What does a feminist look like? How do they pay their bills? Is a feminist necessarily a woman?
For some, the word ‘feminist’ is linked to images of hippies at the 1969 Woodstock Festival with flowers in their hair as the ashes of their burnt bras pollute our atmosphere. By definition, feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. For many years, feminism has been construed as anti-men. Celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Lena Dunham, who have publicly identified as feminists, have suffered these criticisms. However, in light of Trump’s sexist and racist statements, the Women’s March protest, which took place worldwide saw the biggest protest based on a presidency to occur, seemed to change views on this. People of all walks of life marched together to fight for themselves and others.
Actress Emma Watson recently gained criticism for posing braless for a Vanity Fair photoshoot. In recent years, as a result of her HeForShe campaign, she has been seen as the face of feminism. She has told us about the necessity for women to not be seen as inferior to men simply because of their gender. Many felt she was going back on her words by doing this photoshoot, especially given that she had criticised Beyoncé for dressing sexually in her music video Flawless.
Cheris Kramarae told us, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people”. Given that women are human beings, why does posing in a seductive photo shoot affect her thoughts? Countless actors have had roles in which they have topless scenes and their views are not questioned. The criticism appears to be a direct result of the multi-century and multi-generational patriarchal view of women seen as less than men. If you are seen as sexual in any way, you are not to be taken seriously, only that of a man’s play thing.
Being a feminist has nothing to do with sexuality. So how can someone be contradicting their opinions of feminism by dressing in a particular way? Feminism is about choice, and that includes the ability to dress as a sexual being. If anything, the presence of her sexuality only supports her views of feminism. Taking part in the photoshoot without a bra celebrates her body.
The HeForShe campaign is a campaign to have action taken against inequalities towards women and girls. It gained support from celebrities including Harry Styles and Eddie Redmayne, proving a feminist does not have one image. Given that we live in a patriarchal society, where for centuries women were treated as second class, needing to fight for the right to vote and the side effects of both Beyonce’s costume in Flawless and Watson’s photoshoot were predictable. Despite many men now supporting the ethos of feminism, on a wider worldwide scale it is still seen by some as an issue not to be taken seriously and by others an anti-men movement. In a time when men in power want authority over women’s bodies, music videos and photoshoots such as these seem more necessary than ever before to prove one has nothing to do with the other and it is a woman’s choice how she shows herself to the world.
Words: Kemi Akilapa
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