A woman going to college. A woman speaking for abortion. A woman choosing a career over family. A woman competing for equal pay. A woman who speaks for other women being oppressed. Which one is the feminist? Better question, what is feminism?
The meaning of feminism has fluctuated since the 1920s, when women strived for equality, starting with the right to vote. Then, in the 1960s, Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” and activists like Gloria Steinem aroused another wave of feminism. With their actions, these women defined feminism as social, political and economic equality between genders. Many of these historical women were private citizens fighting for a cause, but today the wrath of feminism has expanded to the very public eye of Hollywood.
Beyoncé’s recent VMA performance added spark to a conversation that has been haunting Hollywood for years. Hollywood’s females are constantly being asked by reporters, “Are you a feminist?” This seems more of a trap than a question of opinion. Women entertainers are criticized for whatever answer they give and are being used to define what feminism means.
Whether they say yes or no, there is no right answer for these female entertainers. Their business is to entertain, not to decide what feminism means. Additionally, many of these young female talents do not even know what feminism means, so they are quick to answer where they stand based on which of their celebrity friends associate with feminism. The definition of feminism is being colored in by who embodies themselves as a feminist rather than an actual meaning.
It is unfair that feminism is solely being covered based on which female celebrity is or is not a feminist. Instead of trying to ensnare these women in difficult situations, the media needs to do a better job on covering the true aspects of feminism like a woman’s right to make decisions over her body, the struggle of equal pay and the intense scrutiny of women in power.
According to a Jun. 13 article in Time Magazine, “New research from Wells Fargo shows that college-educated millennial men made $20,000 more per year than women with the same education level.” This is the type of feminism topic I want to hear being talked about. The inequality women face in society and the workplace are far more essential than which A-lister is currently calling herself a feminist.
Moreover, society should let female celebrities be the type of feminist they want to be. These women have jobs where they sell themselves. The fact of the matter is that they have to sell their personalities, bodies and charisma to get the general public to buy their product. They should not be scrutinized for having to sexualize themselves in a male-dominant workplace where they also get paid less than their male counterparts.
Lena Dunham sells herself as everything that she is and nothing more. I respect her for that. Beyoncé prides herself on being a successful woman with curves. I respect her for that. However, just because these women are feminists does not mean that they should be the definition of feminism.
Feminism is the continued history of women being oppressed and striving for equality. Feminism should always be about the political, social and economic equality of women and not about how an individual female chooses to represent it. After all, the most important part of feminism is support of one another. Everyone needs to understand that every woman’s life is different and the choices she makes are completely her own.