What Does Feminism Mean To You?

Yesterday Feminism was a hotly debated topic on Twitter. It started from a tweet by the newly hired New York Times, T Magazine Editor-in-Chief, Deborah Needleman:

This enraged the Twittersphere perhaps because Needleman's  implied that feminists couldn't be sexy, or because Katie Rophie has been known to say anti-feminist things. Either way, it caused a meme to be started #sorryfeminists on Twitter and Tumblr, aptly titled, “Sorry, feminists.” According to Topsy, #sorryfeminists generated over 4246 mentions yesterday, mostly poking fun, but also quite angry at the notion that feminists can't be sexy, or feminine.


Feminism isn't what it used to be:  clearly defined.  The actual definition, as taken from the Google dictionary, Feminism is defined as, “The advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Yet somehow yesterday's Twitter storm highlighted that Feminism today has a much more complex meaning.

I agree with Feminist principles. I have never felt that blogging about personal style or other “girlie” things undermined my Feminism. As an entrepreneur,  I notice there are distinct differences how people perceive male and female leaders. As a wife, I see Feminism meaning that when my husband and I are both sick with a cold, he should equally go out and get the chicken noodle soup and cold medicine.

Feminism means different things to different people, and different things to different aspects of the same person. In light of yesterday's #sorryfemiminists what does Feminism mean to you?

Let us know in the comments, we'll take a selection of the comments and post later this week.

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21 Responses

  1. Libby

    It’s a shame, because it seems that these days, feminism is another word for a man hater, which I am totally against. What happened to the strong, courageous women that believed both women AND men should be treated equally? Well I don’t know, but I just hope that there are some REAL feminists out there, as there are still places in the world where women are being sold as brides etc. But these days in the UK, it’s totally equal, because just as many sexist things happened to men as they do to women.

  2. Rachelle Porsenna

    I guess Feminist is too close to the word feminine. I’m an independent, strong, corageous woman. I am also very feminine, love anything girlie, and love the color PINK. Women just need to stop putting each other down. That always bothered me, I cannot tell you how many time someone made the comment “omg you’re smart too”. And I hate that other women are given into that mentality that a woman can only be strong/smart or sexy/pretty. A woman can be all of that and more. I said it many times and I’ll say it again us women are our toughest critic. I think we need to be more kind and supportive towards each other.

  3. Cosmo

    I would have guessed the original tweeter was apologizing for calling a woman sexy because feminists aren’t supposed to want to be objectified by being called sexy. Sort of like how in books about raising daughters we are supposed to remember not to constantly comment on little girls’ looks. Meeting a little girl and telling her that she is adorable before we tell her she is smart can be potentially harmful to her self-image by suggesting that the way she looks is more important than the way she thinks. I think that many people think that it is important to downplay the importance of a woman’s looks to show respect for her other qualities like strength and intelligence.

    I run an official cycle chic blog and there are certain people who are regularly bringing up how sexist our brand is particularly the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog. We take photos of people on bikes. Lots are of pictures of women on bikes. I started cycling because of the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog. Until I saw that I didn’t know that women like me could ride a bike without having to dress weird and get hit by cars. So I started my blog to show other women that they can ride a bike and make their city safer, cleaner, and better while getting a bit of exercise. I am not sure that is sexist, but because some of the people I photograph are women and wear skirts and high heels or bikinis while they ride that offends people. I am not sure if it is that the women shouldn’t wear those things in public or that I take pictures of it and post it on my blog and present it as potentially aspirational cycling. I think some of the critics think it is frivolous and weakens the cycling movement by making it fashionable. The fact that people now use bikes in advertising bothers people despite the fact that people also use cars in advertisements. The more appealing and normal bikes become the better for cities, people(especially women and children), and the earth.

    I don’t think I am anti-feminist because I am a Mom/fashion designer/cycle chic blogger/shoe lover/slightly vain wearer of lace and bows. I think though that there are still some people who think that I am. People who think that I am not a very good example of what a woman ought to be.

    • Julia Sunderland

      I completely agree with your first comment. That’s exactly how I read it – ‘sorry feminists, for objectifying a woman like that because we all know most people probably wouldn’t say the same thing about a man’.

