By Kate Radin
Remember when Beyonce took to the stage at the 2014 VMAs with the word “FEMINIST” lit up behind her? The performance brought down the house—not only because it was such a killer show, but because it intended to highlight the new face of feminism. A super strong woman who is invested as much in her career as she is in her family. A mom, a wife and a #girlboss.
The F-word is taking the world by storm.
Beyonce’s statement is part of a growing trend in pop culture, in which it seems like anyone and everyone has an opinion on the F-word. Miley Cyrus once declared herself “the biggest feminist in the world.” Katy Perry and Meghan Trainor are a couple stars who’ve said they don’t really consider themselves feminists, while singer Carrie Underwood has said she doesn’t like to use the word “feminist” because of its “negative connotation.”
Back in November, Time magazine received backlash for including the word “feminist” in its fourth annual poll over what word people would like to see banned in 2015. “Twerk” was voted the worst word of 2013, while “YOLO” won the title back in 2012. Other contenders on the 2014 list included “bae,” “turnt” and “I can’t even.”
When I first saw “feminist” was on the list, I couldn’t even. I’m proud to call myself a feminist. I believe in women, and I believe in being the best woman I can be. I also believe in equality. So, reading that Time article left me angry and confused.
Why was feminism considered an annoying word…or even a dirty one?
After scanning through some of the comments, I began to understand. It’s not the movement people don’t support; it’s how the idea has been portrayed in pop culture. Feminism has been misinterpreted. It’s been morphed into a million Internet memes and a go-to interview question for celebs, which is causing people to completely miss the real meaning.
Feminism: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities; the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes —Merriam-Webster
Simple, to the point. It’s not about bashing all boys and saying they’re the enemy. It’s not about proclaiming that women are superior and can exist without men. But then, you have a megastar like Taylor Swift, who makes one statement about feminism—and that definition becomes bungled as a result. In 2012, a then-23-year-old Swift was asked by The Daily Beast about her views on feminism. Her response?
“I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls,” she told them. “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.”
Uhhh…what? Guys versus girls? That is not what feminism is all about.
Fortunately, we all seem to get wiser with age. And, in an interview last summer, Swift owned up to her mistake.
“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. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means.” —Taylor Swift
While Tay’s quote about equality is great, to me it was her self-correction that really demonstrates what feminism is about. It’s about seeing past mistakes and recognizing ways to fix them.
Sure, we’ve come a long way from not being able to attend school alongside boys or being denied the right to vote (which suffragettes won for us in 1919, btw).
Yes, there are definitely some amazing stories about women doing incredible things.
In 2014, Malala Yousafzai, an activist for female education and human rights, became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize winner. Hillary Clinton is expected to run for president in 2016. And there are more female CEOs heading up Fortune 500 companies than ever before.
Because everyone deserves a chance to speak up, succeed and prove their mettle.
And while you don’t have to label yourself a feminist to be a part of this movement, if we want equality, we will get a lot further if we stick together and embrace who we are.
At the end of the day, maybe it was Queen Bey who articulated it best:
“I guess 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.” —Beyonce
Reprinted with permission from GL magazine, February/March 2015.