The F Word: Why Feminism Is Dividing Hollywood

Nothing is making Hollywood sweat more than the F word right now. Being asked whether you’re a feminist is the loaded question. Not everyone seems to understand what it means, as our list below of who’s ‘in’ and who’s ‘out’ shows.

There are many young, powerful women who encompass what it is to be a feminist by believing in female strength and equality, but are still hesitant (or completely against) saying the F word out loud. If you’re feeling a bit confused yourself, there’s one really simple question which will clear things up:

Do you believe that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities?

Yes? Great, you’re a feminist.

No? You’re not a feminist. In fact, you’re probably a 50’s housewife.

At the VMA 2014 Awards, Beyoncé performed her song Flawless in front of a giant screen with the word FEMINIST flashing out from it. Point made, Bey. Writing for the Shriver Report on Gender Equality and sampling author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on her album was enough for us to have a feminist swoon (despite also referencing the Tina Turner cake incident). Beyoncé’s 17 minute performance took some power back for the girls after various misogynistic trip ups, including comments made by unfunny SNL comedian, Jay Pharaoh, about Ariana Grande being ‘legal’. So now that feminism is in the spotlight again, here’s our list of who’s in, who’s out, and who’s somewhere in-between when it comes to the F word.




Ellen Page At The 2014 Vanity Fair Party

“I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Maybe some women just don’t care. But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?” the 27-year-old actress said in 2013.


Harry Potter Actress Emma Watson

“I’m a feminist, but I think that romance has been taken away a bit for my generation. I think what people connect with in novels is this idea of an overpowering, encompassing love — and it being more important and special than anything and everything else.”


Parks & Recreation's Amy Poehler

After hearing that Taylor Swift was upset with a joke she made at the Golden Globes, Amy said: “Aw, I feel bad if [Taylor] was upset. I am a feminist, and she is a young and talented girl. That being said, I do agree I am going to hell. But for other reasons. Mostly boring tax stuff.” She had previously stated “I think some big actors and musicians feel like they have to speak to their audience and that word is confusing to their audience. I don’t get it. That’s like someone being like, ‘I don’t really believe in cars, but I drive one every day and I love that it gets me places and makes life so much easier and faster and I don’t know what I would do without it'”.


Keira Knightley

Speaking to Vogue magazine, Keira said: “I remember doing interviews, and people would ask, as if it was a joke, ‘So you mean you are a feminist?’ As though feminism couldn’t be discussed unless we were making fun of it. I don’t want to deny my femininity. But would I want to be a stay-at-home mother? No. On the other hand, you should be allowed to do that, as should men, without being sneered at.”


Singer, Lorde

“I’m speaking for a bunch of girls when I say that the idea that feminism is completely natural and shouldn’t even be something that people find mildly surprising, it’s just a part of being a girl in 2013… I find a lot of feminist reading quite confusing and that often there’s a set of rules, and people will be like, ‘Oh, this person isn’t a true feminist because they don’t embody this one thing,’ and I don’t know, often it can be a grey area and it can be a hard thing to navigate.”



“I feel like I’m one of the biggest feminists in the world because I tell women to not be scared of anything,” said our favourite Disney product, Miley Cyrus. She later told Cosmopolitan Magazine, “I’m a feminist in the way that I’m really empowering to women, I’m loud and funny and not typically beautiful.”


Lucky Magazine Celebrates September Issue

“I’m just being myself. There is not an ounce of me that believes any of that crap that they say. We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a fucking feminist and wear a fucking Peter Pan collar. So fucking what?”


Julianne Moore

When asked if she was a feminist, Julianne said: “Oh, yeah, absolutely. At one point, ‘feminist’ became a pejorative term. How did that happen? If you’re a feminist, you’re basically saying you’re a humanist.”



“Well, first of all I think it’s really important for feminists to understand that patriarchy takes aim at girls’ voices, but it takes aim at boys’ hearts. And it happens real early with boys, like five. And just really wrapping ourselves around that will open our hearts with empathy to boys, and men. We have to raise our sons to remain emotionally literate, and not allow this bifurcation to take place.”


