Sunday, 23 November 2014

What Type of Feminist (or Pro-Feminist) Are You? - Part 1

Most of you have probably seen my comments on Feminist Current and know that I sort self-proclaimed "feminists" into three types, "liberal", "moderate" and "radical". You probably have some idea of how I assign those labels. This post will give you a more detailed understanding of my feminist sorting method and hopefully provide some entertainment.

If one were to ask a typical “sex-positive”, “feminist” academic to explain the difference between liberal feminism and radical feminism, the academic would probably state that radical feminists have a more “systemic analysis” and want to overthrow “the system”, while liberal seek to work within it. This definition amounts to little more than claiming that radical feminists are radical. Such statements are utterly meaningless, unless one explains what “the system” is and how a world without the “system” would be different from the world we currently live in. Simply calling the system “patriarchy” and complaining about men being “judgmental” (i.e. non-liberal) does not cut it.  

As an alternative to such vagueness, I have invented my own method of sorting self-proclaimed feminists into categories. I promised I would create such a quiz in the comment section of this post, it took me a while given all the other things I wanted to complete, but here it is.

Quiz Instructions 

My method for sorting feminists (and supporters of feminism) consists of two quizzes. This post features the first of these two quizzes. This quiz distinguishes liberal feminists from actual feminists (i.e. people who care about something other than orgasms and prettiness.) You can read the questions that the quiz consists of and calculate your score down below or you can click here to take a more automated version of the quiz. The questions in the automated quiz are exactly the same as the ones here, but the automated quiz will not give you a numerical score (only a categorical result.)  

If you prefer to take this quiz the old fashioned way, simply write down your responses to the statements below. Your responses should be either “agree” or “disagree”. I think neutral options promote intellectual cowardice. You can then check the answer key to calculate how many “points” they have (do this after responding to all the statements.) Some of the statements are extreme, others are more moderate and they are weighted accordingly. Be aware that not all statements deemed to be “liberal” represent all liberal feminists.

Quiz Questions (Statements) 

1. The use of prostitutes is morally unacceptable in all or most cases. 

2. When ambitious women are able to achieve economic success through their own efforts, without encountering discrimination, feminism will have done its job. 

3. To question a woman’s decision to have her healthy genitalia surgically altered in ways that make them look more like the genitalia in pornography is to deprive the woman of bodily autonomy. 

4. Most of the problems experienced by women who work in the sex industry would disappear if the stigma imposed upon pornography, prostitution and stripping did not exist and if the women involved were recognised as having agency and empowerment. 

5. Sex can be a pleasurable experience, but it is not a human right. Males can remain physically and psychologically healthy, even if they do not get as much sex as they want.   

6. A key factor that distinguishes a healthy sexual activity from an unhealthy one is the absence of power dynamics (meaning that neither partner can be described as the “dominant” or the “submissive”.) 

7. Young girls (seven years old or younger) who express a desire to become prostitutes or pornography performers should be praised for their sexual empowerment. 

8. Protests, strikes and occupations of corporate spaces are more effective, more democratic forms of activism than actions typically undertaken by individuals, such as writing to politicians or attempting to rise to power within mainstream politics in order to generate change.  

9. Women who are suffering from body image issues should not view sexualised compliments from men (e.g. “you look hot, babe”) as a solution to such problems, for such compliments are not a healthy or lasting source of self worth. 

10. Some white people have a sexual desire to play the role of “master” within the context of sex and sexual relationships and want a black partner to play the role of “slave”. The public expression of these desires (e.g. by advertisements that ask for “black slaves”) promotes racism.  

11. One of the main aims of progressive political activism should be to make people feel empowered in all that they do. Progressives should aim to combat all feelings of shame and hatred, as well as the belief that one is a “victim”. 

12. Female performers who represent their bodies in a way that is aimed at evoking sexual arousal in viewers, such as BeyoncĂ© and Lady Gaga, are empowering themselves. They are good role models for young girls. 

13. Overall, the production and consumption of pornography is harmful to society. 

14. If a woman is being bullied for a particular facial feature, it is empowering for her to modify her appearance through cosmetic surgery in an attempt to stop such bullying from occurring in the future. 

15. Every woman can achieve her own liberation through making empowering personal choices. 

16. Sexual acts should be free from aggressive, pain-causing actions (e.g. hitting people, tying them up, whipping them, etc.) 

