Celebrity feminists are not always the best faces to stick on a hate movement. Roxane Gay tries to figure out why they bug her.
Recently, a young woman asked me how we can make feminism more accessible to men. I told her that I don’t care about making feminism more accessible to men. In truth, I don’t care about making feminism more accessible to anyone.
See? Honest. Gay is at least open about the fact she doesn’t give a shit about men, or anybody, really.
I care about making the liberties that men enjoy so freely fully accessible to women, and if men or celebrities claiming feminism for themselves has become the spoon full of sugar to make that medicine go down, so be it.
What liberties would those be, Roxane? Signing a draft card? Losing custody of their children? Working longer hours at more difficult and dangerous jobs? Being called a rapist or pedophile just because they’re men?
But it irks me that we more easily embrace feminism and feminist messages when delivered in the right package – one that generally includes youth, a particular kind of beauty, fame and/or self-deprecating humour. It frustrates me that the very idea of women enjoying the same inalienable rights as men is so unappealing that we require – even demand – that the person asking for these rights must embody the standards we’re supposedly trying to challenge. That we require brand ambassadors and celebrity endorsements to make the world a more equitable place is infuriating.
Which inalienable rights are you talking about, Roxane? The right to genital integrity? That’s afforded only to women. The right to be considered an equal parent? Your beloved feminists have defeated every equal parenting bill in North America. Only women are considered important and worthy parents. The right to call unwanted sex rape? Only women get to do that. The right to choose to go to war? Only women get to do that. The right to choose parenthood? Only women get to do that.
What fucking inalienable rights, Roxane?
Around this time last year, as part of an effort to rebrand feminism – a notion that comes up in far too many discussions, as though there might be a magical combination of words and images that will make gender equality more palatable to the masses – Elle UK invited three British ad agencies to develop campaigns to promote feminist messages. I recognized the motivation behind the campaign but I resented the idea that with a better marketing message, the world might get right with feminism. I don’t truck in magical thinking.
There is indeed a magical combination of words and images that will make gender equality more palatable to the masses: give men the same legal rights as women. Say it with me now: men’s rights are human rights.
Celebrities, of course, are often used as part of all vague “rebranding feminist” efforts, and in the last year or so, many famous young women – Jennifer Lawrence, Lena Dunham, Miley Cyrus – have openly claimed feminism. This shouldn’t be news, but it is, because all too often famous women – Katy Perry, Shailene Woodley, Kelly Clarkson – denounce feminism because they believe in humanism or they love men or other such reasons that make little sense.
It’s not working because you’re not focused on the group that actually lacks legal rights: that would be men, dear. Women have all their rights and then some. The fact that loving men and wanting them to have the same rights as women makes little sense to you is all we really need to know about you.
And you’re not a bad feminist, Roxane. You’re perfectly normal. Hate-filled, bitter and completely uncaring towards half of humanity.
A couple weeks ago, United Nations goodwill ambassador Emma Watson (best known as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies) delivered a passionate speech before the UN that was, for the most part, very well received. Watson announced her “He For She” campaign meant to unite men and women in the feminist movement and help women achieve equality throughout the world. Clearly, the speech and the campaign were both well intentioned: video of her speech went viral and hers was the face that launched a thousand essays and articles about “Emma Watson’s feminism”. The feminist movement found a new brand, even though Emma Watson wasn’t saying anything feminists haven’t already said for more than 40 years.
Your honesty is refreshing: yes, feminists have been whining for men to do the actual work for 40 years. #HeForShe is just patriarchy 2.0. It’s kind of hilarious that you crazy feminists can scream on one hand that you’re equal to any man and then cry because you can’t seem to do anything at all unless men help you. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear that men have already helped you determine the issue with gender equality: men need rights. Not women. Men’s rights activists are talking, but you’re too engaged in your hysterics and tantrums over nothing to listen.
Watson isn’t the only face of rebranded and reclaimed feminism. This has been the year when many of us, myself included, have been giddy over Beyoncé boldly declaring herself a feminist. At the MTV Video Music Awards, Beyoncé stood in front of the word FEMINIST and it felt like a moment. Here was a young, powerful, black woman openly claiming her feminism. Who wouldn’t want to be a feminist, too, with Beyoncé as a face of feminism? Unfortunately, Beyoncé will represent the only face of feminism for too many people who will incorrectly assume feminism begins and ends with her. She is one woman – an amazing woman, to be sure – but she is a gateway to feminism, not the movement itself.
