Modern Feminism & Celebrities: Engaging the Masses or Losing Focus?

bey-feminist

“Feminism is flawed, but it offers, at its best, a way to navigate this shifting cultural climate. Feminism has certainly helped me find my voice. Feminism has helped me believe my voice matters, even in this world where there are so many voices demanding to be heard. How do we reconcile the imperfections of feminism with all the good it can do? In truth, feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed. For whatever reason, we hold feminism to an unreasonable standard where the movement must be everything we want and must always make the best choices. When feminism fall short of our expectations, we decide that the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.”
Roxane Gay “Bad feminist” (2014)

 

That moment at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards when the queen herself, Beyoncé, dramatically slid across the stage with the word FEMINIST emblazoned in massive letters behind her is undoubtedly unforgettable. With her tight, glittering outfit, perfectly made-up appearance, and her status as both a career woman and a devoted wife and mother, Beyoncé single-handedly and single-mindedly embodied the major characteristics of third wave feminism, bringing the whole package to the viewers everywhere in one gloriously dramatic show of theatrics. In that moment we all knew modern feminism had arrived, right? Most major publications seem to think so, including Times Magazine, and the Twitter hubbub that followed Beyoncé’s performance was largely excited and favourable. Even Taylor Swift, who once avoided feminism as she felt it pit “girls against boys”, jumped on the bandwagon. Seemingly overnight, celebrity feminism became a bona fide phenomenon.

All appears well, at first glance, with this large-scale embrace of a word that, in years prior, was polarizing at best. True to its message that one can love men, be freely sexual, and celebrate one’s femininity (reclaiming it as a source of personal power), modern feminism has been key to banishing the old negative stereotypes associated with the “other F word”. And to its credit, one is no longer automatically presumed, by most, to be a lesbian, a “man hater”, or a prude, if one self-identifies as a feminist.

Despite the gleaming surface and celebrity endorsements, however, modern feminism – or fourth wave feminism as some has suggested (see Baumgardner 2011, Cochrane 2013, Munro 2013, Penny 2014) (1) – has been experiencing some serious criticism, even all-out backlash.  Feminism is not, in fact, new. Nor is its celebrity cachet; indeed, modern feminism is not currently doing anything truly revolutionary in terms of feminism’s perception in popular culture (even if Twitter and the news media seem to think it is). The Spice Girls were conveying roughly the same message to the masses that Beyoncé is twenty years ago, back when third wave feminism was just getting started. In fact, this last wave feminism has been bound together with celebrities and popular culture more or less since its inception.

The issue – according to celebrity feminism‘s detractors – is that feminism is not, at base, about popular culture, or even popular perception, but that it’s about systemic change and that this, arguably, may be where modern feminism is failing, raising the question of whether celebrities taking up the cause is helping the movement, or hindering it via distraction and glossy misrepresentation. These detractors are not without a point: throughout the western world over the last decade, women’s rights have either not made significant gains or, in some regions, have moved backwards. In the United States, for example, state politicians have enacted more than 200 restrictions over the last four years that make it harder for women to obtain safe, legal abortion care. To put that in perspective, that’s more restrictions in just four years than were enacted over the whole of the previous decade. (2) Likewise, in the UK, anti-abortion lobbyists have grown more aggressive, waging what the UK Times calls a “stealth war” on abortion rights. (3)

Speaking of the USA again, there has also been increasing pressure in many states to limit access to birth control. Already in some states, such as Arizona, a woman’s boss has the power to deny her insurance coverage for birth control if she is taking it for contraceptive reasons. (4) Goals like “securing the right to an abortion”, and “making it acceptable for women to delay or space their children with birth control, or even to not have children at all”, were the causes of second wave feminists. (5) How is it that modern feminism has the word “feminism” appearing everywhere in popular culture and social media, while the actual sum of women’s rights stagnates or erodes? Even the #glassceiling — something second wave feminists were relying on their daughters to break, building upon the gains the second wavers had made for women in the workplace over the span of their careers — remains securely in place.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal/Gallup survey, half of all female managers named reasons related to their gender as what is holding them back at work, including: “male chauvinism, attitudes toward a female boss, slow advancement for women, and the simple fact of being a woman.” Likewise, 61% of the women executives reported having been mistaken for a secretary at a business meeting; 25% said they had been thwarted on their way up the ladder by male attitudes toward women, and 70% believed they are paid less than men of equal ability. (6)

Meanwhile, the popular #everydaysexism project launched by Laura Bates in 2012 has collected over 50,000 personal statements from all over the world documenting actual experiences of sexism. All of this begs the question: have we allowed modern feminism to lose its focus? In an effort to make feminism more welcoming and inclusive, are we watering down what it really means?