17. Leg extension (a process in which a woman’s leg bones are broken and stretched apart so that they will be longer when they regrow*) is a beauty practice which has recently emerged in China. It is clearly harmful and is likely to have come about as a result of sexism and white supremacy. 

18. The supposed “power” that women get from provoking sexual arousal in men, is merely a fleeting self-esteem boost. It does not constitute a genuine form of political empowerment for women. 

19. Sexual activities which put people in danger of dying (such as suffocating people or placing knives near their throats) are morally acceptable if the people in danger consent. 

20. Women can benefit greatly from getting breast implants, making any economic costs and medical risks involved worthwhile. 

* Yes, leg extension is a real thing. See this video for more information. The discussion of leg extension starts at around ten minutes, I recommend watching the full video to learn about the political and cultural context of the practice.

Answer Key

1. Agree: +5 ------- Disagree: -5

2. Agree: -3 -------- Disagree: +6

3. Agree: -5 -------- Disagree: +5

4. Agree: -5 -------- Disagree: +5

5. Agree: +6 ------- Disagree: -4

6. Agree: +6 ------- Disagree: -3

7. Agree: -8 -------- Disagree: +3

8. Agree: +6 -------- Disagree: -4

9. Agree: +5 -------- Disagree: -5

10. Agree: +4 ------ Disagree: -6

11. Agree: -3 ------- Disagree: +6

12. Agree: -4 ------- Disagree: +6

13. Agree: +5 ------- Disagree: -5

14. Agree: -6 -------- Disagree: +4

15. Agree: -3 -------- Disagree: +6

16. Agree: +6 ------- Disagree: -4

17. Agree: +3 ------- Disagree: -7

18. Agree: +5 ------- Disagree: -5

19. Agree: -6 -------- Disagree: +4

20. Agree: -6 -------- Disagree: +4 

From -100 to -21: Liberal Feminist

Notable Theorists / Representatives: Michael Foucault, Laci Green, Naomi Wolf
Related Concepts: Post-Modernism, Moral/Cultural Relativism, Sex-positivity, Agency/Empowerment.

You are a liberal. Liberals believe in the principle that "anything goes" and think that this principle should apply to women as well as men (along with people of all ethnic backgrounds, economic classes, body types, etc.) They call this belief “feminism”. They think all criticisms of behaviours (or “choices” as they call them) are oppressive, but are usually most eager to endorse highly feminine behaviours (e.g. beauty practices) and sexual activities which they deem to be "subversive".

You would fit in very well at a typical, modern day university, since your viewpoint is the dominant one within that context. I, on the other hand, find liberalism intellectually cowardly and very much in line with the status quo. However, these days many great feminist thinkers start out as liberals. If you were previously unaware of the conflicts within feminism and the fact that most universities in the West teach liberal feminism (if they teach feminism at all), while ignoring or attacking other kinds, then I would encourage you to look into alternative forms of feminism. The works of Gail Dines, Robert Jensen, Anita Sarkeesian and Ariel Levy are a good place to start.

From -20 to +20: Borderline 

This category does not appear on the automated quiz. It appears here because I would rather not assign people to categories if their scores are too close to zero. Contrary to what liberals may suggest, I do not insist that all people accept “binary” identities. If you get this score, take some time to think about your views, then come back and do the quiz again. Once you have thought about your beliefs, it may be clearer which category you belong in.

From +21 to +100: Moderate or Radical Feminist
You are not a liberal feminist and neither am I. I cannot tell whether you are a moderate or radical yet, but you are at least willing to criticise some of the dominant ideas within the mainstream feminist movement and probably have a genuine concern for the liberation of women and not just your own sexual arousal or “empowerment” (whatever that means.) You criticise at least some masculine and feminine behaviours. You are probably more critical of capitalism than your liberal counterparts.

Note that a high score (closer to +100) on this first quiz does not necessarily indicate that one is radical rather than moderate. It just indicates that one is very non-liberal. Take my second quiz (once it is available) to find out whether you are a moderate or a radical.


I hope you enjoyed the first step in my “feminist sorting” process. In case you are interested, I scored +100% on this quiz, meaning that I am clearly not liberal (at least by my criteria.)

The second quiz will be featured in my next blog post, along with my results for that quiz. If you have been labelled a “liberal feminist” by this quiz, you do not need to take the second one, but I hope you enjoyed this one. 
My next post should be up a few days after the release of this one. If it is not, feel free to remind me to post it (through comments or messages.) Feedback on this quiz is welcome. If you think any of the statements were phrased in a biased manner or are otherwise incorrect, let me know.


