Was Marilyn Monroe A Feminist?

Photo Credit: Wenn.com

Lois Banner, a feminist author, would like you to think so. The reality, and Lois admits this, is that as far as we know, Marilyn Monroe never identified as a feminist. So that answers that question, right?

It’s a little odd to me that someone is making speculations about someone else’s life philosophy. Marilyn is dead and we won’t really know anything new about her aside from the things she said in interviews and her body of work.

Think of it this way, how much do you know about Britney Spears? You know some things (she likes Cheetos!), but you don’t know what she is really like, her politics or her perspective on her own career.

Now, decades after Marilyn’s death, this author is grasping at straws trying to come up with “proof” that Marilyn was a feminist.

The way I feel about this is the way I feel about CEO Marissa Mayer saying she is not feminist.

Neither of these women identify as feminist, but their lives are definitely shaped by feminism. Marilyn Monroe did wonders for women’s sexuality by suggesting that it even existed. She owned her own production company. She made huge statements about race in a time when people of color were not accepted. (Ella Fitzgerald said the only reason she was allowed to play at a popular night club in the ’50s, that didn’t allow people of color, was because Marilyn personally called the owner and demanded Ella sing.)

Marilyn was a great entertainer and had a wonderful career–she will forever be remembered for that. Marissa Mayer is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company–that’s an amazing step forward for women. Yeah, it sort of bugs me that Marissa doesn’t acknowledge that she wouldn’t be able to be CEO of a company without the feminists who fought for the right to vote, work, and receive equal pay, but it’s her choice to identify as a feminist or not.

Nevertheless, what Marissa and Marilyn do and did, respectively, is feminist. Being independent, speaking your mind, and taking charge of your own career-path is certainly a feminist approach to life–but it doesn’t mean we should go around labeling people as feminists just because it helps our cause.

As much as I would like to believe Marilyn is a feminist, as much as I would like to believe that all women are, that’s just not the case. At the end of the day, any woman who shapes her life the way she chooses, who is thoughtful, who is compassionate and intelligent is making the world a better place for women (and men) anyway. I couldn’t really ask for much more than that?

(Just don’t diss feminists. That’s not cool, bro.)

What do you think? Does living like a feminist mean that you are one? Let us know in the comments!

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Next check out 5 Reasons Feminism Is Totally Awesome


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  • LoveMM.

    I do think in a historical context it matters.
    Remember that its not that many years ago when women didnt have the right to vote.

    I dont know if Marilyn was a feminist or not, but I do believe that her character has changed society a lot. I think Ive read somewhere that Playboy(from which she was the first covergirl) and herself made a huge change when it comes to the issue of sexuality in a very conservative America, where sexuality was not something expressed out in the open.

    I cant actually imagine that openly portraying sexuality was easy back at that time.
    At the same time I have a grandmother, who where born at around the same time as Marilyn.

    I remember she once told me that it wasnt unheard of, the husbands in the families that would come home and beat theyre wives, back in the days. But nobody cared, it was a taboo thing to get involved. All thats changed, now, fortunately, at least from where I come from, so I think that in a historical context, the feminists have achieved a lot of positive things.

    Regardless, howewer, if she identied as a feminist or not, I think both her acting and entire carreer must have been quite a radical step at the time(Ive seen some of her old films), due to the points Ive been giving above.

    I wouldnt actually consider myself a feminist, because Im not very political. I do believe that nobody has the right to take away your rights to do what you want with your life.

    I do not think, howewer that anyone could not deny that theres been huge changes due to feminism in the past. Just to think about the fact that marriage is no longer an obligation is a huge step. I wouldnt know, but I do wonder if things would have gotten thus far if feminism didnt exist. Im not an expert on this issue, but its what I believe.

    On the other hand, there are some feminists that seems to have issues with things that for me, really is not a problem. I am more sceptical of the more radical kind of feminism, that is.

  • Carol

    So we can’t “diss feminist” but feminist can “diss” anybody who isn’t a feminist?

    Also, what does it matter if Marilyn Monroe was a feminist or not?

    • Ep.

      I know it’s completely pointless whether she was or not, this article is pointless. And the last time I checked race had nothing to do with feminism.

  • Gigi

    Although I think it would be wonderful if all women acknowledged feminism, I think someone really has to choose whether they want to identify as a feminist or not. A lot of responsibility comes with that term, and I think it’s something everyone has to come to grips with on their own.