Yes, we probably have and are, but to blame celebrity involvement alone for this would be terribly short-sighted. The real problem with modern feminism may lie within the movement itself, and how, in its efforts to be “all-inclusive” (breaking down barriers created by race and gender orientation), it has sadly and ironically become splintered and full of exclusive sects. Many third wave feminists report finding themselves shut down or unwelcome in conversations if their sexual orientation or race doesn’t match the mainstream. Thus, feminists who happen to be people of colour and gay feel unwelcomed among feminists who are heterosexual white (and viceversa), or if they happen to be cisgendered among transgendered individuals (and viceversa). But these divisions exist not in the ideals helded up by feminism; they are simply created by people’s different perspectives: some class/group of people feel more oppressed than others and wrongly excluded from the conversation, while some other class/group of people feel guilty and far too privileged than others. These feeling create barriers and barriers that painfully obstruct communication and progress. In forums and articles across the web, I read about different experiences  and contrasting points of view: some white — along with male feminists—feel accused of “derailing” conversations, not checking their “privilege” enough, and generally taking the focus off the people who — by their own estimation—really matter in that conversation, because they are the ones who are really oppressed. Take, for example, the experience of Generation-Y feminist and writer Devon Murphy:

“For as long as I can remember, I have been a feminist and proud of it. You could say I fell in love early, and like one who had found a high school sweetheart, I barely turned my head to see what other options were available. But now that I’m in my mid-20s, things seem a lot murkier. While I will always consider myself a feminist at heart, it’s no longer the simple movement I signed up for as a child. It isn’t just peace signs, birth control pills and that extra 30 cents on the dollar. What I once saw as a solid rock of ideals turned out to be a prism. And the more light that shines on it, the more the idea splinters into areas I can’t reach or even begin to understand. This is both exciting and difficult. I’m not sure where I fit in anymore, since, as it turns out, I was born into the white, upper-middle class section of feminists. We’re not always the most popular, and some say we have the least to be angry about.” (7)

Meanwhile, writer Liz Henry of The Broad Side laments the fact that, while the LGBTQ movement has conquered both pop cultural exposure and the dismantling of “state-sanctioned and federal government-endorsed homophobia”, feminists “have yet to decide if Sheryl Sandberg is the anti-Christ or the power unicorn the movement deserves; if women of color “stir the pot” or have a damn point. Or about the future of feminism in and of itself.” (8) Henry raises a valid question: If we’re wholly occupied attacking other women’s right to be feminists, and alternately building up and tearing down our own idols, how do we go about, as a unified whole, defending women’s rights within the political systems of our nations?Within this environment, it’s all but impossible to ascertain whether celebrity endorsement is harming the message of feminism or whether, conversely, it’s the last bit of glue holding the splintered third wave of the movement together, a beacon of hope and inspiration to young girls regardless of their race, class, or orientation.

Perhaps we should all relax and accept for ourselves the “Bad Feminist”‘s label  the adorable and witty Roxane Gay (2014) embraces in her book? But before we can effectively criticise the message that this new form of celebrity feminism or fourth wave feminism is spreading, we have to agree — if not unanimously, at least relatively cohesively — on what the right and proper message of feminism actually is. Before we can properly call ourselves feminists, we have to act on it. After all, no amount of celebrity exposure and pop cultural dissemination can step in and cause change for us. 😉

  1. Baumgardner, J.(2011)F 'em!: Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some ThoughtsonBalls, California: Seal Press. Cochrane, K.(2012.)All the RebelWomen: The rise of the fourth wave of feminism. London: Guardian Books. Munro, E. (2013)‘Feminism: A Fourth Wave?’ ThePolitical Studies Association. http://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/feminism-fourth-wave. Penny, L. (2014) Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution, London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
  2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/laws-courts-shrinking-access-to-abortion/2014/10/10/efd0aef4-4f25-11e4-aa5e-7153e466a02d_story.html
  3. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/thunderer/article4363365.ece
  4. http://www.ibtimes.com/arizona-birth-control-bill-banning-use-contraception-employers-back-spotlight-798937
  5. http://www.feministezine.com/feminist/historical/Third-Wave-Feminism.html
  6. http://www.feminist.org/research/business/ewb_glass.html
  7. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/24/modern-feminism_n_3471768.html
  8. http://www.the-broad-side.com/the-jezebelification-of-feminism-liz-henry
  9. Roxane Gay (2014) Bad Feminist. Harper Perennial

28 thoughts on “Modern Feminism & Celebrities: Engaging the Masses or Losing Focus?

