“Is This Feminist” Reveals What’s Really Problematic

Carmen’s Team Pick:

Am I a feminist? Well, it depends who you ask. Last summer, I finished up a radio interview for SlutWalk on NPR and returned to my office to find an email in my inbox from a stranger – a strange man – just helping me out by letting me know that my raspy voice was damaging the movement. It began like it always begins: “I respect feminism, but,” and ended with, “you do a disservice to your cause when you sound like Joe Camel after a bender.” In the interest of full disclosure, I was sick and I hadn’t had a drink in at least two days. But all of that aside, there was a real problem, and it wasn’t my voice. It was some dude who’s done jack shit for the movement criticizing me. 

IS THIS FEMINIST is a Tumblr devoted to illustrating the absolute moronic logic people exercise in calling someone out for “not being a feminist,” and their tactic is mockery.

For example:

This woman is listening to music on headphones. IS THIS FEMINIST?

To be clear, there’s nothing inherently problematic about music, which many believe is an interest that started in the pre-patriarchal era when ancient people beat drums while contemplating the Venus de Willendorf. But we have to ask why this woman is using headphones, essentially cutting out her listening choices from the community. Being private about our musical choices makes it easier to listen to everything from misogynist rap music to douche-y sexist indie bands like Modest Mouse. It would be better if she opened her taste up to accountability. PROBLEMATIC. 


This woman is riding two dolphins, in a magical moment of pure joy, feeling like a mermaid princess surveying her kingdom in a glimmering sea chariot. IS THIS FEMINIST?

No. Feeling like a mermaid princess betrays an internalized ideological support of monarchy. Also, animals were not created to be our servants! Read “The Sexual Politics of Meat” some time! PROBLEMATIC. 

I feel like I could make one of these for my own experiences. Being an emissary to feminism on the internet is a huge trolling risk.
Maybe this has happened to you, too – a kind stranger offering you advice on how to be a better feminist, maybe even after you’ve spent your entire life being a feminist. It’s so sweet when people do that! “I know you think you’re a feminist, but since you [smoke cigarettes / don’t drink organic fair trade coffee every day / do not ride a bike to work / like to listen to Drake / speak openly about your life experiences that don’t suit white, middle-class feminism] it turns out you’re actually disqualified and must leave the movement immediately.”
Next time a hater passes through your zone, make sure you let them know that the real problem is one-dimensional, unrealistic, and poorly applied feminist theory. Or, you could respond by riding dolphins away from them toward the horizon.
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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. I like how any time someone starts a sentence with “I respect feminism, but…” you know what follows immediately after pretty much guarantees they don’t respect feminism. Also that you would be justified in punching them in the throat a little bit.

    Yo, is throat punching feminist?

      • I don’t know that you’ll see this comment so late to the party, but I read this as I was answering the phone at work and had to pretend I couldn’t hear the person on the other end and hang up because I was laughing to hard to talk.

    • No. While unleashing our natural violent response to the oppressive physical and psychological force of the patriarchy can be seen as a reclaiming of power, the throat represents the female voice which is so often silenced by the drumbeat of misogyny. Throat punching in this case represents our internalisation and subconscious enforcing of the message that women should be seen and not heard. PROBLEMATIC.

  2. Is yelling “shove it up your arse” feminist? Because I do that quite a bit. Especially in response to such people.
    I mean, it’s innately quite british, but feminist too?

  3. Woah woah. Listen to the new Drake album. No, Listen to it twice, and then come at me/you about liking Drake. THEY CAN’T.

  4. “I know you think you’re a feminist, but since you [smoke cigarettes / don’t drink organic fair trade coffee every day / do not ride a bike to work / like to listen to Drake / speak openly about your life experiences that don’t suit white, middle-class feminism] it turns out you’re actually disqualified and must leave the movement immediately.”

    This a million times.

    As a woman of color most of the feminist circles I remember going to were heterosexist cisgendered middle-class white women talking about sexual agency that pertains to them exclusively(wanting sex without being called a slut) and wanting to be a size 4 or bigger without feeling “fat.”

    These are real issues and I do not want to dismiss them but during my rather brief stay in that group anything I said outside of that was shut down because they would have to some serious unpacking of their privileges. They were not having it, it just complicate things and ideas and they just wanted to eat a brownie and hook up with a guy without being called a “fat slut,” two words I learned to NEVER call a white girl especially one that identified as a feminist!

    I had some idea what I was getting into given the environment was majority white suburban at Penn State but I can’t, I was (and still) too gay and black for that shit.

