Celebrity Feminism Is A Good Thing

Celebrity feminism is a good thing.

Recently, actress Emma Watson gave one hell of a speech at the United Nations urging equality for women and girls:

Beyonce turned her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards into an opportunity to showcase her political beliefs:

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Fixed Show

And Taylor Swift’s latest hit, “Shake It Off,” urges women to ignore the sexist things that are said about them:

Let me be honest, I have gotten misty when that song comes on the radio and I realize my daughter, who is a toddler, is sitting in the backseat.

As a feminist activist, I have watched with some dismay how celebrity feminists are torn down on social media, seemingly as sport, within my community. The resentments seem to fall in these general categories:

  • She’s not doing anything.
  • She’s not saying anything new; she’s just getting credit for it.
  • She’s going to coopt feminism and turn it into some commercial enterprise; that’s not what I’ve been fighting for!

All of these criticisms are a bit out there.

  • If she wasn’t doing anything, you wouldn’t be talking about her.
  • Activism does not exist so you can be a hero or be highly regarded by others. (In particular, if you want to be a feminist activist in hopes of being liked — wow, is an education coming for you!) Activism exists so you can change society. Having powerful people echo feminist thoughts, however old and already accepted by those in the know, strengthens your position.
  • There are many feminisms and not just one; the more you accept this, the less threatening feminisms that don’t look like yours appear.

Another frequent criticism:

  • She’s not doing enough to lift up others who don’t have her privilege. 

This is a fine criticism, but we should note applies to non-celebrity feminists at least as often. In any case, ultimately these gaps present opportunities for growth — as individuals and a movement — especially when folks are willing to work toward change in good faith.

We need as many women and men working for gender equality as possible, so if celebrities want to join the movement — great. We should also celebrate that feminism is making appearances in pop culture. The primary audience for these gestures is not those who care most about feminism but rather mass culture itself. When a popular actress or singer sticks her neck out there, some of the little girls and grown women watching and listening may get the idea to do so themselves.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The operative two words in your blog are “doing something.” I think both Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are doing something for their careers. They are talented performers and smart business women. Feminism however is a political movement working toward gender equality, reproductive rights and an end to institutionalized violence against women. I would like to believe that they believe that these are important issues even though I have never heard them speak on them, however until such time as they are actually involved in taking some tangible action to those ends, they are not Feminists in any traditional understanding of the word. As for Emma Watson, most of the controversy surrounding her UN speech was (1) with the majority of women globally being women of color and so many who have done so much to advance the often dire condition of women and girls in their country, a UN call for action to improve the condition of women might have been better been addressed by one of them instead of a young, white, privileged American actress Further, Ms. Watson issued a call to young men making the argument that they are equally harmed by sexism, which is simply not true and diminishes the conditions of women and girls living in a male supremacist society.

  2. Reblogged this on Central Oregon Coast NOW.

  3. I agree w/ you. I feel like feminism is a personal choice and comes through each woman in her own way. There is no such thing as a perfect feminist- whatever that means- and I really do believe celebrities, so often viewed as role models-play an important part in promoting feminism. Just like other women advocates play their role and together we create a full and diverse spectrum.

  4. Thanks for writing this! I really enjoyed it. I agree that celebrity feminism can be a good thing. I wrote a post a few months ago about the impossibility of being a “perfect” feminist that I think you would enjoy! http://carlypuch.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/living-in-the-feminist-bubble/

  5. Reblogged this on osclgblog and commented:
    An interesting take on debates about fame and feminism – this should be of interest to many OSCLGers.