  1. Interesting article. I think you hit the nail on the head here with your final remark: we need to actually come together and stop the constant “you’re not a true feminist if you do this and that”. I have been often criticised by more radical feminist friends for wearing certain clothes or high heels shoes and I never understood what the fuss was about. I felt totally liberated watching Beyonce declaring to the mass in her glittering and sexy clothes that she consider herself a feminist.
    I think different persons will have necessarily a different idea of what feminism is or what feminism can do for them, depending on their upbrigning and culture of course, but also their own personal experience and attitude. So if we really want to come to a point of convergence then probably this would be the fact that we want women and girls to be empowered and not feel inferior to men, right? On the basis of this we could start to agree on the most basic issues stemming from gender inequality and stop the pointless bickering about how feminists should dress or present themselves: it’s totally irrelevant if you ask me and we need to concentrate on what matters! 😉

    • Agreed, dress and act the way you want. There is no classification or guidelines that any woman should have to follow to classify herself as a feminist.

  2. With all due respect I have been a fervent feminist for the last 40 years at least, been involved in several active movements throughout the years and in my local community. I would never think of “modern” feminism as a movement which could effectively counteract the patriarchy, for the simple reason that young women and girls nowadays seem to have integrated many patriarchal concepts and believes into their life, having no idea of what feminism was truly about it! I am talking about young girls and women who declare to be feminists and at the same time would go on contradicting constantly the main principles of feminism, by spending their time and energy self-objectifiying themselves completely to the point of devotion: what is more worrying is the fact the celebrities like Beyonce’ promote this type of behaviour (women portraying themselves as sexual object of men’s desire) with the excuse of feeling “empowered”. We have reached the point of no return I think and for us -feminists grown up in the ’60 and ’70 – is a very painful state of affairs to watch. Sorry about the rant but enough is enough!! ;-(

  3. No one is the perfect model of feminism. Unless you are raised by parents entirely ahead of their time, there has always been a point in our lives where we were not feminists. I was raised that women should be equal and all of that, but I was also raised that slut shaming was okay, and if it wasn’t, it was because using the word “slut” made me look bad rather than was hurtful and sexist. With that said, some people have the wrong idea entirely. I appreciate Beyonce’s intentions, but calling yourself a feminist is much different than being one. She has yet to take any real action in support of the feminism movement. At this point, I feel like feminism has become a trend. Girls think if they say they support women, that means they do. It’s not a fad, it’s political! And then there are women who trying to split it up into categories such as “white feminism”, “transgender feminism”, which is insane. If you are truly a feminist, you automatically support all women regardless of race, natural born gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Here is a wonderful wrote that captures my feelings exactly:

    “Feminism is starting to become a mere trend, a fad. And while exposure and media coverage are essential to the movement, the current portrayal is problematic at best, with zero to very minimal mention of intersectional feminism. It is becoming a watered-down cause that is “in” mainly because it’s comfortable, reinforcing white privilege and traditional standards of gender and sexuality. Feminism must be political, and in order to be political, it needs to be uncomfortable.”

    Here is the link to where the quote comes from, too. It’s a really great post centering around Chanel’s “pro feminism” runway show, but it touches on feminism as a whole, too.

    http://femmagazine.com/chanels-ready-to-wear-racistsexistfat-phobic-runway-show/

  4. In a recent conversation about feminism, an avid and very vocal feminist said, “Feminism means a female can be what she wants to be. If she wants to be a career woman, she can be a one. If she wants to be a stay-at-home mother, she can be one. As long as her right don’t impinge on someone else’s rights, she can be what she wants and nobody should criticize her for her choices.”

    That sounds like a very simplified description, but it ultimately sounds like the ideal that people are attempting to achieve with this movement. Meanwhile, there is so much convolution and noise in the movement, that it’s becoming a jumbled mass of confusion. People can’t really comprehend what the movement is about anymore, not from the inside or the outside. And when a woman’s rights exclude the rights of another human being who happens to be in her womb through no fault of that child’s own, the movement becomes even noisier and more volatile.

