“No [I’m not a feminist] because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.”
Woodley is just one of a long, long, long line of influential, talented women in Hollywood to publicly say that they are definitively not feminists, which is usually followed by them clarifying that they believe in everything feminism actually stands for.
I, for one, am absolutely sick of seeing these women, who have the power to do so much good for women and for feminism, not bothering to do their research and misunderstanding feminism because of ideas perpetuated by the media. They only accomplish diminishing the work that feminists do and add negative connotations to the movement. When women and teenage girls see other women who they look up to and admire state that they are not feminists, it sends the message that they shouldn’t be and it’s wrong.
While few of these women in power actually bother to publicly address whether they are a feminist or not, quite probably to avoid this kind of criticism, the ones who do address it and reject feminism do far more harm. It’s difficult to see Katy Perry as a feminist (see her cultural appropriation-riddled music videos), but when she says, “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the power of women,” she tears down the very simple and basic definition of feminism. It adds to the misunderstandings about feminism and the way the public views feminism. If powerful celebrities like Katy Perry, Shailene Woodley, Taylor Swift, Sarah Jessica Parker, or Kelly Clarkson say they aren’t feminists, then why do other women think they need feminism?
This introduces another problem, which is that when male celebrities voice their opinions on any issue, their opinions are talked about less and not held with such weight. But when an A-list woman says she isn’t a feminist, it’s in an interview with Time and whether she’s a feminist or not is the only question. When women say they are actually feminists, it’s hidden in the middle of a surprise album and it’s the song that almost nobody wants to talk about (ahem, Beyonce). Men in the spotlight are allowed to have and voice complex ideas about social movements and political situations, but women are expected to have a short, concise answer to whether or not they are a feminist when that is a loaded question and not everyone’s version of feminism is the same.
In an attempt to set the record straight, here are just a few things we should all take a moment to remember:
- To quote a Beyonce song (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), feminism is “the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” Note that this is about equality. Not tearing men down, or causing any detriment to men. Men’s voices will always be represented.
- Which brings us to this next point: Feminism does good for men, too. The hyper-masculine ideals of what men should and need to be are created by the patriarchy, and feminists regularly deconstruct those ideas and fight against the assumption that all men need to fit into that box.
- One last thing about men: Most feminists do not hate men. It is true that men benefit from the systems set up today so that they occupy 81% of the seats in the US Congress, 95% of the CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies, and make a dollar to a woman’s 77 cents in the US. But this isn’t about hating men. This is about finding a balance.
- Sisterhood is a huge part of feminism. See your Tina Fey/Amy Poehler friendship. That is some straight up feminist sisterhood.
- We want to level the playing field because one out of every six American women is raped as opposed to the 3% of all men, and these statistics get worse for women of color, this is a real segment that ran on an American news network this morning, and over 200 girls were kidnapped in Nigeria and almost nobody is talking about it. Women need to be in more leadership roles, in government and in the private sector. We need change.
Shailene Woodley is just one example of women in positions of influence who need to pause, do some research, and think before they dismiss an entire movement that has earned women the right to vote, has fought to get women accepted into the workforce, and is still fighting today for the right to decide what we can do with our own bodies. Feminism isn’t a yes or no question — this is a complicated, decades-long discussion about how women have been treated.
Written by Shelby Rosten