…And, unfortunately, she doesn’t know what that quite means — given her answer in a TIME interview published yesterday. The piece doesn’t start out all that well when it mentions other female celebs who’ve either branded themselves with the label or shunned it completely, as though it was the hottest trend right now: to be or not to be a feminist! Woodley chose her side by declaring herself not a feminist when the interviewer pointed out her conscious effort regarding which messages she conveys to her young female fans. This was what she had to say:
TIME: …Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Shailene Woodley: 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.
Just so we’re clear, here’s the definition of Feminism as found on dictionary.com:
1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. (sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.
3. feminine character.
I’m confused. Nowhere in this definition do I see women overthrowing men, as though it’s a gender monarchy where only one gender will rule over them all. Last I checked, feminism was about creating equality between all genders, because guess what Shailene? There isn’t any, and a perfect example of this is that on average women make less money than men do for the same exact work (Canada/USA). And, right now, women are fighting for control over their bodies in the United States which is an issue that men don’t have to experience. It’s not about the oppressive group becoming the oppressors, in the same way that African Americans wouldn’t have become oppressors in their fights for equality during the Civil Rights movement. Equality has always been feminism’s mission statement from the beginning; making up a definition for it without any research is passing on misconceptions to the same young female audience that Woodley is so conscious about.
Another misconception is that being a feminist and loving men are mutually exclusive. No! They’re not. There are feminists that love men just fine. In fact, there are men out there that self identify as feminists and act supportively in the movement. Weird, right? Since we’re debunking myths:
- not all feminists have armpit hair, and not all feminists don’t!
- not all feminists are lesbians, but there are lesbians who are feminists!
- on the whole, we do not practice blood sacrifices to a pagan god and/or Satan!
- there isn’t a test you have to take to be a feminist! Do you believe women should control their own bodies? Do you think women should make their own choices and HAVE choices? Is your daughter attending university with your support and encouragement? Do you hate oppressing an entire group of people based on their gender? If yes, you’re a feminist! Hurray!
See? If you just looked up feminism or did your research, we wouldn’t be in this awkward situation.
Woodley, overall, advocates for sisterhood and uses the film The Other Woman as an example (despite it being a film about women banding together to take down a man). I’m not calling the film pro-feminist or anti-feminist. I’m not saying that these women taking down this cheating dude is wrong. I’m pointing out, as the original interviewer begins to, that after having given her view of feminism as a mechanism of attacking the poor “man”, she used a film where sisterhood was formed over taking down a particular dude as evidence.
I’ll just let that sit there for a bit.
Look, Woodley is probably a great girl. She intrigues people off screen due to her anti-Hollywood image in the same way that Jennifer Lawrence began to when she first stepped onto the scene. But this isn’t the first time she’s said something ridiculous (calling John Green ‘the Prophet of YA‘ last month) and all I can say is that the upside to being a regular person is being able to say something ignorant and being corrected without having the whole world watch it happen. Guess we need to think before we speak twice as much when we’re public figures.
There have been people who’ve defended Woodley’s words by asking, “Why does she have to label herself?”
Why? Because, ladies and gentleman, words are a powerful thing. There’s power in saying them and there’s power in keeping them quiet. Woodley is hurting the cause for equality by not only maintaining existing misconceptions, but also by not associating herself with a word designed for use in solidarity between women and their allies. That’s not just on Woodley but those other celebrities as well, who like to dance around the word for whatever reason they may have. “Feminist” has history, and, by not declaring yourself, by deciding who is or isn’t a feminist by becoming gatekeepers, by not understanding the various discriminations within gender that come to play like socio-economic status, race, sexual orientation etc, we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot.
Shailene was right about one thing: we do need sisterhood. Too bad her refusal to use “feminist” is misrepresenting the sisterhood she’s hoping for.