    As Devon Murphy said in your quote, “We have the least to be angry about.” That’s exactly it–feminism comes across on one hand as people being angry at the world, and on the other hand as a bandwagon trend that marches in parades and dances in glitter in front of a feminism display in lights. Neither the anger nor the glitter seem to be making focused forward progress anymore, but more of a grasping in several directions. Perhaps…perhaps if it went back to its roots, like a previous commenter stated, it would be cleaner, earn a better reputation, and be more effective.

    I don’t know. I’m not a feminist. I’m just a woman in life doing EXACTLY what she wants to be doing–raising a family, working from home, living on the road, and using my womb for nurture instead of death–despite the obstacles and criticism I have received from society. Oh, wait, perhaps then I am a feminist.

    • I love it! Well said on every point. Feminism still faces a lot of scrutiny and stigma for being man-haters or lesbians or baby killers or WHATEVER. That is something that I do disagree with on the article. I don’t feel that feminism is no longer seen as man hating. Unfortunately, this is not something that is going to disappear soon. I do agree that celebrities are helping the feminist movement more than they are hurting it. I have recently seen several online posts (thank you, BuzzFeed) highlighting various celebrities taking a stand against sexist interview questions and red carpet commentators.

      I love your anger and glitter comparison and feel it really rings true. Whatever stance you take, there will be people criticizing it. You are either not feminist enough or you are too feminist. The key is taking action. It is also education and awareness. Be positive role models to your daughters. Raise your SONS to respect women from the very beginning. It is much harder to change your opinion of something if it has been molded into your life since you were young. The article references the different “waves” of feminism- so we are in, what, the fourth wave? How many “waves” will there need to be before being male/female doesn’t factor into how we treat others?

      I feel that being a feminist isn’t being negative toward men. I agree with you that a woman should do whatever she feels led to, whether that is become a CEO, travel the world, or stay home with her children. It is her choice and this should be embraced. If you are comfortable in your skin, if you do not take action based on others’ expectations, if you are pro-life or pro-choice, as long as you take a stand and speak/act openly about your choices as a woman, then you are a feminist in my book.

  5. Love your last line Christy! …. “Oh, wait, perhaps then I am a feminist.”

    I never really thought of myself as a feminist. When I hear the word feminist, I think of a loud outspoken protester. When you look up the word it means “advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.” Well, I’m definitely for that! And advocating means to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly. Now that I’ve read this article I feel that you can be different degrees of feminist. Inequality is not in my face everyday and I don’t face persecution from being a woman. If I’d lived in a country that treated women unfairly I would probably take up a sign and protest also. In my quiet way I will vote for a candidate who lobbies for equal pay or women’s rights, or I might speak up if I find a male co-worker makes more than I do so…
    ”Oh wait, perhaps then I am a feminist!”

  6. Interesting article. I completely agree that there seems to be a lot of confusion around what it means to be a feminist today. I admit that I don’t quite understand the modern feminist movement. As a Christian woman of color, I haven’t felt particularly accepted by the modern-day feminist (or at least the ones that I have met). I am all for women’s rights in many ways and empowering women. I don’t agree with abortion, so does that mean that I can’t be a feminist? I think that women are so much more powerful when we work together. If we could just stop fighting one another and work together, we could get so much more done. We need to stop seeing one another as competition and see one another as allies.

    • As I said above, there definitely needs to be a change in the way feminists accept each other. No one should be discriminated for any reason, I thought this was the reason for women standing up for themselves in the first place!!

  7. It’s so interesting that I came across this post today. I was actually reading up on the jokingly named movement of “meninists” last night, for quite a while. As a young Caucasian (mid-twenties) in America, it is certainly hard for me to continue taking feminism seriously. Not because of the ideals, but because of the seriously deranged direction the movement is taking. And to Miss Trina above, with all due respect, yes ma’am, I do think it’s wrong for you to be able to call yourself a feminist, because if you don’t think I should be able to get an abortion if I felt like that was the right choice, then you are not respecting my rights as a woman, and that is what feminism is supposed to be about: women’s rights.

    It’s definitely become much harder to identify with the movement because it seems as if it has taken a violent turn into “man-shaming”. Even the MUCH more radical feminists suggest male infanticide as solution to the dominant male population. That is literally telling the world that feminists want to DESTROY half of an entire population… Sound a bit like Hitler to anyone?

    I am not saying that feminism is a joke and I am not saying that it shouldn’t be taken seriously. I AM saying that women can not claim to be feminists and then SHAME other women for living their lives the way they want to. That goes against the entire movement!

