Since When Did I Become A Bad Feminist?

Angela Barnett Bad Feminist
Is this the face of a Feminist?

Feminists don’t go to Eminem concerts because he does not say good things about women. Nor do Feminists speak softy. Or watch porn. And they certainly don’t yell cunt at other stupid drivers on the motorway.

I can’t be a Feminist because I’ve done all these things. Sometimes I wind the window down.

Here are more reasons I can’t be a Feminist:

– I’ve worried about the backs of my arms flapping.

– I wax. And not just my legs, I even gave my armpits a go once and that is more painful than pulling out five nose hairs.

– Plus I like men.

– I like Vanity Fair.

– And I like cauliflower. Feminists have no time for flowers.

I certainly wasn’t one when this story came out about FABIK in nymag, because when my [male] friend asked me accusingly, “Are you a Feminist now?”

I said. “No!”

I like Glee, I can’t be.

Even though I studied women’s studies with Phillida Bunkle at University, I soon learned, once I started working, that being a Feminist was not something to put on the CV.

Too uppity. Too serious.

I’ve never heard anyone say, “let’s invite some Feminists over!” What a laugh that’ll be.

Recently I met a woman and towards the end of our meeting she said, “I’m a Feminist!”

I wondered if I should say, “Same!” to be friendly but I’ve never put myself in the club. Being a Feminist means I might start cultivating a moustache. Well, I’ve been working on that since I was twelve, but I might start getting shrill.

Not the awful shrillness! That sounds more annoying than a mosquito in the night.

There’s a Facebook page called Women Against Feminism. It has 39,000 fans. It focuses on the idea that to be a Feminist we have to hate men. That we can’t put Amy Winehouse eyeliner on. We can’t. We can’t. We can’t.

Angela Barnett stunt Chicken
A smiley post from ‘Women Against Feminism’ page.

But Feminism is about can. Without Feminists who fought loudly before me I wouldn’t be driving myself off to earn my own living, yelling whatever I want in my car. Without Feminists I wouldn’t be standing next to Dad’s who’ve also left work early to watch netball games – and we’ve both got painted toenails.

If we push aside the tired old criticisms directed at appearance or volume or lack of humour, then what’s bad about Feminism?

Fighting for fairness?

Nope. Nothing bad about that.

Wanting justice?

Nothing bad about that either.

Sticking up for people who can’t stick up for themselves?

Not bad at all, and in fact, really good.

Trivialising Feminism to what women wear or watch or prefer or appear is missing the point. If we’re fighting and judging each other then we’re not helping anyone.

It shouldn’t matter if you’re wearing purple lipstick or a cream donut beard when you’re raising awareness about the kidnapping of 200 girls in Nigeria.

It shouldn’t matter how smooth your legs are or who you open your legs for in private, when you’re questioning why young wealthy white jocks who rape unconscious girls by dumpsters only get six months in jail.

It shouldn’t matter if you like Eminem or Beyoncé when you’re making sure there’s more than white male faces running the show.

Fighting for fairness is the core of the feminine spirit and it’s best done with compassion; something that comes naturally to women. It’s why we’re good in boardrooms and handling disputes in the sand pit.

In Zambia, I wanted to make a radio program for women because the idea of widow cleansing broke my heart. It seemed grossly unfair. My program was the wrong way to fix it, I eventually discovered, so I raised some money and sent wind-up, solar-powered radios into Zambia so women could raise awareness themselves. It would take another seven years for tribal widow cleansing to be banned. Change starts with small steps (or small blunders in my case) and people banding together.

Equality shouldn’t be about appearance. Or sexuality. Or music tastes.

Equality is about fairness. And fighting together.

That’s what’s behind Lizzie Marvelly’s #mybodymyterms.
That’s what’s behind Emma Watson’s #heforshe
That’s what’s behind Sheryl Sandberg’s #leanin (which has been updated to #leanintogether)
That’s what’s behind Roxanne Gay’s #badfeminist (if you haven’t watched her TED talk then do, she’ll blow that lipstick right off your face.)

Feminism shouldn’t be a good or bad label and things would be bad without Feminism.

So, with my inappropriate cursing, arm-flapping, Eminem-loving, cauliflower-munching self I’m happy to say I’m in the club. Are you?


  1. I almost didn’t read this because I don’t like the F word either but I’m glad I did, and I’m getting a sense for your writing style now, which is cool because it builds sort of like a storm and then levels out with logic and compassion, and…well, nice job. Good moves here, a bit Kung-fu like. I feel like I got tossed a bit, but it felt good.


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