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  • I am failing as a woman,

  • I am failing as a feminist.

  • I have passionate opinions about gender equality,

  • but I worry that to freely accept the label of "feminist,"

  • would not be fair to good feminists.

  • I'm a feminist, but I'm a rather bad one.

  • Oh, so I call myself a Bad Feminist.

  • Or at least, I wrote an essay,

  • and then I wrote a book called "Bad Feminist,"

  • and then in interviews, people started calling me The Bad Feminist.

  • (Laughter)

  • So, what started as a bit of an inside joke with myself

  • and a willful provocation,

  • has become a thing.

  • Let me take a step back.

  • When I was younger,

  • mostly in my teens and 20s,

  • I had strange ideas about feminists

  • as hairy, angry, man-hating, sex-hating women --

  • as if those are bad things.

  • (Laughter)

  • These days, I look at how women are treated the world over,

  • and anger, in particular, seems like a perfectly reasonable response.

  • But back then,

  • I worried about the tone people used

  • when suggesting I might be a feminist.

  • The feminist label was an accusation,

  • it was an "F" word, and not a nice one.

  • I was labeled a woman who doesn't play by the rules,

  • who expects too much,

  • who thinks far too highly of myself,

  • by daring to believe I'm equal -- (Coughs) -- superior to a man.

  • You don't want to be that rebel woman,

  • until you realize that you very much are that woman,

  • and cannot imagine being anyone else.

  • As I got older, I began to accept

  • that I am, indeed, a feminist, and a proud one.

  • I hold certain truths to be self-evident:

  • Women are equal to men.

  • We deserve equal pay for equal work.

  • We have the right to move through the world as we choose,

  • free from harassment or violence.

  • We have the right to easy, affordable access to birth control,

  • and reproductive services.

  • We have the right to make choices about our bodies,

  • free from legislative oversight or evangelical doctrine.

  • We have the right to respect.

  • There's more.

  • When we talk about the needs of women,

  • we have to consider the other identities we inhabit.

  • We are not just women.

  • We are people with different bodies,

  • gender expressions, faiths, sexualities,

  • class backgrounds, abilities, and so much more.

  • We need to take into account

  • these differences and how they affect us,

  • as much as we account for what we have in common.

  • Without this kind of inclusion, our feminism is nothing.

  • I hold these truths to be self-evident, but let me be clear:

  • I'm a mess.

  • I am full of contradictions.

  • There are many ways in which I'm doing feminism wrong.

  • I have another confession.

  • When I drive to work, I listen to thuggish rap at a very loud volume.

  • (Laughter)

  • Even though the lyrics are degrading to women --

  • these lyrics offend me to my core --

  • the classic Yin Yang Twins song "Salt Shaker" --

  • it is amazing.

  • (Laughter)

  • "Make it work with your wet t-shirt.

  • Bitch, you gotta shake it 'til your camel starts to hurt!"

  • (Laughter)

  • Think about it.

  • (Laughter)

  • Poetry, right?

  • I am utterly mortified by my music choices.

  • (Laughter)

  • I firmly believe in man work,

  • which is anything I don't want to do, including --

  • (Laughter) --

  • all domestic tasks,

  • but also: bug killing, trash removal, lawn care and vehicle maintenance.

  • I want no part of any of that.

  • (Laughter)

  • Pink is my favorite color.

  • I enjoy fashion magazines and pretty things.

  • I watch "The Bachelor" and romantic comedies,

  • and I have absurd fantasies about fairy tales coming true.

  • Some of my transgressions are more flagrant.

  • If a woman wants to take her husband's name,

  • that is her choice, and it is not my place to judge.

  • If a woman chooses to stay home to raise her children,

  • I embrace that choice, too.

  • The problem is not that she makes herself economically vulnerable in that choice;

  • the problem is that our society is set up

  • to make women economically vulnerable when they choose.

  • Let's deal with that.

  • (Applause)

  • I reject the mainstream feminism

  • that has historically ignored or deflected the needs

  • of women of color, working-class women, queer women and transgender women,

  • in favor of supporting white, middle- and upper-class straight women.

  • Listen, if that's good feminism -- I am a very bad feminist.

  • (Laughter)

  • There is also this:

  • As a feminist, I feel a lot of pressure.

  • We have this tendency to put visible feminists on a pedestal.

  • We expect them to pose perfectly.

  • When they disappoint us,

  • we gleefully knock them from the very pedestal we put them on.

  • Like I said, I am a mess --

  • consider me knocked off that pedestal

  • before you ever try to put me up there.

  • (Laughter)

  • Too many women,

  • particularly groundbreaking women and industry leaders,

  • are afraid to be labeled as feminists.

  • They're afraid to stand up and say, "Yes, I am a feminist,"

  • for fear of what that label means,

  • for fear of being unable to live up to unrealistic expectations.