      In fact, I’m actually struggling to see how it can be interpreted as ‘feminists can’t be sexy’. Anyone enlighten me?

      Julia x
      Carousel Secrets

  4. Kath TheFabZilla

    I am a feminist and my hub finds that sexy. A feminist is a modern-day Eve who makes independent decisions, isn’t afraid to take risks, and is comfortable to live her life with or without a man by her side. She could be the single mom who’s juggling jobs to support her kids; the social worker that assists abused women; the teacher who rallies against bullying. She has a strong personality with a gentle heart. I am proud to be one.

  5. Nefertiti

    I’m not really sure how to define what Feminism means to me. I’m living in a time where women are becoming respected doctors, CEOs, auto technicans, etc. Feminism has taken a whole new meaning now a days. Women can and are forgoing marriage and children to peruse careers and financial happiness. I’m sure not even 40 years ago, the thought of being even 30 and not married would have been seen as a source of terrible gossip at the local hair salon. Now a days it is seen by many as a badge of honor to be able to take care of yourself without a “Man around the house”. It also has become associated with a negative notion seen by both men and women, a notion of ignorance and arrogance. Some women have built up such a thick wall of arrogance with a mindset that “I’m awesome! I pay my bills, I own my house, I’m a Senior VP at my company, I don’t need no body because I’m a strong independent woman!”. This kind of mindset is what created the negative notion of feminism, that makes some men and even some women think that Feminists are a bunch of man hating witches that want to burn the creators of The Stafford Wives and The Good Housewife at the stake.

    We as women have come a long way but there is still a way to go before we realize that there is difference between being Independent and being Ignorant.

  6. G. Zammit

    I’m so glad you brought this up. In recent years I’ve definitely become more of a feminist than ever before – and let me preface this by saying, I am in a loving, caring relationship with my boyfriend and calling feminists man haters is just wrong.

    What bothers me, aside from male politicians being incredibly insensitive and judgemental about women in this country, is the complete lack of disrespect of females in pop culture. There are so many songs sung by men and women using derogatory words like b&tch, sl%t, ho.. the list goes on… and yet, we as a whole seem to be unfazed by it all.

    To say using these words often to dilute their power is helpful to women is completely untrue. Even friends now refer to each other in those terms -going as far to something like “Oh I love bracelets – I’m a bracelet w#ore!”. LADIES – this is UNACCEPTABLE to speak about yourself or others in this way!!!

    And, until we have songs equally degrading to men – perhaps titled a$$h^le (though this won’t solve anything), we have to stand up to this hate and stop it!

  7. Dulcie

    Unfortunately I think that today feminists have been given a bad stereotype; as braless, angry, hairy armpitted lesbians. I have absolutely no problem with hairy lesbians at all but surely all women are feminists? Surely all females want equal rights to men, within reason, I mean women and men essentially differ so not everything is possible, but women are still not getting paid the same as men in some jobs for doing exactly the same thing and women are still very much objectified. It astounds me how many of my friends, strong minded, independent girls completely reject the term feminism.

    I did a blog post on it relating to a post-modern fashion project i was doing:

  8. alicatstrut

    Great topic, Jennine. For me, feminism is about celebrating female power without denigrating men and without criticizing women who feel differently from me. I’m happy that women celebrate their smarts, their sportsmanship, their business acumen, but I do think there is great power in our beauty, our style, our wholeness. I think there’s room in serious discussions for ALL of the things we bring to the table and ignoring any one source of our power does us a disservice.

  9. Tina

    In the simplest of terms, a feminist to me, is today’s woman…….
    A modern, evolved, 2.0 version of our old self.
    Someone who has been able to carve out in this big, beautiful world an authentic and truthful place within.
    This is a WOMAN with a capital W, a woman who has been able to break free from the chains that bind her, telling her who she needs to be and screams back “Fuck You, I am who I am and that, my friend, is pure perfection.”

  10. Rita

    I agree with many of the affirmations above.

    Being a feminist today is understanding that, as a woman, we can explore and be ourselves.

    It does not mean being hateful of men but respectful towards all. It does not mean ignoring our feminine side, but understanding that we can explore all our sides. We are complex human beings and if we’re allowed to explore we will flourish and become better versions of ourselves.

