Ask Muriel: Calling out ‘faux feminism’

27 May 2022

In this edition of Action Matters, we answer the question: 

How do I call out ‘faux feminism’ when I see it?

It’s highly likely that if you’re engaged in feminist discussions, or tapped into politically progressive circles, you’ll come across people unscrupulously appropriating feminist ideology and rhetoric to gain credibility, without meaningfully engaging with gender inequality, and potentially even taking space when they should be creating it for marginalised members of the community.

Maybe you have a friend who has built a large social following by loudly proclaiming feminist beliefs, but they don’t use that platform to support other women or non-binary people. Or they lead a women’s network or collective but simultaneously exhibit exclusionary behaviour.

It’s hard to call this kind of behaviour out, because not only do we want to support other women in their endeavours, often the people in question haven’t intentionally co-opted feminism for their own gain – they might just not be aware of the impact of their success in further marginalising other voices.

If you want to raise this with the person, our advice is to do so privately and ideally in person first, to give them the opportunity to react, respond, and listen to you. Calling out unhelpful actions is only meaningful if it’s done with a view to facilitating change, and genuinely supporting someone to understand where they might have gone wrong. Assume the best, and aim for a calm and open conversation.

Explain your position, and use examples to show what you mean. Suggest better ways for the individual to make an impact, that are linked to intersectional feminist approaches.

You can’t control how they react or respond, but this way you know that you have acted with integrity and provided an opportunity for change, which is all you can really do!

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