I know Oxford Dictionary, Merriam Webster, and Dictionary.com have already coined their words of 2014. It’s all about vape, culture, and exposure for them and well…lame. Especially on vape, I mean c’mon! I do agree with 2/3 on coining an old word as new and fresh. What I’m talking about is an existing word that got it’s day in the spotlight with a massive resurgence due to pop culture. It’s a word I used to have conversations about in rare moments with a select few friends, but by the end of 2014 it was a common brunch or happy hour topic – even amongst my friends who I never imagined it coming from their mouths.
What word was it? FEMINIST. No other word or subject was as highly discussed in pop culture. Whether it was who is and isn’t a feminist, or what makes a feminist, or even just saying feminist knowing it was PR gold in 2014, the word was hot hot hot. You thought the ALS ice bucket challenge was the must-do celebrity trend of 2014? You were wrong. Talking about feminism couldn’t be beat.
You weren’t worth batting an eyelash for in celebrity world during 2014 if you didn’t want to answer the it question of if you were a feminist or not. You could be doing a segment on knitting wool and the elusive F-word would come up somehow. Everyone from Miley Cyrus to Emma Watson to Joseph Gordon-Levitt were all about feminists.
Let’s quickly take a moment to break down what the dictionary defines as a feminist, just so we all are on the same page.
(Both definitions via Dictionary.com)
Let’s do a quick breakdown of the word feminist in pop culture during 2014. Buckle in.
Lorde started the year out by bringing up feminists in Rookie mag.
“I’m speaking for a bunch of girls when I say that the idea that feminism is completely natural and shouldn’t even be something that people find mildly surprising, it’s just a part of being a girl. And that kind of normal, non-scary, chill vibe that you had with it, and that Rookie had, was really encouraging when I was like 14. I find a lot of feminist reading quite confusing and that often there’s a set of rules, and people will be like, “Oh, this person isn’t a true feminist because they don’t embody this one thing,” and I don’t know, often it can be a gray area and it can be a hard thing to navigate. But I don’t know. I just like, it’s just something that I’d assumed was natural for a long time. It’s not some crazy kind of alien concept to me.”
Miley Cyrus was quick to to proclaim herself a feminist in Elle Magazine.
“I’m just about equality, period. It’s not like, I’m a woman, women should be in charge! I just want there to be equality for everybody. I still don’t think we’re there 100 percent. I mean, guy rappers grab their crotch all fucking day and have hos around them, but no one talks about it. But if I grab my crotch and I have hot model bitches around me, I’m degrading women? I’m a woman—I should be able to have girls around me! But I’m part of the evolution of that. I hope.”
It wasn’t just the young celebrities picking up on this discussion topic early in the year.
Claire Danes called out Hollywood’s unequal working distrubtion of women to men in Glamour.
“I am a feminist. Yes, women have more freedom and more influence than ever, but it’s hardly equal. It’s just not. It’s really f*cking crazy. I’m sorry I’m cursing. But it’s wild that women are underrepresented.”
Alright alright alright. 2014 seems to be starting off in a good direction.
There’s always a few bad eggs in the bunch though. One celeb made me roll my eyes with their 2013-ness of anti-feminism attitudes. Remember, those dark days where being called a feminist was like being a leper. The worst was Lana Del Rey. She made sure to call the recent surge of feminism boring. It’s common for dumb things to come out of Del Rey’s mouth though, as I’ve covered in the past.
For recap sake, Lana Del Rey commented in Fader
“For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept. Whenever people bring up feminism, I’m like, god. I’m just not really that interested.”
Snooze I’m not interested in you.
Plenty of celebrities also revealed they’re really dang confused when it comes to what feminism is. We hate men, yeah? No! However, now compared to the past it’s more blatant confusion on what feminism is rather than denial upon denial.
Meghan Trainor in Billboard
“I don’t consider myself a feminist, but I’m down for my first opportunity to say something to the world to be so meaningful,”
I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that Trainor didn’t bash feminism, so there’s still a positive to be had.
There’s celebrities who are still confused, but have made strides forward from prior statements.
Katy Perry on Australia Today who once vehemently denied being a feminist, updated her views.
“A feminist? Uh, yeah, actually,” she said. “I used to not really understand what that word meant, and now that I do, it just means that I love myself as a female and I also love men.”
Well it’s not quite right, but it’s moving in the right direction.
