MRA graphic, “Feminist Quotes by Leading Feminists”: cherry-picking, misrepresentation, and invention

MRA, Feminist quotes by leading feminists

One popular MRA meme is titled “Feminist Quotes by Leading Feminists". It is a perfect example of the MRA misrepresentation of feminism. Either these people aren’t leaders, or the quotes are fake or from works of fiction (novels), or the quotes are taken out of context, or the piece is obscure and has no influence or currency in feminist politics and theory, or the quotes are accurate but representative of a particular strand of 1960s, 1970s and 80s radical feminism. They were hotly debated by other feminists at the time, and they are simply not representative of modern feminism.

To address the alleged quotes in the graphic;

Robin Morgan: This quote is from 1973, over 50 years ago.

Valerie Solanas: Solanas is notorious for the ‘SCUM Manifesto’, published in 1967, where this quote comes from. Solanas and her manifesto are simply not representative of feminism, whether of late 1960s feminism or contemporary feminism.

Solanas suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Solanas had no ties to local women’s liberation groups and she never held any organisational role in feminist or women’s groups or movements. ‘SCUM’ was a fictitious group – it never existed. Most feminist advocates had never heard of Solanas until she shot Andy Warhol. Her ‘SCUM Manifesto’ was self-published, and it was unknown until it was excerpted in a book (as noted in Rhodes, Radical feminism (2005), p. 47). Nor were Solanas’s views of men typical of the radical feminism at the time. As Alice Echols writes in Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975 (1989, pp. 104-105), Solanas’sunabashed misandry… contravened the sort of radical feminism which prevailed in most women’s groups across the country”.

Andrea Dworkin: This quote is by a *fictional character* in a novel of hers, “Mercy” (1990), by a woman who had been raped and is raging against this.

Susan Brownmiller: Yes, she wrote this, in her book “Against Her Will”, in 1975. It hardly represents contemporary feminist thinking on sexual violence.

Sharon Stone: She’s a prominent actor, but not at all a ‘feminist leader’.

Catharine MacKinnon: This quote is *fake*. She never said it or wrote it. See

Sally Miller Gearhart: This comment dates from a seminar, then published in 1982. Gearhart is not proposing mass murder, but selective reproduction. She was a dedicated pacifist and a science fiction writer, and interested in changing the ratios of female to male on Earth over time by technologies of cloning or ovular merging (

Gearhart’s 1982 seminar is highly obscure, and receives virtually no attention in the last three decades of feminist scholarship. Gearheart’s novel “Wanderground” is cited in some of the 100s of overviews of or introductions to feminism published in the last 30 years, but her seminar proposal for changing sex ratios is long buried in obscurity, receiving only 45 citations in 40 years (Google Scholar), a trivial number. Nevertheless, MRAs resuscitate the piece as somehow defining of feminism.

Catherine Comins: Comins is a minor commentator, and not a ‘leader’ in any real sense, whether in advocacy or scholarship. I had to Google her.

Marilyn French: The quote “All men are rapists”, like Dworkin’s above, is by a *fictional* character in a novel (by a character in French’s first novel, “The Women’s Room” (1977).

Germaine Greer: While identified by some as a prominent feminist, Greer has few if any ties to feminist groups, organisations, or scholarship. She is something of a loose cannon, as feminist criticisms of her recent work on rape show.

Other alleged quotes

There are other alleged feminist quotes that MRAs also like to circulate, again that are made up or marginal to feminism.

Barbara Jordan, “I believe that women have a capacity for understanding and compassion which a man structurally does not have, does not have it because he cannot have it. He's just incapable of it.” 

This quote was given in 1991. Barbara Jordan was a civil rights activist, lawyer, and politician (see here). She had no significant involvement in feminist politics, other than speaking at the National Women’s Conference (1977) 47 years ago. Jordan’s comment is at odds with feminist thinking, which rejects biological determinist assumptions that men are fundamentally incapable of empathy and care and instead emphasises men’s and women’s shared capacities for them.

Catharine A. MacKinnon, “Politically, I call it rape whenever a woman has sex and feels violated.” 

MacKinnon said this at a 1981 rally, over 40 years ago, and it was then reproduced in the book Feminism Unmodified. In any case, the quote is defensible, given that rape is a form of sexual violation. 

Sheila Jeffreys, “When a woman reaches orgasm with a man she is only collaborating with the patriarchal system, eroticizing her own oppression.” 

This quote is likely to be made up, as it does not appear in any of Jeffreys’ books or writings. However, Jeffreys did make arguments like this. She argued that women’s sexuality has been shaped by patriarchy, such that women learn to eroticise their own subordination. In “Sexology and feminism” she wrote, “We have got to understand that sexual response for women and orgasm for women is not necessarily pleasurable and positive. It can be a very real problem. It can be an accommodation of our oppression. It can be the eroticizing of our subordination.” In Unpacking Queer Politics she writes, “For women sexuality takes the form of pleasure in their subordinate position and the eroticizing of men’s dominance.”

Treena Shapiro, “I do want to be able to explain to a 9-year-old boy in terms he will understand why I think it’s OK for girls to wear shirts that revel in their superiority over boys.” 

This quote is unsourced and cannot be traced. Treena Shapiro is a journalist in Hawaiʻi, but there is no direct evidence that she said it. Even if she did, she has no significant standing as a feminist author or political figure.