An Open Letter to Susan Sarandon on Feminism

"The Lovely Bones" Australian PremiereDear Ms. Sarandon,

Hi. First off, let me get the fandom part out of the way. I love your work in film. I love your advocacy in life. I think you are a real honest-to-goodness, bona fide role model.

When I saw an article in The Daily Beast, with the provocative title “Susan Sarandon Says She’s Not a Feminist: Why She Dumped the Label,” of course, I rushed to open it. I’d always considered you one of the foremost feminist voices, so I wondered what could have prompted the departure.

The article, however, seemed less about the tenets of feminism than the semantics of the word. I get that. Feminism as a term carries with it a lot of baggage. It conjures bra burning and short hair (Full disclosure: I have short hair, but I rock it).

I’m a political writer, focusing on some lefty liberal social justice topics: racism, gun control issues, gay rights. I’ve touched on some “feminist” topics like sexual assault in the military and reproductive rights, but they aren’t my main focus. I’ve never identified as a feminist. Although I’m not quite as young as your daughter, I’ve always considered myself within the human structure in this country, not limited to women’s issues.

Truth be told, I live a pretty traditionally female life. My husband pulls in the bulk of our income. I write from home, raising our two children. He works, I clean. He mows the lawn, I cook. We share the dishes.

I’ve always liked the idea of going against the grain. My parents raised us to rebel: against a boss, a teacher, themselves. My family stood out – the ones who didn’t go to church, who spoke our minds, who were loud when it was quiet, who laughed at funerals and wept when no one was looking. Individuals. Unboxed. But the freedom for a girl to do that? Feminism.

From the outside, I might look to the world like a 1950′s housewife. The reason I could choose that path? Feminism.

I write novels and articles for a local women’s magazine. I share a blog with one of the foremost voices in smart, edgy, local political voices on Long Island. Because of feminism.

Feminism has broken from its box of stereotype, where militant women who hate men battle for equal treatment. It has exploded into myriad ways that it affects every single person in this country. The rivulets have unspooled into every facet of our collective human experience here in the United States.

The great strides in women’s equality have been tarred and feathered by some of our fellow men (and sometimes women) in an effort to keep us in our place. It seems to come down to limiting choice, to make decisions for us, to refuse our autonomy. The rebel in me? Isn’t cool with that. At all. And so: feminists.

But the word. It sounds outdated. Ugly, even. But let’s consider why this connotation has overtaken the word. Why does the word feminist sound so harsh that even you, Susan Sarandon, would flinch at the sound of it?

Sheila Luecht, writer, advocate, and administrator of the group “Feminism on Facebook” (founded by Cristina Page, author of How the Pro Choice Movement Saved America) believes that, “Our foes are out there and will do what they will to whatever name we might choose. If we change it, it makes us in a way seem weak. We can only change if we see that the name somehow limits us or somehow no longer defines us.”

So maybe the title “Feminist” seems ugly because the ideas behind it seem ugly to some. Would that change under a new title? Rebecca Cohen thinks not.

“If the word ‘feminist’ has negative connotations, running away from the word won’t fix that. Whatever new word you come up with will eventually take on the same negative connotations. Because the problem isn’t with feminists; it’s with those who demonize feminism. Sometimes we like to complain about how the word “feminism” has become associated with negative stereotypes; well that’s been true since the beginning. Look at any literature or political cartoons or propaganda from anti-suffragists, for example — you’ll see many of the same stereotypes you do today. It wasn’t because those women called themselves feminists; they were attacked for what they fought for, not what they called themselves. It’s the same today.”

Does the term “humanist” as you suggested, cover the ground that we want addressed in more palatable terminology? Jeannie Ludlow disagrees.

“Humanism is *not* feminism-for-everyone. It is a separate, long-established philosophy of doing good in the world without religious incentives. But humanism is about valuing the individual and individual rights over social rights. Feminism is about working together to make the world a better place for myself *and others.* I’m so sorry to read this. We need to stand together and show the world how amazingly great feminists are–not retreat from the word because we fear someone will think us bitchy.”

