There's a lot of talk about the "F Word" in Hollywood right now. Are they? Aren't they? A feminist, I mean. So many performers are standing up and declaring I AM or I AM NOT...but I think they're missing the point. I spoke about this recently on a segment of Entertainment Tonight where I said the reason a lot of girls in Hollywood don't want to be labelled as being a feminist is because they don't understand the meaning of the word, that they're not being provided with that information by their publicists, or that perhaps they feel timid to even ask about it.
Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood don't consider themselves feminists. Katy Perry said, "I am not a feminist but I do believe in the strength of women." And Lady Gaga declared: "I'm not a feminist; I hail men, I love men."
Emma Watson gave a speech on women's rights to the United Nations recently and, while some people are calling it a game changer, she was just talking about basic human rights. The same thing women have been asking for centuries. Being a woman who says she's not a feminist is like taking all the credit for a group project; you didn't get here alone. Sarah Jessica Parker once said feminism is like a relay race; women take turns making strides towards equality and then pass the baton to the next generation. I guess someone needs to remind those Hollywood girls that we're not at the finish line yet.
If I was their PR manager, this is what I would tell them "feminism" really means:
Being a feminist does not mean you hate men. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a "feminist" as someone who believes men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. Feminists don't hate men, they consider themselves equal to men. How can anyone argue against that? When given equal opportunities, women can do whatever men can do. Women are now in the army, in business, in sport, in manufacturing, in government...all sorts of places traditionally deemed too "tough" for a woman to handle. Look at how the women rose up during World War 2 to take over the jobs of the men who went to battle! "We Can Do It!" posters have become synonymous with this period.
It's about honouring history. Hollywood girls who refuse to label themselves feminists need to remember that women's rights might have come a long way, but they are independent, income-earning, high-profile industry players today because of other women (and some good men!) believing in feminism in the past. Yes, the concept has evolved over the years, and so have we, but we can't forget how hard women fought for the rights we at times take for granted in North America today.
Feminists are strong role models. Did you know that only 30% of all characters portrayed on screen were female in 2013? Girls need someone to look up to. They need to know that they can grow up to become whoever they aspire to be - just like boys - and when the Hollywood stars they see in films or online are refusing to support gender equality...well that's not a strong role model. In her book How to be a Woman, writer Caitlin Moran argues there should be more women having more power in the world, and not just because they're "pretty and of the right age." By refusing to label themselves feminists - something I suppose they equate with a burly, unshaven man hater -- it's like they don't want to alienate male fans, or not appear attractive to men. But I believe boys -- and men -- need strong women to look up to as well. I love men but I am also a feminist.
Women's rights are human rights. We forget that there was a time when women couldn't vote; it wasn't even that long ago. Canadian women got to vote in 1918, American in 1920...but French women didn't get to vote until 1944, Greek until 1952, Iraqi until 1980, and some other Middle Eastern countries didn't give women the right to vote until a decade ago. For generations before us -- and still in many countries today -- women did not havethe right to own property, to initiate divorce proceedings (even in cases of abuse), we couldn't make decisions regarding pregnancy, contraception and abortion. Women's bodies are still not even considered their own property. Just look at Jennifer Lawrence's stolen nude photos. Of those 100 celebrities whose privacy was hacked, almost all were women.
The fight isn't over. I believe in equal rights for men and women...socially, politically, economically...and I believe to be a feminist today is to be a humanist. Around the world, women don't have the same human rights as men. When you look at the facts, we have a long way to go for equality:
Women STILL earn less than men.
Women STILL hold less management positions than men.
Women STILL make up a fraction of the world's politicians...but 50% of our population.
Women STILL are trafficked in almost every country in the world.
Women STILL don't feel safe.
Did you know a woman is raped every 2 minutes in the USA? It's unbelievable!
I believe every woman -- and man! -- should be proud to stand up for women's rights and label themselves a feminist. How can you refuse to advocate for equality? Modern feminists stretch this advocacy to include race, sexuality and gender identification...standing up for any person who is being oppressed.
David Letterman recently hosted Parks and Recreation actor Aziz Ansari on his show who beautifully summed up what it means to be a feminist. I think even those Hollywood girls who won't call themselves a feminist will agree with this analogy:
"You're a feminist if you go to a Jay Z and Beyoncé concert and you're not like, 'I feel like Beyoncé should get 23 per cent less money than Jay Z. Also I don't think Beyoncé should have the right to vote and why is Beyoncé singing and dancing -- shouldn't she make Jay a steak?"
Like Aziz, many of my male friends call themselves feminists because it's about human rights. Something that, despite gains over the past hundred years, women haven't actually been granted. And without the feminists (both male and female), we never will.
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