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Why Don't Some Very Powerful Women Want To Be Called Feminists?

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I know it seems like the writers of Salon and their unbridled lust for humorless click-bait have become a running gag with me -- certainly over at my site, Deus Ex Malcontent -- but I really couldn't resist commenting on this because it so perfectly sums up the problem with pseudo-liberal outrage these days.

Over the weekend, Katie McDonough, one of Salon's most outspoken, um, outspeakers on women's issues, posted a piece that wondered aloud why certain powerful women in our culture seem almost resolutely unwilling to label themselves feminists. Among those McDonough highlighted were Madonna, Sandra Day O'Connor, Carla Bruni, Beyoncé and Marissa Mayer; she provided quotes from each of these women, and several others, specifically shunning the word "feminist," which led McDonough to somewhat indignantly ask why it is that any woman who stands as an example of female empowerment or who sees fit to preach it would refuse to actually speak "the f-bomb."

At the risk of being accused of "mansplaining," let me take a shot at solving the riddle. In truth, I'm not sure I even need to, because Katie McDonough answers her own question. I'd imagine the reason a lot of women, even women whom our culture regards as empowering, choose not to directly link themselves to feminism as a movement is because feminism as a movement seems to be defined by women like Katie McDonough. I don't think any sane person, female or male, would argue that there are different strands of feminist thought; feminism, as with any other ideology, doesn't mean the same thing to each and every person.

But when most people think of "feminism," they immediately imagine culture warriors like Katie McDonough, Irin Carmon, Amanda Marcotte and most of the staff of Jezebel -- and that's the way the women I just mentioned seem to want it. They've anointed themselves the standard-bearers of feminist thought by not only being in the trenches every day, fighting, as they see it, for all women, but they've also, ironically, given themselves wide latitude to lecture not just men who violate the sacred tenets of their brand of feminism -- what they believe is the correct one -- but women as well. They've determined what real feminism is and what its place should be in the national conversation, as well as what constitutes an offense to it and to women in general that requires a defensive response. Case in point: the subtly scolding tone of McDonough's piece, which supposedly seeks to understand why some powerful women won't label themselves feminists but in reality calls those women out for not being willing to label themselves feminists.

McDonough and those like her shout the loudest and are the quickest to take offense at a perceived slight and they do so under the banner of being tenaciously pro-women. In other words, right or wrong, they define what it means to be a "feminist."

It shouldn't come as a surprise that not every woman, no matter how empowered or empowering, wants to be associated with that kind of thing.

Yeah, I know. I'm gonna get yelled at for daring to even express an opinion on this subject. I have this image in my head of Mary Beth Williams from Salon, who's a really good friend of mine, desperately pleading with an angry crowd not to start throwing the rocks they've got in their hands at me.

"No, he's a good guy! I swear!"