  6. I can’t any longer with the “Feminism is” anymore. I can’t with one person defining a term, especially one that has yet to be defined, for everyone else based on antiquated ideology. I can’t with evelinamarie.
    Evelinamarie you should really read this book, “Feminism Theory: from margin to center by Bell Hooks. You and the venom you spew is in part why there is no mighty collective. Traditional feminism is mediocre at best and excludes the input and invalidates the agency of the very people you claim, “Women of Color.” How dare you speak for me! This has been the problem with feminism since it’s inception…. White Women Only Club.
    We don’t live in a vacuum, so to assume that sexism only harms women and girls is to live a lie.
    “Men are not exploited or oppressed by sexism, but there are ways in which they suffer as a result of it. This suffering should not be ignored. While it in no way diminishes the seriousness of male abuse and oppression of women, or negates male responsibility for exploitative actions, the pain men experience can serve as a catalyst calling attention to the need for change…Separatist ideology encourages women to ignore the negative impact of sexism on male personhood. It stresses polarization between the sexes…Separatist feminist rhetoric suggested that all men shared equally in male privilege, that all men reap positive benefits from sexism. yet the poor or working class man who has been socialized via sexist ideology to believe that there are privileges and powers he should possess solely because he is male often finds that few if any of these benefits are automatically bestowed him in life. More than any other male group in the United States, he is constantly concerned about the contradiction between the notion of masculinity he was taught and his inability to live up to that notion. He is usually “hurt,” emotionally scarred because he does not have the privilege or power society has taught him “real men” should possess. Alienated, frustrated, pissed off, he may attack, abuse and oppress an individual woman or women, but he is not reaping positive benefits from his support and perpetuation of sexist ideology (pp 73-74).” (Bell Hooks, Feminist Theory: from margin to center. 1984 South End Press)
    I don’t know where you live or what country you are from, but that old school feminist ideology that fractures the movement, you need to let go of it. You and your crew from the 70’s don’t have only key to feminism and if the Second Wave had been more inclusive, the movement may have grown a sisterhood never known. But that didn’t happen. This is a quote from your blog and it speaks volumes about how you feel about the new, fresh and diverse voices of feminism today:
    ” The women I organized with were an uncompromising bunch. We were hell-bent on changing the power imbalance in our society that economically disadvantaged women as a class, severely limited our civic participation, commodified our sexuality and made us targets of violence. You may remember us. We were the oft maligned Second Wave.

    Recently there has been a feminist revival of sorts. It bears little resemblance to the national movement that I was a part a part of in the seventies and eighties. The new feminism is quintessentially American. It has been commercialized and packaged to meet the individualized needs of women and men so we can all done this new trendy “feminist” label. ”

    So I get it. You don’t like us, we the DIVERSE. We, the Latino, Asian, Black and Red. We weren’t included in that… Second Wave. We were an inconvenient reminder that your fight was not for us because just as much as you hated being oppressed by men you certainly participated in and reaped the benefits of “other” oppressions. I was in high school when you and your band of SUPERWOMEN were in the streets and I distinctly remember my aunt, all of 19 and in college, stating, “Them white women are not fighting for my rights. They don’t even know me or my people. Hell, we are under their feet just like they are under the white man’s feet. Shit, we got four feet on our shoulders.” I wrote that in my diary and never forgot it and it was why for so many years I refused to even entertain the thought of feminism or being a feminist. Hell, black women ALWAYS had a job, especially given that white folks (women included) wouldn’t give our men one. We rarely got to chill in the crib and have time to think about the ways by which we were being oppressed…we were two busy trying to eek out a living. When you and your Superwomen came on the scene, you didn’t do a damn thing for black women except take our jobs. So now we were at home broke and unhappy just like our husbands who took it out on us with a fist. We saw YOU as the problem. So spare me the your Superwoman complex. Spare us all.

    What a clusterphuck you and yours created, so excuse us “Commercialized Trendy” while we try to recreate a diverse and inclusive movement based on addressing sexist inculcation, our way… a new way… whatever that way may be. If you can’t be supportive of it, then do us a favor and stay in the past and out of our way. Stop with your separatist speech, and unconstructive judgment. Obviously you don’t know us and that is a shame because we are your offspring. Open you mind to new ideas because if your “wave” had worked, we wouldn’t still be here fighting for our rights would we?

    If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.

    Erin girl, keep speakin’ that real talk… phuck the naysayers.

  7. As Zoe Nicholson says, ALL HANDS ON DECK! Feminism needs all the support it can get.

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