Recently, Shailene Woodley made headlines when she refused the label of ‘feminist’. This seems to have largely divided readers; some have applauded her decision to escape further labeling, others have taken this as an anti-woman statement. But is this a hard-hitting political statement, or more simply a young-adult wanting to avoid the pressures of being the new face of an entire gender movement?
This isn’t the first time Shailene has made headlines through her comments on feminism; last year she received heavy criticism after she suggested that feminism was anti-men, in an interview with Time: ‘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…I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn’t work either. We have to have a fine balance.’
She has recently clarified and developed on these comments, but still does not want to be labelled as a feminist. This has ruffled a few feathers as women in the public eye, who do not scream their support for the feminist movement, can be used to belittle the movement and strip it of it’s legitimacy.
The media can be incredibly black and white, and just one not-so-supportive comment, like Shailene’s, can open a door for other bigots and patriarchal fanatics to run through it:
In the other case, those that do accept a title are then living representations of the movement, product or franchise, which leaves little to no room for mistakes. You just need to Google ‘Disney kids: then and now’ to understand the effects of these pressures…
Identifying as a feminist can feel incredibly daunting, even out of the public eye. I cannot remember a point in my life where I have ever been against equal rights for women, however I have not always identified as a feminist.
My reluctance was mostly due to me not understanding what a feminist really was; I thought that, to be considered a feminist, you had to go on numerous protests and be incredibly politically aware, which all sounded very intimidating. Of course these attributes make a very powerful feminist, but it is not the only way you could ever be considered one.
Also, despite all the lesbian-feminist jokes and associations, I felt as though my sexuality prevented me from identifying as such. How could I stand up and demand that women stop being objectified, when I can’t help but love beautiful, bouncy boobs and bums?
It was not until my second year at university when I started to think that I could be a feminist; women’s studies was integrated in one of my media and culture studies modules, and I found myself agreeing with a lot of feminist aims and goals.
My lecturer, a feminist herself, had explained that you didn’t necessarily need to picket the houses of parliament every night, or grow out your armpit hair, and that it had more to do with body ownership.
Simple life decisions could even be considered a form of activism. For example, developing my own beauty ideals, and not accepting all that I am told femininity and beauty is. This might involve not shaving/waxing some days, having short nails and chopping my hair off, or it might look a lot more pink and glittery – that’s ok too!
I am a woman, and therefore I get to set my own standards of beauty, rather than taking lead from popular ‘women’s mags’, which just further enforces gendered and patriarchal ideals.