Katy Perry s Aversion to Feminism Shows Feminism Is Still Radical

Why it's not so bad that the singer, like some other women, doesn't want to call herself a feminist


Katy Perry accepted the Woman of the Year award from Billboard on Friday by declaring, "I'm not a feminist, but I do believe in the power of women."

This isn't an especially surprising statement. As a number of folks have pointed out, many young women—and a good number of not-so-young women as well—are uncomfortable with being labeled as feminists even though they embrace many feminist goals. Last month, for example, Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer eschewed the feminist label while simultaneously declaring that she "believed in equal rights." It's tempting to simply dismiss such comments as incoherent, but I think doing so risks missing out on insights and criticism that might be of value to feminism.

Understandably, many feminist writers don't see things this way. Instead, they find such rhetorical contradictions infuriating. Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon, for example, explains with barely-restrained snark: "Let me just point out that if you believe in the strength of women, Ms. Perry, or their equality, Ms. Mayer, you're soaking in feminism." Madeleine Davis at Jezebel adds, with less restraint, "the ignorance and ridiculousness of Perry's comments—especially in the context of accepting the Woman of the Year award—is enough to set the teeth of any feminist on edge."

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