Current Psychology

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 229–245 | Cite as

Femi-Nazis and Bra Burning Crazies: A Qualitative Evaluation of Contemporary Beliefs about Feminism

  • Jill M. Swirsky
  • D. J. Angelone


Despite data demonstrating a substantial gender gap in the United States, many women do not self-identify as feminist. An evaluation of the literature suggests four potential reasons for the lack of identification, 1) a negative connotation associated with the term “feminist,” 2) the dichotomous presentation of feminism (e.g., the lack of grey area between feminism and non-feminism), 3) a belief that feminism may no longer be necessary, and 4) a perceived lack of cultural relevance. Previous research on feminism has not adequately addressed the dynamic and contextual factors that can influence a woman’s decision of whether to self-identify. Therefore, the goal of this project was to use qualitative methodology to allow for the identification of potential personal barriers for women associating with the feminist movement. The data suggest that feminism is viewed as an obsolete entity with largely negative connotations associated with the term. The implications of these barriers and several suggestions for change in the movement are discussed.


Feminism Gender roles Self-identification Qualitative data 



We would like to acknowledge Stephanie Jacobs, Stephanie Mannon, Tiffany Marcantonio, Allison Smith, Danielle Smith, and Ashley Walsh for their assistance with data coding. We are also grateful to Jill Cermele, Ph.D. and Damon Mitchell, Ph.D. for their comments on previous drafts of this manuscript.


  1. Acker, J., Barry, K., & Esseveld, J. (1983). Objectivity and truth: problems in doing feminist research. Women’s Studies International Forum, 6, 423–435. doi: 10.1016/0277-5395(83)90035-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aronson, P. (2003). Feminists or postfeminists? Young women’s attitudes toward feminism and gender relations. Gender and Society, 17, 903–922.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Akert, R. M. (2007). Social psychology (6th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson.Google Scholar
  4. Berryman-Fink, C., & Verderber, K. S. (1985). Attributions of the term feminist: a factor analytic development of a measuring instrument. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 9, 51–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Highlights of women’s earnings in 2011. Retrieved from
  6. Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory, and antiracist politics.” University of Chicago Legal Forum, 139 – 167.Google Scholar
  7. Downing, N. E., & Roush, K. L. (1985). From passive acceptance to active commitment. The Counseling Psychologist, 13, 695–709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Duncan, L. E. (2010). Women’s relationship to feminism: effects of generation and feminist self-labeling. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34, 498–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Eisele, H., & Stake, J. (2008). The differential relationship of feminist attitudes and feminist identify to self-efficacy. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32, 233–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hall, E. J., & Salupo Rodriguez, M. (2003). The myth of postfeminism. Gender and Society, 17, 878–902. doi: 10.1177/0891243203257639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hemmons, W. M. (1980). The women’s liberation movement: Understanding Black women’s attitudes. In L. F. Rogers-Rose (Ed.), The black women. Beverly Hills: Sage Press.Google Scholar
  12. hooks, B. (2000). Feminist theory: From margin to center. Cambridge: South End Press.Google Scholar
  13. Houvouras, S., & Carter, J. S. (2008). The F word: college students’ definitions of a feminist. Sociological Forum, 23, 234–256. doi: 10.1111/j.1573-7861.2008.0007x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Liss, M., & Erchull, M. J. (2010). Everyone feels empowered: understanding feminist self-labeling. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34, 85–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. McCabe, J. (2005). What’s in a label? The relationship between feminist self-identification and “feminist” attitudes among U.S. women and men. Gender and Society, 19, 480–505. doi: 10.1177/0891243204273498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Myaskovsky, L., & Witting, M. A. (1997). Predictors of feminist social identiy among college women. Sex Roles, 37, 861–883.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ramsey, L. R., Haines, M. E., Hurt, M. M., Nelson, J. A., Turner, D. L., Liss, M., et al. (2007). Thinking of others: feminist identification and the perception of others’ beliefs. Sex Roles, 56, 611–616. doi: 10.1007/s11199-007-9205-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Reid, P. T. (1984). Feminism versus minority group identity: not for black women only. Sex Roles, 10, 247–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Reid, P. T. (1993). Poor women in psychological research: shut up and shut out. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 17, 133–150. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1993.tb00440.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Roy, R. E., Weibust, K. S., & Miller, C. T. (2007). Effects of stereotypes about feminists on feminist self-identification. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31, 146–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Singh, S. (2007). Deconstructing ‘gender and development’ for ‘identities of women. International Journal of Social Welfare, 16, 100–109. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2397.2006.00454x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tong, R. (2009). Feminist thought. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  23. U.S. Census Bureau. (2011). Retrieved from
  24. Walby, S. (1989). Theorising patriarchy. Sociology, 23, 213–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Walker, A. J., & Thompson, L. (1984). Feminism and family studies. Journal of Family Issues, 5, 545–570. doi: 10.1177/019251384005004010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Walsh, W. B., & Heppner, M. J. (Eds.). (2006). Handbook of career counseling for women. Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  27. White, A. M. (2001/2002). Ain’t I a feminist? Black men as advocates of feminism. Womanist Theory and Practice, 3/4, 28–34.Google Scholar
  28. White, A. M. (2006). Racial and gender attitudes as predictors of feminist activism among self-identified African American feminists. Journal of Black Psychology, 32, 455–478. doi: 10.1177/0095798406292469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wilkinson, S. (1999). Focus groups: a feminist method. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23, 221–244. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1999.tb00355.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Yakushko, O. (2007). Do feminist women feel better about their lives? Examining patterns of feminist identity development and women’s subjective well-being. Sex Roles, 57, 223–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Zucker, A., & Bay-Cheng, L. Y. (2010). Minding the gap between feminist identity and attitudes: the behavioral and ideological divide between feminists and non-labelers. Journal of Personality, 78, 1895–1924. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2010.00673.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRowan UniversityGlassboroUSA

Personalised recommendations