9 Female Celebrities Who've Bad-Mouthed Feminism

There's a big difference between saying "I'm not a feminist" — sure, you have free choice, believe in whatever you like! — and actively denigrating feminism itself in the press. Unfortunately for all women who consider themselves feminists (which, let's remind ourselves, is not about man-hating, aggression, or an inability to bake, but about equality for the sexes in every sphere of life), celebrities can sometimes open their mouths and put large, anti-feminist feet in them. Even worse? A lot of the celebrities bad-mouthing feminism are women.

It's exceptionally rare to find a man these days who's given an opinion on the topic that's not positive, if they're asked about it at all. We know a lot about male feminist celebs, but we don't know about many who think feminism's a crock (though we can probably guess at a few). No, these attacks come from the inside — from powerful, artistic, privileged women who have decided that the feminist ethos is alienating, aggressive, or divisive. Part of that is public perception — but the idea of a feminist as bra-burning, fire-breathing lunatic is a misogynist construct, and it's a massive shame that so many of our most famous faces appear to have bought into it. What would Beyonce think?

The big problem with many of these criticisms is that they just don't understand what feminism really means. Some celebs, like Taylor Swift or Katy Perry, have retracted earlier statements about feminism once they discovered its actual meaning (i.e. that we're not going out hitting penis-shaped piñatas and having lesbian orgies every Friday night). And that's the upsetting bit. Prejudice against feminism because you disagree with its aims is one thing, but dissing it because you've been fed a lot of crap about its definition? Come on, guys, we can do better than that.

Evangeline Lilly

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What She Said: "I'm very proud of being a woman, and as a woman, I don't even like the word feminism because when I hear that word, I associate it with women trying to pretend to be men and I'm not interested in trying to pretend to be a man. I don't want to embrace manhood, I want to embrace my womanhood." (Lilly never responded to the backlash, and has never given public comment about feminism again, so far as I can tell.)

How We Reacted: This is upsetting on several levels, but the main one is that the idea of fighting for rights and being an activist has to be masculine. Women can be strong too! Is this such a weird idea?

Kelly Clarkson

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What She Said: "No, I wouldn't say feminist — that's too strong. I think when people hear feminist, it's like, 'Get out of my way, I don't need anyone.' I love that I'm being taken care of and I have a man that's a leader. I'm not a feminist in that sense."

Later, She Clarified: "I was saying that in the past decade, I feel people have associated the word 'feminist' with 'bitch' and 'man-hater' and all these things. And I'm definitely not that girl. That's what I meant by that. Obviously I believe in female equal rights. I'm not an idiot. I'm a female. I believe in equal rights across the board."

How We Reacted: OK, this one isn't so bad — but it still lets misogynist public perceptions of the "bitchy" side of feminism infect the real truth. That's not what's actually happening with us, Kells.

Lana Del Rey

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What She Said: “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 ... My idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.”

Later, She Clarified: In response to a backlash about the comments, Del Rey said, "The luxury we have as a younger generation is being able to figure out where we want to go from here, which is why I've said things like, 'I don’t focus on feminism, I focus on the future'. It’s not to say that there’s not more to do in that area.. I’m not undermining other issues. But I feel like that’s obvious, like I shouldn't even have to bring that up."

How We Reacted: It's appropriate for Del Rey, since she's a fairly epic space cadet herself. But how nice for her that she can worry about space travel while other women can't get equal pay or healthcare.

Susan Sarandon

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What She Said: "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."

Later, She Clarified: "No, I didn’t mean that it was old-fashioned. I was saying there are some people, some women, who rejected the term 'feminist' because it felt strident to them, they associated it with this strident thing, and they had already inherited the benefits of feminists. But now that there’s a conversation about it, and men can be feminists, really all feminism means is equality. I don’t know why there was such a backlash against it for a while. It’s not anti-men, we need men and men need women — we came from a woman."

How We Reacted: This is less an attempt to understand feminism's real truth than it is a critique of the movement's public image, particularly in the '60s and '70s. It goes back to the "strident bitches being alienating" thing. What's the problem with strident bitches? Why are they so scary? Wouldn't it be better to be a strident bitch and make it clear that you're just trying to get your voice heard?

Joni Mitchell

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What She Said: “I’m not a feminist ... I don’t want to get a posse against men. I’ve got a lot of men friends. Too many amazons in that community. The feminism in this continent isn’t feminine, it’s masculine. Our feminism isn’t feminism, it’s masculinism.” Mitchell has stood by these comments.

How We Reacted: Joni?! How could you? I don't even know how to deal with this one. Power is not an innately male trait. You do not become a man if you're standing up shouting about something. Amazons are not a bad thing. The list goes on.

Shailene Woodley

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What She Said: "My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism. I don’t know how we as women expect men to respect us because we don’t even seem to respect each other. There’s so much jealousy, so much comparison and envy. And “This girl did this to me and that girl did that to me.” And it’s just so silly and heartbreaking in a way.

"The word ‘feminist’ is a word that discriminates, and I’m not into that. Labels are for other people to understand us, so for me, I know how I feel and I don’t need to call myself a ‘feminist’ or ‘not a feminist’ because I know what my truth is.”

Later, She Clarified: “The reason why I don’t like to say that I am a feminist or I am not a feminist is because to me it’s still a label. I do not want to be defined by one thing. Why do we have to have that label to divide us? We should all be able to embrace one another regardless of our belief system and regardless of the labels that we have put upon ourselves.”

How We Reacted: Ah, Shailene, she of the sweet hippie disposition and a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of political belief. If you want to stand for something, you need a label, or else people are going to give you one and you won't have a say. If you believe in one thing and not another, then you're discriminating in your beliefs. And that's OK.

Geri Halliwell

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What She Said: "It's about labeling. For me feminism is bra-burning lesbianism. It's very unglamorous. I'd like to see it rebranded. We need to see a celebration of our femininity and softness." Halliwell hasn't discussed feminism since.

How We Reacted: This is basically a commentary on branding, not on the essence of feminism itself. But it's still partaking in the narrative that all feminists are shouty bitches, and that it's alienating. Some of us are shouty bitches. (I am a very shouty bitch.) But that doesn't define the message; it's just a vehicle for its delivery. There are quieter feminists too; it isn't a necessity of Joining The Club that you need to assert your beliefs in a certain way.

Juliette Binoche

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What She Said: "[Feminism] just puts people in a stereotyped way of thinking. I think creation and doing, being active, is more important than talking about it."

Later, She Clarified: "My mother was a feminist so I used to go to all the demonstrations, all the marches, when I was small. I know that anger. So this word ‘feminist’ divides me. I think we need the voices of women and we need the feminine on one side. I think men are frightened of the feminine.”

How We Reacted: That is exceptionally French, and admirable in its own way, but sometimes stereotypes, if that's the correct way to term a political belief that's empowered millions of women over a century and a half, are immensely powerful things.

Bjork

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What She Said: “[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. You could probably call my mother a feminist and I watched her isolate herself all her life from men, and therefore society."

How We Reacted: This is puzzling mostly because Bjork has never shown the slightest interest in not being isolated. She married Matthew Barney; she does the most innovative music on the planet; she's basically performance art. But, again, standing up for something does separate you from other people — it just doesn't mean, in this case, that you hate all men and never want to see them again.