Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting is making headlines after her recent interview on Red Book Magazine. The interview contained this question, asking if she, one of the highest paid women on US tv, considers herself a feminist.
Kaley isn’t the first celebrity to distance herself from feminism. Salma Hayek left fans confused when she received an award for her efforts for women’s equality while adamantly denying being a feminist on the red carpet, saying:
“I am not a feminist…If men were going through the things women are going through today, I would be fighting for them with just as much passion. I believe in equality.”
Singer Kelly Clarkson is another who rejects the term, saying:
“No, I wouldn’t say feminist — that’s too strong. I think when people hear feminist, it’s like, ‘Get out of my way, I don’t need anyone.’ I love that I’m being taken care of and I have a man that’s a leader. I’m not a feminist in that sense.”
Rising star Shailene Woodley has explained why she does not consider herself a feminist, saying: “…
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.
My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism. I don’t know how we as women expect men to respect us because we don’t even seem to respect each other. There’s so much jealousy, so much comparison and envy. And “This girl did this to me and that girl did that to me.” And it’s just so silly and heartbreaking in a way.”
Remember Icelandic singer Bjork? Not a feminist, either:
“[I don’t identify as a feminist] because I think it would isolate me. I think it’s important to do positive stuff. It’s more important to be asking than complaining.” She added: “You could probably call my mother a feminist, and I watched her isolate herself all her life from men, and therefore from society.”
The lovely Taylor Swift had this to say on feminism:
“I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.”
While accepting a Woman of the Year music award, Katy Perry addressed the audience with these words:
“I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.”
Even one-woman powerhouse Madonna rejected the term ‘feminist’ when she said:
“I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist.”
So why is it a big deal?
When well-known women reject feminism, they do so from a platform that has the potential to reach literally millions of people. They are influential. And so often- they seem to be rejecting feminism without understanding what it is, or preferring terms like ‘humanist’ (Madonna isn’t alone in this; actors Susan Sarandon and Demi Moore have also made this statement) On the surface- ‘humanist’ sounds pretty ok, right?
However, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines humanism as:
A system of values and beliefs that is based on the idea that people are basically good and that problems can be solved using reason instead of religion.
Humanism works on the premise that people are already on a level playing field and that they are basically good. It is more a philosophy focused on secularist views, education, tolerance and equality. It has a strong focus on the idea that humans do not need a deity to make morally and ethically sound decisions.
The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.
Feminism recognizes that women are not yet equal to men. That women do not have the same rights and opportunities as men already enjoy. At it’s core, feminism advocates for all non-male people to have the same rights and opportunities that men have. As a social movement, feminism rejects the marginalisation, subjugation, discrimination and violence directed to anyone on basis of gender. This means that, by extension, feminism rejects discrimination based not only on gender but sexuality, on race, on age and so on- because feminism is about seeking and protecting human rights.
So while I have no argument with humanism (except perhaps the idea that we are all on a level playing field) I don’t see it as an alternative to feminism. I don’t see why you couldn’t advocate the two views side by side, for the most part.
And while we’re talking about what feminism means, I think someone needs to let all these well known non-feminists in on the definition.
In Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting’s case, what struck me was these two things. The first- that she never demanded equality- because she’d never faced inequality. The second is that she cites cooking for her husband as a reason she can’t be a feminist. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that she hasn’t faced inequality- but is that any reason to think that no one else does? And does cooking dinner 5 nights a week mean you are unable to care about or even acknowledge the plight of women in far less privileged positions? She is in an extremely privileged position, so privileged, in fact, that it seems to have put some serious blinkers on her.
Hey, Salma Hayek- You can be a feminist and care about men and even fight for them if the need arises- it’s about equality, after all!
Yo, Kelly Clarkson- You can let your husband ‘take care of you’ if you choose and yes- you can even need people and STILL be a feminist!
Shailene- It’s 100% ok be in touch with your masculine side and still be a feminist- but it helps if you know that feminism seeks to elevate the rights of women to be the same as those of men rather than removing their rights and making them submit to female rule. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t a feminist! Feminism recognises that gender is not a suitable reason to discriminate!
Hey Bjork- You can actively advocate feminism without isolating yourself from men. Pointing out gender inequality and trying to do something about it is not “complaining”. There are many notable feminists who have worked to bring about huge changes in an attempt to give women equality. Those achievements came about through advocacy, activism and hard work.
Taylor- You can be a feminist without a “guys vs girls” mentality because frankly- that’s just not what feminism is about or surely there wouldn’t be so many notable male feminists.
Hi Katy Perry! You already believe in the strength of women, so what is stopping you from seeing women can and should enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men?
The message is pretty simple, really. The Huff Post published this great flow chart to help you decide if you are, in fact, a feminist. I vote that this be handed to any and all women, no matter how famous:
When someone with influence and a huge platform says they aren’t a feminist, it is damaging. People like Shailene Woodley and Taylor Swift etc are admired by so many young women so hearing their idols speak out against feminism can certainly influence their views. What’s worse is they are defining feminism incorrectly when they do it, reinforcing negative and inaccurate stereotypes and painting feminists as misandrists when there is a world of difference there.
Linked up today with Help, I’m Stuck for Things I Know