Sorry, but I really just don’t understand it:
2013 has been a bumper year for the celebrity feminist. There was THAT video by Lily Allen, and THAT performance by newly proclaimed women’s libber Miley Cyrus. Policymic’s 28 most iconic feminist moments of 2013 featured 11 celebrity feats. Jennifer Lawrence refused to lose weight, bootilicious Beyoncé came out of the feminist closet, sampling Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s anti-patriarchy talk, and TV star Mindy Kaling, who plays a ditzy doctor desperately hunting a boyfriend, claims the title by dint of being plump and brown. This year feminism cloaked celebrity culture like a new mink and shifted units in the process – 80,000 in three hours in Beyoncé’s case.
But before we get our girl power twerk-on, it must be noted that most of these modern-day feminists are infamous for growing the canon of formulaic depictions of femaleness rather than challenging it. So why the PR about-turn? Why has an organised movement that seeks to dismantle the systems that block equal rights for women been reduced to a soap-box for the media-sanctioned to protest their right to exist? Might this watered-down feminism serve the very system that feminists should be fighting to dismantle?
Let’s look at another moment of musical resistance that took place this year that didn’t feature trembling booties or dancing teddy bears, so went unnoticed. The gap between these promoted and unpromoted acts of resistance proves why it is more important than ever to strengthen feminism’s roots and not weaken them.
Setting the scene, back in 2002 I watched multi-Grammy winner Lauryn Hill stand on a stage armed only with a guitar. Between songs she confessed that due to the crippling control the music and media industry was exerting over her career, she was bowing out. She feared the effect that the manipulation of her image, lyrics and performance was having on her artistry and her largely female fan base. The show was unscripted and heartfelt and often made for uncomfortable listening. After this tour, Hill stopped performing, stopped making music and stopped paying taxes, releasing an open letter in which she labelled the music industry “a media-protected military industrial complex”.
So while Cyrus was proclaiming, “I feel like I’m one of the biggest feminists in the world because I tell women to not be scared of anything”, Hill, this year, faced the very real fear of working out a three-month prison sentence.
What? An industry which makes women fabulously, dynastically, rich because they can warble attractively is anti-feminist? And asking Hill to pay taxes on the many millions (and it was indeed many, many, millions she made) she made is anti-feminist?
I think I preferred it when it was “All men are scum” because at least there was some evidence that some indeed are.