    Don’t tell a woman that wears high-heels that she’s BENDING to the patriarchal frame of mind. Do not tell a woman she can not get an abortion. Do not tell a woman that if she LIKES to cook and clean for her family, that she is not a REAL feminist. Feminism is supposed to be an elevation of women’s rights, even if you don’t agree with those choices.

    I’m a huge fan of feminists who KNOW what it means to be a feminist. But until the MAN-HATE and CHOICE-SHAMING stops, I guess I’ll call myself a “meninist”.

  8. I remember a conversation with my mother when she said she wasn’t a feminist. She said “I was a stay-at-home mother, the people you’re learning from (I was doing a women’s studies thesis at the time) would never call me a feminist.” I felt so sad, both because my mother is progressive and was very involved in community work and certainly appreciated being able to vote and all that, and also because I knew she was right… in their ivory towers the professors grading my thesis would never consider my mother a feminist, no matter how much she did for other women (and my lord, she did a lot.)

  9. The problem with trying to create a unifying version of feminism that includes all women and furthers everyone’s goals, is that you’re talking about over 50% of the world’s population. One movement isn’t going to make every woman on earth happy. That’s kind of the point – we should all be treated equally, regardless of what our beliefs or our lifestyle or our appearance. But movements are only successful if they’re able to focus on one or two things at a time, and put all of their effort into it.

    The LGBTQ movement has made a lot of progress by focusing primarily on homosexual marriage. By choosing one goal that everyone in the community can agree on, they can use their full strength to fight for it.

    Without a real message or goal in place, “feminist” feels like a sort of arbitrary label. It doesn’t convey any real information. You can be a feminist who is against the sexualization of women in society, or a feminist who wants all women to embrace their sexuality and flaunt it without being ashamed. You can be a feminist who doesn’t consider transgendered women to be “real” women, or you could be a feminist who wants equal rights for anyone who considers themselves a woman. You could be a feminist who thinks all women should have careers and make as much money as men, or you could be a feminist who thinks women should be able to stay home with their children without feeling ashamed.
    Those are just some examples of the issues that fragment the female population. In this day and age, “women’s rights” is too broad of a message. Celebrities can shout “Girl Power!” all day long, but it doesn’t mean anything unless they support a real cause.

  10. Sometime in the 1980’s, the once empowering word “feminist” became an insult. When people hear the word, they sneer and groan, they think of man-hating, bitter, angry women. Unattractive, aging single women at that. Who would want that image?
    Many people say that modern feminists have nothing to offer: in developed Western countries, girls have the right to education, they can have a career, they can freely decide whether they want to get married or have children. For the past twenty years, nothing really changed for women. They have had the same freedom, probably more freedom, twenty years ago. Women do not have to fight for their rights anymore.
    Is it true? Do women have the same rights as men? No assault against women ever again? No glass ceiling? Can a superpower have a female President? Do women have access to reproductive rights?
    Some say feminism is downright harmful, it makes women entitled and arrogant, it is responsible for the growing number of divorces. Now, this is certainly wrong. A fake, sugarcoated mainstream media image is more harmful. Pop culture is there everywhere: Internet, TV, magazines, radio. Young people watch romantic comedies, they listen to love songs, and they believe marriage should be about love, fun and good times. It must be perfect. They get married, having high expectations. Within a few months, reality kicks in. Marriage is about compromises and sacrifice. They feel disappointed. The marriage ends in a bitter fight. How is it feminists’ fault?
    Feminism has a great mission. It is about women’s equality. Women should be free as individuals. They should have the same rights as men do. They should have the same opportunities in their career. They should not depend on their husbands. They should have a happy, whole life that is not restricted into the kitchen and the bedroom: gifted, motivated women might have stellar careers. They should feel safe when they leave their home unescorted. They should choose their sex partners freely, without having to explain themselves.
    Can feminism ever reach popular culture?
    There is Madonna, for one. She has never called herself a feminist. It was obvious that she was one. She has always been free, sexual, and reckless. She was everything that feminists stand for.
    By the 2000’s, the world has changed, and female celebrities adapted to it. Sadly, they still use the V-card to be family-friendly and sellable. Take note, Britney Spears and Selena Gomez. Taylor Swift said she was not a feminist. Even Lady Gaga, a known LGBTQ rights advocate, denied that she was a feminist.
    Thank goodness for Pussy Riot girls, the young women who were ready to go to prison for women’s rights.
    As for the Western world, we still have Beyoncé. She is a good girl, and she goes out of her way to keep up her positive role model image. However, she is extremely motivated and works hard for her goals, so she passes for a feminist. It is not just her dazzling Feminist sign at the MTV Video Music Awards, it is her whole public image. She has showed the world that you can be a sexy, attractive woman and a strong career woman and still a feminist.