    I can love heels and still change wheels. It’s about breaking all the stereotype barriers created around us.

    People who make affirmations based on stereotypes like that (i.e., women who stand by their rights couldn’t possibly be sexy) are rude and lack serious intellectual depth.

    Feminism is about all women, but also men. It affects us all. I think Caitlin Moran put it very clearly in her book and maybe Deborah should read it!

  11. Clara

    Feminism is so important right now, because people are beginning to think it’s not necessary anymore. Oh, a woman is the CEO of Yahoo, we’re done. Nope.

    Feminism is complex these days, though. There was a time that women put on their shoulder pads and marched into the working world, trying to pretend that they didn’t like lipstick and such. We’ve stopped doing that, because lipstick is great.
    Now feminism is all about contradictions — we can be sexy, but we are not sex objects. We might love children, but if we decide to work and have a family we shouldn’t get more flack for it than our husbands would. We (especially this community!) might like getting dressed up and looking good, but strangers on the street have no right to comment on it.

    It’s all very sticky. For more on male privilege: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/the-male-privilege-checklist/
    And for my take on feminism in fashion: http://www.thatgirlmag.com/dress-for-men-anti-feminist-nonsense/

    xx Clara

  12. Sarah

    Earlier this week, a friend was explaining how she felt comfortable asking a man on a date, but she quickly qualified, “I’m not a feminist or anything.” I’m not sure what expression appeared on my face, but it probably wasn’t very polite.

    Feminism is about equality and choice. Choice can mean choosing to live a gender-normative lifestyle or pushing the boundaries to redefine the meaning of being female. My femininity/feminism mishmash allows me to wear crocheted dresses and Guerlain lipstick while I work with survivors of sexual assault in my therapy practice. I can blog about oxblood tights and miniskirts in the morning and debate gender equality over cocktails (purchased on my own dime) in the evening.

    If I don’t want society to dictate what it means to be a woman, I need to start with my own assumptions and perceptions.

  13. Mariana L

    “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

    To me, feminism means that women are entitled to pursue whatever financial, social, sexual, political goals that make them happy. If you want to feel and look sexy, regardless of who’s responding, how can that be anti-feminist?
    In older generations, it was men who were perceived as being the ones to prevent women from pursuing their own happiness. If you are a man who is responsible for that, you deserved that ire.

    I find that fashion blogging is definitely a triumph of the new generation of feminists. Instead of being told what to buy and what the standards of beauty are by large corporations (mostly owned/run by men), women of all ages, all sizes, shapes and cultures are defining for themselves what makes them look and feel good.
    Fashion bloggers are being supported by their peers and have become entrepreneurs in a niche of their own making, empowering themselves. How is that not a feminist triumph?

  14. Tyra

    Feminism as we see now is trying to force some kind of painful atonement for the sins of generations of patriarchal tyranny by making anything “non-female” as the enemy to suffer. But by assuming this position, feminism alienates itself from its own cause. The subjugated become the tyrannical overlords.

    Simply put I think the idea of gender is a construct that we play into everyday. Instead of Feminism we should consider ourselves Humanists. Every human no matter what their sexual or social orientation is should have the right to happiness and the freedom to express themselves openly.


  15. Nionvox

    To me, feminism means the freedom to be or do anything you want. It’s not being girly, or manly. It’s having the right to choose what you want to be.

  16. Susann

    The popular image of feminists as “bra burning left wing man haters” has been pushed by the popular press who are mainly Conservative middle aged white men who still want to maintain the status quo .

    I have been married for a long time and I have two grown up daughters. We all have good jobs and consider our selves to be strong women. But actually we are overworked women. Cleaning, cooking ,child care arrangements are still part of our daily lives.

    I am envious sometimes of my single friends, who can come home from work and not have to worry about anything or anybody but themselves.

    Just my thoughts really.

    Susann x

  17. Simi

    To me feminism is something which both gender should be able to apply to. It should mean equal rights and opportunities to both Women and Men. It is not about hating men but about getting to the same position as them because in the past and till now some are not given the equal status. It is not about disliking certain colors (pink) or not shaving facial hair etc. I don’t understand why some people have this thinking that in order to call oneself a feminist, one must adhere to be a certain type.