Yeah, Beyoncé is a great role model for young women. She promotes whorishness, degeneracy, irresponsibility and violence to young women (because it sells to her feral fans), then goes home to her husband and child. Beyoncé is a con artist of the highest order. She knows the hatefulness of feminism can be used as a marketing tool – the anger feels edgy and cool even as it destroys every chance of happiness young women have, Beyoncé has no fucks to give about what happens to women not herself. She’ll cash the checks and laugh at their ultimate misery, alone, childless and weeping.
Taylor Swift is also openly embracing feminism. In an August interview with the Guardian, Swift said:
As a teenager, I didn’t understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities. What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means.
No, your original understanding was correct, Taylor. Feminism is about blaming men, hating men and holding men responsible for the poor decisions women make, all while denying men the same basic legal rights afforded to women, and still claiming that women are oppressed and men are privileged. Most women find that something stinks about feminism, because something fucking stinks about feminism!
This is the real problem feminism faces. Too many people are willfully ignorant about what the word means and what the movement aims to achieve. But when a pretty young woman has something to say about feminism, all of a sudden, that broad ignorance disappears or is set aside because, at last, we have a more tolerable voice proclaiming the very messages feminism has been trying to impart for so damn long.
Willfully ignorant. What a joke. Perfectly clear-sighted is more like it. It’s only when hordes of shrieking, hysterical feminist bullies descend that women will quiver and give in to the mob. Because you fat bitches are scary, quite frankly. It takes courage to stand up to the aggressive, perpetually aggrieved harridans of feminism.
When famous men embrace feminism, the public adoration becomes even more feverish because, my goodness, it must mean something so very significant if a man is supportive of gender equality. Just this week, comedian Aziz Ansari appeared on The Late Show and told David Letterman he was a feminist. In his usual charming way, Ansari talked about how his girlfriend showed him to the feminist light and made a good quip about unequal pay. The next day, the video of Ansari’s appearance went viral.
Have a good cry. Men do everything better than women, except give birth. Wah wah wah. Nothing in the world is gonna change that. All your screaming and foot stamping and toy tossing is not going to change some fundamental biological realities. The overwhelming majority of women are perfectly happy to complement and not compete with men. Feminists are the only ones who seethe with bitter jealousy, even when men are trying to help you, although why they would bother remains a mystery to me. You’re all so unpleasant!
We had yet another famous feminist icon to follow, though it seems we haven’t yet decided where we want to be led.
The truth in this makes me giggle madly. Yes, dears. You want to be led. You crave leadership. Strong, powerful, insightful, benevolent. Almost every human does. This is the origin of religion. And all human happiness.
There is nothing wrong with celebrities (or men) claiming feminism and talking about feminism. I support anything that broadens the message of gender equality and tempers the stigma of the feminist label. We run into trouble, though, when we celebrate celebrity feminism while avoiding the actual work of feminism.
Because the actual work of feminism is to deliver men the same legal rights as women. And once again, men are doing the job feminism ought to be doing: men’s rights activists are carrying out gender equality. Feminists are stuck clinging to their traditional female privileges, while rejecting all traditional obligations, while simultaneously trying to impose traditional gender obligations on men.
And it’s just not working out that well, is it?
So long as we continue to stare into the glittery light of the latest celebrity feminist, we avoid looking at the very real inequities that women throughout the world continue to face. We avoid having the difficult conversations about the pay gap and the all-too-often sexist music we listen to and the movies we watch that tell women’s stories horribly (if at all) and the limited reproductive freedom women are allowed to exercise and the pervasive sexual harassment and violence too many women face. We avoid having the conversations about the hard work changing this culture will require.
Nope, nope and nope. There is no wage gap. Music is not an actual problem in your life. Movies are not a problem either. The problem is that we have created a culture that is strangling our boys and men, and the only way to get to gender equality is to take the noose from around their necks. Masculinity is not bad, boys are not toxic, men are not broken women. Feminism is cancer, though.
Feminism is, I hope, a way to a better future for everyone who inhabits this world. Feminism should not be something that needs a seductive marketing campaign. The idea of women moving through the world as freely as men should sell itself.
Women already move through the world freely. If you’re wondering who the oppressed gender is, try looking at life expectancy tables. It’s a rather extraordinary world, when the oppressors die sooner than those they oppress. Either that, or feminism is a giant whack of steaming bullshit that we’re all getting mighty tired of.
Lots of love,