Rashida Jones

When asked if she would call herself a feminist, Rashida said: “I would, yes. I believe in the unadulterated advancement of women. And we have so far to go still. I do think because women are so clever and flexible and such good communicators, it been hard for men to evolve and keep up. I think we could do a little better to help them out.”



“It’s all about feminism. Feminism simply means equal social and political status for men and women. There’s nothing radical about it or about using that word or having that as a goal. We’re simply trying to elevate the status of the female characters to equal. We take up half the space in the world so it would be great to see roughly half of characters be female.”


Girls Creator Lena Dunham

“The idea of being a feminist—so many women have come to this idea of it being anti-male and not able to connect with the opposite sex—but what feminism is about is equality and human rights. For me that is just an essential part of my identity. I hope (TV show, Girls) contributes to a continuance of feminist dialogue.”

“Women saying ‘I’m not a feminist’ is my greatest pet peeve,” she says. “Do you believe that women should be paid the same for doing the same jobs? Do you believe that women should be allowed to leave the house? Do you think that women and men both deserve equal rights? Great, then you’re a feminist.”


Gossip Girl's Blair Waldorf AKA Leighton Meester

When the 28-year-old Gossip Girl actress revealed her role model as a feminist author, we loved Leighton Meester a little more than we already did. “The American writer Betty Friedan — she fought for gender equality and wrote the great book The Feminine Mystique which sparked the beginning of a second-wave feminism… I believe in equal rights for men and women.”




Katy Perry

A couple of years ago, Perry was quoted as saying, “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women… This social revolution of feminism in the ’70s really achieved so many of its goals—not every single one of them, obviously—but I think we should say it’s great that these young women don’t feel like they need to be feminists.”


Then in March of this year she was asked again: “A feminist? Um, yeah, actually, I used to not really understand what that word meant, and now that I do, it just means that I love myself as a female and I also love men.”


Taylor Swift VMAs

Our favourite bad dancer recently clarified that her earlier rejection of feminism was because she didn’t really understand what it was. Well done, Tay.

“As a teenager, I didn’t understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities. What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means. For so long it’s been made to seem like something where you’d picket against the opposite sex, whereas it’s not about that at all. Becoming friends with Lena (Dunham)… has made me realise that I’ve been taking a feminist stance without actually saying so.”



Gaga has been quoted many a time as saying: “I’m not a feminist! I love men! I hail men!” However, the iconic singer later had a change of heart: “I’m getting the sense that you’re a little bit of a feminist, like I am, which is good,” she said. “I find that men get away with saying a lot in this business, and that women get away with saying very little… In my opinion, women need and want someone to look up to that they feel have the full sense of who they are, and says, ‘I’m great.’”



We understand why women in the spotlight might reject the F word, or try to package it as something else, faced with understanding or relating to a history of sometimes radical feminism. Even our homegirl Beyoncé would like to rebrand it as ‘Bootylicious’. However, some of the ladies below have got it a little wrong: pledging their allegiance to humanism, for example, which is a fundamental of feminism itself. Doh.



“I took a page from [the playwright] Wendy Wasserstein’s book. She said ‘I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist.'”


Susan Sarandon

“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 bitches 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. My daughter who is 28 doesn’t even relate to the word ‘feminist’ and she is definitely in control of her decisions and her body.”



When the 22-year-old actress was asked if she considered herself a feminist, she replied, “No, because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance… My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism.”



“I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am a feminist, that can come off as a negative connotation. But I am a strong female.”



“I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist.”



“I am a great supporter of women, but I have never really thought of myself as a feminist, probably more of a humanist because I feel like that’s really where we need to be.”



“[I don’t identify as a feminist] because I think it would isolate me. I think it’s important to do positive stuff. It’s more important to be asking than complaining.”



And the icing on the cake: Lana Del Rey, who said recently, “For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept… I’m more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what’s going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities. Whenever people bring up feminism, I’m like, god. I’m just not really that interested”. Right, ok Lana.

In the end, the fact that people in the spotlight are actually discussing feminism at all is great. And yet, just saying you’re a feminist is about as useful as the creators of Hello Kitty saying she’s a girl from London, not a cat. Unless we actively seek to equalise the gender pay gap, reclaim derogatory phrases, end rape culture, violence against women and many more issues, then these are all just words. Go out and do something about it.

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