Ms. Sarandon, I respect your views, your voice, and your humanity. If you’d care to join our discussion, you can find us on “Feminism on Facebook”, a forum about the free exchange of ideas and issues that affect us all. You know, feminism.

Sincerely yours,
Jaime Franchi

Jaime is a freelance writer living in New York. Her work can be found in the New York Times, Salon, Punchnel’s, Fictionique, The Broad Side, Milieu Magazine and on JedMorey.com, where she is a regular contributor. Follow her on Twitter at @JaimimiMama. Her site is www.JaimeFranchi.com.

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61 Responses to An Open Letter to Susan Sarandon on Feminism

  1. Sheila Luecht July 10, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Well said. I hope that Susan will take the time to read and respond. Women’s rights are human rights, but in the long and short of it, feminism has been the identity which has helped us propel that message forward. It is not, in my opinion, a dirty word or a misrepresented idea, it is part of the movement that helps show and define the radicalism needed for change that affects the history of women’s roles as marginal members in a misogynistic world. In the past I too was shy about using that word to define myself and my beliefs, but I have overcome that stigma because I have experienced the oppression of the idea that women are equal on so many levels of business, politics and being that I cannot be intimidated by a word that has given strength to so many who fight for equality and human rights for women.

    • Guillermo July 16, 2013 at 10:37 am #

      I am a male of Italian descent born in Argentina under a matriarchal system.
      I have witnessed the power of women when it’s unbridled.
      I raised five girls as a single father so I’ve had plenty of training in seeing my own lack of compassion and understanding towards women’s issues..
      I am ashamed at the position of weakness that my fellow males have opted to live within. Women should not fight to change men because they are ridiculously of the mark and spending energy showing them how far off they are gives them the option to negotiate. Feminist issues in my opinion are issues that speak of basic human rights which apply to both genders and every being that inhabits our earth.
      The Alpha Males that inflict these archaic limiting rules on others do it to men of all ages as well. We need everyone to start outing men that behave in this fashion on the spot and let them experience shame. In my opinion these “Guys” do it to everybody equally and they must be stopped.
      It’s my belief that women can save the world if they get to it now!
      A name is but a name “Feminist-Sheminist” it’s about all of us getting together and setting the new agenda for the future. Respectfully.

  2. Marti Teitelbaum July 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    Excellent! I’m a proud feminist. I remember when I first heard of feminism — around 1970. I thought it sounded silly. I don’t remember when I realized how important it was, how central it was to women having choices in life but by the early 70′s I was there.
    Because of feminism, I got advanced degrees and had a fascinating and meaningful career. Because of feminism, my husband has been as involved with our children as I am. But feminism didn’t just mean fulfilling career ambitions — to me feminism means finding your own way without gender role restrictions. I’m the computer/tech/repair person in our family. My husband is the intuitive “feelings” person. He’s the one worried about the kids wearing warm clothes. I’m the one who talks about money. But: I’m the one who worked part time and was (and is) on top of homework. Takes the kids shopping for clothes and school supplies. He’s the one more dedicated to work life.
    Contrary to people who oppose the women’s movement, feminism isn’t a monolithic program for life, it doesn’t mean role reversal. To me, feminism means finding your place within life and your family based on what you’re good at and what you like to do, not based on which which sexual organs you possess.

  3. Leslie Fuquinay Miller July 10, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    Exactly. Good. And good writing.

  4. Joan Haskins July 10, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    What a great piece, Jaime. I hope Susan answers.

  5. Baruch July 10, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

    It seems to me that “feminism” can be described as the addition of the feminine to patriarchy enough to bring the pendulum towards a middle ground that is neither patriarchy or matriarchy but person-archy; that patriarchy needs to be feminized to come towards that middle place. That is why the word feminism works for me, and while I have been told it is not possible for a male to be a feminist, I identify as one.

    • Marti Teitelbaum July 10, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

      I like the person-archy!

