I was asked if I’m a feminist — and “what bad thing happened” to make me this way

I’m beginning to learn that I’m a magnet for jaw-dropping, video-or-it-didn’t-happen, scenarios.  The first of these that I wrote about I thought was just bad dating luck – but now I’m sensing a theme.

I was out with a group of acquaintances and, as with most new social situations, the bar was my best friend. One of the guys we were with shared that sentiment and he offered to buy me a drink. I accepted because zoom in on my dwindling bank funds. Whiskey in hand, idle chatter started. The obligatory “So what do you do?” began.

I’m a digital journalist for a progressive website, I said.

Without missing a beat he replied, “Oh, so you’re like a feminist?”

It was clear as he said it that the f-word tasted bad in his mouth as he spit it out. I laughed. This wasn’t the first time I’d been asked that, and honestly I didn’t mind! Feminism means a lot of things to a lot of people – men and women – and I wasn’t offended that he asked, though I was less than excited at the tone in which he did so.

“I am!” I said with a smile.

Now, as much right as he has to ask is as much right as I have to be proud of it. Feminist is a label I choose to apply to myself, after all, and it took me a while to realize that I was one. I know the bad rep that feminism sometimes gets. But I don’t mean I’m a feminist in a bra-burning, razor-shunning way. I mean it in an equal respect, equal rights, girl power kind of way that is too often overlooked by skeptics, naysayers, and older waves of feminism.

Here’s where things got interesting.

“Why is that?” he asked. Before I could answer he added: “What bad thing happened to you that made you this way?”


I said it simply involved wanting to be respected. A little gender-mutual R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

“Oh, I thought you got, like, raped or something.” The look he gave me asked the question for him.

I think I even laughed with him for a second, lest I play into the angry feminist stereotype I’m sure he had in his head. I don’t even think I was angry; I was incredulous. I have to have had experienced some kind of trauma to be a feminist? You’re a victim of rape and you automatically become a raging women’s rights advocate? What feminist stereotypes were these?

I don’t think I said anything particularly eloquent in my defense after that statement. The guy in question did proceed to ask me to “do this again” when he decided to leave the bar. I was able to get a “no” in before he finished the thought and asked for my number. It wasn’t until I was relaying the story to some co-workers (yes, they’re feminists too) that I realized just how bizarre the entire scenario was.

Guys, some advice: if you’re trying to impress a girl and she tells you she’s a feminist don’t try to shame her after. No, it is not a good idea to ask what bad things she’s experienced that made her associate with a movement striving for women’s rights and equality. And chances are she’s not going to be pleased when you ask her if she’s been raped. A woman can voluntarily call herself a feminist without a preceding traumatic event. In fact, she may even believe that her skill set, her mind, her body, and her ideas should be valued the same, and held to the same standards as, those of her male counterparts because, well, that’s just common sense. There is a large chance that she will not apologize for holding these views. And I feel safe in saying that if what I just laid out for you still doesn’t make much sense, no, she will not — ever — want to do this again sometime.



  • Share on:


  • […] I was asked if I’m a feminist — and “what bad thing happened” to make me thi… […]

  • Reply December 27, 2013

    Ali Vitali

    The negative stereotypes surrounding feminism (in all of its waves) are no new thing. But is there a way to turn them, shift them to better display the positive aspects of this movement?

  • Reply December 30, 2013

    Louis Vitali

    As the 32+ year husband of a professional woman (attorney) and as the father of two beautiful young women – one of whom is a digital journalist for a progressive website and the other of whom is a college junior – I am generally very pessimistic on the future for women in this country! I place the blame for my pessimism on the universally negative media depictions of women as merely sexual objects and of men as the objects of every women’s desire for gratification. Think about it – from Two and a Half Men to How I Met Your Mother to Homeland and The Good Wife and then of course the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show extravganza – not to mention every movie or magazine – there is not one positive portrayal of women – NOT ONE!

    As a result of these negative depictions – male and female stereotypes of dominance and subservience – are constantly and consistently reinforced and it will require the seemingly impossibly difficult task for families everywhere to teach values of self esteem, self respect, love, respect and tolerance for others, support, empathy and equality to counteract this incessant media barrage.

    I know it can be done albeit on a small scale – because we have made this effort as a family and we are thankfully surrounded by friends with similar values that live and teach these values – but I have also encountered too many seemingly decent people that believe exactly what the media puts out there and are the reason the media does so!

Leave a Reply Click here to cancel reply.

Leave a Reply to Ali Vitali Cancel reply