Shailene Woodley Says She's Not A Feminist — Here's The Problem With That

Shailene Woodley is smart, well-spoken, talented, and truly delightful to spend time with. She ranks highly on our list of favorite actresses — both embodying the indie ingenue (The Descendants) and dominating the blockbusters (Divergent, and  its sequel, Insurgent, set to open this Friday). In short — the girl has her shit together, and we admire her for it. 

To promote the movie, the 23-year-old graces the April cover of Nylon, gamine game strong with a disheveled, piece-y pixie and crisp white button-down. In the accompanying editorial, she talks about the past two years as a time when she's begun to empower herself. She also urges the media to focus less on the goings-on in Hollywood and more on genocide in Africa. All keenly felt, powerful observations. 

But, then this quote made our hearts sink: 

"The reason why I don't like to say that I am a feminist or I am not a feminist is because to me, it's still a label. I do not want to be defined by one thing. Why do we have to have that label to divide us? We should all be able to embrace one another regardless of our belief system and regardless of the labels that we have put upon ourselves." 

Except that she's completely comfortable with labels like "actress," "herbalist," or "environmentalist." 

This isn't the first time Woodley has felt the need to clarify her stance on the F-word. Back in May 2014, when a Time reporter asked her if she considered herself a feminist, she replied, "No, because I love men, and I think the idea of 'raise women to power, take the men away from the power' is never going to work out because you need balance." She went on to say that her "biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism." 

Which sucks. Especially coming from a strong, powerful woman who is truly spreading the message of empowerment. Because we're all about sisterhood and not that into labels and stereotypes around her here, but, for Shailene Woodley to insist that she isn't a feminist, based on a distaste for a so-called "label," is missing the point.

Being vocal in support of women has nothing to do with dividing the genders; it's about raising our collective voice and making it heard at a time when we can't afford not to. It's about honoring the trail-blazing, tireless work of second-wave leaders from the '60s and '70s women's movement — the Betty Friedans and the Gloria Steinems alike — whose work paved the way for the choices we have today. Because, say what you will about the divisive nature of the women's movement, but before those ladies came along, the most basic rights that we take for granted today were not protected. A single person could be jailed for possessing contraception. Women felt they couldn't trust their gynecologists. The EEOC did not exist. The law didn't even protect a wife from being raped by her husband

We've come a long way in the 45 years since then. But, as a society, we are still not where we need to be. It's a tirelessly repeated number, but women still make 77 cents on the dollar, when compared to the average American male. According to the recently released Clinton Foundation No Ceilings: The Full Participation Report (which we covered in full here), one in three women is a victim of physical or sexual violence in her lifetime, we've seen a 0% change in the gender pay gap in the past 20 years, and only 32% of countries in the world protect the right for a girl to attend middle school. 

The sobering truth is that we don't have gender equality today. Ignoring the forces that have gotten us partway there — and are pushing to get us further — is dangerous. In order to "embrace one another regardless of our belief systems" as Woodley wants, we need the equal footing and choice that feminism fights for. And, in that fight for change, every voice counts. 
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