The XX Factor

Sorry, Feminists

One of the most frustrating parts of being a feminist is how negative stereotypes created to discredit feminism are now pretty much conventional wisdom. Like the population at large, actual feminists can be funny and sexy, despite our bad rap as sexless and dour. It’s like living in Oz but repeatedly being told you’re in Kansas. That frustration boiled over this morning when Deborah Needleman, the editor of T Magazine (and the stylish wife of Slate’s own Jacob Weisberg), put up this joking tweet suggesting that feminists dislike women being sexy:* At this point, stereotypes of feminists are mocked so thoroughly that it’s impossible to determine if someone who invokes one is trying to reinforce it, making fun of it, or playing up the ambiguity so that you get a little from both camps. Anna Holmes, the founder of Jezebel, and Irin Carmon of Salon (full disclosure: real-life friends of mine who are, may I say, ridiculously sexy ladies) decided to respond in a way that the Internet does best: embracing the confusion by creating the hashtag #sorryfeminists on Twitter. It worked. The #sorryfeminists meme is, as I type, expertly tearing apart the idea that feminists hate fun, hate sex, and hate beauty. (It’s also, like any other Twitter meme, devolving into layers of irony and meta-jokes that pretty much stop making sense altogether.) Some good ones:
The first time I recall anyone even talking about feminism, it was in the context of hearing the glamorous and beautiful and sexy Gloria Steinem attacked by a man who insisted that women only resort to feminism because they’re too ugly for men to like them. It was a little like hearing someone claim that Jimi Hendrix couldn’t make it as a real guitarist. Feminists have responded for decades to this assault line with reason and evidence, but you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into. In light of #sorryfeminists, irony seems like a much better approach. To all the humorless feminists out there who don’t get it: Sorry.
Clarification, Oct. 8, 2012: This post originally stated that Deborah Needleman is an editor at T Magazine. She is the editor.