  11. What are the goals of modern feminism? It seems to me that there’s been this structure built up of people who are professional feminists and just like a vietnam vet on his 9th tour doesn’t want to go home from the war. What feminists are arguing about is boo hoo hurt feelings now. At this point, it’s time to fix your own house before trying to fix the world.

  12. You’ve made some interesting observations in this post. While I would certainly not declare myself to be a feminist, I do think it’s important for women to have equal rights with men. I believe that we were all created by God to be equal. Men and women are different from each other in many ways, but that does not make one “better” than the other. I think it’s important for us as women to embrace the things that make us different. These are the things that set us apart and make us strong and beautiful!

  13. I loved reading Roxane Gay’s book! She so aptly described how hard it can be to constantly behave like a “good” feminist while also managing her own whims and weaknesses, and being able to enjoy potentially problematic cultural products without guilt. I’m all for celebrities like Beyonce and Swift proclaiming they are feminist, but I think that many other public figures do it in a less tokenistic manner. Two women who are truly using their celebrity to advance women’s causes are Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson. Both are UN ambassadors; Jolie is fighting against violence against women in warzones, while Watson is the spokesperson for the ‘He for She’ program. We all have to promote feminism in our own ways, but I think Jolie and Watson are doing it in a more powerful way than Bey’.

  14. I don’t really understand what Beyoncé’s initiative did for the feminist cause. They are so many things she could have done that would have been much more productive to feminist. It looks more like a fashion statement and a good act that will keep people from discussing and talking about Beyoncé and her performance, more than actually advance the feminist cause!! What changed, really? I don’t think women (and feminists) need someone performing once (or a few times, I don’t know) with the word “Feminism” written across her boobs…no offense!
    In another hand, talking about it, is still better than not at all. If that performance helped re-open the debate and led to actually change things, why not? Was Beyoncé linked to a feminist organization that ask her to do that?
    I thing that If when an artist does an isolated act, it loses focus on the cause and they are doing it mainly for marketing and image purpose. But if she or he does it as part as an endorsement of the cause and advocate for it for free at every chance she or he can, that would make a whole lot of a difference.
    Raelie

  15. I remember when Beyonce declared herself a feminist, although I didn’t see her actual performance. For my friends and I, it held little significance. I do not regard myself as a feminist or not, however, I am much more interested in issues that have to do with women, than any label or badge for someone or any entity to classify or categorize.

    A much more interesting form, of what some might call a quieter feminism, is the work of Serena Williams. There are many who have called her many things except woman including but not limited to, “too masculine, man-like, not feminine and/or ape/gorilla-like.” The idea of a powerful Black woman, who is muscular and strong, who goes about her work, on the tennis court, to stand as her definition of herself and her contribution to the world, seems to speak a new kind and brand of feminism to me. Most people are not ready for this. It is not soft; it’s hard. It is not asking; it’s taking. It’s demanding of its respect; although, at every turn, there is someone there trying to negate, demonize or denigrate this woman’s work, sense of self and worth.

    I think we all have a calling and a platform that takes shapes in a myriad of ways. For some, it’s in medicine, or law or business or education. In every discipline, there is work to be done to ensure the rights and freedoms of all people. Every step toward equal rights is a step in the right direction despite so many blatant efforts for more limits and sanctions on our individual freedoms and rights.

  16. I have also been labeled as a “man hater” for just the types of songs I like to listen to. It’s crazy how people label you! The songs I tend to listen to are country songs that are about leaving a bad relationship and are about the women being in control. These tend to be my favorite songs and no it doesn’t mean I hate men! I just find them empowering to women. We don’t need to stay in bad relationships, we have the power to leave and love our lives again!

  17. I’d like to think I’m biased on this topic merely because I’m a woman. However, nowadays I can’t say I am. In a world where woman have the ability to do more than ever imagined we seem to sit and wallow about the past. The same concept you’d apply to todays African Americans in reference to slavery. Do we all deserve equals rights? Of course we do! But we must live in the here and now. We must not bring up past issues or we fail to move forward.

