Feminism has come a long way. Decades ago it would be considered radical, if not extreme to brand yourself a feminist. It meant you were an activist of sorts, a part of a movement: the women’s liberation movement, and that’s exactly what, up until then, women had been socialized and taught not to be. With our oppression came the message not to take up too much space in the world, not to be too loud, not to have too strong of an opinion about anything- to be ladylike. But now everywhere I look I’m seeing more and more people embracing the term and being decidedly unladylike. My friends call themselves feminists, my Facebook and Instagram feed are flooded with feminist memes and empowering/inspirational phrases.
An increasing amount of celebrities such as Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, founder/owner of apparel company Nasty Gal, Sophia Amoruso, Jennifer Lawrence and Beyoncé are calling themselves feminists as well, and doing their part to push the movement along. Or are they? Now, this may be my cynical streak showing but, I can’t help but think that the reason feminism has become so prevalent in popular culture today is because someone, somewhere is profiting from the commodification of this word that once meant more than just buying a shirt off Etsy with the words “Nasty Woman” emblazoned on it.
Yes you can gain cool points and “likes” by branding yourself a feminist, but that only speaks to the image you want to portray. What it does not speak to is a person’s mentality about the subject. Calling yourself a feminist does not make you a feminist. What makes a person a feminist is their actions. What are these pop culture icons doing to help push us towards equality? Yes, they’re speaking out, maybe writing an essay or article here and there but is that enough? No. Not everyone that claims the title earns it.
I’m afraid that the word feminism is losing its luster because it’s become so commonplace in our popular culture. This is a negative because women still have a long way to go. Just look at who is the President of our country right now, a man who has bragged about sexually harassing women, who tells women to “Dress like a woman.” A man who seems to only have space in his life for women who fit in a very specific box. The fact that millions of women marched the day after his inauguration to defend their rights, and to help preserve the progress that has been made goes to show that true feminism is being threatened right now; but on a hopeful note, it also goes to show that the movement is still alive.
If we continue to cheapen the meaning of the word feminism we run the risk of young girls and boys growing up in today’s pop culture not knowing and understanding the true meaning of the word. They need to know what it means in order to stand up and defend its meaning, and become true feminists.
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