Sometimes you have to look past a celebrity’s gobblygook to realize they do believe in feminism they may just have a problem with the label – which is still a societal issue.
Shailene Woodley is one of those celebrities that is so close to the feminist discussion, but not quite there.
Woodley’s earthy spirit mother persona screams feminist wouldn’t you think? I’d be with you on that assumption. Girl was NOT having it when given the feminist label in an interview with Time because at first glance because she loves men which WTF.
Woodley is actually trying to articulate a point that is accurate. It shouldn’t be women over men it should be equality because that creates a worrisome discrimination as well.
“No because 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.”
Woodley further clarified her thoughts in The Salon
“Labels are for other people to understand us, so for me, I know how I feel and I don’t need to call myself a ‘feminist’ or ‘not a feminist’ because I know what my truth is. Any sort of label segregates. There’s a line between between people. I don’t abide by any of that.”
I get that, but does denying the label do any good? Or would Woodley be better suited by explaining how the label isn’t meant to discriminate? I guess that’s up to each person to discuss and decide.
No matter what, one thing was clear. In overwhelming numbers, celebs were embracing feminism in a positive way.
Elizabeth Moss discussed her Mad Men character Peggy in being what a feminist strives for in Stylist UK
“I think she represents what feminism is really about: equal opportunities, being respected, and being heard. For Peggy, the term ‘glass ceiling’ didn’t exist. She wasn’t necessarily aware of feminism. She wasn’t trying to make a stand. She just wanted to be respected and treated the same as everyone else because she has good ideas. That’s something that women today still feel but they don’t want to make a big deal out of it. You just want to be able to have your ideas heard. I am thoroughly lucky that I get to tell that story, because it’s an important story for all women today.”
Ellen Page in The Guardian
“I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Maybe some women just don’t care. But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word? Feminism always gets associated with being a radical movement – good. It should be. A lot of what the radical feminists [in the 1970s] were saying, I don’t disagree with it.”
Lena Dunham in The Guardian
“It’s definitely modern, but if feminism has to become a brand in order to fully engulf our culture and make change, I’m not complaining.”
Many people applaud Dunham for being a ringleader in pop culture feminism. I have many issues with that moniker, but it is true that she contributed to the discussion at large.
Kristen Stewart in The Daily Beast about women not wanting to claim the title of feminist
“That’s such a strange thing to say, isn’t it? Like, what do you mean? Do you not believe in equality for men and women?”
Anna Kendrick also in The Daily Beast voiced her confusion on the anti-feminist stance
“There is a word for gender equality—and that’s feminism. It’s a very female-centric word. I understand that the implication is that “I’m a woman who supports women” and not “I’m a person who supports gender equality.” I feel like the word can be appropriated by the wrong people for that reason and misinterpreted by those people, but you just have to fight back and own that word. It’s practically become a curse word. Somebody says, “Oh, you’re being such a feminist,” and you’re supposed to be like, “No I’m not.” Why are we afraid of that word? It exists and we can’t get rid of it, so let’s fight for it and embrace it. That is truly a bummer.”
Three young celebrities went above and beyond in promoting feminist ideals and feminism in 2014. It became a part of their brand and identity.
When Beyoncé dropped her self titled album Beyoncé in 2013 she had no idea how big her song “Flawless” would become to herself, the celebrity world, and the public at large.
The song included quotes from an infamous TED talk, “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It includes the below sayings.
We teach girls to shrink themselves,
to make themselves smaller.
We say to girls,
‘You can have ambition,
but not too much.
You should aim to be successful,
but not too successful.
Otherwise you will threaten the man.’
Because I am female,
I am expected to aspire to marriage.
I am expected to make my life choices
always keeping in mind that
marriage is the most important.
Now marriage can be a source of
joy and love and mutual support.
But why do we teach to aspire to marriage
and we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to see each other as competitors –
not for jobs or for accomplishments,
which I think can be a good thing,
but for the attention of men.
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
in the way that boys are.
Feminist: the person who believes in the social,
political and economic equality of the sexes
“Flawless” became the anthem of 2014. Beyoncé even went on to perform the hit song at the 2014 MTV VMAs during her headlining performance to a black backdrop with only the massive display of FEMINIST lit up. Good way to get your message across.
It didn’t end there for Beyoncé. She was no where near finished with feminism in 2014.
Beyoncé discussed feminism with British Vogue.
“I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything? I’m just a woman and I love being a woman. I do believe in equality and that we have a way to go and it’s something that’s pushed aside and something that we have been conditioned to accept.”
