt, but as a powerful descriptor for what is happening in the world, what needs to change and who needs to act.


5. Some people want to call themselves something different. Like a “humanist”.

Madonna. Sarah Jessica Parker. Demi Moore. They all reject the word “feminist” in favour of “humanist”

Being pro-human is fine. It’s great. But it doesn’t address the fact that there is injustice in the way that women are treated. You can be a humanist and a feminist. Pro-human and pro-equality for women. One does not displace the other. Do it. Be both.


6. Some people like things the way they are.

Kelly Clarkson said, “I think when people hear feminist, it’s like, ‘Get out of my way, I don’t need anyone.’ I love that I’m being taken care of and I have a man that’s a leader.”

If you’re happy with the status quo for yourself, that’s great. But there are plenty of other women facing discrimination, disadvantage and violence. Even if you don’t love feminism, equality and change for yourself, you can love feminism for the change that needs to happen for other people.



7. Some people don’t want to be associated with feminists because they seem mean or dirty or angry or carry on like “victims”.

Feminists are no more dirty or mean than other members of the general population. But if inequality doesn’t make you angry, then maybe feminism isn’t for you.


So, why should women stop running away from feminism?

Sometimes feminism is empowering and makes you feel part of a remarkable tradition of success and change that stretches back over a century.

But other times, when you’ve witnessed gender inequality or you’ve experienced it yourself, when you’re hurt and upset, when you’re bitterly disappointed, you need to have a word to describe what has happened. You need a word to help you talk about the disadvantage and discrimination you’ve seen or experienced. And you need a word that helps you to describe what needs to change.

Feminism is that word.