One of the things I have long wondered is why so many women today are afraid of being labelled as a feminist. Wanting equal rights for women – ie, what I understand feminism to be, albeit put very simply – has just always been common sense to me. In the past couple of years, as I have devoted more time and energy to reading about feminism, following feminist blogs, and so on, it has dawned on me just how many women seem to actually be scared of the word “feminism”. That they will be seen as a “feminazi” (god, how I hate that term), as some kind of humourless extremist, as a killjoy who can’t take a joke.
These opinions are an utter mystery to me. Or if it’s not that, it’s the “I’m alright Jack” argument: “Well, I’ve never been discriminated against and I’m a girl”. Well, I’m white, I’ve never been discriminated against because of my race, but I sure as hell hate racism and will do what I can to combat it.
Anyway, more proof (as if it were needed) of this broad, negative view of feminism came to me today by way of a Guardian interview with Kate Winslet. It contained this paragraph:
I ask whether she liked the Friedan book. “Yeah, I did. God, she was a feisty chick.” Does Winslet feel that she’s a feminist? “I think I probably am, aren’t I?” Her assistant hurriedly adds, “In a loose, unofficial kind of way,” but Winslet continues to ponder. “I think I probably am. I mean, not in a bra-burning way. But I think I am a feminist, yeah.”
Three things strike me about this. One: the fact she had to think about whether she was a feminist or not. Maybe I’m coming at this from the wrong angle, but I still rub my eyes in disbelief whenever I encounter a woman who doesn’t regard herself as a feminist automatically. It just seems like common sense, as I said. Perhaps I am being stubborn and immovable. I don’t know. At least she comes down on the feminist side – this is a relief.
Two: her assistant’s reaction. Oh my god! Why would it be such a bad thing for a massive filmstar like Ms Winslet to be known as an identifying feminist? Will people stop going to see her films? Will the film industry therefore collapse and films will never be made again? Is the assistant trying to avoid her charge being forever known as “Kate Winslet – feminist”? And if so, why? WHY? Are feminists just uniformly seen as bad? Is that really where we are after this much struggle? Christ, that’s depressing.
Three: Winslet’s assurance that she isn’t a “bra-burning” feminist. Phew! Well that’s alright then! She’s one of them nice feminists, plainly. Not one of those evil, nasty feminists who go about demanding to be treated like human beings. Heaven forfend!
*sigh* What is it going to take to make people – men and women – realise that feminism is important NOW. We need campaigns for women’s rights in a 21st century where women are still paid less than men, where rape convictions are at an all-time low, when women are woefully under-represented in politics, when domestic and sexual abuse is the number one cause of death and serious injury to women worldwide, and when politicians are still trying to ban abortion.
Goddammit, this just makes me angry. Depressed and angry.