    • Andrew July 10, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

      I understand what you’re saying. It’s like how two combating armies balance eachother out, right?

      In my experience feminists are more often than not hysterical pseudo-intellectual misandrists. Sometimes they don’t even bother to form coherent thoughts, instead using their time to devise their next intellectually deprived slogan at their next protest. They too often play around with semantics and deem it logic. What did you call it, “person-archy”?

      Good-luck feminizing men when all you do is demonize them, and make no attempts to understand them. I pity boys even more, especially those with feminists for parents.

      If you want autonomy, accept that your choices and actions can have consequences and stop blaming the non-existent patriarchy for your problems. Worse yet, men like Baruch will accept all this burden placed on the shoulders of men because allowing ourselves to be treated like beasts of burden without complaint is the “masculine” thing to do.

      Is it any wonder people want to distance themselves from the label of feminism? They don’t want to associate themselves with sexism.

      • Baruch July 10, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

        Andrew, you’ve made a number of generalizations that are clearly subjective. You have no idea who I am or what I’m about. You accuse me of demonizing men…lol…where did I do that? How absurd. Maybe you’re having some issues with the idea of losing your unearned male privilege.

      • Jemster July 11, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

        And I wondered how long it would take for a card-carrying MRA to make an appearance and try to derail the conversation. As I suspected it wasn’t long (they’re kinda needy that way). Take your mommy issues and male privilege thataway —-> Don’t let the door hit you on your way out and have a nice day.

        • Sam Wheat July 11, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

          Well we now know Andrew was not wrong!

          • Baruch July 11, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

            Sam, Andrew, how do you see yourselves in relation to the issue of rape? Men and women are both raped. In the US 3/4 females will experience a sexual assault at some point in their life, by a male. That means your mother, your wife, your friend, your sister, your daughter, all stand a 75% chance of being sexually assaulted. With males it is around 25%.

            I see the ideological posturing you are both engaged in, so let’s make it real. Do you teach men not to be rapists? Do you call your brothers, sons, fathers, friends, on rape humor or other behaviors that perpetuate male violence? Did you know that most violent acts in the world are committed by males?

            Whatever your respective axes are, that you brought to this discussion, so far you’ve both just demonstrated what assholes men can be when faced with women who own their power, like the women posting here.

      • Elan July 11, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

        It seems to me that you have this prejudice against feminists and like most prejudices you take one ridiculous stereotype and apply it to all people in that group.

        “Is it any wonder people want to distance themselves from the label of feminism? They don’t want to associate themselves with sexism”

        I know people love to accuse any woman who says she deserves any rights of being this ugly man hating monster in an attempt to prevent women from voicing their opinions on the matter. Since long before I was born women who said they wanted rights equal to those of a man were told they were somehow anti-man for being pro-woman. As if women gaining rights would take away rights from men. What rights do men lose by women gaining rights? The right to control women? Feminism is by definition is anti-sexism: “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” Anyone who does not believe women should have rights equal to those of men is by definition sexist.

        “I pity boys even more, especially those with feminists for parents.”
        What exactly is your fear of having parents who treat their children equally? Is there something wrong with telling children that they have the same opportunities in life?

        “stop blaming the non-existent patriarchy for your problems.”
        Although I am happy that women are finally in government, still we are not anywhere near equally represented. Think about it, although women make up half of the population we have never had a female president and women make up only 18.3 percent of the 113th Congress, occupying 20 of the 100 seats in the Senate and 78 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. The fact is that men are still making women’s decisions for us. Maybe you don’t see it in your every day life, but for many women to continuously see anti-female legislation passed again and again solely by men making our choices for us can get frustrating.
        You say that feminists make no attempts to understand men. I think men like you make no attempts to understand women or what it is like living in a world where you are constantly treated like a sex object, told you can’t have jobs based on your sex, not taken seriously because of your sex, have your rights voted on by men, not being represented. I can tell you I often feel the need to stand up for my rights and proclaim my feminism. If none of us did, I can’t imagine going back to the days before women were allowed to vote, own property, work outside the home, run for office, etc.
        I often speak with my fiance about how he feels. We talk about sexism and prejudice in our society and he gives me a male point of view. But if you feel that we as feminists are missing something about the male perspective than please share. I am open to all opinions and having a full discussion.

