Photo: Rido/Shutterstock

How to Piss Off a Feminist

by Claire Litton Cohn Feb 19, 2014

With all kinds of strong women in the news (Hillary 2016!), feminism has come a long way. In the past couple of years alone, things from feminist digital campaigns to an increase in anti-harassment policies at conferences have made women feel safer and stronger about speaking out. And yet, as if the patriarchy wasn’t enough to be mad about already — I’m still making 78 cents on your dollar, white men! — here’s a list of things that can infuriate anyone interested in equal rights and reducing sexism.

Please note: None of these things are done exclusively by men towards women; sometimes other people do them to women too. Also, I believe anyone can be a feminist. Feminism just means believing that the current system is not very equal and tends to minimize the lives of women (and “girly” men, under the assumption that acting like a lady is bad). If you believe this, you are a feminist. No matter what your sex or gender. (Some people believe men calling themselves “feminists” is another co-opting of women’s space, so please be aware that you might get negative reactions from some feminists if you identify as male and call yourself a feminist.)

Use the word “Feminazi.”

Yes, because equating people who are interested in overthrowing a male-dominated global standard, to the benefit of men, women, and everyone in between, with the perpetrators of a heinous genocide makes SO much sense. Feminazi is a way to belittle women for speaking up too loudly — you don’t want to be one of those strident irritating feminists that talks too much, do you? Yes, actually. I do.

“It’s just a joke! God!”

Ha ha ha, yes, I certainly feel a sweeping sense of relief that you clarified your statement about me getting to the kitchen to make you a sandwich was a joke. I wasn’t laughing because it wasn’t funny. Not because I have no sense of humour.

Sexist jokes, just like racist jokes, are based on belittling and debasing a minority group…which, hey, I thought was classified as hate speech! So, ha ha, thank you for identifying yourself as someone who will engage in hate speech for the sake of making someone laugh. I will make sure to stay very far away from you in the future.

Be a Nice Guy™.

A trope that has now become popular enough to have several websites dedicated to calling them out, Nice Guys™ are those guys who don’t ask a girl out for ages, preferring instead to masquerade as an actual friend, then react negatively when she says she’s uninterested…unlike actual guys who are nice, who would value a woman’s company even if she wasn’t putting out.

“That bitch turned me down!” they might shout. “Women only ever like assholes, but I’m such a nice guy they never go for me!” Easily identified by their fedoras, entitlement to women’s bodies, and frequent use of the word “friendzoned.”


This helpful portmanteau describes those situations where a man speaks to a woman with an assumption that she knows less about the topic being discussed than he does, just by virtue of her being a woman. Whether conscious or not — and many mansplainers are not even aware of their inherent assumptions…that women can’t know anything about sports, for example — this is intensely irritating.

I once checked the oil in my car and went into a gas station to buy some more; the guy behind the counter looked at me accusingly and said, “What do you need that for?” To put on my toast? “I was going to put it in the car,” I said. He started to shrug into his coat. “You’d better let me do it,” he said. “Women don’t know how to check oil. Are you sure you looked in the right place?”

“Feminism is over! We fixed things!”

Oh, I’m so relieved! I’m so glad that feminism succeeded, so we have lots of women in Congress to help pass bills that are about things women want (you know, like control over our own bodies)…oh, wait. And definitely lots of female CEOs and heads of industry, to protect the rights of female sweatshop workers and ensure that the most powerful corporations in the world are not run exclusively by men…hmm. And newspaper magnates and television producers, so we can see positive images of women in the media…oh. Well, I’m sure glad things are fixed.


However a woman wants to dress? Is okay. She’s not doing it for you. Or even if she is, that’s okay too. But calling someone a “slut” or a “whore” because they’re wearing revealing clothing both negates women’s expression of their own sexuality and shames women who work in the sex industry. There’s no need to do either of these things, thank you very much.

Slut shaming contributes to rape culture, which is an atmosphere where harassment and violence towards women are the victim’s fault and not her attacker’s. This has terrible consequences for everybody, including making it difficult for men to speak out about being victims of sexual assault, if you can’t figure out why you should care about something unless it also happens to men.

Fat-shame, or otherwise body-police.

Everybody’s body and the way they look belongs to them, and has as much to do with you as their sexual orientation (hint: nothing). Making “helpful” comments about someone’s weight, the way they look in a bikini, or the way they do their hair is just another way to tell them that whatever they look like is not okay.

There’s no need to ask someone if they’ve “just considered going to the gym and eating less.” That’s incredibly rude. Women are bombarded with messages all day, every day, and even in their sleep about how they’re supposed to look and what they’re supposed to do…nobody needs extra reiteration of that.

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