At Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams takes on Katy Perry, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Melissa Leo, Katherine Fenton, and all the women who aren’t feminists–they just believe in everything feminism espouses and benefit from the accomplishments of feminism and feminists throughout history.
It’s a glorious time to be declared a non-feminist. This weekend, Katy Perry accepted Billboard Woman of the Year award by announcing to the world, “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.” Way to take home a prize for womankind there, Perry. And last month, the former supermodel/first lady of France Carla Bruni-Sarkozy declared in a magazine interview that “I’m not at all an active feminist. On the contrary, I’m a bourgeois. I love family life, I love doing the same thing every day. Because you can’t be bourgeois, love your family, or value stability and be a feminist. It’s in the manifesto.
Let me just point out that if you believe in the strength of women, Ms. Perry, or their equality, [Yahoo CEO Marissa] Mayer, you’re soaking in feminism. If you’re like Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy and want to explain that “I imagine I am if feminism means claiming one’s freedom. But I am not if it means being committed in an active way to the fight that some women are still leading today. I admire their bravery a lot, but I have chosen to commit myself elsewhere,” you should know that “the fight” is just being an autonomous person in the world. And if you’re like [Katherine] Fenton and think feminism means being treated like “anyone else,” remember that there aren’t a whole lot of “anyone else” options out there. You’re basically admitting that masculinity is the norm and that all we can do is aspire toward some kind of equitable footing in a man’s world. This sounds like a job for… feminism!
You can call yourself or not call yourself whatever you want, but consider this. Nobody enjoys it more when a woman says she’s not a feminist than a misogynist. Nobody gets more gloatingly self-congratulatory about it, or happier about what “real” women don’t need than someone who doesn’t like women very much, especially not the uppity, outspoken, wanting pay equity and reproductive freedom types. Consider that any word that feared and derided has incredible power. And how beautiful and strong that makes it.
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