"Are You a Feminist?"

Katy Perry recently became the latest in a long line of well-known women to answer this question in the negative. Specifically, when Perry accepted Billboard’s Woman of the Year award on Friday she said: “I’m not a feminist, but I do believe in the power of women.”

Much yelling ensued.

Every few days some high-profile lady says something along these lines, and without fail every feminist or woman-targeted website posts one of the following responses:

  1. How dare she say she isn’t a feminist? Doesn’t she know what feminism has done for her?
  2. It doesn’t matter whether she says she’s a feminist or not; she is.
  3. It doesn’t matter whether she says she’s a feminist or not; feminism is still the most awesome.
  4. Fine, we don’t want her, then!
  5. Oh, no! This makes me sad because I love her so much/she’s so cool!
  6. People need to quit tricking women into thinking feminism isn’t for them!

I tend to incline toward the last of these reactions, but this piece by Noah Berlatsky argues for a more nuanced view of the issue:

Perry’s unwillingness to be called a feminist might… be seen as a sign, not of feminism’s failures, but of its continuing relevance. It would be better if feminism were more widely accepted. But failing that, the least a movement for radical social change can do is to freak people out a little. Feminism still provokes resistance; it still has enemies; it still makes many people in the mainstream nervous.