The problem with us is celebrity culture, and the problem with celebrity culture is us. So, let's help them help us.
Lana Del Rey became the latest celebrity to ceremoniously slam a significant sociopolitical issue this week when she fluffed off feminism -- AKA gender equality -- as boring. She did so in a magazine interview, otherwise known as a direct line to her young and impressionable fans.
For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept. I'm more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what's going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities. Whenever people bring up feminism, I'm like, god. I'm just not really that interested.
Del Cray went on to royally KO herself by explaining that even though she doesn't give a toss about feminism, she's pretty into this other thing right here:
My idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.
So, feminism is, like, actually kind of cool? Or, like, um -- I dunno. Eyelashes?
There's no need to ruminate on how dense it was of Lana to articulate her gracious anti-thanks for the thousands of pioneering women before her that made it possible for her to "feel free" to be where she is today.
It's worth moving onto the actual, tangible consequences of this ignorant - albeit probably innocent -- verbal vomit. This was no casual chat between Lana and the Fader interviewer; it was a screeching statement to the masses, as is everything she says publicly. Lana's masses happen to include thousands upon thousands of young women, and men, and that surely endows her with a level of responsibility. Not a responsibility to be perfect, because that's just stupid, but a responsibility to be thoughtful as she makes use of the enormous gold-plated podium and loudspeaker she's been afforded.
Before Lana, there was Shailene Woodley; star of The Fault In Our Stars, which had every 12-18 year old and their ducks flocking to the cinema to help it obliterate the box office this past weekend. Time magazine referenced the importance of considering the message Shailene is sending to her young female fans, before asking whether or not she considers herself a feminist. She didn't.
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.
Shailene's clumsy misunderstanding of the definition of feminism calls for no elaboration.
There is a blatant branding issue when it comes to feminism. The flippant "feminism is dumb" babblings of these and other influential young women is testament to the fact that - and I've said this before - the popular understanding of the "feminist" title and definition needs some serious renovation. Feminism means the pursuit of equal rights for men and women -- gender equality -- but if a significant chunk of society is still failing to grasp that, then we have an obligation to deal with it.
In an ideal world, intelligent academics and qualified activists would be the conduit of messages to the masses, and the voice of (in this particular case) feminism and gender equality. This isn't an ideal world, however, because celebrities have a monopoly on the microphones. Kanye West is a god; just ask him, and just ask logic. He and other deities -- I mean, celebrities -- are revered in the same way that "actual" gods have been historically. I'd love to make it go away as much as you would, but it tends to yield better results when you attack a problem honestly rather than from the impractical basis of denial. Celebrities deliver and circulate information to youth (at least).
So, let's talk about how we can make lemonade. It's important that celebrities are educated and well versed in issues and movements relevant to our world, particularly those relevant to their young audience. The fact is that it is not okay to dismiss the feminism debate as boring. Not because Lana is prohibited from having her own opinions, but because she's speaking about conversations that are unquestionably important to the maintenance and betterment of humanity. It's similarly not okay to declare the push for racial equality as irksome, or the quest to end global poverty as trivial. If upcoming generations are encouraged to dismiss these discussions, then we are -- quite frankly -- f***ed. And deservedly so.
Lana clearly does believe that women and men should have equal rights. I think/hope. Similarly, I'm pretty sure that Shailene wouldn't favor a life without the right to an opinion outside of how long the chicken ought to be cooked for. She seems quite comfortable with the independence she's been afforded thanks to the existence of feminism.
So, we need to educate. These women aren't exactly going at it alone, by the way. They have a team of publicists, agents, managers, stylists, fluffers, whatever. Who's on hand to teach them the very basic definitions of and principles behind the sociopolitical issues that are so relevant and so crucial to the development of young girls that listen to them so intently? With only the slightest hint of facetiousness: can we enforce mandatory celebrity school so that our youth's most influential source of information is at least informed and educated? Make it compulsory for those in the popular public domain to endure a basic education on social and cultural matters so that if they truly want to say "I'm not a feminist", they can genuinely stand behind that statement? It'd be just like conscription, right? I dare you to argue that a war against our own societal degeneration lacks significance.
It's not wrong to have and deliver differing opinions. The pursuit of humanity depends on it. The pursuit of humanity also depends, however, on the delivery of educated information for consideration by up and coming generations. It should be a priority that Lana, Shailene and the many others before and after them are (compassionately) schooled on the options for personal belief, so that their statements can, in future, be educated and grounded in fact.
If that fails, we can all just hop aboard the next intergalactic Tesla/SpaceX beast-mobile and meet Lana in outer space... because our own turf is getting embarrassing.
Follow Shanrah Wakefield on Twitter: www.twitter.com/shanrahw