Only 1 in 3 Women Identify as Feminists — Despite ‘Feminist’ Beliefs

“Feminism” is in dire need a rebranding, according to the results of an exclusive new Yahoo survey.

The nationally representative online survey, which questioned 634 women over 18 in the days leading up to International Women’s Day (March 8), found that while women largely believe in and support the tenets of feminism — the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities — only one in three (38 percent) would go so far as to identify herself as a feminist.

On the other hand, 33 percent of those surveyed said that they would describe themselves as feminists — with only 15 percent saying that they “definitely would” label themselves that way.

In fact, 38 percent of the women surveyed said did not consider themselves to be feminist. Of those, 45 percent said it was because the movement is “too extreme,” while 38 percent said it’s because feminism supports “many causes,” including reproductive freedom and pro-LGBT rights, that they do not agree with “for personal or religious reasons.”

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Further, more than half of those non-feminist-identified women — 55 percent — said that “the stereotypical view of feminists” as “loud, aggressive, complaining, etc.” was not something they wished to be associated with. And 21 percent of this group agreed that while they did in fact believe in many of the goals and views of feminism, they found the movement’s methods to be “ineffective or counterproductive.”

Still, these problems with feminism illustrate branding problems rather than a deep left-right divide. In fact, when women were asked to focus specifically on some of the tenets of feminism, one by one, their answers shifted.

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Kellyanne Conway does not identify as a feminist. (Photo: Getty Images)

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For example, 66 percent of the non-feminist women said they felt more supportive of feminism when they thought specifically about the movement’s goal of women having access to the same educational opportunities as men. When they thought about the goal of gender equality in the workplace, 64 percent felt more supportive. Having access to reproductive health services including abortions had 45 percent of this group feeling more supportive of feminism, while the notion of non-discrimination and equal rights for LGBTQ individuals had 47 percent more siding with the movement.

The women in Yahoo’s survey are certainly not alone when it comes to feeling a disconnect between equality for women and “feminism.” Kellyanne Conway has been the most recent example of this, saying in February, “It’s difficult for me to call myself a feminist in a classic sense, because it seems to be very anti-male, and it certainly is very pro-abortion, and I’m neither anti-male or pro-abortion. So, there’s an individual feminism, if you will, that you make your own choices. … I look at myself as a product of my choices, not a victim of my circumstances.”

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Katy Perry and Shailene Woodley have each, at some point, said they are not feminists. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

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Even former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor told the New York Times, years ago, that she did not call herself a feminist. “I never did,” she stated, in response to a question about whether it’s a label she used for herself. “I care very much about women and their progress. I didn’t go march in the streets…”

Celebrities who have said, at one time or another over the years, that they were not feminists — despite favoring full equality for men and women — include Katy Perry, Susan Sarandon, Taylor Swift, Geri Halliwell, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, and, in 2014, Shailene Woodley.

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When the actress was asked by Time magazine, “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” she responded, “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.”

But many of these stars’ ideas on feminism have changed shape over time — with Madonna, for example, declaring herself a “bad feminist” during her much-lauded Billboard Woman of the Year speech in 2016; similarly, Lady Gaga eventually said, “I’m certainly a feminist. A feminist to me is somebody that wishes to protect the integrity of women who are ambitious.”

Woodley doubled down on her views despite some public criticism, although in a more recent interview, from March 2016, she said this: “Everyone defines feminism differently. One thing that’s been beautiful to witness over the last few years is that feminism seems more all-encompassing. It’s embracing the fact that we must come together. I only hope we continue to come together, not only for those of us in this country but for those around the world.”

Amen to that — and now, on this International Women’s Day 2017, more than ever.

Related:

‘We Will Not Back Down’: Women’s Activists Tell Us What’s Next

Why ‘T-Shirt Activism’ Is Bigger — and More Impactful — Than Ever

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