I have lots of thoughts about the topic of feminist identity and likeability and how we might be re-branding ourselves, or not, in the generation of Internet feminism. Lots and lots. Here’s three thought-provoking articles all bouncing around this very area..
“Why Doesn’t Katy Perry Want to Be Called a Feminist?” by my friend, Sarah Sobieraj over at Cognoscenti.
Some feminists could care less about how others see them, but plenty of us want to be liked, doing our own “feminist, but…” tango as we work to separate ourselves from the pernicious stereotypes that devalue feminist voices.
We can see this complicated negotiation in blogs with titles like Sexy Feminist and The Funny Feminist, in Jezebel’s pronouncement that it is “The Home of Shiny, Happy Ladies,” in the way feminist scholar Susan Douglas’s book “The Rise of Enlightened Sexism: How Pop Culture Took Us From Girl Power to Girls Gone Wild” is peppered with confessions about her love of cosmetics. Even Jessica Valenti, co-founder of Feministing.com and author of five books, has a tagline at The Nation that reads: “Feminism, sexuality & social justice. With a sense of humor.”Feminists never were the stereotype foisted upon them, and there is nothing wrong with highlighting the hollowness of that construction.
The “feminist, but…” struggle exists because we recognize that it is socially acceptable to express feminist views, but that being seen as a feminist builds a wall between what we have to say and the audience we hope will hear it.
And so, many of us signal that we are “not-your-mother’s-feminists” when we want to be listened to outside of academia, the feminist blogosphere or the advocacy-group circuit. We showcase our physical attractiveness, sense of humor, light-heartedness, or love of sex alongside our feminist perspectives.
“She Who Dies With the Most ‘Likes’ Wins” by my other friend, Jessica Valenti over at The Nation.
But the implications of likability are long-lasting and serious. Women adjust their behavior to be likable and as a result have less power in the world. And this desire to be liked and accepted goes beyond the boardroom—it’s an issue that comes up for women in their personal lives as well, especially as they become more opinionated and outspoken.
One of the questions I get asked most often from young women who are just discovering feminism is how they can maintain relationships when the people in their lives see feminism as so confrontational. How can they talk about the issues that matter to them when they are constantly seen as the bossy bitch at the family dinner table? How will they ever have a boyfriend if they object to the sexist movie he wants to go see on Saturday night? How can they get their roommate to stop telling jokes about man-hating and Birkenstocks? What they’re really asking is how is it possible that they will be understood, liked and loved when the world is telling them that they’re actually a huge pain in the ass.
“Five Reasons Why Women Say They Aren’t Feminists” by Clem Bastow at Daily Life.
Yes, the woman whose boosies have a tendency to fire whipped cream at preteens was at pains to set everyone straight on the topic of her personal gender politics when she picked up the gong: “I am not a feminist,” she said, “but I do believe in the strength of women.”
Well, tally ho, Katy! I’m pretty sure that actually does make you a feminist, but like, you know, whatever. Looking to someone who entered the scene with such storied texts on intersectionality as Ur So Gay and I Kissed A Girl (and then cemented her fame with a candy-centric persona that makes Strawberry Shortcake look like Camille Paglia) for feminist inspiration is likely to be about as fruitful as trying, blindfolded, to find your shadow in a darkened room.
See, the thing is, it’s okay not to be a feminist; it’s not a stance that I could imagine taking, nor one I would recommend, but if that’s your personal choice, so be it. Some people have conservative views about the world and provided they don’t force those views upon others, I don’t really have much to say about it other than that I, personally, take a different approach. If celebrities who espouse a dunderheaded worldview are keen for us not to think of them as feminists, I’m happy not to have them in the club.
However, if you deny being a feminist but then rattle off a list of personal beliefs that are expressly feminist in everything but the word itself, I will probably side-eye you.