Microfeminism 101: What It Actually Means and Why It Isn’t Enough

written by EMMA GINSBERG
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider

For about a year, it’s felt like each day brings new revelations about what it really means to be “a girl’s girl.” First, it was the Eras tour and the Renaissance tour happening in tandem, then the Barbie movie, followed by the proliferation of bows all over social media (and clothing), the explosion of interest in women’s college basketball, and now, we’ve reached the zenith of “pop girl spring.” Culture is heaving with examples of women taking control economically, artistically, and socially. It’s pretty awesome to witness.

However, just because we’re seeing this surge in female-dominated media does not mean that all is well in girl world. The fights for reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ safety, gun control, public health, and more sit beneath this bejeweled cultural moment. The entertainment headlines of the past year and the political ones show a huge gap in what America thinks women deserve. In the face of this confusing back-and-forth, the internet has turned to microfeminism: mundane acts of resistance that put women first. Here’s what microfeminism is, why it’s important, and why it can’t always be the whole picture.

What’s microfeminism, anyway?

Microfeminism is the idea that instead of engaging in large-scale acts of resistance to push feminist ideals, we can instead take small, everyday actions to make change. Examples of microfeminism include directing questions toward the women in the room first, not yielding to men on sidewalks and instead expecting that they yield to you, or referring to CEOs as “she” first. The term was coined, as most are these days, on TikTok. It first surfaced in March of 2024, and the video that initially made it go viral was from producer Ashley Chaney.

Most acts of microfeminism are conversational, IRL-interaction-based ways of putting women first. A few more of the examples that have circulated TikTok include putting women’s names first in email greetings, not stopping talking when a man interrupts you, complimenting men on their “tops” instead of their “shirts,” and telling other women they look “confident” before or instead of telling them they look “beautiful.” Chances are, if you already identified as a feminist, you’ve already practiced microfeminism before, even if not intentionally. However, if you find mainstream feminism intimidating to be super vocal about—especially when it involves taking political action—microfeminism can be an intentional way for you to inspire more inclusive thinking.

Why we love microfeminism

As Glamour senior editor Stephanie McNeal highlighted in her article “We Should All Be Microfeminists,” microfeminism is especially beneficial for those who want to engage with feminism, but find it dangerous, intimidating, or straight-up unrealistic to do so in a large-scale way. If you don’t want to post online, join protests, or run for office, microfeminist acts will be the bread and butter of your feminism. They plant seeds for broader justice for women from the ground up. After all, a single action, like telling a male coworker to not interrupt a woman while she is speaking, can shift that person’s actions for years to come. Reminding yourself and others that fighting systemic sexism starts on a person-to-person level is essential because it’s what sparks hard conversations.

Microfeminism’s greatest strength is that it’s accessible, providing a way for everyone to participate.

One group for whom microfeminism is especially well-fitted? Men, particularly those who want to interact with the feminist movement at large without talking over women or attempting to take up space in conversations where they might be better off as active listeners. Scary Mommy writer Dierde Kaye highlighted a fantastic example of this in her feature on Will Davis, a TikTok dad who shared that his act of microfeminism is scheduling his child’s playdates—and insisting that he take the scheduling burden off of mothers by roping his fellow dads into the conversation. Anyone who wants to shift the ways we treat gender roles in our culture can take these small steps to push for liberation. Microfeminism’s greatest strength is that it’s accessible, providing a way for everyone to participate.

Ways we can practice microfeminism every day

So, what are acts of microfeminism we can practice every day? Here are a few ways we can each infuse our day-to-day interactions with feminism:

  • If a man interrupts you or another woman, interrupt them back, or simply continue speaking
  • Call out men who take credit for a woman’s idea
  • Don’t step to the side when approaching men on the sidewalk
  • Ask for people’s pronouns when you meet them
  • Address women in the room before men
  • If you have nothing to apologize for, don’t immediately say “sorry”
  • Put a woman’s name before a man’s, or refer to a couple as “wife and husband”
  • Since “guys” is often used as a gender-neutral term, use “girlies” gender-neutrally, as well

Why microfeminism is a good start—but not enough

It’s no secret that the feminist movement, as it exists in 2024, is facing some pretty serious rifts. In her viral essay for The Cut at the end of 2023, in which the term “Year of the Girl” was coined, writer Isabel Cristo pointed out that there are major differences in how we express our feminism. Some of us think that corporate and entrepreneurial empowerment is most important; others are fighting for sexual liberation; others are putting rest and community care at the top of our priority lists. Identifying with mainstream feminism in the late 2010s and early 2020s has meant swinging wildly from corporate badassery to radical slutiness to euphoric girlhood. It’s exhausting. Here are some things to remember about feminism (both the micro and macro varieties).

We have a long way to go for true equality

In the face of a splintered feminist movement, microfeminism provides a one-size-fits-most way to engage with feminism, which is great. Promoting female leadership in everyday conversation by assuming that a CEO is a “she” is an act of resistance. But at a certain point, microfeminism is a little too micro. Just last week, Harrison Butker, the kicker for the Chiefs, spewed 20 minutes of uninterrupted misogyny during a speech at a college graduation. He insisted that women belong in the home and not in the workplace, railed against the LGBTQ+ community, and attacked DEI initiatives. He insisted that masculinity is under attack, and he even quoted Taylor Swift while simultaneously insulting her.

Perhaps a more apt quote from Swift (who is, it’s worth mentioning, representative of a pretty politically palatable brand of feminism herself) would be this one: “Bandaids don’t fix bullet holes.” Microfeminist acts are essential, but they aren’t enough to create the kind of large-scale change that the feminist movement needs in the face of opinions like Butker’s.

Make no mistake: We should all be microfeminists. Microfeminism is how we bring our feminism into our everyday actions, lower the bar for accessing the feminist movement, and root our feminism in reality.

Feminism doesn’t have a “correct” size

Unfortunately, misogyny comes in all shapes and sizes. This means that feminism must come in all shapes and sizes, too. Football players entirely aside, millions of American women are living without access to adequate healthcare as increasingly Draconian abortion bans are rectified across the United States. Black women are three times as likely as white women to die from complications in pregnancy—and the U.S. has the worst maternal mortality rate of high-income countries globally. The pay gap persists in 2024 and is even more stratified by race. Microfeminism may be an entry point to discussing these issues, but it can’t be the only way we engage with feminism.

Make no mistake: We should all be microfeminists. Microfeminism is how we bring our feminism into our everyday actions, lower the bar for accessing the feminist movement, and root our feminism in reality. With that said, you should never be afraid to bring your feminism to the next level—“macrofeminism,” if you will. If you love practicing microfeminism, you can expand that feeling by adding a few books to your reading list, joining a protest, volunteering your time or money to a cause that matters to you, calling your lawmakers, engaging with your IRL community, and so much more. If you feel like your feminism is disruptive and inconvenient, good! That means you’re probably making a difference. Do not let the attention economy, where everything is “micro,” fool you into thinking your feminism is always better when it’s bite-sized.