  • Take, for example, Beyoncé, or as I call her, The Goddess.

  • (Laughter)

  • She has emerged, in recent years, as a visible feminist.

  • At the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards,

  • she performed in front of the word "feminist" 10 feet high.

  • It was a glorious spectacle to see

  • this pop star openly embracing feminism

  • and letting young women and men know

  • that being a feminist is something to celebrate.

  • As the moment faded, cultural critics began endlessly debating

  • whether or not Beyoncé was, indeed, a feminist.

  • They graded her feminism,

  • instead of simply taking a grown, accomplished woman at her word.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • We demand perfection from feminists,

  • because we are still fighting for so much,

  • we want so much,

  • we need so damn much.

  • We go far beyond reasonable, constructive criticism,

  • to dissecting any given woman's feminism,

  • tearing it apart until there's nothing left.

  • We do not need to do that.

  • Bad feminism -- or really, more inclusive feminism -- is a starting point.

  • But what happens next?

  • We go from acknowledging our imperfections to accountability,

  • or walking the walk, and being a little bit brave.

  • If I listen to degrading music,

  • I am creating a demand for which artists are more than happy

  • to contribute a limitless supply.

  • These artists are not going to change

  • how they talk about women in their songs

  • until we demand that change by affecting their bottom line.

  • Certainly, it is difficult.

  • Why must it be so catchy?

  • (Laughter)

  • It's hard to make the better choice,

  • and it is so easy to justify a lesser one.

  • But --

  • when I justify bad choices,

  • I make it harder for women to achieve equality,

  • the equality that we all deserve,

  • and I need to own that.

  • I think of my nieces, ages three and four.

  • They are gorgeous and headstrong, brilliant girls,

  • who are a whole lot of brave.

  • I want them to thrive in a world where they are valued

  • for the powerful creatures they are.

  • I think of them,

  • and suddenly, the better choice becomes far easier to make.

  • We can all make better choices.

  • We can change the channel when a television show

  • treats sexual violence against women like sport,

  • Game of Thrones.

  • We can change the radio station

  • when we hear songs that treat women as nothing.

  • We can spend our box office dollars elsewhere

  • when movies don't treat women

  • as anything more than decorative objects.

  • We can stop supporting professional sports

  • where the athletes treat their partners like punching bags.

  • (Applause)

  • In other ways, men -- and especially straight white men --

  • can say, "No, I will not publish with your magazine,

  • or participate in your project, or otherwise work with you,

  • until you include a fair number of women,

  • both as participants and decision makers.

  • I won't work with you until your publication,

  • or your organization, is more inclusive of all kinds of difference."

  • Those of us who are underrepresented

  • and invited to participate in such projects,

  • can also decline to be included

  • until more of us are invited through the glass ceiling,

  • and we are tokens no more.

  • Without these efforts,

  • without taking these stands,

  • our accomplishments are going to mean very little.

  • We can commit these small acts of bravery

  • and hope that our choices trickle upward to the people in power --

  • editors, movie and music producers,

  • CEOs, lawmakers --

  • the people who can make bigger, braver choices

  • to create lasting, meaningful change.

  • We can also boldly claim our feminism --

  • good, bad, or anywhere in between.

  • The last line of my book "Bad Feminist" says,

  • "I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all."

  • This is true for so many reasons,

  • but first and foremost, I say this because once upon a time,

  • my voice was stolen from me,

  • and feminism helped me to get my voice back.

  • There was an incident.

  • I call it an incident so I can carry the burden of what happened.

  • Some boys broke me,

  • when I was so young, I did not know

  • what boys can do to break a girl.

  • They treated me like I was nothing.

  • I began to believe I was nothing.

  • They stole my voice, and in the after,

  • I did not dare to believe

  • that anything I might say could matter.

  • But --

  • I had writing.

  • And there, I wrote myself back together.

  • I wrote myself toward a stronger version of myself.

  • I read the words of women

  • who might understand a story like mine,

  • and women who looked like me,

  • and understood what it was like to move through the world with brown skin.

  • I read the words of women who showed me I was not nothing.

  • I learned to write like them,

  • and then I learned to write as myself.

  • I found my voice again,

  • and I started to believe that my voice is powerful beyond measure.

  • Through writing and feminism,

  • I also found that if I was a little bit brave,

  • another woman might hear me and see me and recognize

  • that none of us are the nothing the world tries to tell us we are.

  • In one hand,

  • I hold the power to accomplish anything.

  • And in my other,

  • I hold the humbling reality that I am just one woman.

  • I am a bad feminist,

  • I am a good woman,

  • I am trying to become better in how I think,

  • and what I say, and what I do,

  • without abandoning everything that makes me human.

  • I hope that we can all do the same.

  • I hope that we can all be a little bit brave,

  • when we most need such bravery.

  • (Applause)