It makes me just a bit cross when people try and say who should and who shouldn’t be feminist. There are enough problems without certain folk harking on about how Beyonce is “feminist lite” because she sometimes wears a short dress. If ‘feminist lite’ is standing in front of a ten foot neon FEMINIST sculpture on international television in front of millions of people around the world, I’d like to see what ‘feminist heavy’ is.
I do love Beyonce, so I suppose I could acquiesce to being slightly biased. But I fail to see what slagging each other off is achieving. Beyonce doesn’t fit the ‘feminist mould’… but what exactly is the feminist mould? Isn’t that just re-inscribing age-old stereotypes of bra-burning, hairy-legged feminists? Am I a crap feminist because I shop at Cath Kidston and like pink things?
Roxanne Gay’s Guardian article particularly irked me. Whilst I do get her point about sugar-coating feminism and the problems with having to make it more accessible (something I discussed here), and agree with this, by suggesting this means women like Beyonce, Emma Watson and Jennifer Lawrence can’t be feminist is demeaning, patronising, hypocritical and pointless. Just because they have their hair styled, wear make up and are culturally ‘beautiful’ doesn’t mean they have any less of a right to stand up for something they believe in. Yes, they come in “the right package” of “youth, a particular kind of beauty, fame and/or self-deprecating humour”, as Gay suggests, but by disparaging this ‘package’ you’re becoming EXACTLY what you’re fighting against. You’re making judgements about what people are like based on how they look. And that’s, actually, the exact opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here.
Like it or not, Emma Watson’s UN speech (which I thought was amazing) has got a hell of a lot of people talking about feminism who would otherwise not be interested. Young girls who have never even considered the word have been introduced to whole new ideas. When Jennifer Lawrence responded to the nude photographs of her by calling it a “sex crime”, she put two big fingers up to the media who wanted her to wallow in self-pity and shame. She allowed women’s sexualised bodies to be talked about; she made young women, who might have thought nothing of it, think again.
Celebrity is an incredibly powerful tool. A lot of campaigners have realised if you want a cause to gain momentum, have a celebrity spokesperson. I’m not suggesting there aren’t big issues with this, because there are; and lots of them. But part of the problem of feminism is stigma, and these women who are role models to millions of girls around the globe have the power to eliminate this stigma.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that feminism is being increasingly talked about now certain pockets of the media have started embracing it. I have a first year undergraduate class studying Gender Studies, and when I asked them who identified as feminist, 12/15 put their hand up. The 3/14 who didn’t both said that stigma was part of the issue, and that feminism appeared too “radical”. If having feminism discussed by people like Beyonce is going to help change that: then who are we to judge?