  6. Elissa Freeman July 10, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    I love the way you define your version of feminism – much the way many women in North America would. Most think a woman’s return to the home is ‘anti-feminism’ – when really it’s the reverse.

    • jess July 10, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      EXACTLY!!!!!!!

  7. Sam Wheat July 10, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    Saddens me every day that people still need silly titles. You are who you are. Just be human and help each other like normal people. Not the head cases you all want to become. Susan is right. Why is being individual wrong? Ladies wake up. Until you see what you are doing you will not be able to go any further!

    • Jodi Rives July 10, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

      Well, let’s see, Sam–when we live in a world where we don’t have thousands of men tweet and comment that the women’s Wimbledon winner is a c***sucking c*** who is too ugly to be raped (even though a good raping might turn her more feminine and, thus, acceptable)–we can start talking about not needing “silly titles.” There is waking up which needs to be done–but it ain’t the feminists who are sleeping. Hope you enjoy your nap.

      • z budapest September 2, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

        I have heard Susan talk real feminist stuff. But what we never say is that the root of it all is a GENDER WAR. The gender war the oldest form of oppression.
        Its tool is the exploitation of women to be used for sex or bearing children which is new solgiers.
        This business to trash a Wimbledon winner as ugly is just the first shot. then its the punishment. Rape.
        Males have transformed their sexuality into a war tool. their penises as a shaming devise. A girl gets dirty from contact with them. I wondered why do
        males have such LOW self esteem?

  8. Richard Brown July 10, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    As a man with a wife and two daughters with very different career perspectives but very similar degrees of strength and self-determination, let me say: Amen.

  9. maria heng July 10, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Wonderful letter that has given me food for thought.

  10. Joe Stewart July 10, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    You said it sista.

  11. Linda Poitevin July 10, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    When I first read the article about Susan’s thoughts, my initial response was to agree with her. After all, the idea of an all-embracing “humanism” is a very appealing one — especially when the f-word does carry such negative connotations these days. Upon reading your response, however, I think I’ve changed my mind. As lovely as the ideal of Susan’s “humanism” might be, the truth is that we’re still a long, long way off…and I think it will take a very dedicated group of “feminists” (both female and male, by my definition) to move us forward toward that ideal. Count me in.

    Well spoken, Jaime.

  12. Patti Paige July 10, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    I very much agree with this article. I proudly say I’m a feminist. To me these arguments that feminist means “man-hating, bra-burning, lack of humored women” is even more old fashioned than the term “feminist.” Who even remembers these stereotypes other than Rush Limbaugh? As a feminist I’m saying that I stand proudly with my gender and hope to support all females to reaching their potential. That does not take away from men at all, in my opinion. I wish they same for them, but men have a lot of things in place to make that happen. Women need the support of each other to continue being a positive force in the world that they are. Women are not often shown how to “have each other’s backs.” My young adult daughters are also feminists. I’m so proud to watch these young women support each other in completed their education and getting well-paid jobs. I see collegiality at work more than ever before, and that is good. And this whole thing about not having a sense of humor is lost on me as well. Sure, I don’t laugh at jokes that degrade anybody, including women; but nothing makes me happier than laughing with friends and daughters.

    • Elan July 11, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

      Patti what a great response. I feel the same way. *Feminist high five*

  13. Deborah Jordan July 10, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Good response. Great response. I’m only sorry you felt the need to explain that you ‘rock your hair’ as if to say that you pay more attention to your appearance than the word feminist might suggest. Feminism was and is about power dynamics in the world. It isn’t about style, except to the extent that style limits options I suppose. Maybe feminists back in the day, when I became one, had hair that rocked too.

