This is What a Feminist Looks Like

A little while ago, a horrible anti-feminist/fat-shaming meme started going around the Internet. If you’ve been online since it started circulating, you’ve probably seen it. The photo–if there had been no text added to it–is a great picture. It’s inspirational. It’s a plus-sized woman facing the camera and proudly holding a  paper that says “This is what a feminist looks like”.

I have similar pictures, of me proudly wearing my This is What a Feminist Looks Like t-shirt. For example: this one, taken when I hosted an amazing event that featured the strong community of women poets and musicians within the Salt Lake community.

Photo by Shauna Brock
Photo by Shauna Brock

Back to the meme.

What on its own is a wonderful picture that speaks volumes of feminist pride and exudes confidence was stolen and the message of power was taken away by a malicious caption:  “That’s pretty much what I expected.”

When I discovered the picture, I found myself unexpectedly crushed by the implication that somehow I, as a plus-sized woman and a feminist myself, was somehow less human. Suddenly I was just as easily worth ridicule and disgust. And it wasn’t just the person (or people) who found the image and added the horrific captioning who shocked me–it was the too-many-to-count commenters who were agreeing with the idea, and carrying on the anti-feminist/fat-shaming/anti-human campaign.

I claim to have little faith in humanity among my group of friends. They hear me day after day complaining about the stupidity of people, it’s a thing that I have been doing for a long time, and it’s second nature really. But honestly, under all the bark, I don’t believe it. I generally feel that people are good, that people are capable of amazing, wonderful things. But then something like this happens. And suddenly, my faith in humanity is actually shaken to its very core. The kind of people who insulted this woman are loathsome, vile creatures. And I find it hard to believe that someone could be so very hurtful, and damaging. But it happened.

Then today, I found something wonderful.

Turns out that the stolen picture is actually of a wonderfully badass feminist activist named Kelly Martin Broderick. And she wrote an amazing post about how horrified she was to discover the picture had been stolen and used as it was. But she didn’t stop at horrified. She fought it as best as she could, trying to get the picture removed from facebook since it had been stolen, but to no avail. But that did not stop her from speaking up and speaking out.

Kelly Martin Broderick: You are absolutely my hero.

I can’t tell you how much your voice made a difference to me today. It takes extreme courage to stand up when people are attacking in droves, powered by the fuel of the internet.

I am inspired by your strength, and grateful that you were able to rise above the awfulness of the Internet-gone-bad and make your statement. Despite the awful behavior of the people behind this meme, something great came out of this. Broderick proved that strength is possible in circumstances beyond one’s own control. That even when things are not working towards our favor, we can turn the tide and remind people that our greatest strength is in fact the power of our voice, and our ability to stand strong—and not take other people’s bullshit. If the people behind the meme can use the powers of the internet for harmful purposes, we can use the internet for good. To remind those that found the meme and grew as disheartened as I did upon first seeing it that the world is not all chaos and awful.

I am so fucking grateful for Broderick’s strength, because it’s reminded me that I too am powerful. And we feminists are everywhere. And taking this kind of bullshit is simply unacceptable. Hatred, mean-spiritedness, and spite will get you nowhere. If you want to be happy, if you want to make a difference in the world, you move past those things. You remember that everyone is human, that everyone has feelings and that EVERYONE REGARDLESS OF DIFFERENCE deserves a chance to be happy and live their lives.

If you haven’t already read Broderick’s piece on xojane, you should definitely go do that. Also, contribute to the tumblr page she set up, We Are What Feminists Look Like. As she explains in the piece on xojane:

The biggest miss the creator of my meme made was not realizing the point of the This is What a Feminist Looks Like campaigns; the point is to draw attention to the fact that feminists are not all the same. We are all different.  

So in response, I am starting a tumblr, We Are What Feminists Look Like. A few friends have already submitted pictures and I hope many more of you folks will submit pictures or thoughts. This experience has taught me that while one cruel person can ruin my morning, I have an entire community of friends, family, and feminists to back me up.  

15 thoughts on “This is What a Feminist Looks Like

  1. Kelly Broderick August 22, 2013 / 8:34 pm

    Hi – Kelly here 🙂

    Thank you so so so much for writing this post. You made me cry the first real tears I’ve shed during this thing, but they were the good kind of tears. I’ve been blown away by what the response that my post has created (both positive and negative) but I’m mostly in awe of the positive response. So far I’ve posted 160 pictures, I’ve got over 120 waiting in the tumblr mailbox to queue and close to 150 for me to download from the emails. All in a little over 24 hours. Thank you for being a part of the badass community of feminists who gave me the strength to speak up and fight. ❤

    • riotgrrrlrevolution August 23, 2013 / 8:05 am

      thank you for the comment! And thank you for writing your piece and starting the tumblr page! it’s lovely, and super inspirational. We do have a pretty awesome community, don’t we? 🙂 And really, feminists are the best kind of people

  2. vegawriters August 22, 2013 / 11:26 pm

    Reblogged this on Vega's Voice and commented:
    Rather than ramble tonight, I’m signal boosting. This is what a kickass feminist looks like. Check out Stephanie Novak, who spends her time making damned sure that the voices of Utah’s female storytellers and poets have a safe place to speak.

  3. genderneutrallanguage August 23, 2013 / 5:44 am

    Fabricated out rage, nothing new. Yes, both you and the meme are “What I expected” and it has nothing to do with weight. You are both upper-middle class, middle aged, white, women. You are using your positions of privilege to rally against injustices that happened to other people 30 years ago in an attempt to inflate your already over blow egos. This is what I see, and it has nothing to do with either your weight or your humanity.

