Recently, a horde of celebrities has offered their two cents on what feminism means to them. Many famous faces shied away from identifying as a feminist. Katy Perry says she’s not a feminist, but she believes in the strength of women. Sarah Jessica Parker calls herself a humanist. Taylor Swift thinks feminism is about guys versus girls. All according to quotes in the Huffington Post.
Last week, women’s interest websites Bustle, Crushable and Jezebel slammed Kelly Clarkson for her misconception of what feminism really means. Her comments in a Time magazine interview sparked a wave of eyebrow-raising and scoffs on the blogosphere about why we should no longer ask female celebrities for their opinions on the word. Naturally, folks, some of them feminists, a lot of them writers, are upset at “misguided” perspectives, rhetorical contradictions, and how so many public figures don’t understand the modern-day definition of the word.
Kelly explained, “No, I wouldn’t say feminist — that’s too strong. I think when people hear feminist, it’s like, ‘Get out of my way, I don’t need anyone.’ I love that I’m being taken care of and I have a man that’s a leader. I’m not a feminist in that sense.”
Publicly calling yourself a feminist, it seems, is the equivalent of the other F word. It comes with a stigma, with a bra-burning brand. The word still bears images of I’m-going-it-alone and segregated female-only interests. Any time the word feminism comes up, it seems to bear a capital “F,” like a scarlet letter. I don’t blame women today for refusing to sling that baggage on their backs. I don’t blame Kelly Clarkson for saying it’s too “strong” of a word. Because to me, at least, it still is.
At its core, feminism decries social injustice and advocates for political, economic and social equality with men, be it worker’s pay, maternity leave, representation on corporate advisory boards, representation in Congress or double standards for victims of sexual assault. It’s a stake that men should be invited to command as well, as an arm-in-arm partner for a world where not one gender is “better” than another, but where both genders have equal access to equal choices in their jobs, families and social activities.
Maybe we don’t partner enough with men… or with other women, for that matter, given all the bickering and judgmental darts thrown at celebrities. It should be noted that none of the aforementioned blogs took in men’s perspectives or even mentioned any kind of partnership with men. It was all women-only talk. That kind of mindset seems very single-minded and is representative of the polarizing effect of feminism. Women-centric talk has the ability to perpetuate an isolated characterization of feminism.
Until we truly gain a shared partnership with men in advancing women’s causes and rights (and men’s rights, where there is discrimination or injustice), and think of feminism as both men and women working together to fight gender inequality, we’ll remain weighed down by petty finger-pointing at public figures who don’t call themselves feminists.