    Perhaps I’m lucky to live in the Midwest (Minnesota) but I have had nothing but great experiences in the corporate world. If I can do it, I do it and you won’t hear me play the “I’m a woman” card. Nor do I act or feel victimized if I fall short. I am very aware of my capabilities and if someone can do it better, then so be it. Whether its man or woman, may the best “man” win.

    Celebrities know they are idolized and if they can make something seem like a big deal, it WILL become a big deal. I wish celebrities didn’t act as our outlet of current events. I feel entertainment and real word problems should be kept completely separate. Let’s look at a side by side comparison.

    Me: I work hard, I pull my weight. When I apply for a job and don’t get the position I can cry all the way back to my 1 bedroom apt, eat a pint of ice cream and sulk in my bad luck. Truth is I probably wasn’t qualified. Am I another fallen victim because I’m female? Heck no, if I know what’s good for me I’ll brush myself off and ask where I can improve and get it next time. What I shouldn’t do and what no one should do, is march down the sidewalk by my office building with a sign saying, “Women can work too!”

    Beyoncé: she can sing, she can put on one hell of a show but she won’t always be chosen as a headliner and has probably lost a spot to a man a time or two in her day. As a star she can blurt the injustice to every Hollywood insider she knows and get the word out. Then, she can cry all the way home in her Ferrari to her mansion. All while knowing you’ve reeked major havoc in the business world.

    It’s easier to cry when its in a Ferrari or a mansion than in a 1 bedroom with dollar store ice cream. The job I didn’t get, from a big wig boss at a Fortune 500 company could care less what my sign says down there on the sidewalk.

    The moral of the story is to always put on your big girl panties (not your feminist panties) and show the world what you’re made of with no excuses. Tough love.

  18. I love the references to Roxane Gay bookending this post. I’m reading “Bad Feminist” right now, and it really has me thinking about the importance of forgiveness and malleability in feminism. All the women who have commented on this post I believe are feminists (yes, even she who does not believe in abortion because maybe we can have a conversation about the right to abortion even if you don’t fundamentally agree say along the lines of free speech – I can say something even if you don’t agree). That’s what we need more of in feminism: forgiveness and understanding, but for the right people. I don’t feel bad about the man-hating I do, because I think their priviliege makes a damn soft pillow. But I do feel bad when I get heated up about my 77 cents to a man’s dollar and then remember a black woman’s 69 cent’s and a latina woman’s 57 cents… and then I remember that a transgender person can still be fired in many US states for simply being transgender. Then, my employment problems just don’t feel so big. But I need to forgive myself. Feminism is malleable; it is about learning. That’s the message I get from your article: that we need to keep challenging ourselves and struggling to define feminism. What does it mean? How do we implement it? And more importantly, we need to implement it!! Your finally sentiment hit home so hard with me: go out and do the work of feminism. It’s okay if you sometimes don’t succeed; that’s how you learn and grow. Forgive those still learning… afterall, aren’t we all always students?

  19. A big problem in my mind is that people like Beyonce like the word Feminism to make a statement for themselves and their image. I am not denying Beyonce is a feminist, but instead of inciting change, she’s using the word just as another show gimmick, as many other celebrities are.

    They have a chance, a HUGE platform and fanbase, to start talking about the real issues – abortion, sex education, wage gap, glass ceiling, etc. But they don’t. They’re using it as a trend for personal gain. “Look at me! I’m a feminist! I’m a woman who can *have it all!*” Which is all well and good but what is it doing?

    Culturally, it’s at least getting more and more women (and men) more comfortable with the term feminist. A step in the right direction, but how much good is that doing when we are not addressing the WHYs behind it. Especially when it’s something we are actively living everyday. The politics of it directly impact our lives.

    But for people like Beyonce and Taylor Swift, it’s much easier. Feminism is about helping ALL WOMEN, especially the lowest of the low. These celebrities can call themselves feminists, making their hundreds of millions, and be on their merry ways. For a regular woman, it’s much more complicated. A woman who calls herself a feminist might put her job on the line just calling herself that. If a normal woman needs an abortion, she can’t jet-set off to somewhere where it’s legal. And a regular woman is surely not making astronomically more than the average man.