    • riotgrrrlrevolution August 23, 2013 / 8:02 am

      The fact that you presume you know exactly who I am is laughable. You are in fact incredibly off base. I appreciate open dialogue on this blog, but making assumptions of who I am as a feminist and a person is not exactly the most productive dialogue. Feminism is still as relevant today as it was 30 years ago, and the fact that you think I and other feminists are solely rallying “against injustices that happened to other people 30 years ago” is bogus, and anyone who has been paying attention would KNOW that.

      • genderneutrallanguage August 23, 2013 / 8:23 am

        So your not disputing the privileged, white, upper middle class, woman? You are hardly Representative of “People” you claim to be representing in the battle for equality. You hardly represent even half the people that are women. You are privileged and are fighting against the loss of that privilege. You are blind to your own privilege so you keep rehashing battles feminism won 30 years ago, fighting for more privilege.

        I have been paying attention. I know what’s going on. You are the one that’s blind. Pick a current issue, and I will be happy to expaline how it’s female privilege your fighting for, not equality.

    • someone August 23, 2013 / 9:44 am

      The picture didn’t offend me. My only thought was that, yes, I expect a feminist to look smart. But your online persona offends me. What makes you assume she’s upper middle class? Where do you live that businesses don’t treat women as less intelligent than men? How can we have gender neutral language when we can’t even think of the two main genders as equal? Yes, there are some privileges that go with being naturally female, but there are enough disadvantages that those privileges aren’t even worth fighting against yet.

      I have an issue for you. A large amount of the population expect women to be continuously trying to look like a porn model.

      • genderneutrallanguage August 23, 2013 / 10:04 am

        As I said, half truths. It is true that many people expect women to look like porn stars. This is only half the truth. It is also true that many people expect MEN to look like porn stars. The pornification of our culture can’t be addressed by looking at how thing affect women and ONLY women. This is not a gendered issue and trying to address it as such will only result in man hatting bigotry.

        • someone August 23, 2013 / 10:36 am

          Please answer my questions so we can continue the conversation.

          • genderneutrallanguage August 23, 2013 / 2:22 pm

            Happy to answer the questions.
            What makes me think that she is upper middle class? She has a computer with internet access and the free time needed to blog. She also writes well and that speaks to a college education.
            Where do I live that business don’t treat women as less intelligent? I live in the US, businesses here treat every one like shit. Walking in the door your not male or female black or white, but mark number 48735 for exploitation.
            How can we have gender neutral language with out existing equality? Simple. equality will be the RESULT of using more gender neutral language, not the cause. Start talking about reproductive rights, not women’s rights. Start talking about parental rights, not women’s rights. Start talking about humans, and not just women, equality will follow. Gender Equality is Women = Men, not Women =

            We can not solve problems of gender equality by only ever looking at half of the equation.

    • Deserae Clark August 23, 2013 / 10:34 am

      Pick an issue, genderneutrallanguage? I’ll pick two that we have been working on:

      -involuntary sterilization and removal of children from women with disabilities
      -transgender women housing and employer discrimination

      So, tell me how these are 30-year-old issues, since I am working with women going through these things right now. And tell me how I use the fact that I’m white to get ‘privileges’ for these women… and not simply equality?
      The fights are not done when a woman got beat and killed in Harlem recently for being transgender. It isn’t done when I hold a woman’s hand who just wants her kids back at home- but the state has made the decision for her, because she is single and is in a wheelchair.

      You are welcome, genderneutrallanguage, to disagree with what I am doing… knowing I can advocate for myself and others is worth it. I will gladly step up and ‘represent’ women if it means making sure that women are given the confidence to step up and advocate for themselves and their needs. Keeping silent because you are not the right type of woman to step up is stupid and counterproductive. Nothing ever gets done by keeping silent.

      Stephanie- wonderful post, as always.

      • genderneutrallanguage August 23, 2013 / 2:41 pm

        So There are 4 issues here, not 2.
        Involuntary sterilization. To my knowledge this practice ended in the 50’s and was almost exclusively used to sterilize men. If forced sterilization is still being done, can you link me information on it? If it is still being done, I’m not familiar enough with the law and practice to really comment on it.

        Removal of children from women with disabilities. We as a society have no problems removing children from fathers that are wonderful parents with no disabilities and are good providers. The needs of the child must come before the wants of the mother, so this does mean that some mothers loose custody of their children.

        Transgendered women…..yea I can stop there. Transgender are all targets of bigotry regardless of if they transitioned to male or female. The individuals that transitioned female are not at greater risk or discriminated against more than the ones that transitioned male. I don’t stop caring once some one has a penis. That you do just betrays your bigotry.

  4. Kelsey Sheehan August 23, 2013 / 9:36 am

    I wasn’t aware that middle class white women weren’t allowed to be feminists. If you are bemoaning the lack of intersectional feminism that sometimes excludes women of color, trans women, poor women, and women if varying sexualities, here would be the wrong place to do it. In fact she and Broderick’s message aims to show that feminism supports and includes all different types of women, that no one type of woman represents feminism. They are fighting against a stereotype that you are buying into. I don’t know why you presume that either writer does not understand the importance of how race, socioeconomic status, sexuality, or gender binaries ties into feminist causes.

    • Kelly Broderick August 23, 2013 / 9:59 am

      The importance of intersectionality in feminism is one I am very aware of and concerned with. I know that the reason I can stand up and speak out is because I absolutely am privileged enough to not fear any sort of retaliation. I get support not only from my family and friends, but from my University and employers. I am not risking violence like many women in other parts of the world who dare to speak out. Yes, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done within feminism, but I hope that my message that we are all different and you don’t have to fit any one stereotype will break down some of those barriers.

      • Kelly Broderick August 23, 2013 / 10:02 am

        Also.. this was kind of in reply to everything, not JUST your comment. 🙂

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