Friday, June 6, 2014

Yet another female celebrity says she's not interested in feminism

It's Lana Del Rey this time. And the usual suspects are upset.

According to the above same website, the list of female celebrities who want to distance themselves from feminism is long and growing: Bjork, Taylor, Swift, Lady Gaga, Geri Haliwell, Juliette Binoche, Melissa Leo, Carrie Underwood, Sandra Day O'Connor, Dita Von Teese, Marissa Mayer, Beyoncé, PJ Harvey, Carla Bruni, Madonna, Demi Moore, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kelly Clarkson.

Now, imagine you are pro-feminist and a journalist. Looking at the above, don't you think it might occur to you that asking famous women to declare themselves on the subject is not helping the cause? Why would anyone hoping to help feminism keep doing this? Every time another famous woman says she isn't a feminist, it makes it that much easier for other women to distance themselves from feminism.

Not that they are having a hard time as it is. Anyone even vaguely familiar with the polling data will know that the vast majority of women don't think of themselves as feminists. Even in the glory days of feminism, most women held back. In recent years the number of women willing to declare themselves feminist has been steadily declining: in 1992 only 33% of women said they were feminist; by 1999 the number was down to 26%; the last poll I saw said 22%. There is no good reason to suspect that famous women are going to respond any different from a random sample of women. If anything, they are even more likely to distance themselves because they like being famous and are quickly going to realize that they will alienate more women by saying they are feminist than they will by saying they are not.

Here is related issue. The writers at Jezebel, and they are far from alone on this, claim that the source of the problem is that these women fail to understand feminism. They say that feminism is simply about women being equal to men and if you're for that you, as most of us are, should call yourself a feminist. They are dismayed that so many women think that feminism is about hating men or about being angry. Okay, let's take it as read that feminism isn't about these things, wouldn't you, if you were a feminist, begin to wonder if the problem might not be with these women misunderstanding your message so much as the message being poorly expressed in the first place? If a only few people misunderstand your message, you can credibly argue that they are at fault; if lots of people people misunderstand your message, then you are at fault.

I think the ultimate problem here is that many feminists are no longer interested in dialogue. Real dialogue requires that you be open to learn from others; it requires that you be willing to modify your position in response to the interaction. These feminists aren't interested in that. They want agreement and nothing but agreement. That's why feminism-supporting journalists keep asking female celebrities if they are feminist; they see the question as a sort of litmus test and further imagine that celebrities will pay a price for failing to give the "right" answer; the list above shows that no such consequence follows.

Final thought: I wonder why it never seems to occur to feminists that some of their allies are not helping. Alexander Kerensky infamously, and suicidally, said, "No enemies to the left." What he meant by this was that a good moderate never criticizes other leftists for being too extreme; all he ammunition was saved for attacking the right, even moderates on the right. It didn't work out well. Feminists too often make the same mistake. If you really don't want people accusing you of hating men, then you should admit that some feminists do hate men, some feminists are boring and some feminists trade in statistics that are pure nonsense and distance yourself from them. Of course, to do that you'd have to be open to dialogue with people who think feminism should change and ...

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