Everyone’s Ditching Feminism For Humanism – But What Is It & Why Do You Need To Know About it?

Celebs like Sarah Jessica Parker, Angelina Jolie & co are moving away from feminism, and identifying as humanists instead, but, er, what exactly is it, and should you get involved? We investigate.

Sarah Jessica Parker

“Feminism is not a dirty word. It does not mean you hate men, it does not mean you hate girls that have nice legs and a tan, and it does not mean you are a ‘bitch’ or ‘dyke’, it means you believe in equality,” says Kate Nash, describing how feminists are no longer seen as the bra-burning lesbians history had once depicted them as. Nowadays, a feminist could be the 70-year-old man next door or the 12-year-old girl dressed in a pink frilly dress.

But now that feminists are losing their negative connotations, why are some celebrities shunning the label, and identifying as humanists instead?

Meryl Streep, a known activist for women’s rights, recently sent shockwaves through the feminist movement when asked about her stance on equality. She told Time Out, “I am a humanist, I am for an nice, easy balance.”

But she certainly isn’t the first celebrity to vocalise her humanist beliefs; she’s in a good company with Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandon and Angelina Jolie all claiming to be humanists rather than feminists.

So, what’s it all about and what does humanism really mean? The Humanist Association of Ireland says that it’s, “a view of life that combines reason with compassion. It is based on a concern for humanity in general, and for human individuals in particular. It is for people who base their interpretation of existence on the evidence of the natural world and its evolution, and not on belief in the supernatural.”

Basically, they believe that all humans should have the same human rights, and that the happiness of humans depends on people rather than religion.

I don’t think it’s just women anymore. We would be so enormously powerful if it were a humanist movement. 

But given that feminism, in short, is a fight for equality, don’t feminism and humanism equate to the same thing? Er, not necessarily. Given its tight focus on women’s rights, feminism may be too restrictive for most humanists.

At the centre of humanism is the belief that we should fight for all people’s rights, as opposed to one select group.

Sarah Jessica Parker sums it up, “I’m a humanist. I’m enormously appreciative of the work that my mother’s generation did. We are the beneficiaries of a lot of disappointment, heartache, discouragement, and misunderstanding. But I see a lot of people trying to sort out their roles. People of colour, gays, lesbians, and transgenders who are carving out this space. I’m not spitting in the face or being lazy about what still needs to be done — but I don’t think it’s just women anymore. We would be so enormously powerful if it were a humanist movement.”

What do you think, and which category (if any) would you put yourself in? Do you think humanism will slowly take over as the new feminism? Or do you believe feminism is still as strong as ever?

Let us know what you think by dropping us a comment on our Facebook page or tweeting us @stellarmagazine. 

By Laura Somers.