Beyoncé calls herself a feminist; Shailene Woodley does not. Lena Dunham tweets about feminism regularly; Taylor Swift does not. Lorde identifies as feminist. Carrie Underwood doesn't.
By now we could compile a list of all the young women in Hollywood who call themselves feminists and those who have distanced themselves from the word at one time or another. In fact, the Internet keeps doing this . It seems to be the only way mainstream media want to cover feminism. And this is a problem.
Young women talking about feminism is important. But focusing only on which young, famous women embrace or reject the label of "feminist" essentially reduces the issue of equal rights to a hashtag.
Media need to be writing more stories about what feminism is, rather than which celebrity just dropped the f-bomb -- or dissed it, whatever the case may be.
I admit I have written about this myself -- a few times. But my argument in this arena has always been: Allow young women to evolve. If along that journey they discover feminism and choose to identify as feminist, that's fantastic. But let's not kick them so much along their way that they're left feeling rejected by women, which is the antithesis of feminism.
Shailene Woodley is the latest victim after her comments about feminism were published in Time earlier this month. The media tornado is still swirling. The latest is a New York Times story this week that analyzes all of the young women in Hollywood on their "feminist or not" declarations and asks the question: Does it matter?
It does matter. Of course it matters. As Martha Plimpton said in the Times piece:
I take a lot of pride in calling myself a feminist and always have. We're going to have to insist on correcting bigotry as it happens, in real time. And fear of women's equality, or the diminishment of it, is a kind of bigotry. I think it's important to remove the stigma associated with women's equality, and as such, yes, normalizing the word 'feminist' and making sure people know what it means is incredibly important, whether we're talking to celebrities or anyone.
Plimpton is quoted a lot in stories about celebrities and feminist identity. But she's rarely interviewed about the work her organization, A Is For, does to advocate for reproductive rights. I'm sure she'd rather be called by a reporter to discuss all the pending legislation that seeks to end access to abortion care than muse on a twenty-something starlet's idea of feminism.
Still, I trust Plimpton talking about feminism because she has established a feminist identity -- something that often takes years and, you know, growing up to acquire -- and she does actual feminist work. But let's stop asking young Hollywood about feminism for the sake of headlines. These are not the experts of the feminism movement. Megan Murphy of the blog Feminist Current echos my point in a recent post:
It's like asking me about Judaism or the raw food movement -- I have no opinion and if you force me to come up with one I'm going to come off as an idiot. Those are not my areas of expertise. Lots of areas are not my areas of expertise. What's with so many interviewers asking female musicians or actresses about feminism? Why not just ask a feminist?
I'll take that even further: It's the job of journalists to ask questions in the pursuit of discovering new information. Let's start asking questions like, "Why do women still make less money than men?" or "Why don't international governments allocate resources to stopping sex slavery and forced marriage?" or "What are the consequences when abortion care is denied?" or "When is the U.S. ever going to get its sh*t together on standardized family leave and child care?" These questions are more than mere hash tags; they are the core of what feminism stands for. Let's talk more about that.
Originally published on Heather's Tumblr.