inspiration, Musings

Why is feminism such a scary word?

I found this Guardian article about the Suffragettes on Twitter today. The article is called nine inspiring lessons the Suffragettes can teach feminists today and is certainly a powerful article about how women gained the right to vote and how difficult that fight was. All women who live in countries that allow them the same right to vote as men have a lot to thank the Suffragettes for but somehow the same women have become scared of the word ‘feminist.’


If you asked me if I was a feminist I would say yes but I suspect a lot of women are wary of answering the same way. There was much debate about the interview Beyonce gave, for example, where she guessed she might be a feminist but was nervous about the word. For me, being a feminist has NOTHING to do with being against men. Seriously, nothing. For me, being a feminist is about wanting equal rights for women, even this isn’t about women vs men, it’s the right for both genders to be treated equally as human beings. It’s about giving women choices too and making sure we retain control over our lives and our bodies. And it’s believing that women should have an equal voice in the world.


Perhaps it’s because we have gained so many rights through the years that the word feels out-of-date. But just think about all the rights we do have and know that not that long ago we didn’t have any of them – the right to an education, the right to go to university, the right to have your own bank account, the right to vote, the right to a divorce, the right to equal pay in work. It’s difficult for women today in the Western world to imagine a time when these rights weren’t there but it’s thanks to these “scary” feminists that we have them. And don’t forget there are many women in the world TODAY who still do not have these rights.

I’m nervous even writing this blog post because the word feminism seems to conjure up such a fierce debate but it’s just a word. And it shouldn’t be scary. It should just explain that you expect to be treated equally and to live the life you want to. And it’s definitely not about being against men. In fact, men can totally be a feminists too – if they want their wives and daughters and granddaughters to be treated equally as human beings in this world.


So don’t be scared of the word. The Suffragettes fought tirelessly to give us the right to vote and they would shout the word loud and proud. Because they wanted women to be treated as equals. And really can any of us say that we DON’T want that?

Why do you think feminism has become a scary word? Would you be nervous to say you’re a feminist?



26 thoughts on “Why is feminism such a scary word?”

  1. I had this debate with some of students last fall, students who lived lives as feminists but wouldn’t define themselves with the word. I think it has become scary because people who want to push down feminism and the feminist movement were successful at creating a negative association with the word. A false negative association. If you look it up, you get definitions like:

    “adj. Relating to or in accordance with feminism.
    n. A person who supports the equality of women with men.
    n. A member of a feminist political movement.
    n. One who believes in bringing about the social, political, and economical equality of the sexes.”

    and feminism is defined as:
    “n. Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
    n. The movement organized around this belief.”

    No man-hating. No negativity. Nada.

    And yet too many people have bought into the negative.

    So I say, don’t be nervous. Say it loud. Say it proud! There is nothing shameful about being a feminist.

    (Sorry for the long reply, stepping off my soapbox now)

    ❤ Lisa

    1. I knew you’d have awesome insights into this one, Lisa! I agree – we need to turn it back into a positive word because it stands for something positive *feminist high five* (we can make this a thing I’m sure ;))

  2. Amen sister! It’s so important to remember how far women have come in the last few decades. I used to be scared of the word as well, but as you so eloquently put it, it’s about equal rights, not women against men. Thanks for this post.

  3. Vicky, I’m really glad you wrote this post. It’s awful that as women we still second guess even talking about it. I would readily declare myself a feminist because it’s not the “feminazi” stereotype that some have given it. It is about gender equality. Throughout college I was part of a women’s diversity organization and I was President of it senior year. We put on a lot of programs about women’s issues across the globe and even did a film showing about the word “feminist.” If you can find it in the UK, check out “I Was a Teenage Feminist.” It’s been out awhile, so it should be available. Great film that takes a look at the stigma around the world and across the different waves of feminism.

    Any time you want to chat, this was my college minor, I’m all over this topic!

    1. Thanks Jess! That sounds great – I did Sociology and we had a few feminism courses, some good but some were confusing to me because they did try to make it women against men. I remember one lecturer saying how bad IVF was as it was men tampering with our bodies but I thought if a women really wants a child and can get help, she should have that right. To me feminism shouldn’t be telling women they have to live a certain life, it’s about giving them freedom to choose whatever life they want.

  4. Awesome post Victoria. After reading it, I say, “Yes, I am a feminist.” And the crimes against women and horrible inequality in non-western nations scare the heck out of me. For all the rights we have won in Western nations, there are so many women being treated with less dignity or respect than an animal.

  5. It is a great word, and I think that people have turned it into a negative word over the years because, let’s admit it, there are some women who have taken it to the extreme. For instance, I know a lot of women who get angry at men for being gentlemen — holding the door open for a woman or offering to carry a large package to the car. They think they’re being belittled, but it’s simply good manners!

    I’m all for women’s rights, but if a man is going to hold the door open for me I smile and say thank you. And if I’m at the door first, I hold it open for him. Equality goes both ways.

  6. There are many reasons why I steer clear of labels, such as “feminist.”

    (1) Labels allow people to be hypocrites, claiming to be one thing while doing another. Actions speak louder than words.

    (2) Labels are imprecise. Meanings shift from place to place, person to person, and with changing times.

    (3) Labels encourage people to pigeon-hole us, to presume to know more about us than they do . . . all based on a word we’ve chosen to apply to our forehead.

    I am not a “feminist” . . . I believe in equal rights for all humans. I guess that makes me a humanist. :mrgreen:

    1. Definitely labels are tricky things, I think the label of feminism has become negative, which is why I wanted us to reclaim it as positive but yes in an ideal world it wouldn’t need a label – we would all be feminist because we would all want humans to have equal rights!

  7. Nervously entering as a man, for me the way word meanings are subsumed into different meanings is always going to be something we need to look for. In the media it is more exciting to have conflict, and so use a word in the context of setting men and women on opposite sides of the feminist line. Which as you have pointed out is the wrong way to go. Only by agreeing that equality is for everybody can we overcome this, and unfortunately it is more often about maintaining power. Both politically and in the realm of religion, look at the Church of England, where it is the Lay side of the governing body that stopped women becoming bishops. And many women voted against it. Because they are told “It is against God” How does that hold with equality?

    Equality, Feminism, Freedom, what is there that is wrong with the concepts?


    1. Ha you’re very welcome Jim! So agree with you Jim, it does feel that women are sometimes pushed to be against each other, as well as against men, which is just crazy to me. You’re right – there should be nothing wrong with those concepts it should be what we all want!

  8. Hi – yes, I agree. I proudly say I’m a feminist for all the reasons above. Imagine, it was only as recently as 1991 that rape in marriage was criminalised in England!

    I think feminism is like any type of equality – when someone gains equality and rights, someone else loses power. The same negative associations are made to most types of equality rights – for instance, the term ;politically correct’ generates eye-rolling, sighing and tabloid outrage, when in fact, it stems from people’s natural courtesy and wish not to make people feel bad. I think that’s a good thing! Sometimes we get things wrong, but at least we try!

    I do feel really frustrated when women who should know better do the ‘I’m, not a feminist, but…’ thing. The ‘punky’ designer Pam Hogg recently said in an interview – ‘I don’t term myself a feminist but I love giving power to women and I feel my clothes allow freedom.’ I think I need a translator for that one. And Trudy Styles came up with a classic,not being a feminst but ‘pro-women’. Huh?

    1. There is definitely fear around this word, which is crazy – if you’re ‘pro women’ then surely you’re a feminist! And if you’re a woman who’s not pro-women then that’s just crazy 🙂

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