The singer also wrote an article for The Shriver Report entitled “Gender Equality is a Myth” that tackled the unfair wage difference between men and women in the work world.
Even with Beyoncé’s embrace of feminism, there were people (singer Annie Lennox and popular feminist author Bell Hooks) who told her she couldn’t be a feminist and was actually hurting women with her sexiness and showing off with her clothes and dancing. Which in my mind doesn’t make an ounce of sense. Isn’t claiming our bodies and our decisions about them a big ideal in feminism? Yes, sex sells and it’s often women’s bodies that are used so I understand the underlying patriarchy. Beyoncé is CHOOSING to embrace that side and use it on her own terms. Putting other women down negatively because they use sex for their advantage undermines the whole process.
Taylor Swift is the shining example of a celebrity whose thoughts on being a feminist have evolved.
Swift used to be one of the stars who denied denied denied she could ever be a feminist. Now it has become her main form of PR while her recent album 1989 was dropping onto store shelves. Every interview Swift brought feminism up with joy. According to the singer her “feminist awakening” was due to bestie Lena Dunham. Now her favorite accessories are her strong group of empowered girlfriends.
In The Guardian Swift talks about the importance of feminist visibility.
“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… Becoming friends with Lena – without her preaching to me, but just seeing why she believes what she believes, why she says what she says, why she stands for what she stands for – has made me realize [sic] that I’ve been taking a feminist stance without actually saying so.”
Some have wondered whether this rah-rah feminist crusade was all a well timed career move or genuine behavior for Swift, but I guess we’ll only have to wait and find out.
The feminist spotlight all came to a head with Emma Watson being named the United Nations Women Global Goodwill Ambassador.
Watson was asked to give a speech at the UN on gender equality. She tried to show that women’s rights did not equal men hating in any regard, attempting to clear up the common myth.
“I was appointed six months ago, and the more I have spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop. For the record, feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Fighting for Women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop”
Watson launched the #HeForShe campaign that showed men could happily claim the feminist title too and realize gender equality involved all sexes. Celebs that joined in the campaign included Harry Styles, Logan Lerman, Tom Hiddleston, Matthew Lewis, James Van Der Beek, Mark Ruffalo and many more.
In an unfortunate move this speech and campaign garnered some misogynistic hate from internet trolls threatening to leak nude pictures of Watson for proposing such ideas. Thanks for giving the public even more awareness of why things like feminism are indeed still important in 2014.
Watson went on to be named the Feminist of the year by the Ms. Foundation for Women. That’s a pretty neat title to hold.
Some men went farther than joining the #HeForShe campaign in the feminist discussion of 2014.
Daniel Radcliffe is a male star who has never been shy of boasting his feminist views in interviews.
In The Independent he made sure that this year was no different when discussing how he actively advocates for his female counterparts in showbiz to have meatier roles and responsibilities on the projects he works with.
“There are certainly more female writers now than there were but the fact remains, most female parts are written by men,” he said. “I think—I hope—the film industry is becoming a lot more balanced.”
No male feminist shined as brightly as Jospeh Gordon-Levitt in 2014.
Feminism was a topic he brought up at multiple times. He credits his parents about teaching him the importance of feminism from a young age and that it’s all about learning experiences.
“What feminism means to me is that you don’t let your gender define who you are—you can be who you want to be, whether you’re a man, a woman, a boy, a girl, whatever. However you want to define yourself, you can do that and should be able to do that, and no category ever really describes a person because every person is unique. That, to me, is what feminism means. So yes, I’d absolutely call myself a feminist. And if you look at history, women are an oppressed category of people. There’s a long, long history of women suffering abuse, injustice, and not having the same opportunities as men, and I think that’s been very detrimental to the human race as a whole. I’m a believer that if everyone has a fair chance to be what they want to be and do what they want to do, it’s better for everyone. It benefits society as a whole.”
After his original thoughts receiving lots of attention, Gordon-Levitt went on the Ellen Show to bring up feminism again.
“That was something that my mom would always point out to my brother and me, that our culture does often portray women especially… like objects. For example, we would always watch Lakers games as a family, but my mom would always point out every time the cheerleaders come on, ‘Okay, so look, here’s the story that gets told: The men get to be the heroic skilled athletes and the women just get to be pretty.’ She didn’t mean any offense to any individual woman who was working as a cheerleader, but she wanted me and my brother to be aware of it because we see these images on TV, in the movies, and on magazines all the time. And if you don’t stop and think about it, it just sort of seeps into your brain and that becomes the way you perceive reality. I do call myself a feminist. Absolutely! It’s worth paying attention to the roles that are sort of dictated to us and that we don’t have to fit into those roles. We can be anybody we wanna be.”
