Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pop-culture feminists I appreciate

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Linking up today with The Lady Errant and She is Fierce for their monthly F-Word link-up. This month's topic is, "feminist role models." 

I titled this post, "Pop culture feminists I appreciate"  because the women listed below aren't quite feminist role models, but they are women I appreciate for using their celebrity to make statements on sexism, feminism and misogyny.

They're in no way "perfect" feminists (as if that's even a thing), but I wanted to write about them because they're who my 5-year-old niece will be exposed to long before she learns who, say, Gloria Steinem is. (Unless I decide to start gifting her with feminist literature beginning on her 13th birthday. So I guess it's all on me.)

Beyoncé 

Let's just start with Queen Bey. Feminist scholars who are smarter than I'll ever be have discussed how damaging to feminism they believe she is, but I can't help but be appreciative that amidst so many female celebrities who distance themselves from the f-word because it doesn't jibe with the image they want to project, Beyoncé used a VMAs performance to sample Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's statement, "We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you will threaten the man.'” And also to do this:



Some would argue she's just trying to cash in. I don't care. I care that a famous woman who has the attention of millions is declaring herself a feminist and telling little girls not to shrink themselves. I know many would argue she pushes a very patriarchal ideal of beauty (and goddamnit if this topic isn't a minefield), but I'm not from the school that it's anti-feminist to want to wear make-up, adhere to beauty standards like, for instance, shaved legs, or simply to want to look pretty. While I think it's important to be aware of these standards, I don't think you have to reject them to be a 'proper' feminist.

The same critics take issue with the way Beyoncé presents her sexuality (that is, that it's for men), but--while, I'll admit, I have no way of knowing this for sure--there's nothing that makes me think she isn't firmly in control of her own image, and you know what? I'm just not that worried about the children. Which isn't to say, she's a perfect feminist god, because no, she's not. But I've stopped expecting perfection from people, so I'm not going to completely discount her for her mistakes. 

Christina Aguilera

You know, I don't know if Xtina has ever formerly declared herself a feminist, but... have ya'll listened to "Stripped?" According to a 2010 People article, she "doesn't like labels" but I'm going to have to let that slide, because I can still remember, pre-Flawless, a photo of Christina Aguilera in US Weekly wearing a shirt that read, "A man of quality is not threatened by a woman of equality." I think I was a tween when I saw it, I don't even know. (Or older, okay, maybe I was older).

But the point is she's been calling out sexual double standards for years now, and that I can appreciate.

Taylor Swift


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Stop groaning. I know about the madonna/whore dichotomy she pushed for years. When, ahem, she was a teenager, but please, let's hold it against her forever. The thing is, I appreciate her because she's big enough to admit that she's made mistakes and, not that she's living to impress me, but I've been completely impressed with the comments she's been making lately (if you can forgive me for linking to Perez Hilton.)

Mindy Kaling

I know Mindy Kaling isn't her character Mindy Lahiri, but she did write this character into being, and while she's not perfect, I'd be happy to be her best friend. Plenty of people think Mindy Lahiri is annoying, vapid and what have you, but I actually like that she's an intelligent doctor who still loves the shit out of romantic comedies and Katy Perry songs. And frankly it pisses me off that because Mindy Kaling is a pioneer in plenty of ways, she's being put on a pedestal it's unreasonable to expect one person to live up to.

Jessica Williams


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Why do I appreciate her? I don't know, maybe consult any appearance she's made on The Daily Show. Really, that's all I have.

Amy Poehler 


With a shout-out to Tina Fey. (via)
Words can't express my love for Amy Poehler. Between playing Leslie Knope, her video series for girls and her superior award-hosting skills, she's basically the best (in my, uh, humble opinion). Like Mindy Kaling, I know she's not actually her character, Leslie, but I still appreciate her for playing a character who's incredibly passionate about her work and her friends and has more to talk about than the man she's dating. (No, that's not a diss against Taylor Swift.)