  14. Lea July 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    I have to admit, I don’t call myself a feminist. I am, but I don’t use the term. It’s not because of the negative way it is displayed and regarded these days. In fact, there is no EXTERNAL reason that I don’t use the term. I use it because of the ugly side within feminism. The side where some women feel they have the right to sneer and say hateful things to those like me – and as you said, you – because we are “setting feminism back 50 years!” by staying at home. Yes, that’s actually something that has been said to me within the last 5 years.

    I agree with your vision of feminism, and I know that I am a feminist. But I wanted to shine a little light on another reason that some women turn away from the feminist label. Not to be ugly, but to hopefully help others understand what could be worked on from within.

    • jess July 10, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      I like your point here. I myself do not like that side — the “dark side” of feminism. Dark because there is an ignorance I experience in many (not all!) feminist commentators that just BOTHERS me. (EG the idea of setting anything back by staying at HOME??!! Or going on the “Mrs. Carter tour” or not liking cunnilingus??? REALLY? It’s really about EVERYONE being free to make his/her OWN CHOICES!!!! ALL OF US!!!) I embrace the word Feminism mainly because of the fact that it speaks to the systemic/widespread imbalance of masculine/feminine power dynamics (or gender dynamics) in global societies. Feminism IS about FREEDOM and OPPORTUNITY for ALL. I REALLY dislike the HUGE disconnect of modern women (and men) to GLOBAL girls’ and women’s struggles (and by extension, the harm to boys/men). If SOME of us are not free (can’t go to school, can’t be a leader, can’t drive, has no human rights, no control over her body) then ALL of us are not free. We are connected. Across cultures. Across gender. We are interdependent. I hope words don’t stop us from seeing that…

  15. Karen Vicente July 10, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    Thank goodness someone wrote this. I was rolling my eyes when I read Sarandon’s statement about humanism replacing feminism.

  16. Mary Thompson July 10, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    I hold feminist Ideals but am really a humanist. That is how I felt before I read this and how I feel now. It is not so much the label as how I view the world.

  17. jess July 10, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    I’m pasting my comments re: susan sarandon hoopla …As was written by Ms. Mag…“Believing in ‘equal rights’ for men and women but not being a feminist is like being an atheist who thinks the theory of evolution is hogwash. Them things just don’t mix.” I agree it’s ridiculous to ditch the word feminist because of some bad apples or because of haters! Should we not say “sexism” either or “racism” for that matter and just call it “anti humanist”????? There’s a reason it’s called feminism, because the widespread injustice it deals with is the power imbalance between feminine and masculine in society. We’re not just talking about reproductive rights and equal pay and everyday sexism in privileged, Western culture, we’re talking SERIOUS and SYSTEMIC oppression of girls and women around the globe. That’s why we all need to (re)embrace the word and movement and understand it clearly. As another person pointed out also, it implies activism. The charge around the word (or repulsion or confusion and ignorance) only shows the need for it, sorely. That some people like her daughter “don’t even relate to it” mean that are not connected to the struggles not only of the past, but of TODAY! How nice to be so privileged, but quite out of touch. (Like a black person being out of touch with the injustices of his/her past — and today.) What’s the point of one person “having control over her own body” or being in political office or voting or all of it — if ALL women don’t have the same right! That’s what feminism speaks to. Recognition of the global situation for women and girls. Thanks for this piece! On another hand, words are just words, what’s important is how we relate and what we DO about injustice every day. If you care for equality, for ALL girls and women in the world, you ARE a feminist and you should be proud. Feminism does NOT exclude men and boys, it wholeheartedly needs and welcomes them. If anyone says otherwise, they are a hater / confused, not a feminist! Peace

    • Andrew July 10, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

      “Believing in ‘equal rights’ for men and women but not being a feminist is like being an atheist who thinks the theory of evolution is hogwash. Them things just don’t mix.”

      Actually, that’s called a false equivalency.

      “Feminism does NOT exclude men and boys, it wholeheartedly needs and welcomes them. If anyone says otherwise, they are a hater / confused”

      Yet it’s completely irreverent, if not downright hostile, towards the needs of men and boys.

