Bella Hadid walks around the streets of Milan with her Nike trainers and Meghan Markle struts around London with a big badge on her blouse saying ‘feminism’. Feminism has lost its meaning at the hands of celebrities, who use the term as a way of gaining public recognition, a pat on the back, and a smile from other women — it has for that reason become a fashion statement; another creation of the patriarchal society.
If someone today asked me if I was a feminist, I’d tell them no. Rather, I hold that I’m an advocate of women’s rights; an individual who strives to liberate women from the murky shadows of society. I seek to show and teach by example that women’s bodies belong to them and that of course we are equal members of society.
Today if I were to ask women (and men) in Sainsbury’s if they think the feminist movement has succeeded, they’d most likely say ‘yes, men and women are equal now’. And if I were to ask these same women (and men) in Sainsbury’s ‘what is a woman’s body for?’, I reckon childbearing would fall out of a few mouths. Bit if I asked that same question with regards to men, people would struggle to formulate anything other than ‘for himself’.
My point is the media has simplified feminism. It has been constrained and crumbled into this tiny boxed-up definition: that men and women should be equal. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-men and of course this is a huge part of feminism, but it isn’t the whole picture. Google ‘feminism’ and you’ll be shocked at the number of definitions that come your way. Bell Hooks tells us that:
‘to be feminist in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people; liberation from sexist role patterns, dominations and oppression … ‘
And yet, the celebrity feminists we are faced with arguably do very little in this regard. Take Meghan Markle, or any other female celebrity feminist like Emily Ratajkowski; they profess to be feminists but when you actually consider what they contribute to the women’s right movement, whether they will use their platform to bring some much needed radical change or liberation for females, the answer is No. These women will not join the fight, and we have reasonable proof of that in the fact that they haven’t done so yet. Instead, they wear their feminist badge, an uncontroversial item they can profess to endorse, and it will benefit them in their interviews and in their public lives. But the fact remains, in reality these women are not genuine members of the movement; not at all.
I’m not saying these powerful women are sexist or that they do not want female equality. Rather, what I’m arguing is that they are endorsing the media-generated, simplified version of feminism. And guess what? It’s superficial, it’s nothing new, and it doesn’t bring anything to the table in terms of helping to liberate women.
It’s easy to say we are feminists, but very few of us understand what that term originally meant. It stood for the passion to free women from unjust social constraints; to breakdown social barriers; to acknowledge the presence of gender differences, but to prevent these differences from becoming obstacles to achievement.
Feminism today no longer screams Change! It screams safe, politically correct way of getting social recognition.
Celebrities killed feminism the second they realised it was a popular topic. And worst of all, they make it look easy. To many, feminism no longer looks like an intricate ideology to understand, or even a challenging movement to pursue. ‘Feminist’ is something you can write in your Instagram bio, it is something you can tell women in bars so they’ll go home with you. The word no longer has substance, it no longer stands for anything, it is vacuous.
Silenced are the earnest feminists who strive for change. Tarnished are those women fighting for their rights, labelled wrongfully as ‘anti men’. And then there are the female celebrities, with a desire for superiority and fame, wearing their feminist badges as tokens of allegiance to a cause they know little about. The subtle difference being, one set fights against patriarchy, the other rolls with it while claiming to be on the side of the oppressed.