Our Idea Of Feminism Is Outdated (As Shown By Shailene Woodley)
Once again a female celeb is making her voice heard on the oh-so-controversial issue of feminism, and once again it’s made everyone go completely batshit. Shailene Woodley, the star of Divergent and the upcoming, much-anticipated The Fault in Our Stars has come out saying she does not identify as a feminist -- totally cool and normal these days, nothing to worry about. It’s her reasoning, however, that has heated this debate to a boiling point (or was that just on my Facebook feed?).
Time Magazine: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Shailene Woodley: No, because I love men…
Did you guys just see that? I travelled back in time to the 1960s! I can’t believe human time travel really works!
She continues: “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.”
Someone mentioned that not everyone possesses the language required to express their own understanding of feminism, so let’s not focus on her notion that feminism’s goal is for women to rise to power. I’m more interested in the equation:
Shailene + Men = <3 ÷ Feminism = :(
She goes on to mention how sisterhood is more important to her than feminism (I agree, sisterhood is a beautiful thing), and how the movie The Other Woman is a good example of said sisterhood (plot of The Other Woman: “After discovering her boyfriend is married, Carly soon meets the wife he's been cheating on. And when yet another affair is discovered, all three women team up to plot mutual revenge on the three-timing SOB.”)
This story makes me mad, and not for the reasons you might think. I don’t care that Woodley’s not a feminist, I don’t care that she takes on empowering female roles and then says stuff like this for all her young fans to hear. It’s so much larger than that. What grinds my gears is three-fold:
Firstly, and most importantly, it’s the touting of the same old false premise that feminists can’t love men -- that feminists hate men inherently and that feminism is a movement intent on bringing men down. I’m so bored of this argument I almost fell asleep mid-quote. By saying she’s not a feminist because she loves men, Woodley is not actually talking about feminism at all, and the problem lies in people believing she is.
Hating men is not what feminism is about. Equating the two things forever and ever like they’re milk and cookies doesn’t do anyone any favours. It’s been debunked. We’ve moved forward. If you’re going to argue against something, don’t resort to cliches.
Secondly, what makes me mad is the kind of reaction a silly, probably off-the-cuff quote like this generates. After getting sucked into a Facebook debate (like an IDIOT) I began to see a pattern emerge. Feminism has, of late, become a very broad ideology; it seems feminism must now be everything to everyone -- single moms, working moms, the childfree, child-haters, pro-breastfeeders, pro-bottle-feeders, strippers, nuns, everyone’s invited and everyone is equally feminist, if that’s what they choose to be.
I’m into the plurality aspect -- women and their issues are complex, so black and white doesn’t cut it. But I draw the line when people begin to defend quotes like Woodley’s as just another legitimate viewpoint in the big feminist discussion, when they are clearly, flat-out false.
People don’t get to say “I’m not a racist because I eat Chinese food” -- no one would let them get away with it. Just because the big feminist discourse is bigger and more discoursey than ever doesn’t mean you can just say whatever you want and call it a contribution.
Thirdly, the celebrity soapbox is an issue unto itself. Why we take our cues from people who live in a totally different world than the rest of us is beyond me.
To say that Shailene Woodley has a flakey vibe is an understatement, but that doesn’t make her opinions about feminism invalid. She seems like a fairly talented actor, and maybe this question just caught her off guard, or maybe she’s never really thought about it so she said the obvious thing that came to mind. But that’s the issue -- it’s not about Shailene Woodley, it’s about this old-school idea that persists and persists.
I’m a feminist, I love men, I love podcasts, I don’t mind Shailene Woodley’s movies -- I don’t like it when people say little things like this don’t matter. They do.