      Equality this, equality that. What does the word mean, I wonder?

      • jess July 10, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

        You are welcome to your opinions but I don’t call that a false equivalency, AND whatever “brand” of feminism does NOT welcome men and boys is not one that any intelligent person would subscribe to, as feminism IS a men’s issue. Jackson Katz will tell you that and so will Tony Porter of A Call to Men (.com). Sure, there are feminists who have been unwelcoming or hostile toward ALL men, but they are not the majority of feminists today. Likely they’ve only ever experienced negativity and oppression from men, and that’s unfortunate, but there position isn’t mine or of most feminists I don’t think. To assume or believe so is not true. EQUALITY = equal opportunities for leadership, for education, for political office, for career, and/or for staying home if one wants, equal autonomy over one’s life, and body and destiny (including reproductive autonomy), equal pay for equal work, to be free from perpetual sexualization and objectification in media and in life, free from violent and demeaning treatment or harassment based on gender … for starters. Do you know what girls or women’s lives are like around the world? That girls are killed for being raped, that girls are not allowed to attend school or drive, or make decisions for themselves or their lives, that their bodies are cut and covered, that girls are MARRIED at age 10 for money? These are the issues of feminism. They are also HUMAN RIGHTS issues, yours and mine, OUR world, our men and women, our boys and girls. Feminism IS a men’s issue! Nobody is excluded from caring about ALL OF US … least of all men and boys. No feminist in his/her right mind would exclude a boy or man from joining this team … Please, raise your care and concern and voice. We need you! A man’s/boy’s liberation is completely intertwined with a woman/girl’s liberation. You can’t have one without the other. And you can’t have the bondage of one without the other. Good luck and peace to you. And everyone else who reads this.

        • Elan July 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

          Jess, I could not have said it better! Great response. :)

  18. PlacidAir July 10, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    Most of this I agree with. But as a long-time feminist, I have to quibble with something…

    Just the fact that you say this: “…militant women who hate men battle for equal treatment…” means you’ve to some degree bought into the myths about what feminism is, or what it has been. While there have been SOME who’ve fit that description, it has never been the majority of feminists — ever. And that characterization is part of the propaganda that has been used to try to turn “feminist’ into a dirty word.

    It is not, and never has been, a fitting description for myself nor the vast majority of feminists I know. This characterization fits so few feminists that it borders on pure myth. Yet you gave it validity — and I felt compelled to take aim at that.

    • Jodi Rives July 10, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

      I had the same reaction. Feminism has never been about men as individuals–but about the social systems men in aggregate control. And it certainly isn’t about hating men–labeling it as such is just more male privilege at work.

      • ZimbaZumba July 12, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

        The tone of Feminist rhetoric would suggest otherwise.

        • Bob Lamm July 12, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

          Feminism is a movement that is cherished by millions of women (and some men) all over the world. Feminists don’t all agree on everything. They speak in different tones. Any comment about “the tone of feminist rhetoric” without even a single specific reference is meaningless. And even if ZimbaZumba offers a few links to document what she/he is saying here, so what? Any fair examination of the overall record of this movement through history and across the world will substantiate what Jodi Rives has written above.

  19. Elliott July 10, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    Humanism is not feminism.

    Feminism is not gender-open gender equality. There needs to be a new term and MANY people recongnize this…. even celebrity figures. Gender-equality activist, humanist, equal-ist. -Elliott

    • jess July 10, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

      I don’t argue with calling it what you want, really. It’s really a shame that it’s not understood for what it really IS. The important thing is what you do, what you stand for (or let slide) and your awareness and character as a human being. Yes, I am a gender equality activist — i.e., a feminist. Those who don’t want to use the term, please don’t, but don’t hate on those who do! It’s not a term about hate.

  20. Elliott July 10, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    Oh yes, also….. so many males are being raised to resist and deny feminism…. what should we do to make sure they are good people. Aka: dear upper-middle class, there are millions you are not reaching…. maybe you forget that people do not have courses in women and gender studies (nor do they take these courses).

