Dilution of Feminism

This essay is about the dilution of feminism due to an influx in members and a lack of set rules to dictate the direction and message behind the cause. I think that I did a good job in this essay of getting my point across without being repetative (even though my essay is long, I just had a lot to say!) and I'm really proud of that because I was working hard to make that happen this time around. My goal for next time is to do an even better job of being concise.


Opposition is a driving force to many empowerment movements. What is there to fight against if everyone is on your side? That very idea has become a downfall for the modern feminist movement. Today, more and more people are calling themselves feminists. This is the result of equality being pushed to the forefront of society and feminism being sold and marketed as “trendy”. Either way, feminism has begun to lose some of the “toxic” buzz that used to surround it, and has gained followers in the process, but this hasn’t turned out to be as good as it may seem. Feminism has no strict definition. That means that if you believe in female empowerment, or income equality, or reproductive rights, or trans rights, or sexual assault awareness, or any other form of liberation for women, you can call yourself a feminist. The word is open and fully customizable, an appeal and weakness of the cause. People whose views would not have identified them as feminist 10 years ago are now claiming to be, which alters the meaning of the word. Those strongly opposed to feminism are becoming less common, and more common are the conservative feminists who are shifting the movement from the inside. With more and more people claiming to be feminists while lacking a uniform message or goal, the strength and meaning of the word is diluted.

Feminism first began as an in-your-face stick-it-to-the-man empowerment movement, often associated with radical suffragettes, hairy armpits, burning bras, and furious campaigning. These women, over the course of 3 waves of feminism and many decades, set a precedent for the rest of society and aimed to change the standards of gender rights through laws, cultural shifts, and increased opportunities. A timid society built to protect the patriarchy was quick to push these bold fighters into a category of radicals that were not to be associated with, even by women who benefitted from the feminists’ efforts. Titling yourself a feminist had substance, and was worn with pride by those who dedicated their lives to earning it. Today, feminist culture has shifted. Corporations and brands have begun to use feminism as a selling point and a way to gain “cultural clout”. Jia Tolentino from The New Yorker says that “The inside threat to feminism in 2017 is less a disavowal of radical ideas than an empty co-option of radical appearances—a superficial, market-based alignment that is more likely to make a woman feel good and righteous than lead her to the political action that feminism is meant to spur.” Being seen as “woke” is of the utmost importance to the online-activist types of our time, and phrases such as “the future is female” and “girls just want to have fun-damental rights” are easily marketed to that crowd that craves validation. These campaigns, while true and empowering, focus less on tackling the modern problems facing women and more on making those who buy into them feel included in the solution without having to prove it. Tolentino sums all of this up by saying, “the decline of feminism is visible in how easy the label is to claim.” Buying into the feminist brand without having to earn it is creating a generation of activists with very little stake in the cause, and this opens the door for a wide range of feminists to walk into and change the conversation.

As feminism becomes more commercial and the number of feminists rises, so do the number of viewpoints. With no set book of laws to filter them out, no idea can be easily labeled as “wrong”. This has lead to people, who would once have been seen as directly opposed to feminism, strategically joining the movement and stating their views from the inside, which Claire Fallon of the Huffington Post argues, is more dangerous that blatant anti-feminism: “Feminism has grown too mainstream, too broadly accepted, and even expected, for vociferous anti-feminists to be taken seriously in any debate about women’s rights, even if they are women. More useful to the opposition are women like Roiphe, feminists in name only.” The “Roiphe” she speaks of is a women who labels herself a feminist but stands for things that seemingly undermine the movement entirely. She can say whatever she likes, even things that would previously have never been called feminist, and keep her title, all because there are no rules that can say her views go against the movement. If she claims she is a feminist, she is a feminist, and no one has the power to take that away from her or force her to prove it. This blind acceptance is allowing previously opposed viewpoints and uninvested members to be welcomed into the circle of feminism, thus adding those views to the never ending list of the feminist agenda, and effectively changing what the movement stands for just by being a part of it. All of this raises the question: is bigger always better, and if so, can and should it be controlled?

The answer seems simple; everyone should consider themselves feminists and support the greater good for all people, but nothing is truly that simple. Female empowerment author, Jessica Crispin as quoted in Tolentino’s article, points out that, “Somewhere along the way toward female liberation, it was decided that the most effective method was for feminism to become universal, [And the people who decided this] forgot that for something to be universally accepted, it must become as banal, as non-threatening and ineffective as possible.” That means that in order for feminism to become a norm, it has to fit everyone else's needs and be watered down along the way. Well, if feminism can not be for everyone all at once, who gets to decide who the feminists are and whose views to follow? Again, there is no easy answer. There is much debate over the non-binding guidelines of feminism. Some think the leaderless movement should, similarly, remain lawless, and that censorship of any kind aids in the oppression of female thought, (Crockett). Others believe that allowing too many views under the umbrella of feminism surrenders the message to counterproductive change, and that “without some boundaries for claiming the word feminist, it becomes meaningless” (Valenti).

It is hard to say which side reigns true or what form the movement will take. Some supporters are turning the title into a platform for their pro-establishment agendas while others are bashing victims for coming forward with sexual assault claims. Limitless followers stand ready to use feminism as a convenient defense and flaunt it for their benefit. Millions are turning out for marches when they gain attention, but there is seemingly no energy to fuel the fight against less publicized hurdles. Still, none of this is technically un-feminist. As of now, the movement refuses to damper anyone who claims the name but will eagerly scorn the shrinking number of people without it who stand in their way. Will a day come where every person on earth is a feminist, but equality still does not exist for all? If feminism fights those who oppose and endanger the movement, will there come a time where they must attack themselves in order to stay alive?


Valenti, Jessica. “When everyone is a feminist, is anyone? | Jessica Valenti.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 24 Nov. 2014, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/24/when-everyone-is-a-feminist.

Crockett, Emily. “Can you be a "pro-Life feminist"? The Women's March on Washington offered some insights.” Vox, Vox, 22 Jan. 2017, www.vox.com/identities/2017/1/22/14335292/womens-march-washington-abortion-pro-life-feminists.

Fallon, Claire. “The Fake Feminism Of The #MeToo Backlash.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 31 Jan. 2018, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/metoo-backlash-feminism_us_5a621cf7e4b01d91b2552f26.

Fallon, Claire. “The Fake Feminism Of The #MeToo Backlash.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 31 Jan. 2018, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/metoo-backlash-feminism_us_5a621cf7e4b01d91b2552f26.

Tolentino, Jia. “The Case Against Contemporary Feminism.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 19 June 2017, www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-case-against-contemporary-feminism.

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