Can I Be a Humanist and a Feminist?

Three women walking down the sidewalk in Chicago in the winter Photo: Alanna Bagladi

Awhile back, Shailene Woodley spoke out to the media, declaring that she did not see herself as a feminist. Like many of my peers, I felt a mix of confusion and disgust. My initial thought was that she must be misinformed. I laughed thinking about how her “people” were going to be all over this and she’d probably make an apology in a couple weeks.

But then she stood by her statement. And my confusion elevated. As far as I see, she’s a woman in an industry dominated by men. How could she honestly be anti-feminist. When Woodley spoke the second time, standing by the fact that she didn’t see herself as a feminist, she clarified that she felt feminism discriminates. I was still confused. Feminism is defined as the “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”  Nothing about this definition seems discriminatory in the least.

A flurry of confused googling and link clicking brought me to a Huffington Post article entitled “10 Celebrities Who Say They Aren’t Feminists” and the names on the list were a huge surprise to me: Lady Gaga, Katy Perry,…Madonna?!? How did I not know this before? Besides making a point that they don’t hate men (which feminism ABSOLUTELY does not imply), one phrase seemed to keep popping up: “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist.”

Wait a second. Are these two inherently exclusive? Humanism is defined as, “any system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values and dignity predominate.” Equality, as far as I am concerned, is a human interest, value and necessity for dignity.

Once again, I was confused and so I googled “feminism vs. humanism.” I stumbled upon the Facebook group “Humanists United Against Feminism.” Woah now, isn’t that the same type of “Us vs. Them” mentality that feminists are being accused of? Scrolling for just a minute, I got pretty freaked out by what I saw. There was a post equating the pain of getting accused of rape with actually getting raped. There were comics making fun of rape with the comment “true though, isn’t it?” There were pictures of girls holding up signs saying they were against feminism because they didn’t have a “victim complex.” I just don’t understand how making fun of an entire group of humans, those considering themselves feminists, is a humanist pursuit.

When it comes to those simple definitions of feminism and humanism, I consider myself both. Although I think that both definitions are constantly compromised and changed. I don’t hate men or consider myself a victim. I believe in equality of sexes. I think it’s easy to call myself a humanist. But I am also completely unafraid to call myself a feminist.


Contributor: Erin Bouwma
Erin Bouwma: Loves friends, family, reading, karaoke, bad television, peanut m&m’s, and writing. More or less in that order. Never be embarrassed of your Tinder, we all have one.