  21. jess July 10, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    Yeah, education, real life, opening our eyes to the world around us … You know, you’re right about how many are poised against the word from the start, so yeah, more education would be so welcome! If that were the case, there would be FAR more activists. I’m doing what I can, but, you know, each person will come to his/her own conclusions and position and at the end of the day, it’s about who you ARE not the words you give yourself. I myself prefer to align with the word for many reasons. To each his/her own. Other words are there for us to use!

  22. Michael Jacobsen July 10, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    “Humanism is *not* feminism-for-everyone. It is a separate, long-established philosophy of doing good in the world without religious incentives. But humanism is about valuing the individual and individual rights over social rights. Feminism is about working together to make the world a better place for myself *and others.*”

    This is not an apt description of Humanism and it presents a false distinction. Saying that Humanism values individual rights over social rights is nonsense. Also, you could very easily replace the word Feminism in the last sentence with Humanism and no Humanist would bat an eye. Many Humanists are dedicated Feminists who work tirelessly for women’s rights, perhaps that’s why the American Humanist Association honored Gloria Steinem as its 2012 Humanist of the Year. The fact that the AHA honored Dan Savage with the same award this year hardly shows a lack of interest in “social rights.” People can certainly self-identify with whatever label they feel comfortable with, but in the long run actions speak louder than labels.

  23. Beverly Diehl July 10, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    Brava!

    We (liberals) have let the opposition define and redefine language too long. They have sneered at Feminism like it’s a dirty word – why do WE have to accept THEIR definition and cringe away from it?

    Guess what, we don’t!

    Frankly, when somebody wrinkles her (or his) nose at about the word “feminism,” I look at that person like s/he has two heads. And I say, “You realize, feminism means the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. What part of that do you have a problem with?’

    • jess July 10, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

      Yep! It just sucks that the word seriously alienates folks. Because it is what you say it is. I feel the same way.

  24. nancy July 10, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    thank you… and by the way… i think the word feminist… is BEAUTIFUL!

  25. Lezlie Bishop July 10, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    That’s the problem with “isms.” Sooner or later, somebody tries to box you into a prescribed set of beliefs and behaviors, leaving no room for diversity. I am a feminist — I have been fighting for women’s equal rights since I was in first grade and learned I couldn’t be an altar “boy.” I let my actions speak for me and let those who prefer labels other than their names to carry on. What matters is not what one is called, but what one actually does.

  26. Lanus July 10, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    I’ve long wondered how Ms. Sarandon could be a feminist and yet support the child rapist Roman Polanski. So, if she wants to not use the term, I’m totally cool with it. When she decides to denounce rape, I’ll be more eager to call her a name I use proudly.

  27. Rebecca Cohen July 10, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    Wonderful letter, I agree wholeheartedly. And thanks for the mention! That Facebook comment you quoted was a bit rambling, but I’m glad you appreciated the basic gist I was getting at….

    "Feminist" isn't the problem. Could label ourselves happy sunshine friendship bunnies & folks would still call us ugly man-hating bitches.— Gyno-Star (@GynoStar) July 9, 2013

    • Sheila Luecht July 10, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

      Rebecca! You are absolutely right!

  28. al sullivan July 10, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    Like all misguided feminist, the author of this letter and those quoted miss the point. Feminism is a choice to live life as a woman wishes, not to be dictated by a pack of political crones, who have decided to make a new religion based on their own perceptions of what womanhood should be. A Christian woman, tied to old values is just as much a feminist as any so called modern woman if that is what the woman chooses do to.
    I wish feminist activists would just shut up and live their own lives and let other people live their own.

    • Elan July 11, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      I agree al that women have the choice to live as they choose. No one is arguing that. If anything everyone has been saying exactly that. Any woman who belives she deserves equal rights is a feminist by definition. In fact any man who believes women deserve equal rights is a feminist by definition!
      As for the:
      “I wish feminist activists would just shut up and live their own lives and let other people live their own.”

