With the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements consuming headlines and cover pages
of mainstream newspapers and magazines, Women’s Marches taking place across
the world and prominent women like Beyoncé and Amy Schumer openly embracing
the label “feminist”, nobody would blame you for thinking we’re living in a more
“feminist” age than ever. However, research consistently shows a somewhat murkier
state of affairs.
In a recent study we conducted via the Go2Crowd (a US consumer panel) we found
that only 12% of women would describe themselves/their political views as “feminist”.
However, when asked to what extent they supported the Feminist Movement, 69% of
women said they completely/partially supported it and 60% said they supported the
#MeToo Movement. Furthermore, nearly half (49%) said they felt women were
underrepresented in politics. So why are women seemingly hesitant to label
Part of the explanation could be that women are generally warier of political labels. In
our survey, we asked which words they would use to describe themselves/their
political views. They were given a list of nine words to choose from including
“conservative”, “liberal”, “environmentalist” and “feminist”, but could also choose to
say, “none of the above”. Interestingly 28% of women chose the option “none of the
above” compared to just 9% of men. This suggests that women might be more
cautious in attaching themselves to political labels, while they are willing to put their
support behind political movements.
Words females would use to describe themselves/their political views:
But perhaps the real issue is that feminism still has an inclusivity issue. Despite the
#MeToo movement being started by Tarana Burke to give voice to women of colour
from underprivileged backgrounds who had experienced sexual abuse, it is now
largely fronted by privileged (many of whom white) women. The exclusion of women
of colour from the Feminist movement isn’t a new phenomenon, with black feminist
scholars being particularly pronounced in their criticism of White Feminism for
several decades. The Feminist movement has often been seen to practice colour
and class blindness in a way that favours white middle-class women and excludes
minority women and the issues they specifically face. Maybe as a result of this,
research consistently shows women of colour and from working-class backgrounds
are less likely to embrace the term feminism.
Others may simply feel the feminist movement is too radical or does not fully
represent their views. It’s still not uncommon to hear women say, “I support women’s
rights, but I’m not a feminist”. Some may also argue that women have achieved
enough equality and Feminism is thus redundant. Whatever the reason might be for
dismissing the “feminist” label, it seems the Feminist movement has some work cut
out to make the movement more accessible to all women, not just those from
privileged backgrounds. If you have any thoughts about why women struggle to
embrace the term “feminist” or have any thoughts on how the Feminist movement
could become more inclusive, please do leave a comment below!
If you are interested in more reading on feminism and inclusivity, here are a few of
my favourite books by intersectional feminists:
bell hooks: Ain’t I a Woman?
Reni Eddo-Lodge: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race About our data set:
Source – Go2Crowd, N=568 US Adults