Friday, March 28, 2014

Reinventing Feminism

Lately I've noticed a lot of writers critiquing the emergence of feminism as the newest fad, since everyone from Lady Gaga to Lorde is embracing the label.  It's not the mainstreaming of feminism which is causing the raised eyebrows, so much as the idea that celebrities are jumping on the bandwagon with shallow/misguided reasoning and therefore detracting from the authenticity of the entire movement/philosophy/whatever it has morphed into these days.  Gloria Steinem turned 80 yesterday, and this has also led to a great deal of reflection on what feminism means in 2014.  On Tuesday an op-ed piece entitled "Feminism is no longer a dirty word" appeared on CNN.  This past fall Miley Cyrus called herself "one of the biggest feminists in the world," and The Daily Beast weighed in on the futility of trying to fit feminism into a neat little box.  What does it mean to be a feminist, and is it problematic when celebrities who embrace the label one moment contradict it the next?  Beyonce has probably been the most enigmatic recent example.  She appeared on the cover of Ms. Magazine and released an album that was praised in that publication: "This is how a grown woman sings and celebrates love, sex, passion, motherhood, family, community, the world—with some feminist theory in the mix."   Yet earlier this month, an article in The Washington Post blasted her: "whatever her ultimate beliefs or intentions, Beyonce can’t tell women to bow down and stand up at the same time."  I love that Beyonce album, but I do find aspects of it problematic.  At the end of the day, what intrigued me the most about it was the fact that it made people talk - about feminism.  I honestly don't think Gloria Steinem cares what the specific definition of the term is, or how people embody the idea, so long as it is consistently remains a relevant part of the discussion in a society where gender equality is not yet a reality.  When I was a freshman in college, a girl in my Intro to Lit class asked me, "you're not one of those crazy feminists, are you?"  That girl later became my roommate and one of my best friends, and finally a self-proclaimed feminist, after living with this Women's Studies major for three years.  If feminism can be reinvented as a mainstream mind-set that can be embodied in lots of ways, rather than framed as a pejorative term, I'm all for it.  Same thing with veganism.  Next I would like Beyonce to begin calling herself a "cat lady" - then I'll be all set.



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