    So yes I have complicated feelings lots of them but the *big* one is, “I still can’t.”

    • Wow I have a lot of feelings about my first experience with feminism but I want everyone to know that there is a happy ending! It ends when I finally meet some inclusive feminists from different backgrounds and go to cool potlucks with some lesbians.

      And finding AS of course!!!!

      • Don’t even get me started on the fuckery that used to piss me off but I find HILARIOUS now. Time and sarcasm does help ease the pain.

        Have you heard “I really want to be/look like Jennifer Aniston/Cameron Diaz but it is SOOOO hard and not fair!” around the AU campus? I have heard that shit in passing and when consulting the self-esteem of some acquaintances that tried to use me like Felicity and Elena from the show “Felicity.” I knew better and shut that shit down, lol.

        Feminism yes, feminism now, baby.

  5. How about this:
    I am a man, who is actively pursuing equal rights for women in society, the workplace, and elsewhere.
    “No, smelly men can’t be feminists. The very fact that he’s a man that wants an equal society means he is endorsing the patriarchal system by imposing his help upon the empowered women. It is wrong for him to help, since it implies the everlasting female goddesses need help.”

    But, I am a feminist. And a man. And reading Autostraddle.
    Take that, traditional gender roles.

    • Me too! Can you be douchey if you’re modest? Is there such thing as a modest douche?

  6. Reading this reminded me of Dr. Frances Cress Welsing (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Cress_Welsing) and Alexyss Tylor all at once. If any of you know what I am speaking of, you will die with laughter as I am currently doing at this moment. The parallels are uncanny! This whole thing is a Sigmund Freud field day mixed with the beautiful art of sarcasm.

    • I confess in not knowing Dr Frances Cress Welsing, but this is THE BEST THING I have ever read on Wikipedia:

      “On both St. Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, the white male gives gifts of chocolate candy with nuts…. If his sweetheart ingests “chocolate with nuts”, the white male can fantasize that he is genetically equal to the Black male…. Is it not also curious that when white males are young and vigorous, they attempt to master the large brown balls, but as they become older and wiser, they psychologically resign themselves to their inability to master the large brown balls? Their focus then shifts masochistically to hitting the tiny white golf balls in disgust and resignation — in full final realization of white genetic recessiveness.”

      Thanks, Doctor! I will NEVER be able to eat chocolate covered peanuts again without thinking of sweaty balls!

      • I am laughing so hard right now. I have read her book and trust me, it is so worth it, then when you read this article and put it all into perspective, the “LOL factor” is to the nth power. I highly recommend it just for the laughs alone. The first few pages are a total wtfckage and a bit of a head scratch. I swear, you could easily get a whole comedy routine out of it.

        On the whole chocolate covered nuts thing, I am thinking of a million scenarios, like what if you are trying it for the first time and you are a picky eater, so then you “spit” it out… I mean what does it all mean when you put it through the psychoanalysis blendHER?!?! And a million more other scenarios… hahaha. This article made my day, truly.

      • I think of feminism like I think of the blues. You can hit the right notes at the right time, but if you don’t know what they mean, you suck at it and look ridiculous. Her work reads like a nonsense feminism checklist!
        Facile symbolism: check.
        Imputed motives: check.
        Phallic reference: check.
        Biological Essentialism: check.

  7. *parallels, damn you autostraddler for not having an edit button to correct my spelling mistakes! *shakes fist in air*

  8. I heve never heard your voice, but I think you are so freakin’ fierce, Carmen. This piece is short, concise yet so clear and powerful.

    Also raspy voices are like, really super sexy, so.

  9. the “thumbs up” post is making me laugh out loud because i once made the same joke about the gesture being too phallic; whoever made this blog should be my friend irl

  10. Is the NPR interview online anywhere? That is cool! Sorry you got douchey bullshit responses to it.


    I have since learned that they’re just assholes.

    And feminism is awesome.

    Carmen, you helped me with this journey to enlightenment.

    • I have so many people tell me they are not feminists, and when I delve deeper they almost always say it’s because they don’t want to be associated with the kind of attitude this tumblr pokes fun at.

  12. I think the tumbler thing is super funny.

    ….but…I just worry because there are no positive depictions of feminists in pop culture…so, it seems like another way to make fun of feminism without giving any validity to the cause…which is just fighting for equal rights for women…

    But, I’ve personally, never encountered the whole, “You’re not being a good feminist” thing. I’ve only dealt with “feminism” being a dirty word.

