Sunday, 4 October 2015

Why are we so afraid of the word ‘feminism’?

This past week has seen two award winning Hollywood actresses deny that they are feminists.
Mairon Cotillard, the renowned French actress who starred in La Vie en Rose, and The Dark Knight Rises commented on her disdain for the word while promoting her new film MacBeth.


This was subsequently followed two days later by Meryl Streep, star of what has been widely lauded by her The Suffragette co-star Carey Mulligan as a pro-women film, in promoting said film said she preferred ‘balance’ to feminism.

And they’re not alone.

Fellow famous, and empowering, women have also distanced themselves from the term. American Idol singer Kelly Clarkeson to ‘Girl Power’ ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell to The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco also refused to label themselves a feminist. In fact Taylor Swift, Katy Perry AND Lady Gaga have all denied being a feminist, only to backtrack on their comments following backlash.


But what’s wrong with the term? Why is it that strong female role-models refuse to label themselves as feminists?
I’ve always seen feminism as an equality issue. It’s not about female superiority, it’s about female empowerment.
And don’t get me wrong, Lena Durnham obviously springs to mind as an actress who has publicly bucked the trend. But why isn’t this more commonplace?
I turned to the Oxford English Dictionary for help. Is the definition scaring people away?

feminism
Line breaks: fem¦in|ism
Pronunciation: /ˈfɛmɪnɪz(ə)m/ 
Definition of feminism in English:
noun
[MASS NOUN]
The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.


Advocacy is support and recognition by the way. I also Oxford defined it to ensure there’d be no confusion.
So we can agree that feminism is about having equal rights between the sexes, right? It’s what we call it when we pursue these rights; either through lobbying, campaigning, promoting equality, or just the belief that women are equal to men.

Feminism is NOT bra-burning, lesbianism, or women being superior to men.
It is about balance. It is about equality.

It's not rocket science, and in the year 2015, it shouldn't be controversial to want equality.

It's an objective that should appeal to everyone, and yet WOMEN are running away from it. It makes Geri Halliwell's comments in particular about 'bra-burning lesbians' look especially ignorant. Tarring a whole movement by a single stereotype. (In the 1960s college women removed and 'burned' their bras, linking the freeing of their breasts with the liberation of women.)

Part of the difficulty people have with the the term 'feminism' is what Time magazine called a 'Bra-Burning Myth Problem.'

Now take a look at the Hollywood film industry. Reflective of the average workplace across the world, men continue to earn more than women. Men are also in more positions of leadership and power e.g. studio executives, directors, producers, lead actors.
If you don't want to take my word for it, the Huffington Post have a number of Sexism in Hollywood articles which you can read.

The industry is so caught up with male politics, that it has taken them over 100 years to make a movie about what is arguably the most important moment in women's history; The Suffragette.

Streep's own co-star Carey Mulligan had this to say about it;
“I don’t think it’s an oversight at all,” said the Westminster-born actor, 30. “I think we have a sexist film industry, and stories about women are largely untold. This is one that’s fallen by the wayside because of that. I think a lot of people have sat around tables in various production offices and decided it wasn’t financially viable.” Source.

Personally, I am very excited to watch The Suffragette. I haven't seen an on-screen telling of the fight for the women's right to vote before because so few have ever been made. And none with a large budget that Hollywood affords. It's a story, a moment in history, that shaped the rest of the 20th Century.  It was the first feminist movement. It's a moment that has impacted the lives of every woman alive today.

But the fight is not over as sexism and inequality continues to exist.

For women in Hollywood, actresses, producers, directors, for any woman in fact, to say they don't identify with female empowerment and the equality of the sexes is shocking to me. And it's an attitude that has to change before we can achieve equality. 


25 comments:

  1. I'm really disappointed in Meryl. I'd like to think what she said was taken out of context. Before I understood feminism I didn't identify as one but in last year or two I've learned what it really means and that it is necessary still today despite what some people say.

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    1. Same, I was shocked at Meryl, but she doesn't seem to have been when you look at what she said. But, she does invest in groups for women in Hollywood, so she has that going for her at least x

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  2. Yes, I too have learned what Feminism means and is all about in the last few years! And I agree, it's about equality, not about being superior. It's about equal rights. After all, it IS 2015!
    I enjoyed this post! xx

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  3. This is something that really irritates me - I don't know how 'feminism' came to be almost a dirty word! Like you, I totally believe it's about equality and I don't know why any woman wouldn't be proud to stand up for equality for her own gender! I love Geena Davis, she's doing amazing work promoting equality in Hollywood.

