The Many Rules of Feminism
And why it’s all a load of rubbish.
The first rule of feminism is that anything a woman does can be considered a feminist act.
The second rule is that once something has been declared feminist, you cannot deny its feminist status.
The third rule of feminism seems to be that if you disagree with any of this, you’re a misogynist.
That all seems pretty complicated for a movement centred on personal freedoms. What happened to the days where feminists just didn’t shave, wear a bra, or care what anyone thought? This version of modern-day feminism is exhausting.
These rules are the big issue I have with popular feminism today. I am a feminist, but I don’t agree with everything every woman does. By the popular rules of feminism, I am a tool of the patriarchy, hell-bent on oppressing women. By my rules of feminism, it makes me someone truly committed to equality.
I view true feminism as women being allowed to think and say what they want, without feeling like they are obliged to agree with something. Women should be allowed to set their own boundaries and make their own rules about feminism. To identify as a feminist means something different for everyone. There is an idea that everyone must agree on what is and isn’t correct feminist behaviour, and if you don’t agree then you aren’t a true feminist. We have to tiptoe around feminism because we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing.
If everyone’s version of feminism is different, then we should be encouraging open criticism of what people think is and isn’t feminism. They idea of something being right just because it is said or done by a woman is, quite frankly, sexist. The primary issue I have with modern feminism is that it has seeped into celebrity culture. No movement has benefited from adding a Kardashian. This has produced two main points of clash. Firstly, that everything female celebrities do is feminist, and secondly that nothing female celebrities do is feminist.
My first rule of feminism is that this so-called “sexual liberation” movement we’re seeing in the music industry is complete rubbish, and the furthest thing from feminism. Just look at Rihanna. Many praise her as a feminist icon because she feels “sexually liberated” enough to parade around a stage in her underpants. Many say that because she is talking about sexuality in a different way to how it was ten years ago she is leading women into a future where they can be proud of their sexuality.
The danger with this type of feminist branding is that it implies she chooses to behave this way, and would be respected if she made a different type of music. We have this large pop movement where the only thing women sing about is sex. Let’s put Rihanna in a cardigan and a decent pair of slacks. Once you remove her sexuality, she’s not popular.
An industry that revolves around exploiting female sexuality is not, in my books, the breeding ground for true feminists. True sexual liberation lies in the form of a singer like Lady Gaga. This is a woman who walks around in a thong, but not for the male gaze. She also wears meat dresses and shoes that look like weapons. She uses her sexuality not to sell records, but as a tool to express herself.
Most celebrities aren’t true feminists, and it’s okay to say that. Let’s take a look at Taylor Swift, whose pathetic bland characterisation of the phrase “girl power” makes me want to barf. After a gag at the 2015 Golden Globes by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at Taylor’s expense, Taylor quoted Madeline Albright’s “there’s a special place in hell for women who support other women”. Just because you were born with a vagina doesn’t mean you’re entitled to my support when you behave like an idiot.
Part of the issue with this modern stream of feminism is that any criticism of a woman is viewed as sexist. Isn’t true equality the ability to call someone out when they’re being ridiculous, regardless of whether they’re a man or a woman?
While pop feminism is mostly a marketing technique, those that are only involved in ‘privileged issues’ are heavily criticised. To be a feminist you have to take the whole weight of the wider movement on your shoulders. Women shouldn’t be expected to represent all forms of feminism. It’s okay if Amy Schumer only talks about body image in the media, rather than making sure to cover child brides in her 50-minute act. Women should be allowed to feel passionate about things that affect them.
There is this movement that implies to be a feminist you need to be involved in activism about female genital mutation, as well as college rape. How about a movement where women aren’t expected to cover everything? Where each individual contributes what they can, and eventually a patchwork quilt is formed covering all the issues. It’s this shaming that stops young girls from getting involved.
These two points seem like a juxtaposition: these celebrities aren’t feminists, but don’t let someone tell you you’re not a feminist. The difference is you should be allowed to call out someone who advertises to be something they are not. To call Kim Kardashian a feminist would illicit laughs, and for good reason. However, I don’t believe it is okay to criticise people doing earnest work for the feminist movement because their work doesn’t cover every gender issue the world is facing.
Feminism is tricky, and when people form their own version they are bound to make mistakes about what they think is and isn’t feminist. My form of feminism is turning around and going, “actually this kind of sucks! What can I do to change this?” not twerking in my underpants on a stage. Sorry Beyoncé but I’m not buying this false feminism. And if that makes me sexist, so be it.
Originally published May, 2o17 in Learning Auckland Magazine
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