We’ve been in a world where some young female celebrities seem scared of the word feminism, scared of what it would mean for their brand, while “feminist” has become a dumb gotcha question in these same profiles, a process that’s outlined smartly in this New York Times piece, “Who Is a Feminist Now?” That piece was written in the wake of Shailene Woodley, an actress and outspoken hippie with enough star power to have complex female roles in films that are making lots of money, distancing herself from the word — and again, citing it as a case of girls vs. boys. It’s a view that just feels awfully dumb in a world where women’s access to, say, health care is limited by politicians.
Celebrity feminism isn’t going to fix all the problems in the world. It can’t do that, one bit, and it’s a waste of breath to have supremely high expectations from women who front corporations wrestling with feminism in public. Nobody’s perfect and we’re all bad feminists in a variety of ways.
But there is something that’s exciting and heartening to see women who are growing up in the public eye (between Beyoncé and Swift, that’s ten-plus years of major stardom) evolving with their views of the world and how they can function in it, and also learning how to wield their power. It’s a good thing when celebrities like Beyoncé and Swift embrace feminism. If it can get one small girl reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s “We Should All Be Feminists,” or buying hot summer reads like Roxane Gay’s bestselling (!) Bad Feminist for their friends, then it’s a very good start. From there, we can all move on (starting with pop culture’s mixed messages of how to be a person, finishing with structural inequality and dismantling the patriarchy?), as there’s work to be done.