The 21st Century has gifted humanity many advances in technology, in medicine, even, dare I say it, in politics. We have witnessed new space adventures, dreadful viruses such as Ebola combatted effectively and efficiently, and whilst the refugee crisis is at the top of every newsreaders autocue, we have seen the demise of some of the most tyrannical leaderships of the modern age. We, Homo sapiens, have quite a bit for which to be thankful, despite often not demonstrating any emotion or attitude which even vaguely resembles graciousness. One topic which has really attracted a lot of coverage in last couple of years especially has been the: “F-word” – no… Feminism!
Now, Feminism is not new, and this generation was certainly not the first to think of gender equality, but it’s connotations of man-hating, militancy, and general negativity have been dampened over time. To place Feminism in some social context, we are on the cusp of a Fourth Wave of feminism, which seems an awful long way away from Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 text: “Le Deuxième Sexe” [The Second Sex], which is seen as the foundation for the work of the Second Wave Feminists through the 1960s to 1980s. However, it appears Fourth Wave Feminism has a troubled identity. It is rife with questions about the true meaning of gendered equality and unfortunately has been the target of some much unwanted attacks from a growing network of so-called ‘meninists’ who claim Feminism is nothing but a guise for misandry. Can I draw a line in the sand here now? There should be no such thing as ‘meninism’ – to promote an empowered group to further subjugate an already oppressed group goes completely against the ideology of gender equality and therefore Feminism itself. That is not to say that misandry, just like misogyny, does not occur, but any Feminist abjectly discriminating against any gender is categorically not a Feminist.
As usual, I digress. As previously mentioned, Feminism seems to have a confused outlook at the moment, and due to what can only really be deemed as public ignorance, and sadly, professional or academic abandonment in recent years, it has fallen into the hands of the celebrity, almost beleaguered. Unfortunately, it has also taken the form of its new friendship group – much like what happens on the playground when your friend finds a new group for a week – Feminism has become superficial, unsubstantiated, and just isn’t doing what we know it is good at. Unfortunately, though many of you reading this would have managed to attract that friend back with your intellectual wiles, Feminism has been showered in the riches of celebrity, blinded by the flashes of our media’s paparazzi, and has made more appearances on concert stages than it has in text books of late…
Now some of you who are reading this may be thinking I am jealous that Feminism has become famous and I, someone who has written, debated, and advocated Feminism has been left behind without my stage appearance. Well no, I’m not jealous, I’m concerned. Some of you may believe that I am grumbling over the fact Feminism has had some much needed publicity, and therefore I am anti-Feminist. This isn’t true either. It is simply that the publicity Feminism has received, does not actually do anything Feminist.
Let me explain it in a different way: You are up for an award because you have devised a programme which gives disadvantaged children access to free reading tuition from University students in the local area. The idea is fantastic, and you have worked really hard to get this off the ground, signing up volunteers and assigning a local consortium of schools in socially deprived areas their reading tutors. You get the award because your idea is innovative and has a real positive social change for these children, but consequently also the relationship between the University and the schools, and actually years down the line, children who would never have been expected to attend University, apply, and get in. (This is First Wave Feminism – the ground-breaking starting point). In the following years, other people devise similar schemes in neighbouring cities, and even countries, building on the great work which has been produced after you initially started the scheme – the leaders of these new schemes get awards too, deservedly so. (This is Second Wave Feminism – the movement which really drives the First Wave’s ethos forwards). After a few years, we enter a third stage where there has been recognisable social change and a more equal society in terms of children’s reading ability despite socio-economic background – anyone attached to any of the schemes running are now rewarded for their efforts. (Third Wave Feminism). Finally we reach the present day, and random celebrities stand up at the end of their concerts, on the stage at award ceremonies, or even in the art which they produce and simply state “Reading is good for children.” – Everyone loses their mind as if this is the most original statement in the history of thought, but the true meaning of the initiative is lost – and what is worse, probably unknown by the celebrity who utters those words. Your entire efforts are meaningless and you and the pioneers who followed in your footsteps are forgotten, or worse, perhaps entirely unknown to the new battalion of advocates – the Celebrity Squadron. (This is a path which Fourth Wave Feminism might be taking).
For me, the large majority of celebrity ‘Feminists’ are poorly read, do nothing to advance the cause, and actually portray Feminism in a really superficial light. The deluded grandiosity of celebrities who attach Feminism to their list of qualities, is becoming out of control. And quite frankly, some of these celebrities require one of two things – time to absorb knowledge in order to decide if Feminism is a concept they can wholeheartedly advocate, or simply a bit time of a Psychologist’s couch for signing on to something which should be a lifelong endeavour, and which maybe they do not fully understand. Let me set a couple of things straight: Just because you have a lot of money, does not make you a Feminist. Just because you use the word Feminist to describe yourself, does not make you a Feminist. Just because you wear a t-shirt stating “This is what a feminist looks like” (a favourite with the male celebrity ‘Feminist’), does not make you a Feminist. Feminism is a cause in need of action – and there are some great celebrity efforts: Emma Watson, for example, with the HeForShe Campaign; Sir Patrick Stewart and his work for Amnesty International (raising awareness of domestic violence in particular), and the celebrity couple Salma Hayek and François-Henri Pinault who lead the Kering Foundation to “Stop Violence. Improve women’s lives.” These are all fantastic Feminist idols and I tip my hat to them for the great efforts they are making to achieve gender equality and a better world for all.
So, in short: I am annoyed at the moment with celebrities adopting something they absolutely do not back up with substance, despite the fact they may really believe in the cause itself, but I still care about Feminism passionately, and suppose I should commend at least some of their attempts. But for pity’s sake, if life happens to give you lemons, please, just don’t make lemonade…