Lately, Keri Hilson has been very in-your-face about her womanhood. From her dainty pop anthem, “Pretty Girl Rock,” to the overtly sexual, “The Way You Love Me,” Hilson has been very pro-female liberation lately. Whether she’s singing about ignoring haters or taking charge of your sexual needs, Keri seems to always ride for the ladies. With all that uninhibited girl power coursing through her songs, you’d think Hilson would proudly wave the feminist flag, except she’s not quite sure if the label fits.

In an interview with My Yearbook, reporter Kate Heath asked the singer, “Your album aims to be very empowering to all women. Would you call yourself a feminist?”

Although she wants women to be inspired by her music and find comfort in her lyrics, Hilson isn’t quite sure she’s a feminist.

“I don’t know. That word has been tossed around a few times. I absolutely stand for women’s rights – I do. I also believe in empowerment and just owning and controlling your situation – be it your relationships, sexuality or confidence — and then not allowing anyone to take that. If any of that puts me into the feminist box, then I’m proudly there.

But I’m not a Nazi with it. I just feel strongly that women lack the confidence that we need in this day and time. Everyone is seeking validation from expensive things like heels and handbags and hair weaves, or other women and other men. I just feel that I would like to see that over. I do it because it’s my job. I don’t do it because I believe that it makes me who I am. I know that comes from within.”

As Jezebel contributor Dodai Stewart correctly pointed out, “It’s obvious that [Hilson] has a feminist outlook on life, and it’s also obvious she is rather reluctant to be called (or call herself) a ‘feminist.’”

But why?

Why in 2011 when so many of us have benefitted from both the civil rights and feminist movements do some women (especially Black women) struggle with claiming the “feminist” label for their own?

The problem mostly likely lies in perception. For many, the term “feminist” is a dirty word associated with man-hating, hairy, (white) women. However, women of color (and even some men) have a long tradition of being proud feminists.

As writer Jamilah Lemieux asserted, “feminism needs better PR.” Perhaps if more people understood what feminism really is—the struggle to end sexism and sexist practices for all people (not just a certain group of women)—then they’d be more inclined to line up and be counted as full-fledged feminists.

What do you think? Why do women have a hard time calling themselves feminists?

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  • steph302

    “As Jezebel contributor Dodai Stewart correctly pointed out, “It’s obvious that [Hilson] has a feminist outlook on life…”

    I disagree with the premise of this article. Maybe if you just read the titles of Hilson’s songs you could mistake her for a woman who’s “aim is defining, establishing and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women” (definition of feminism). But just listen to the lyrics. She believes in p*ssy power. She’s no more a feminist than Don Magic Juan. My opinion.

  • I think the reluctance to own the title of feminist is directly related to the desire not to be called out on your own behavior at some later point. I think it’s similar to a celebrity being called (or self identifying as) a role model and then the buzzards coming out listing all the ways that they’re not fit for the role. At least that’s always the way I’ve seen it. As far as Keri herself, I’m not a fan so I can’t really say what she speaks about in her songs.

  • African Mami

    Honestly, feminism does need better PR! Before I see the equal rights and justice and the liberation of women, I see angry women first. Shoot me!

    • maybe so, but isn’t anger a justifiable response to inequality?

    • African Mami

      @ Ruth,

      No. Where has the anger led to? Has anger aided their objective of achieving equality.

      I’m not against feminism, it would be stupid of me to be. Their intents are justified, but how many of them choose to carry out their intents is sooooooooo questionable.

    • PrettyGirlSwag

      hmm, what’s questionable about how do “many of them carry out their intent”?

      explain how Joan Morgan or Alice Walker or Rebecca Walker or Paula Giddings or bell hooks or Mellissa Harris Perry or Mark Anthony Neal or any other black feminist is “questionable” when expressing the need to obtain equal rights for ALL women (especially BLACK women)?

    • African Mami


      Let me phrase it better,

      Good intents, poor execution.

      Some feminists are all up in your face, especially when you don’t agree with them. Don’t force your ideals down my throat. That’s my problem.

    • PrettyGirlSwag


      that’s like saying some Black people are all up in your face about battling racism.

      where should they be, sis?

      playing the background and hoping men (or whomever) will finally realize they reap most of the benefits and give up their privilege?

    • African Mami


      You can battle an issue without being and I did state this on this weeks thread, overbearing.

      The “all up in your face” execution only serves to tarnish the overall objective in MY eyes. As I said before I see a united front of women interested in our liberation, I see angry women first.

    • isolde

      @African Mami

      Seeing as that angry people offend your genteel sensibilities, perhaps you’d be willing to voluntarily forfeit the civil rights and privileges that have been won on your behalf at their expense? You sound really laughable, btw. Who cares whether or not they’re “angry”? What’s it to you? Should those fighting oppression be more mild mannered simply to appease you?

    • African Mami


      A very goodmorning to you! Please refer to the ‘Shoot me’ part…..

  • African Mami

    *but how most of them choose to carry out their intent is soooooooooooooo questionable*

    typing error.

  • Wello

    feminism def needs better PR and most people don’t really know what it is ; what it means to be one or why they should even bother with it. many take what feminism is from stereotypes in the media instead of looking into what it is by doing research.

    alot of people are reluctant to say that they are feminist because of all the bad connotations and negative stereotypes that comes with it and they don’t want their image or name to be attached to that but by doing this it only further perpetuates and reinforces those stereotypes.
    when i do see celebrities say they are feminist, generally they tackle issues on a superficial level and with an apparent feeble grasp on feminism. 9 out of 10 times i usually can guess what they will say and its usually sprinkled with some sexist bs. they never bother to really unpack feminism. the white middle class image and history of feminism doesn’t help but i won’t allow it to be hijacked by those that think their experience as a woman is the only, true or real woman experience.

    it would be nice to see celebs make feminism accessible by saying why feminism is even relevant or needed; i’d love to see an issue really tackled. why would you bother with feminism if you think its not needed?
    its mostly from ignorance and stereotypes that you get the reluctance. i know i had a bad education about feminist and feminism and now i am one. i think more people coming out (so to speak) and saying they are one with no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ can help along with information on it.