      Well, as long as there are little girls being murdered for trying to go to school, as long as there are women being killed for being raped, as long as women are being attacked and harrassed, as long as any woman is not allowed control over their own lives in this world I will not shut up.

  29. Mary July 11, 2013 at 2:31 am #

    I agree but I also have something to add. She stated “We need to stand together and show the world how amazingly great feminists are–not retreat from the word because we fear someone will think us bitchy.” I have no problems anymore with people calling me a bitch.
    B = Babe
    I = In
    T = Total
    C = Control of
    H = Herself

    Maybe it’s the being over 40, and I’ve lost the filter that allows it to hurt my feelings or give a damn what others think of me. But I personally believe I realized the only time people (especially men) spit this word at me is when they are angry because they aren’t getting their own way. I am in total control, standing up for what’s right, with the confidence and usually unseen support of others and it was amazing the first time when I realized what a compliment that was. I just looked them in the eye, smiled and said, “Thank you for noticing”.

  30. Lisa Solod July 11, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    RIGHT ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  31. Zimbazumba July 11, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    Susan Sarandon has the courage to stand up to feminist bullies. You can re-frame what Feminism stands for ad nauseum, but too many hateful things have come out of feminist mouths.

    I admire Sarandon and other celebrity women who have the guts to speak out on this.

    • Lisse July 11, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

      “too many hateful things have come out of feminist mouths.”

      Recently? Like what?

  32. Jaime July 11, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    Thank you to everybody who read, shared, and discussed this with us and each other. Thanks to those who agreed, those who disagreed and especially those who took me to task for my words. I learn from every one of you.

  33. jlarkin July 11, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    Thank you for putting this so well. I am dismayed that some of us women think we need to back away from a word that describes who we are or what we think. Isn’t that what women have done for far too long—modified a part of ourselves to be more palatable to the world? If you believe in equality for women, and support all the strides that have been made and have yet to be made for women, then it’s a step backward to say we are not “feminists”. WE didn’t attach the negativity to the word—others who are trying to minimize women’s rights did. Don’t let them win. Use the word FEMINIST and be proud of it!

  34. LILLY RIVLIN July 11, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    When I first read Susan Sarandon’s declaration I was appalled, but on second thought I welcome it so that we can get down to the basics. I am a “feminist” and am proud of it.
    I have been a feminist for most of my life. To be a feminist in a man’s world was a challenge, and Sarandon’s is right, things have changed. But in light of the anti-abortion legislation coming out North Dakota, Ohio, perhaps in Texas and several other states, those women who do not want to be branded with the feminist label should reconsider their positions. Do you have a problem with calling yourself an advocate for women’s equality?
    Do you have a problem with asserting control over your own body? Do you have a problem with asking for equal wages for equal work? Yes, you’ve come along way baby, but those guys are just rarering to whittle away at all those victories that “feminists” achieved for women. I am sorry to say, that I am disappointed with Sarandon’s position.

  35. A Pleasant House July 11, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    People like Ms. Sarandon, with there recognition and bully pulpit, actually consider themselves Citizens of the World, not personally identifying with any one country, label, or single point-of-view. Her ‘STAUS’ affords her that luxury, unlike most of us. She does not now, or has ever, spoken my truth.

  36. Bob Lamm July 11, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    Wonderful statement by Jamie Franchi. To run away from the word “feminist” is not merely a matter of words. It means running away from the courageous women today and through history who have been the leaders in fighting for women’s rights, sometimes literally risking their lives to do so. It means running away from everyone from Mary Wollstonecraft in 1792 to Texas State Senator Wendy Davis in 2013. It means saying: “I’m not with them.” To Ms. Sarandon: for whatever it’s worth for a man to say this, those women have my deepest respect and my full support. Sorry they don’t have yours.

  37. lceel July 15, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    I understand and applaud the effort by women AND men to have women treated equally – call it feminism if that’s your wish, but feminism has become a dirty word, to some. But the battle must go on – and if it needs a name – if it needs an “ism” – it should be Egalitarianism. Equality for all. Purely and simply.

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