Kristen Stewart is the latest in a string of celebrities keen to claim the title of “feminist“. In her recent interview with The Daily Beast, Stewart says that it is “ridiculous thing to say you’re not a feminist”.
While the Twilight actress almost makes a good point, her argument falls short when referring to the “overly-aggressive types” that are “discrediting” other feminists.
While she doesn’t go into who these aggressive types are, it would appear K-Stew’s brand of feminism is just the opposite: passive. If we are to subscribe to her logic, the only reason to call yourself a feminist is because it would be “strange” not to (because equality – duh!).
As a celebrity, Stewart has achieved something positive just by calling herself a feminist. But it appears she is the advocate of a kind of responsibility-free feminism: where you can stand for something, without actually participating in it.
Furthermore, Kristen is buying into the precise stereotypes – of the “angry” and “aggressive” woman – that feminism struggles against.
This begs the question, is it enough to just call yourself a feminist?
Prior to 2014, we feminists were used to being rejected by our celeb sisters who stuck to a rather patriarchy-friendly approach to gender issues.
However, things started to pick up earlier this year around Beyonce’s “FEMINIST”-emblazoned VMAs performance. Shortly after that, notorious “non-feminist” Taylor Swift came out with new political priorities, citing her friendship with Lena Dunham as the catalyst for her feminist rebirth. (Previously, a young Ms Swift had said she wouldn’t call herself a feminist because she didn’t think of things as “boys versus girls” – a common misconception about what feminism actually is.)
In an era where women continue to turn their backs on gender equality, I would argue that openly identifying yourself as a feminist is a triumph.
When it is popular to assign feminists labels like “man-hater”, “angry”, or “bitch”, it does take guts to claim such an “unattractive” title. It is this precise ownership of the label, specifically by people like Swift – a decidedly man-loving, feminine, amiable woman – that overwrites this misunderstanding of feminism.
However, this still doesn’t determine whether or not feminism in this context is a role, or just an honorary title.
While many people will buy into whatever their favorite celeb is endorsing, will they actually commit to a movement toward gender equality?
Are they going to challenge their friends in conversations of political, economic and social equality? Will they stand idly by while largely white, male governments legislate issues pertaining exclusively to women, their bodies and their health?
While we aren’t at a stage where we can confirm if feminism is merely the flavour of the month, we can confirm that conversation is rampant – largely thanks to the likes of Kristen, Taylor, Beyonce and Emma.
Swift nailed the relevance of celebrity feminists when speaking of Emma Watson’s UN speech:
“I wish when I was 12-years-old I had been able to watch a video of my favorite actress explaining, in such an intellectual, beautiful, poignant way, the definition of feminism. Because I would have understood it. And then earlier on in my life I would have proudly claimed I was a feminist because I would have understood what the word means.”
It is not so much the label, but about bringing gender equality to the forefront of public conversation so that men, women and children can begin to engage in this crucial issue.