    But, Jesse from Saved By the Bell, that was a playful/positive depiction of a feminist in pop culture.

    • i agree.

      i feel this is like “hipster racism” / “ironic racism” – exacerbating mainstream’s ideas of feminism and pointing out obvious flaws in stereotypes by succumbing to them. it’s a double edge sword and often times gets the opposite desired effect. i guess like the chappelle show. poking fun at sterotypes of black people only made it more acceptable to make simliar jokes and perpetuate similar misconceptions of an entire community, race, ethnicity, etc. maybe it’s for feminists by feminists, but in the hands of someone not involved in feminist theory it just makes feminism look like it’s ill advised accusations on anything regarding women. which is how “real” feminists are portrayed in… well… everything.

      i personally am not “privileged” enough to be in the company of people who have a “more feminist than thou” perspective, but rather quite the opposite. this is how people i interact with think that this is actually how feminists view the world. every time i mention something that’s sexist (eg refusing to trim off some “fat” on an already anorexic model’s waistline) i am met with a sexist comment like this… obviously less overwrought… but still very over the top perspective of what feminism is.

      it just seems hypercritical that the “moronic logic” they are speaking about is of feminists by even more feminist-y feminists. it seems counterproductive to poke fun at an important movement before we even having a space at the table. maybe everyone that read this article is a professor of women’s studies at a women only university, but i just think it’s offensive and easy humor taking aim at theories of feminism which can easily be misconstrued as a “that’s true! feminists are sooooo over the top!!”

    • Look, me…I sometimes just need to laugh and I can’t always do that with the majority in mind. I don’t want even humor to be dictated by what The Man might or might not think, you know? I get where you’re coming from and you’re not wrong, even, but this is the kind of thing that keeps me from burning out completely. And frankly I have experienced a lot of shutting out and exclusion WITHIN the activist community because of attitudes like the ones this tumblr is making fun of and it hurts worse because you’d think everyone ought to know better, so I find this joking around very welcome in light of that.

      Just another perspective.

  13. I got into a real doozy of a IS THIS FEMINIST!? debate once regarding Jenna Marbles.

    Please discuss Straddlers.

    For the record, I love her and think that although she might support typical societal archetypes, she has a certain awareness and ability to point out and make fun of herself/society at large that I find endearing. I mean, fuck it, I wear make-up to trick people into thinking I’m good looking too. I particularly enjoyed her commentary on the objectification of women in music videos via her own rap song, “Bounce That Dick”.

    • I find her amusing and enjoy that she discusses gender roles in any capacity. From what I’ve seen, she doesn’t do too much to unpack gender essentialism but hey- oh well. She’s hilarious.

  14. I don’t really pay much attention to lyrics when I listen to music. Can someone explain how Modest Mouse is sexist?

  15. The sarcasm on this Tumblr was as overwrought as the brittle outdated models of “feminism” which were being pilloried.

    • You might be surprised at the models that persist in the SJ community on Tumblr. It’s kinda silly.

  16. Officially my new favorite tumblr. “A true feminist simply knows the cure for Alzheimer’s disease, possibly because it’s yoga.”

    side note: I’m supposed to be looking for a car right now, but every time I go to type in autotrader.com I get 4 letters in and wind up here…maybe i’ll just start biking everywhere. [IS THIS FEMINIST?]

  17. actual conversation that occurred tonight between me (nursing student) and person (successful corporate female)

    person- so are you thinking about what medical school you want to apply to yet?

    me- I’m not looking into medical schools, after I graduate I’m going into the peace corps or maybe doctors without borders.

    person- what?! Anne you are an incredibly bright girl, I don’t know who gave you the idea that girls can’t be doctors, but there’s no reason you have to settle for nursing!

    I fell in love with nursing. It is what I want to do with my life and I can’t imagine doing anything else. And I hate when I get kicked out of the feminist club just because I’m going into nursing and maybe have a vintage dress uniform I like to wear when I’m practicing my clinical skills on my gf :P

  18. I love everything you write. And you have a unique ability to make me laugh at shit that has no right to be funny.

    also, I couldn’t + anything so thank you feminist manX2 and thank you for the Glenn cocoa comment!

    too lazy to log in

  19. First Feminist I knew of in media was Betty DeVille. Also known as Phil and Lil’s mom on The Rugrats.

    Oh and Angelica’s mom, Charlotte.

    They got shit done.

  20. Pingback: First rambling post « what the feck

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