Pin It
Gretchen Weiners – feminist icon

How science can make you a better feminist

No matter your gender, harness your inner girl power with science and tweet about sexism, knock down the patriarchy and watch porn

The largest fem-fest of 2015 is almost upon us. Now that everyone’s a feminist, International Women’s Day will be bigger than ever. It’s probably also going to be overcrowded with celebrities, but if you’re wondering how to pump up your girl power for the big event, don’t take your direction from them. Spout some Lana Del Ray-inspired feminism and you’ll get an earful from Kim Gordon. Take your lead from the likes of Taylor Swift and you’re going to sound like a broken record. This year, why not revamp your feminist thoughts with some scientific sparkle? No matter what your gender, science has plenty of advice on how to nurture your inner feminist. Read our scientific handbook for some proven perspectives on sexism and the Twittersphere, how sexist pornography really makes us, and how to build a matriarchy.


Your GP may not have passed on this advice, but luckily, Dazed has got your back. It’s official: tweeting about sexism actually improves your health. Psychologists got a group of undergrad women to publically tweet about sexism in politics and the media. Mood questionnaires showed the women struggled with emotions of anger, discontent, shock and surprise. It was all worth it, though. By the third day of sharing their sadness with the Twitersphere, the undergrads were actually happier. Twittersphere is not just a chat-room full of cyber bullies; it’s a therapeutic space for feminist self-expression – just look at the success of @EverydaySexism.

“We know that women can be badly affected by experiences of sexism and that responding publically can be stressful and risky,” said Dr. Mindi Foster, who undertook the study. “This study demonstrates how tweeting publically has the potential to improve women’s wellbeing” 


A common smear against pornography is that it perpetuates denigrating views of women throughout society, and ultimately contributes to widespread sexist attitudes. Unfortunately, the moral case against porn tends to alienate men from the feminist cause most of all. So, does science say men who like porn are banned from becoming feminists?

Although both men and women enjoy porn, studies do show that increased porn consumption is only associated with increased sexist attitudes in men. However, that doesn’t mean pornography deserves its bad rep. The idea that everyone who watches porn immediately morphs into a raging misogynist is just too simplistic. In what must have been the most over-subscribed study in recent years, researchers proved pornography’s innocence by making young Danes watch porn to see if it made them sexist. They found that porn only increased sexist attitudes among those who were already prejudiced against women. So, porn makes sexist people even more sexist, which is regrettable, but banning porn won’t actually fix any fundamental problems. Watch as much porn as you like! As long as you’re a feminist, you can enjoy it guilt-free.


Porn may seem like the obvious target for modern feminists, but there’s plenty of sexism that goes unnoticed. Both women and men are ignoring more subtle forms misogyny; feminists of all genders must unite to bring a psychological awakening to those that need it most. Scientists have found that, while everyone recognises catcalling women is sexist, people often fail to see less stereotypical situations as harmful to women, such as always calling women “girls”, but never referring to men as “boys”.

If we want to correct these problematic attitudes, there are two things we should appreciate. Firstly, everyone has probably been subtly sexist at some point. If you point out someone at fault, you’re not claiming any moral advantage. You’re just helping them along the road to feminist enlightenment. Secondly, that journey may differ for men and women, according to the study. The authors said that when women start paying more attention to subtle acts of sexism, they soon start adopting a stronger feminist standpoint. For men, building their feminist awareness may take more work. Not only do men need to be aware of sexist behaviour or comments, they need to feel empathy for the women being targeted. So, the more men fighting for the feminist dream, the better. Inevitably, a more feminist future is a more empathetic one; something we can all look forward too.


We tend to pride ourselves for being the most complex and socially sophisticated beings on the planet, but when it comes to feminism, humans are lagging behind. Many argue that more women in the workplace and equal parenting responsibilities would somehow shut down humanity, but several thriving communities in the natural world are embracing a matriarchal social order. If anybody tries to tell you that a patriarchy is the “natural order” of things, they’re plain wrong.

How are nature’s matriarchs seizing power for themselves? Oxford Uni academics have found that in social ants, mothers can choose the sex of their offspring. The daughters are actually the workers in the colony, so the mother tends to raise as many as she can. In some bird species, ecologists have found that the sexually liberated women let the men do the child-rearing. “When there are lots of males in a population, it’s harder to find females, so it benefits males to stay with their mate and look after the young,” said Professor Tamás Székely, one of the researchers. “However, the females often take advantage of this and leave the male holding the baby, whilst they go and find another mate.”

So, a matriarchy is as biologically acceptable as any other social structure, but these examples clearly aren’t models for a happy human society. We should never use a supposed law of nature to justify a flawed social model. Natural or not, we should knock down any established social order once we see it stands on shaky ground. So, whatever you’re doing on International Women’s Day, don’t forget to bring a hammer.