An open letter to Shailene Woodley from BUST Magazine

by Debbie Stoller

Apparently, this is NOT what a feminist looks like

Oh, Shailene, Shailene, Shailene. We need to talk. The internet is mad at you for saying you’re not a feminist in your interview with Time magazine , and we’re pretty disappointed, too. I mean, c’mon Shailene. You are smarter than this. You are a thoughtful person.  We chose you for the cover of BUST because we wanted to know more about the soon-to-be-a-star hippy girl who was going to play the lead role in Divergent. Did your people not tell you we were a feminist magazine? We are. We even asked you then if you were a feminist, and you said “I’ve read so many feminist books, and I’m very acquainted with a lot of different theories.” Then you went on to basically say a bunch of the same things you told Time.

That said, I’ll admit, not everyone who is on our cover considers themselves feminists. And Shailene, you don’t have to consider yourself one,  either. But the problem here is that, despite what you may have read, it looks to me like you don’t understand what feminism is. Nope; not even a little bit. 

So let me break it down for you, by going over what you said, piece by piece. 

Time Magazine: Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Shailene Woodley: No because I love men…

So do most feminists, Shailene. People who don’t want to have sex with men (but who may very well love many men) are called lesbians. There’s a difference. But while feminism has nothing to do with not liking men, I won’t go as far as to say that feminism doesn’t have anything to do with “not blaming men.” Most feminists believe that women are held down by what we call “the patriarchy,” which is a society where, in either politics or culture or both, men hold most of the power, and women are mostly excluded from it. So yeah, men.

…and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out.

You’re right, of course, which is why feminists believe that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. That’s actually the dictionary definition of feminism, Shailene. Equal. Not more rights and opportunities. Not kicking out the men.  

With myself, I’m very in touch with my masculine side. 

Okay; that’s cool.

And I’m 50 percent feminine and 50 percent masculine, same as I think a lot of us are. 

Wait–what does this have to do with feminism? Some feminists are 80 percent feminine and 20 percent masculine, others are 60 percent feminine, 30 percent masculine, 10 percent drag queen. Personally, I think I’m  60 percent feminine, 30 percent masculine, and 10 percent canine. Whatever your makeup, feminism doesn’t have anything to do with masculinity or femininity.

And I think that is important to note. 

Now here’s where I really have to disagree with you. It’s not important to note, since it has nothing to do with feminism. 

And also I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn’t work either. 

I’m not quite sure where you’re going here…but again, since this isn’t what feminists are after, it has nothing to do with feminism. 

We have to have a fine balance.

Hey lady, that’s what feminism is! The desire for a fine balance. The problem is,  we don’t have that now, do we? Wouldn’t you agree? So, as feminists, we are striving to get there. To get to balance. To just get to equal.

My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism. 

Okay…go on..

I don’t know how we as women expect men to respect us because we don’t even seem to respect each other. 

Well, Shailene, this is a puzzle. If men don’t respect women, and they are the ones who are in power, maybe that’s why women have a hard time respecting each other (or even themselves, for that matter.) It’s a chicken and egg situation. You could call it internalized oppression, because that’s what it’s called, or you could call it girl-on-girl crime. But even if women did respect eachother, I’m not sure that would really change how much men respect women. Anyway, it’s all about BALANCE, Shailene. And it’s about respecting both men and women equally.

There’s so much jealousy, so much comparison and envy. And “This girl did this to me and that girl did that to me.” And it’s just so silly and heartbreaking in a way.

This is true, and I’m glad to see that you are working on being a better member of the sisterhood. You did say some pretty great things on that subject in our interview with you. Helping women realize that they are turning their aggression on each other instead of dealing with the larger social and cultural issues that may be the root cause of it all, I would say, falls within feminism’s wheelhouse, so to speak. So good on ya, and keep up the good work on that front.


So Shailene, I hope this has cleared up some things for you. You may be wondering, however, why so many feminists got their panties in a wad because of something you said. I think it’s because we had such high hopes for you. The roles you play in both Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars are such interesting characters—feminist characters, even—that we really thought we could count on you to be one of us. The bare feet thing really got to us, too.

But you know what? I’m not giving up hope. In light of what feminism really is, I’d like you to consider retracting what you said. Because even though you have every right not to be a feminist, of course, I kinda think you probably actually are one.  


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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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