Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Short History of Celebrities Dodging the F-Word

Interviewer Do you consider yourself a feminist? 
Taylor Swift: I don't really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.
Can we collectively groan together now? 1, 2, 3: UGHHHHHHHHH. Alright, as feminist and a Taylor Swift fan, I am well aware of the feminist critiques of her work. Whatever! I just like singing along, let me be. The issue here is three fold:

a.) Taylor Swift doesn't know what "feminism" means. Her dodge-y answer to the f-word question never says "yes" or "no," it just mostly shows that her image of feminism is men vs. women, which is not feminism. Girl, I know you gotta smartphone, you can google it.

b.) Taylor Swift has a ton of fans. They are mostly young and impressionable. I know this. My hearing was off for 3 days after I saw her play in a stadium concert. She knows this as well, which is why despite a hugely public dating history, she has like the squeakiest clean Hollywood rep ever. I mean, seriously. She knows what being a role model is. But when she says she's not a feminist AND also mis-identifies feminism, that sets her fans back.

c.) Taylor Swift is megarich and has megainfluence. Every time a tear falls from her eyes she basically earns a million dollars. And she's still afraid to be associated with feminism? SHIT.

But popular celebrities and famous women dodging the f-word is nothing new.

Gwyneth Paltrow told a magazine in early 2012, "Gloria Steinem may string me up by my toes, but all I can do is my best, and I can do only what works for me and my family."

Yahoo CEO Melissa Meyer famously said post promotion "I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist. I think that I certainly believe in equal rights, I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so in a lot of different dimensions, but I don’t, I think have, sort of, the militant drive and the sort of, the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that. And I think it’s too bad, but I do think that feminism has become in many ways a more negative word."

Swan-dress Björk told Bust magazine in 05 that she wasn't 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...You could probably call my mother a feminist, and I watched her isolate herself all her life from men, and therefore from society."

Demi Moore once said, "I am a great supporter of women, but I have never really thought of myself as a feminist, probably more of a humanist because I feel like that's really where we need to be."
Queen of the world Beyoncé told Harper's Bazaar, "I don't really feel that it's necessary to define it. It's just something that's kind of natural for me, and I feel like it's what I live for. I need to find a catchy new word for feminism, right? Like Bootylicious."

In 2009, Sandra Flipping Day O'Connor, the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court told the NY Times when asked if she was a feminist "I don't call myself that."

I could go on with this list, but I won't.

WHAT GIVES, LADIES!? 

It really makes me crazy. It does. It's not as if we're in 1975. It's not even 1991. We have tons of feminist role models running around, normalizing it and declaring their opinions strongly. Amy Poehler! Tina Fey! Alia Shawkat!  Kerry Washington! Ellen Page! Susan Sarandon! Meryl Streep! Halle Berry! Drew Barrymore! Ani DiFranco! Tori Amos! Jodie Foster! Bette Midler! Geena Davis! Ellen Degeneres! Ashley Judd! AND EVEN LADY GAGA.

Yes, Lady Gaga is often counted among the "not a feminist" camp for a well-known interview from 2009, but she has since changed her mind, and ... clearly given it some thought. And she clearly knows what feminism means.


I commend all these women, whether they identify as feminists or not, for all the success and hard work they have had in their careers. But it really saddens me when I see smart, hardworking women brush off feminism based on stereotypes, fear, or their own misunderstanding of the word. It's just plain SAD to see these women get asked the f-word question and then flounder as they try to distance themselves from what they think the word means, all the while demonstrating that they don't actually know. It's the whole "I'm not a feminist, but..." bit, but in Entertainment Weekly proportions.

I get it, labels are tricky. But ladies, c'mon! It's 2012! Google feminism, and get over it.

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