That isn’t where Mr. JGL stopped. On his popular YouTube channel hitRECord he posted a thoughtful video that covered why he believes in feminism and his understanding of the issues that exist with the moniker. He requested that we keep the discussion going by viewers uploading videos on what feminism means to them, what inspires them to be a feminist, and how they learned about feminism.
It wasn’t even just celebrities getting involved in the big feminist debate of 2014.
There was Time magazine taking a not-so favorable stance to this trend proposing a ban of the word Feminist. Which, yawn. I’m over that bull. Fun fact, basic is in the same category cause those are two words I think of together. Yeah, okay. Just another passing fade word that doesn’t have any impact. Those ideals can go away. (Fyi: Time realized their major oopsie with this and retracted their poll saying feminist never should’ve been included.)
Instagram had to go and get involved with censoring of female bodies and boom, the Free the Nipple campaign was born. Many celebrities made this their crusade by posting F-U pictures (Chelsea Handler), walking down the streets of New York streets topless (Scout Willis), and producing protest songs (Miley Cyrus). What’s particularly interesting about Instagram vs Free the Nipple is the issue was highly contested by people on the same side of the feminist debate on if this campaign was going “too far” – it seems that nobody can agree.
Long story short?
FEMINIST WAS THE BUZZWORD OF 2014!
I was lucky to take a few gender studies classes during my university career and one moment always sticks with me. On the first day of intro 101 my professor asked people to raise their hand if they were a feminist. Maybe one or two people out of 30 did. I will admit, I was not one of them. Next my she explained the ideal goals of feminism and asked people to raise their hands if they believed in those basic rights. Every single person in the room did. My professor went on to explain that a feminist and those goals were one and the same but why were many people unwilling to label themselves because of numerous reasons. By the end of the semester I and many others claimed the feminist label proudly. All it took was gaining knowledge that I didn’t have.
That’s why feminist being the pop culture buzzword of 2014 is an AMAZING thing in my mind. As Taylor Swift proved, many young celebrities and people in general have these negative and wrong connotations of feminism because of cultural and societal stereotypes. It doesn’t mean that you hate men or burn bras or females are better or that it’s not necessary. I think it’s still important because hell if I work just as hard as my male co-worker for the same position I damn better be getting paid the same. Just because I label myself as a woman doesn’t mean you can dock a chunk of my wages. Some people will always refuse feminism, but there are plenty of others that with somebody to guide them they can see a whole new world and celebrate the feminist title for reasons that are important to them.
That’s why this sudden embrace of feminism in celebrities is a good thing. In today’s age, celebrities hold more influence than parents for a great population. Seeing their favorites behavior makes a difference. A celebrity speaking up on feminism may be the only information they get on the subject. It may just be pop culture, but it’s got a bigger impact than that. It won’t fix all the problems, but it makes people aware and that’s a great step in the right direction. When someone you look up to takes on the label positively, more people may be willing to follow in those footsteps. Feminist being the buzzword of 2014 made a difference.
This doesn’t mean feminists at large don’t have more to do. Currently it is mainly “average straight white feminism” that is being talked about and fought for because as sad as it is to say it’s less menacing and easier to accept. There are many more intersectionalities when it comes to feminism such as race, sexuality, income level, etc. See the sad situation with the This is What A Feminist Looks Like t-shirt and sweatshops as a prime example.
The points in my last paragraph brought me one final feminist present while in the midst of writing this post. An even younger celebrity than any listed above pointed out the missing components in pop culture’s recent feminist discussions.
Maisie Williams called out the current version of feminism for exclusion of too many people.
“It’s first-world feminism. I know things aren’t perfect for women in the UK and in America, but there are women in the rest of the world who have it far worse.”
While we still have many more steps to take, I’ll still take feminist being the pop culture buzzword of 2014 as one step in the right direction as a good start. Each celebrity that brings it up in an interview is another person possibly taught. Here’s to what 2015 will bring. Keep it coming celebrities and feminism.
What do you think of the big feminist topic of 2014? Do you love what it’s done? Or are you just over it?
Until next time,