    So what are these celebrities doing for their fellow women? Honestly, it doesn’t seem like much at all…

  20. This is a very thought provoking post.
    I agree with the top quote about feminism, or any movement really, being made up of humans and that humans are sometimes flawed.
    I think it is easy for celebrities to use words like feminism without really thinking about what that means. Likely Beyonce and Taylor Swift live at such an income and celebrity level that pay equity doesn’t have the same meaning that it does for an average woman.
    I do think some of the same issues that face non celebrities- making less money than men for example are something that women celebrities deal with as well. For example Jennifer Lawrence spoke out about being paid less than male costars in the film American Hustle.
    I work in an industry where I do what has long been considered “women’s work”. I sew and work maintaining costumes. Because of the idea that this was women’s work, work that little old ladies would happily do for free or en exchange for free tickets to the theater these jobs started out with huge pay inequity and although the gap has lessened over the years the pay equity is still there. I’ve seen flaws in the bargaining process where good people who “believe in women’s rights” and “believe in pay equity” give that up because of something they want more for themselves.

  21. For me, the splintering of feminism presents many concerns. I worry about the community aspect of feminism when people divide into so many subgroups. I feel that this leaves young ladies, who are already struggling with their burgeoning identities, to either fall into a “no, I’m more oppressed” mentality- given their race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc., or the “well, I’m not THAT oppressed” rationale. The former creates division in feminism by further stratifying and subgrouping people into categories, creating significant social distances between groups. The latter also creates division, in that those young women begin believing they do not have a place or a voice in the movement. And, they can even take on a guilt that renders them unable to reach those in the distant subcategories, because they believe there is little common ground. Now, I’m not saying some groups don’t face more oppression that others (they do), I am merely suggesting that feminism should be the thing that rallies them together as equals, not divides apart due to their differences. I’m also not saying we are all going to agree on everything, but let’s at least try to keep our sense of community under the broad umbrella of modern feminism.

  22. I can’t believe that in other parts of the words, women’s rights have moved backwards instead because of the movement for women’s right that was happening in the USA. Still, I don’t think there’s any reason for the government to increase restriction on abortion. Whatever is the reason on why they want to do it is part of their right and safety. This is the first time that I’ve read about women being discriminated at work because they’re a woman and it has to stop.

  23. It’s interesting how feminism even come about at first, I’m not saying women should be seen as women that they are, rather I’m saying let nature take its course. The feminist movement is there to cause uproar and something for people to talk about in their spare time. In my view, they can only talk about it but cannot cause a major change. Since Beyonce did that amazing entrance, she has not really said or done anything concrete to support it. They will talk but will never follow up. Peace.

  24. I think it really sucks that we still have a society where women earn less, where female occupations have a lower status, where a crime is not sorted out as often and as fast if it happens to be a woman who is the victim. All this stuff that everybody knows and which most men do not care about. That’s the problem with the equality debate …that we will not get anywhere until WE – as men – realize that “oh well it’s we men who are a mucus plug that sits in the way, it is WE that need to realize that it is WE who are the problem”. Then men say things like “But girls may well help themself on the same terms as the guys, it’s just to show off a little bit, it shoulnd’t be so hard?”

    But the thing is that it’s very hard when you race a gender completely different (see gender sterotypes created in society), and there is the big problem.
    Lets take an example: a little girl on 1,5 years falls and the parents rush there directly and say stuff like “naw little girl, how did it go? are you ok? be careful, put on something pink and cozy.” And then a boy on 1,5 years falls “Oh , he might broke his neck , daddy’s little man goes up and climb.”
    And those things just keep going. This is of course a bit excessive but this is basically how it is!

    I actually wouldn’t call myself a feminist especially not here in Sweden because it has fallen of its real meaning of feminism and is now some kind of “extremefeminism”. With the “extremefeminists” a lot of these women think that women should rule and that men should suffer.

    I do stand for equality though!

    Mattias Lidholm, 16
    Sweden

  25. Recently I have heard of some individual women denouncing feminism, and I was shocked. I took a closer look and the reasons why ranged from “it’s extreme and scary” to “I never thought about it” to “sure, I think everyone should be equal, but I wouldn’t call myself a feminist” Plenty of those women might agree that women deserve to be equal to men, but putting the name on it makes it intimidating or gives it a negative connotation.

    I love that Beyonce did this! On Facebook, I saw some outrage. Which is hilarious… like, what world do we live in that women want to be treated fairly!? (Insert sarcasm here). Advancement or equality of women is such common sense to me, I don’t understand the resistance. I’m glad so many female celebs are becoming more and more vocal.

    There are plenty of bad-ass quotes from celebrities and people of prominence, but this one says it all for me: The Dalai Lama: “I call myself a feminist. Isn’t that what you call someone who fights for women’s rights?” I wish more men and women would realize what it really means in the most basic sense of the word.

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