I’ve written about it before, but feminism has an image problem. Perhaps we just need a well-executed PR campaign, some subway signs, some PSAs, a clever video series featuring a wide and attractive cast of celebrities. We’ll call it, “I’m a Feminist, and You Are Too!”
Three cases this week of celebrities discussing their feminism, or lack of it, are worth exploring:
The Good: Carrie Preston in NYMag
Preston, most well known for True Blood and a guest role on The Good Wife, just directed That’s What She Said, a comedy starring three women, based on a play written by a woman, that deals with sex and sexuality and, apparently, subways. She said:
“Movies don’t usually address any of that [references a yeast infection], any of the stuff that we do. Here’s a woman holding up a centerfold, shaving, trying to live up to an ideal, and you know she’s not going to. She represents many, many women in the world that Hollywood will never give a leading role to.
Interviewer: Unless you’re Melissa McCarthy.
And then they make an exception. And I’m glad that’s happening. But it’s very rare. As a feminist and a woman who believes in representing all females in film, I thought the only way to do that is to make it happen yourself. If we sent Kellie’s script to Hollywood, this would not be the cast. They would just want someone who puts glasses on and goes, “Oops! I’m adorkable!”
God, I love her so much. Feminism isn’t just about money, it’s about image, and autonomy, and understanding the pressures we put on women that severely limit what they think they can do and be and look like.
The Not-Great-But-I’ll-Take-It: Kelly Clarkson in The Daily Star
In an interview on why Clarkson, a lifelong Republican, is voting for Obama, she said:
“I’ve been reading online about the debates and I’m probably going to vote for Obama again, even though I’m a Republican at heart. I can’t support Romney’s policies as I have a lot of gay friends and I don’t think it’s fair they can’t get married. I’m not a hardcore feminist but we can’t be going back to the 50s.”
This is a textbook case of feminism’s image problem. What exactly is a hardcore feminist? Bra-burning? Armpit-hair-growing? Man-hating? Obviously, Clarkson is none of these things, but neither am I, and I’m a feminist. Feminism, as most third-wavers define it, is exactly aligned with Clarkson’s ideals (equality and fairness for all, refusal to revert to the 1950s). She could be a huge advocate for modern feminism, but Clarkson is deterred from proudly joining the club because of her perception that it is full of “hardcore” extremists.
The Ugly: Taylor Swift in the Daily Beast
Swift just released a new album which, by all accounts, will fly off the shelves. In her victory tour, she was interviewed by Ramin Setoodeh. While discussing heartbreak and writing from the heart, there was this:
Setoodeh: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
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.
Man oh man. So, so many things are wrong with this. On the surface, we’ve got the basic assumption that feminism is about men vs. women (which we know it’s not), that old standby that continues to rear its ugly head. Feminism is about equality and access to opportunity.
The subtext here is more damaging; “work as hard as guys” implies that in the past, women weren’t working as hard as guys, and all they had to do was man-up and equality would be theirs. The fundamentals here are that guys work hard, so they are successful, and girls don’t work as hard, which is why they don’t get as far. Forget centuries of discrimination, forget the wage gap, forget all that jazz. It’s just a question of hard work. This is the same bogus argument people make about black people or poor people. If only they worked harder, like those of us who were born with some advantages, they wouldn’t be quite so poor.
Related Post: Does The Good Wife out-feminist Parks and Rec?
Related Post: Just another story I’ve been ignoring.