It’s the now infamous answer given by, “The Fault in Our Stars,” leading actress Shailene Woodley when asked if she was a feminist, “No because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance. With myself, I’m very in touch with my masculine side. And I’m 50 percent feminine and 50 percent masculine, same as I think a lot of us are. And I think that is important to note. And also I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn’t work either. We have to have a fine balance.My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism.” (source)
There’s been a lot of talk about feminism lately, and while it’s encouraging that a dialogue is being brought up, it’s sad to see so many people, especially young women, having misconceptions about what it means. Feminism doesn’t equal hating men, at all. Period. It’s about the belief that men and women should be treated equally, not by taking men “away from the power” as Woodley suggested, but by elevating women so that they’re standing by those men. Side by side, that’s what equal means.
I bet some of you don’t believe me, and see feminists as rabid, mouth foaming lesbians, trying to bring down the male species and rule atop a throne of burning Girls Gone Wild DVDs, but trust me you could not be more wrong. Are there women who identify as feminist who say horrible things about men? Sure, but that’s not what feminism means. There are good and bad people in every school of thought and for every movement under the sun. Thinking feminism is just a code word for hating men is as off the mark as Woodley’s comments above.
Also, if this is your belief and you stand by feminists being a she-woman man haters club, why do you choose to only listen to these views on feminism and not those of say Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie whose speech on feminism was used for the intro to the Beyonce song Flawless. Why is your view on feminism based on something you heard someone say once, or something you read online in some article you can’t remember, instead of your own research and understanding of the subject? Where did you get your ideas on feminism, and is that a reliable source? If you are unwilling to ask yourself these questions, maybe it has more to do with what you want to believe than what is accurate. Or maybe you just don’t give a shit and think women should stop complaining and make you a sandwich. I get it, sandwiches are good, and you don’t mind being misinformed.
This past week, with the release of videos like Jennifer Lopez’s and Iggy Azalea’s, and the ongoing discussion on violence against women, it became more apparent than ever why we need to stand up to the objectification of women. And not because, as many of the pro-feminist banter online suggests, we are someone’s mother, sister or daughter. We shouldn’t need to be attached to someone else in order to make our validity as human beings resonate. I shouldn’t count less as a person, or be reduced to shots of my body parts in a music videos and commercials. Should an orphaned only child who’s never had kids still count as a human? Is she less than because you can’t see her as relating to someone you love personally? Does she deserve to be treated with respect even if she’s nobody’s mother/sister/daughter?
The answer is YES.
Being a woman is exhausting. You’re constantly being told you need to look your best, be married with kids by a certain age but keep your figure, have a good job and a Clueless closet worthy wardrobe all while keeping your emotions in check so no one thinks you’re crazy. And you’re expected to make this all look effortless. It’s not effortless, it’s impossible. We are emotional, we are full of beautiful complex emotions and that’s what makes us special. Our bodies are meant to change over the years and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what makes us women and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that, or going to the supermarket in sweats without being told we’re “Mediocre” (another song by T.I. and Iggy Azalea) or letting ourselves go. We should be able to be photographed with no make makeup on without being called brave. We aren’t “brave” for not wearing makeup as much as women who do choose to wear it aren’t weak. Mindy Kaling isn’t brave for wearing this outfit:
Just because she’s not a size zero.
Another actress made famous by her portrayal of a bookish heroine also had something to say about feminism this week, but it was quite different.
Emma Watson had this to say at the launch of a new U.N. women’s initiative called “HeForShe,”:
“I started questioning gender-based assumptions when at eight I was confused at being called “bossy,” because I wanted to direct the plays we would put on for our parents—but the boys were not.
When at 14 I started being sexualized by certain elements of the press.
When at 15 my girlfriends started dropping out of their sports teams because they didn’t want to appear “muscly.”
When at 18 my male friends were unable to express their feelings.
I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word.
Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive.
Why is the word such an uncomfortable one?”
Great, wonderful, applause all around right? Who could argue with someone trying to bring together men and women, while also admitting that there is gender bias towards men, and that it’s a problem which also needs to be addressed?
Well after Watson’s speech, a user at 4Chan threatened to release nude pictures of the actress in retaliation for daring to speak. A deplorable website with a countdown to her pictures being released was put up, and while it’s not certain anyone actually has pictures of Watson, that she should be threatened or made to feel the threat of humiliation is despicable to say the very least.
“… somehow she had become a nuisance, a rebel, and the girl who always had too much to say and didn’t know when to quit and shut up. None of the great things she thought about herself mattered as much as the awful things everyone else thought about her. Those things seemed to weigh heavily in her heart, and to take up all the space in her brain. She wondered if anyone else felt the same way. Maybe if she looked less intimidating, she thought, picking up her hairbrush, which was buzzing happily on her porcelain sink. She passed the brush through her electric blue hair, and as she did, it turned a shade of candy pink she’d seen Missy wear on her nails once. She did this until her entire head was pink and then put the brush down.”
This is a quote from my book The Skinwalker’s Apprentice. In the book, my main character Emerald struggles with her rebellious outspoken nature and her need to be accepted and seen for who she is beyond that. This isn’t something I pulled out of the air, it’s something I experienced myself. Not so much the rebellious part, but I have been told more than once by the jerks of my Christmas past that:
“You always have something to say, that’s your problem. That’s why nobody likes you.”
“You always have to have an opinion about everything, it’s annoying.”
“You’re too bossy.”
And if I protested?
“It’s not a big deal. That’s just how boys are.”
These are direct quotes that I have kept locked away in my heart and mind for years. Because despite how awful and downright stupid they were, they hurt. They hurt because I was a young girl who just wanted to participate in the conversation around me. They hurt because all I wanted was to give my side of things, to be a part of the conversation with males who I thought respected me and saw me as an equal. They hurt because those words proved they didn’t see me as an equal, but as someone who should sit down and shut up. Someone whose opinion didn’t count as much as theirs did.
When I started writing my books, one thing I wanted to make sure of was having a strong, female centered cast of characters. Not to say that there aren’t also evil women, and strong male characters because there are. But to have strong friendships between girls that weren’t based on talking about the men in their lives, strong family bonds , and platonic friendships between men and women were all really important to me. I didn’t want to have a passive character who went through the story solely relying on others, or completely refusing help. I didn’t want her to fall into either being completely naive or too bad for her own good. I didn’t want Emerald to be motivated only by her love interest, without regard for her family, friends or sense of self. I wanted her to have interests in life, to be passionate about music and reading. I wanted to make her a layered, complicated, emotional being. I wanted to make her human, even if she’s a witch. I wanted to make her feminist.
After all, many of the original witches, that is women who were nursemaids and essentially the doctors of their villages, were once revered and looked up to. Called upon to help the sick and deliver babies. They were strong, central figures of their communities. But eventually, that very community which they served turned on them. And today when we think of witches, we think of evil.
Releasing nude pictures of celebrity women is in many ways like a modern take on the witch trials that killed many of those women, albeit the stakes don’t include being burned alive but the message is the same: dare to be different, or say and do anything “unladylike” and you will be punished.
I leave you with a small glimpse of the past. Anti-feminist sentiments aren’t something new. The ads below were used to help discourage the support of the suffrage movement, otherwise known as women’s right to vote. Did these women also hate men for wanting their opinions and voice to be heard in equal measure to their male counterparts?