  1. Ha, I got 101. Usually I find that questionnaires with "agree" and "disagree" statements tend to negate context, but not so with how you've worded your statements.

    There was a couple of points that I hesitated over though, specifically questions 8 and 11. I thought there was a distinction between collective and individual political actions in Q8. The thing is, I think both methods are useful but ultimately I agreed that protests and strikes are more effective as they suggest a greater presence of solidarity and consciousness-raising. Individual attempts to change things within mainstream politics seem more open to corrupt influence and a lack of support. And then there's the thought that changing things *within* mainstream politics will not be as effective as changing the political structure altogether.

    As for Q11, I agree that empowerment is a good thing (but honestly I've grown to regard that word with suspicion) yet not all practices, ways of being, etc., have the potential to *be* empowering. Some things are just absolutely at odds with the very ideal of empowerment. Yet women feel so much shame and hatred about themselves that I consider it an aim of feminism to help create self-love and confidence of oneself - it's just that the means to achieve that will likely need to be questioned if not resisted altogether.

    I would hope that empowerment arose as an effect of theory and activism, rather than making it central to the cause - for example, after dismantling the very structures that directly contributed to, if not created, oppression will we have our liberation. Therefore we do not make ourselves feel at home in this present state of inequity, all the while viewing it as positive. We build a new home, as it were.

    Looking forward to the second quiz!

    1. Thanks for your feedback! Question 11 has been rephrased to imply that liberals think all negative feelings need to be combated. I originally did not want to phrase it this way, because I was concerned about over-simplifying the liberal viewpoint, but in reality liberalism is simplistic. I cannot think of a situation in which a liberal conceded that shame or hatred could be productive, which is ironic because they promote a hatred of radical feminists (and anyone who disagrees with liberalism.)

      Maybe they have a different name for that thing liberals feel when they dislike somebody's claims, like "justified indignation in response to lack of tolerance/acceptance". They also encourage their opponents to feel ashamed of their opinions, but maybe they call that "appropriate self reflection in light of one's failure to be tolerant / accepting". LOL.

      Women do feel a lot of unnecessary/unjustified self hatred and recognising that does not make one a liberal, but there are some circumstance where shame can lead to self improvement. My statement was not just about women, liberals also insist that men should never be shamed for their sexual desires no matter how violent or degrading to women they are. I think that if men feel ashamed about such desires that may prevent them from acting on them and causing harm to women.

      I think there are also cases where women do things that they ought be ashamed of (like publishing books that promote violent degrading sex acts or portray women in an insulting manner.) The problem is our society makes women feel ashamed about things that are not actually bad (e.g. small breasts, hairy legs, etc.)

      Yes, I think women can feel better about themselves if they get involved in real political activism, but good feelings should not be the aim of such activism, especially if those good things come from an acceptance of the status quo.

      Question 6 has also been rephrased, in response to Francois Tremblay's advice. I thank both of you for helping to improve the quiz. Enjoy the (now available) second one.

      I think the phrasing for Question 8 is fine as it is. The question does not condemn individual activism as bad, it just implies that it is not the preferable form of activism. It was inspired by social justice activists at my university who labelled any kind of protest as "radical activism" (that is how de-politicised my university is, have these people never studied history!) and bragged about how they as individuals had convinced politicians to oppose the deregulation of universities (totally ignoring the role that the sentiments of the general public played in influencing politicians.)

    2. The only question I disagree with now is question 20. From the testimonies I've read, it seems to me that women can benefit greatly from breast implants. I do not know if the value of that makes the economic cost and medical risks worthwhile, but that doesn't seem implausible on the face of it.

      Of course I think it's terrible that we live in such a world, but the question was about a factual matter, not an ethical position.

  2. Your Quiz Maker thing doesn't seem to be working. I answered question 1 and it just kept working endlessly, never got to question 2. I did it by hand and got 71. I think most of the disagreements stem from question formulation though: I don't think we'd actually disagree on any of these positions (for instance, I don't think that being free from power dynamics, while necessary, is a sufficient condition for any act to be healthy, and you'd probably agree with that).

    "I think neutral options promote intellectual cowardice."

    LOL. Keep being real, IR. :)