Okay. I’ve had enough.
In recent weeks, I’ve heard more and more stories about people who refuse to label themselves as feminist and yet, they are completely off the mark in regards to what feminism actually means. Take, for example, these ten celebrities (who undeniably have a major influence on our teens):
- “[I don’t identify as a feminist] because I think it would isolate me. I think it’s important to do positive stuff. It’s more important to be asking than complaining.” – Björk
- “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.'” – Kelly Clarkson
- “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.” – Katy Perry
- “I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am a feminist, that can come off as a negative connotation. But I am a strong female.” – Carrie Underwood
Wait, did I miss something? I’m confused.
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.” – Shailene Woodley
Listen Shailene, I’m sorry (#sorrynotsorry) to tell you, but if you believe in gender ‘balance’ you’re a feminist.
Is someone going to point out to Shailene Woodley & others that in order to say “I’m not a feminist, but” it helps to know what feminism is?
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) May 6, 2014
Feminism does not mean you’re trying to elevate women to a higher level than that of their male peers. Feminists are not man-hating, bra burning, angry women. Being a feminist means you believe in equal pay, equal opportunity, equal respect – in gender equality.
And no, not literal gender equality in the mathematical sense of the word “equal.” A man is obviously not the same as a woman. I mention this because I recently explained this point to my liberal and intelligent friend who denied that he was a feminist yet wholeheartedly supported feminist ideals. Our conversation began after I posted Buzzfeed’s ‘Are You A Feminist’ quiz on my Facebook wall. The conversation went something like this:
Friend: I think there is something wrong with that test you posted because I keep getting the wrong answer. It’s not such a simple thing as [gender equality] is it?
Me: Yes. That is exactly what feminism is.
Friend: I’m not convinced. Complete equality of men and women – what does that mean? That they’re interchangeable? I think there are fundamental differences between men and women, and that denying those differences in the name of complete equality is an overall loss. Do I think men and women should receive equal treatment in society? Absolutely, in the same way that I think every human should be treated equally.
Me: Okay I don’t understand what the problem is.
Friend: I’m like 100% in agreement with the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. I can never agree that men and women should be or are equal because gender is part of identity in much the same way ethnicity, and socioeconomic status are things you can’t just decide to change and those things aren’t equal, even though I think they should be treated equally.
Me: Yes, treated equally. It’s not about being literally equal because obviously man does not equal woman. It’s about being treated equally.
Friend: Why doesn’t it say that?
I share this conversation not to embarrass or demean my friend, but because I think it is important to realize that the general public (and especially Hollywood) may not all be on the same page regarding what feminism actually means.
Feminism is the idea that women and men should be treated equally and have equal opportunities. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a renowned Nigerian novelist, said it best in her 2013 TED Talk in which she said,
Boys and girls are undeniably different biologically, but socialization exaggerates the differences and then [gender inequality] becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy…A feminist is a man or a woman who says ‘Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today – and we must fix it. We must do better.'”
The good news is that the rise of social media has undeniably sparked an increase in online feminism with hashtags like #everydaysexism, blatantly pro-choice videos, petitions for change and hundreds of self-proclaimed feminist tweeters. (Shout out to some of my favorites @ShelbyKnox, @JessicaValenti, @Feministing, and @EvrydayFeminism!)
To most effectively move forward, we must make sure we are all on the same page as to what feminism actually means.
Raise your voice and tell the world that feminism does not have a negative connotation; that feminism is not only for women; that feminists are not raging women.
Tell the world that feminists are courageous advocates fighting for a fairer world. And if you agree with what I’ve said in this post, tell the world that you are a proud feminist. After all, without the leadership of yesteryear’s feminists, this discussion would not exist.
— FEM Club (@HumberFemClub) May 2, 2014