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    1. I know Cliona! It actually makes me angry that it's surrounded by misconceptions. Must check out Geena Davis' work!

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  4. It's great you wrote this post, as I believe part of the problem is that people don't actually realise what feminism means. It's commonly thought that being feminist means you're a man-hater. I think that is one of the reasons for distancing from the term, so people need to be educated on the meaning. Sabrina x

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    1. Totally agree Sabrina, thanks for commenting x

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  5. Love this! I am shocked at Geri Halliwell’s comments, I haven’t heard that she said that before. That’s just such an ignorant way of looking at things. I am proud to say I am a feminism and bring my girls up as feminists, and my son for that matter! Great post x

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    1. Yay, glad to hear it Amy! And I know, whatever happened to the Spice Girls' Girl Power? x

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  6. I have always felt that Feminism is about looking for equal rights for all women. I am a bit miffed at Meryl though as she comes across as a very strong female figure so for her to disassociate herself in this manner is alarming at bestx

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    1. Very annoyed at Meryl myself too. She does a lot of work for women, so why ditch the feminist tag? x

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  7. I've always proudly thought of myself as a feminist and don't understand why others wouldn't want equality. It's sad that the word has become so negative for women

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    1. I agree Sarah, and people with influence knocking the 'feminist' tag and other women doesn't help at all.

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  8. Feminism is definitely thought of in a negative way, I'm really not sure why though. Why wouldn't women want equality?!

    C x | Lux Life

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    1. Exactly Catherine, it really gets to me that it's WOMEN knocking other women these days x

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  9. I have never really thought about the word feminism. But you are defining it very well here. I haven't seen that show before.

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  10. Great post - my daughter who is 15 is a huge feminist - she says it's about equality for women and men- nothing to do with hating men or bra burning! Kaz z

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    1. Good on your daughter! It's such a simple thing, but one that's been too easily missed x

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  11. Hey Zoe,

    I really enjoyed reading your article and completely agree. The sad thing it's 2015 and if you talk to most women they would say that they are treated "equal" to their male counterparts. While we have come a long way we still have quite a ways to go. Men in the same positions as women continue to make more and women are still judged for certain positions based on their choice to have a family or not.What does this say? That as a person you as a female are not worth the same as your male counterpart even though you do the same jobs and put in the same effort Hollywood is a big part of the problem as you mentioned and it's so disappointing that these strong female role models would say they are not feminists and as a result don't stand up for equal female rights? This is so confusing especially to the young audience who look to these women as role models. The fact when people discuss famous women on the things that are mentioned are wardrobe, how young or old she looks, and her physique. Yet when a male is talked about it's about their role and their success and rarely about their appearance. This is obviously a cause that is close to my heart and mainly because the ignorance of most people in believing that we have arrived at equal rights when we have so far to go. Anyways that is my 2 cents or maybe $10 worth. Rant ended!

    xo
    Jenn

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    1. Jenn, you may call it a rant, but I really appreciate your comment! I totally agree that people say we're equal now when in reality the vast majority of CEOs, politicians, managers are ALL men. The stats prove this across the world. There's not a even playing field, and yet women have started to ignore it. Ugh. x

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  12. This is such an important topic! I think a lot of 'equality advocates' have distanced themselves from the term "feminist" due to the voice of misogynists who claim to be feminists.
    I actually have a male friend who I constantly have this argument with, who deems himself to be an 'equalitist' and thinks that feminists are ranty and stupid. A lot of men these days think women are equal, but this is clearly not the case. And even if we women from developed countries are close to equality, that doesn't mean that feminism is no longer relevant- there are still so many women all over the world who have no access to education, basic human rights, independance from men and a professional working life; all for the basic gender difference! We should not, and cannot stop advocating for equal rights simply because we have achieved something!

    Sara | herelectricocean.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. I completely agree Sara and you raised some good points on misogyny. I didn't touch on it in the article because I really do think they are of the minority of 'feminism' and that I do think celebrities dismissing the 'feminism' tag is probably more damaging to the cause than some extreme men haters because their influence is so much wider.

      Thanks for stopping by x

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  13. I am disappointed that women continue to distance themselves from feminism afraid of what they may be labelled as and insecure in their own identity. As a staunch feminist I desire equality between the sexes yet am constantly objectified or patronized by men whose self-entitled nature causes them to believe they are infinitely more superior. We should aim for balance but at the same time we must continue to fight for women's rights.

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