The great debate: Feminism vs. Humanism

A friend recently shared an article and asked me to blog about it. Here we go!

The article, titled, “10 Celebrities Who Say They Aren't Feminists,” shared pictures and quotes of celebrities like Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Susan Sarandon who have all given statements about their choice not to identify as feminist. Susan Sarandon, an actress I really enjoy watching, was quoted:

"I think of myself as a humanist because I think it's less alienating to people who think of feminism as being a load of strident b--ches and because you want everyone to have equal pay, equal rights, education, and health care. It's a bit of an old-fashioned word. It's used more in a way to minimize you.”

In reading through these quotes from powerful women, I hearkened back to a soul-searching conversation with a group of philosophy students I moved through college with. One asked me why I identified as feminist rather than humanist. My explanation then and now is that feminism is the lens through which I came to understand oppression and privilege.

Sarandon’s quote, in my humble opinion, tells me that she distances from feminism because of what other people think about it. Just because other people have misconceptions or stereotypes about an identity doesn’t make the platform or experience any less true. Our society is wrought with misperceptions about people who are raped. We don’t just stop talking about it, we educate. We strive to change the culture.

Part of feminism is embracing lived experience and respecting other women’s decisions to live their own experiences. My experience teaches me that this world needs feminism, feminists, and great discourse about identities. It is not until we have dismantled the systematic oppression of one particular gender/identity that we're ready to coast into the platform that everybody should be treated equal. We're not at an equal starting point folks.


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Submitted by jmarcus on

Celebrities will always have a bigger platform from which to make political statements than the rest of us. Because people respect Susan Sarandon for her other political stances, they may parrot her attitude about the word "feminism."Beyonce countered with her own simple definition: "Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes," quoting at TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her latest video. Words matter. the language used by some legislators showed their deep ignorance of female biology. Limbaugh uses the word "Feminazi" as if to conflate two points in history, one identified by genocide, the other by liberation. George Lakoff, a linguistics professor at U.C. Berkeley talks about framing and conservative memes. He would argue women need to use language to frame their issues more compellingly to create positive memes, or phrases and ideas that are so viral they end up being repeated and influencing thinking.. I commend your blog for getting us thinking about how words, and the celebrities who use them, influence attitudes about whole social movements. In the world of domestic violence prevention, words like "wife beater" have been replaced by "batterer" or "abuser" to recognize abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of marital status. Words matter, let's use them thoughtfully..

Submitted by amperrotto on

Thanks so much for sharing these great resources. It's so true that celebrities have the power and privilege of helping to inform everyday ideas and perceptions about major issues. I can only hope that folks on the big stage of social influence pay attention to important concepts, like word choice.