19 comments:

  1. Adam says that Jessica Williams is beyond attractive because she is such a feminist role model. I have to agree. Women who take charge and don't shy away from expressing themselves tend to become even more attractive and awesome in my eyes! Great list.


    -Kate
    www.theflorkens.com

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  2. I love Jessica William's stuff on the The Daily Show! And I also love that Taylor is now embracing the feminist label, that she can be that symbol for girls to learn more about feminism.


    And this made me laugh: "I'm just not that worried about the children." Because some people just want to hide them from life forever.

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  3. I think it's a really good point that our kids will be exposed to pop culture long before any other influences. And I agree that we should celebrate the positive impacts those celebrities have instead of continuing to bash them for past mistakes. Someone who can learn, and improve, or change their viewpoint as they acquire more knowledge, is not someone we should feel antipathy for.

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  4. I wholeheartedly agree with this list and everything you say here. I'm glad we live in a time where women are allowed to be role-models for other women rather than just something for men to gawk at.

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  5. Mindy Kaling is my hero. For serious.

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  6. I'd just like to add to your Beyonce selection and say that Beyonce represents the black feminist. Not as a whole but she is one of the only representations that we have in mainstream media. It's important that she be included in the conversation because in the past, some white feminists have made black women feel left out of the conversation. Therefore it was a topic many black women didn't think was "their fight". There are young urban black girls who have never heard the word feminist or if they have they have no real understanding of what it means and can't relate. Seeing "one of our own" embracing the term at the very least, opens the idea up to a new audience. I cringe when women (I'm looking at you Annie Lennox) downplay the importance of Beyonce's role in the feminist discussion because it seems to me they don't understand the audience to which she speaks to and therefore don't deem that audience an important part of the movement.

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  7. Amy, Mindy, and Jessica forever. I love them all

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  8. Thanks, Kate! Jessica Williams has been one of the best recent additions to the Daily Show--she's hilarious. We don't have cable so I don't watch TDS nightly but I'll always watch any segment of hers someone links to.

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  9. It's just such a prudish, pearl-clutching argument, right? Like--the children will be fine. I promise. I saw R-rated movies when I was young and loved the shit out of "Oops I did it Again" and I didn't get pregnant at 15. I was, however, totally scandalized by Madonna's MTV stage performance of "Vogue." But you know, I got over it.

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  10. Exactly! It annoys me that the same people (bloggers, pop-culture writers, etc) who would comment on every single thing Taylor Swift ever said that was stupid haven't had much at all to say about her embracing the feminist label. And, of course, it's not just Taylor Swift.

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  11. That's an interesting take on her video--I never thought of it that way. I don't always appreciate the messages behind some of her older songs, but I do think a lot of criticism against her is rooted in total BS.


    I absolutely agree with how unfair it is to put women on feminist pedestals and then expect them to fall in line with our own beliefs at all times. There are so many different schools of thought in feminism that you're bound to piss someone off no matter what you do.

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  12. That's a really good point. Lennox's recent comments so clearly show that to her there is only one proper way to be a feminist, and of course she considers herself to be doing it right. Attitudes like that are so limiting and unnecessary. Like this on Beyonce's onstage dancing: "It's not liberating, it's not empowering. It's a sexual thing that you're doing on a stage; it doesn't empower you." ... No, Annie, it doesn't empower YOU, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. While of course I believe that there are some baselines for what constitutes being a feminist (namely actually being pro-woman and concerned about women's issues), I'm really sick of people thinking their way of feminism is the best and only way.

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  13. YES. Let's make a shrine to them in my basement.

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  14. Excellent list! I had not heard that stuff about Christina Aguilera before, but that's really cool. :)

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  15. Thanks, Lulu! Re: Christina Aguilera--I think of a lot of her public statements about sexual double standards and all that started after Eminem went after her (who even knows what he said). Which is kind of cool that she called him out for his misogyny.

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  16. Ick. Found it: http://mic.com/articles/73047/5-reasons-why-eminem-will-never-be-my-icon
    Good for her to not put up with that shit!

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