Well, y’all, it looks like Taylor Swift and I have more in common than bad boys, breakups and broken hearts. Turns out that despite the fact that we’re both (debatably, of course) strong and empowered women, neither of identifies as a feminist.
OHMYGOD I KNOW. The horror!
In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Ramin Setoodeh asked Taylor if she considers herself a feminist. Her reply:
I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.
Okay, that answer is definitely a bit ridiculous, as was pointed out by The Frisky, since feminism isn’t necessarily about “guys versus girls,” but her inability to define the term wasn’t the only thing that had people up in arms. Over at Jezebel, they were in a bit of a tizzy over the fact that not only can she not identify what a feminist is, she also doesn’t identify as one, and the folks at The Fashion Spot seemed downright pissed about it.
First, let’s get one thing clear. I’m not here to debate about how absurd it may or may not be that Taylor Swift seems to not fully comprehend the definition of feminism. Frankly, I feel like if you ask a hundred women to give you a definition for feminism, you’ll get a hundred different answers.
But more than that: It’s not our place to demand that Taylor Swift be knowledgeable and eloquent on any topic, much less feminism. The girl sings about crushes and slow dances and guys who carry her groceries inside. Just because some people want her to be more than that doesn’t mean she is actually obligated to be so.
And as far as my role in all of this? Well, for those of you who’ve read my articles on xoJane, it will come as no surprise that I don’t identify as a feminist. In recent weeks, I’ve gone so far as to admit that it’s something with which I struggle, but nonetheless, I’ve not changed my mind about whether that is a word I use to define myself.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in equal political, economical and social rights for women and I wholly support the feminist movement, I just personally don’t define myself as such.
The thing that’s interesting to me about this, though, is how much this seems to frustrate and anger people. I mean, let’s be real: I’m clearly no Taylor Swift and I don’t have the ability to reach thousands and thousands of young girls, but even if I did, would it be fair to be annoyed with me just because I don’t call myself a feminist? Since when do other people have the right to tell someone else how she should identify herself?
I mean, would a stranger have the audacity to tell me which political group, religion or sexuality I should claim as my own? I sure as hell hope not.
I imagine you want me to explain why I don’t call myself a feminist and to that, I say: I don’t have a definite answer. I do have a few theories that aren’t absolute and may be enraging to some, but here they are anyway:
At times, feminists come across as angry. If you’d gotten me in my 20s, I might have been on board, but in my more mellow 30s, expressing myself through rage just isn’t my thing, nor do I think it’s an effective way to bring about change.
Many feminists come across as self-righteous. Again: just not that into it. If I’m better than someone, it’s not because of how I label myself. (It’s because I’m smarter and prettier and funnier, regardless of whether you have a penis, vagina, both or neither. Yay self-esteem!)
I feel a lot of times like the current feminist movement excludes minorities. I don’t want to throw my support behind a group that excludes women who are often oppressed for a hell of a lot more than having a vagina. (For more on this, see s.e.'s earlier essay on this topic.)
I don’t always believe that women are at a disadvantage, therefore a movement that often assumes that is the case irks me. Of course there are areas in which women aren't treated equally. But is the same not true for men? Is true equality of the sexes even an actual possibility? (I posit: no.)
I’m not sure that I believe that the “oppression” of women is the fault of men. I realize that feminism doesn’t necessarily blame men, but -- let’s be real, here. It pretty much does.
I just can't get up in arms about things like someone using the word “he” to mean “he” and “she.” Confession: I do that all of the time. It’s often the only way to write using the singular that’s grammatically correct and not clunky. Likewise, if you’re the type of person who flips out when someone calls a woman a “girl,” then yeah. We’re probably not going to be bosom buddies. I mean, I kind of prefer being called a girl. Daddy issues and a mother who idealizes youth and whatnot.
Sure, I get it. In 2012, a woman can shave her legs, get a weekly manicure, cook dinner for her husband, pop out seven babies, pack her kids’ lunches and still identify as a feminist.
And that’s great if that's what she's into.
But personally, unless that person is actually doing something to fight for women’s rights, I don’t see why it really matters what she calls herself.
Do I believe in equal pay (the most generic feminist argument of all time)? Of course. Is it ridiculous that men make more than women to do the same job? I mean, c’mon: duh. But have I ever done one single thing about that in my entire time on this earth?
No. I’m just happy to get a paycheck at all.
So maybe one of the reasons I don’t identify as a feminist is because it’s not something for which I fight. Or maybe it’s because I don’t know that calling myself a feminist would even matter. I’m not sure. As I said, it’s something about which I’m still thinking.
I believe I am equal to the generic concept of men. I don’t think my ideas, actions and existence are any less valuable or worthwhile because I am woman (or because I am white or because I am “privileged” or any other factor that can be used as a differentiator). I know that I matter. I know I deserve to be treated as such.
Ultimately, however, it comes down to this: I don’t like it when people try to force me into a group I don’t want to join.
I support the feminist movement for the most part. I don’t agree with all of it, but the general issues are ones that I can get behind. I just don't think whether or not I call myself a feminist actually matters. What matters is how I treat myself and others.
So to those of you who say that because I have a vagina and care about equality, I’m automatically a feminist even if I don’t define myself as such: Please stop. And to those of you who feel it’s okay to bully Taylor Swift because she said in some interview that she wasn’t a feminist, just shhhhhhh.
Feminism is about equal rights, is it not? Then respect that idea. Respect the fact that not every woman has to conform to what you think is best. Respect a woman’s right to call herself whatever the hell she wants.
Because at the end of the day? I’m perfectly capable of defining myself. And I don’t need another man or another woman to do it for me.
[I have such polar opposite views to Daisy in this post and am running this as the first in a series of our individual takes on feminism. I would love to hear how you feel. --Jane]
You can find me on Twitter @daisy. I tweet a lot about football. You've been warned.