I am a feminist.
I think women should have equal rights, equal pay. I think we should have control over our bodies. I think women should be viewed as equal to men. I think women should be allowed to embrace our sexuality, etc. I think women should empower women, not tear each other down.
But, in a post Trump world, I struggle with the idea of being a feminist. I’m ready to turn in my feminist card, and it’s because of other feminists.
You’re probably thinking, what? No, you mean Trump. You mean the GOP. YOU MEAN MEN. Nope, I mean other feminists.
(For the record, the GOP & Trump can suck it)
Feminism is about equality, but lately it’s been about some exclusive club that requires flash over action. The biggest example of that is that feminism, equality, and celebration of women doesn’t apply to Taylor Swift.
In addition to having the highest selling album of 2017, donating generously to victims of hurricane ravaged Houston, flood ravaged Louisiana, and to Kesha’s legal defence fund, Swift was named one of Time’s silence breakers. For those of you behind on the times (pun absolutely intended), let me bring you up to speed. Taylor Swift was sued by a man who sexually assaulted her for defamation. Swift countersued for a dollar. She won. She defended herself against her abuser. After her victory, she donated generous sums of money to charities designed to help women who have been victimized by sexual assault. Swift’s only public interview in almost two years was with Time, to shed light on this issue (it’s an amazing read, check it out). RAINN saw a huge increase in women reporting assaults, citing Swift’s bravery as the reason. But instead of being proud of a group of women for telling their stories and helping other women tell theirs, I was floored by the responses;
“Taylor Swift didn’t even use the #MeToo hashtag! She didn’t tweet!”
“She hasn’t even denounced Trump. Her inclusion is false until she tweets denouncing Trump.”
“Taylor, I’m really happy for you, and Imma let you finish, but Rose McGowan had the best #MeToo of all time! You didn’t even tweet!”
Comments about Kesha deserving it more, Taylor hasn’t denounced Nazis (which she did, through her attorney), and until she tweets about Trump & uses the #MeToo hashtag, her experiences, her assault, her attempts to help women are invalid (ironically enough, Swift tweeting in support of the women’s march was heavily criticized, as she only tweeted. Why didn’t she attend?).
Feminism isn’t about checking boxes to make sure you’re part of the super cool and exclusive feminism club. It’s not an itemized list of marches or protests you’ve been to. It’s about helping women. Swift has conducted one public interview, which was to highlight an issue she feels strongly about; protecting women from sexual abuse. She’s donated money to causes, she asked for a dollar to hold a man accountable for assaulting her. She donated to Kesha’s legal team to help her in her quest for justice. She also highlighted Kesha and her experiences in the article.
Instead of celebrating women, there was think piece after think piece about how Taylor Swift has not proven herself as a true feminist because she hasn’t written an apology album or even sent a tweet denouncing Trump. All she did was donate money. Not. One. Tweet. That’s when I started to realize that feminism isn’t about equality anymore. It’s about strong arming women to conform to the cause of the day, exactly how others want them to, or they’re kicked out of the club and vilified. When feminism stops applying to certain women because they didn’t dance like a puppet, or tweet with the right hashtag, then you are not a feminist. You’re just a mean person trapped in high school trying to bring down the personification of the head cheerleader.
A similar thing happened 15 years ago, when Christina Aguilera embraced her sexuality and released Stripped. The same feminists who wanted victim blaming and slut shaming to end were calling Aguilera a whore because she sang frankly about one night stands, women taking pleasure from sex, and embracing her body. While we now embrace Aguilera as a feminist trailblazer, I’ll never forget that the same people patting her on the back once called her a whore.
Emma Watson was also almost kicked out of the feminist club last year because she posed for Vanity Fair topless. What kind of feminist does that? Feminism seems less like a movement and more like a popularity contest. Action isn’t important, hashtags and analysis trumps action. Watson’s photo was somehow more important than her contributions to the advancement of women’s rights through the UN. Aguilera’s body of work was trivialized because she displayed her body. And they didn’t fucking tweet god dammit!
Women struggle to be taken seriously as it is; turning the quest for equality into a pissing contest to see who is the feminist most active on social media, or who marched the loudest, or who’s feminism is correct according to Jezebel or Daily Beast, isn’t helping. We look exactly like how we’re painted; as catty, jealous, vindictive bitches who like to boss each other around. A feminist doesn’t have to tweet about Trump to represent women; she can donate money. She can encourage victims. She doesn’t need to cover up (or pose nude). She needs to act in the level in which she feels comfortable, and in the interest of helping other women. That’s all. Stop policing feminism, because it’s making it harder for women to celebrate theirs. It makes it harder for us to defend the movement. Basically, if your thoughts are “not to diminish her experiences, but…” maybe sit down and shut up until you have something constructive to say.