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.

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

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