How to be a feminist, according to Politico

Michelle Obama

What’s your personal feminist nightmare? The Handmaid’s Tale? A meeting of the Texas GOP, circa 2013?

According to Politico’s Friday cover (which we won’t link to and satisfy their troll-baiting thirst), the true “feminist nightmare” is Michelle Obama. Yes. That Michelle Obama. Rather than focus on actual feminist critiques of the First Lady, Politico tore down her work for failing to look like either Big Macho Male Politics or the magazine’s blurry vision of grassroots feminist organizing. (It also attributed a quote to the Feministing staff that we didn’t write. But whatever.)

The article boils down to four Politico criteria for being a real feminist. Here they are:

1. Only talk about Serious Manly Problems.

Are you interested in childhood literacy? Veterans’ homelessness? Access to nutritious foods?  Sorry, lady, but these aren’t political issues. Politics is only about guns and bombs and oil and… education reform? But I guess only ed reform for big kids who already know how to read, because “reading to children” is apparently too feminine to be political.

2. Don’t dress well.

Are your feet “fashionably shod?” Do you have sartorial tips to share? Sorry, lady, but that means you aren’t a feminist. Although if you’re not super toned and fashionable we’ll probably ignore everything you say. Just FYI.

3. Be medium-angry.

If you’re not rabid enough, we’ll say you’re not a feminist. Then again if you’re really angry – particularly if you’re black and really angry – we’ll probably call you a terrorist. Sorry, lady, but like Goldilocks you need to make sure you get it juuuuuuust right. “She tried Mama Bear’s porridge and it was anti-feminist. She tried Papa Bear’s porridge and it was terrorist. Then she tried Baby Bear’s porridge and it was perfectly tone-policed.”

4. Don’t raise your kids.

Sorry, lady, but if you’re serious about serving as “mom-in-chief,” you’re obviously not serious about anything else. If you’re not, we’ll probably shame you incessantly for neglecting your children and denying your maternal nature and being a witch. But at least we’ll think you’re a respectable feminist.


Alexandra Brodsky has this one weird nightmare about small spaces and the letter Z.

Washington, DC

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at During her four years at the site, she wrote about gender violence, reproductive justice, and education equity and ran the site's book review column. She is now a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center and also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and NPR.

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at

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