I’m not stating that feminism as a necessary paradigm, or beyond that, as a way of life is deceased. The death of feminism through this glasses, is about people, especially women that decided to go against the core of it, but continue to raise and wave the flag. In other words, when someone decides to be a “fake” feminist.
But first, the necessary reality check. Not all women are feminist just because they are women, the same goes for people on the LGBTQIA community. Not all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersexual or Asexual individuals fight against discrimination and not equal rights. And putting two and two together, not all lesbians or transgender women are feminist. Not a shocker.
Now let’s go with the definition, Feminist: A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. And you may have heard this definition before. Either on the amazing TEDx talk and then published version of We Should All Be Feminist by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. But surely you may have heard it on the bridge of Beyoncé’s Flawless, from her self-titled 2013 album.
And this is when controversy strikes, and all sorts of so-called feminists, mostly women started their attack. Women deciding who is or who isn’t feminist, or if someone is feminist enough. A judgment made solely on the field of life and social status of a person. In this case, one of the most successful pop artist in the last decade is not allowed to be a feminist due her marriage to a successful rap artist. But let’s be real, the grade of success that Beyoncé has accomplished overshadows Jay-Z. And this doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have to cope with the misogyny or racism of the music industry. There’s a lot of people that will diminish her art, and will say that her success is possible solely by being married to Jay-Z.
Getting back to our definition, if you think Beyoncé or other women are not feminist due the presence of a male or a group of males on their body of work, you’re technically saying that these women are not able to be successful unless they get help from men. Let’s elaborate further, we have the case of Madonna, and even more successful woman than Beyoncé. Loved and hated, there’s no doubt that Madonna is the most successful woman in the music industry. Unapologetic since day one, she was really clear on what she wanted to accomplish back in 1984: “I want to rule the world”.
And she still rules the world, at least music wise, still being able to reach number one on the dance charts. And still being able to sold-out her concerts, making her the best-selling female touring artist. And still releasing records that even without regular airplay, has crowned her as the best-selling female artist. Or let’s stand correct, as the fourth best-selling artist of all time, just behind The Beatles, Elvis and Michael Jackson.
A few weeks ago, Madonna was named Women of The Year (2016) by Billboard magazine, and then again backlash was present, her speech was a recollection of her own personal struggles in the music industry, and at this point we’re not mentioning the struggles with the cinema and fashion industries. And also the struggles of many women, that at some point of their life has been diminished for being women. And not only by men, but also by some notorious feminist.
Back and forth, Camille Paglia has changed her judgement about Madonna. And as the ultimate proof of the death of Paglia’s feminism. Paglia decided to throw a mean-spirited discourse about Madonna’s speech and current stand as feminist, erasing many of the ideals she defended on the past. So women are allowed to be open about their sexuality, but only to a certain age? Women should be public about their struggles in a world dominated by men, but only when they are not as rich and famous as Madonna.
And the final nail on Paglia's and other women feminism: criticizing Madonna for the males that has been present on her career. As if a woman decides to work with the right group of people, and that group of people has the presence of men, then that woman is no longer allowed to be called a feminist. Let’s check back the definition, Feminist: A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.
And for everyone that champions gender equality in the workplace, we know that the feminism element is not about giving the job to women, just for the sake of reach a number. That person, female or male, must earn their job for their ability, talent and knowledge. Is not like a presidential election. But let’s not go there, at least not yet.
People who attacks a woman for her association to men in the professional field, are doing the same as when they attack the decision of a woman to marry a men, whatever the reason behind that marriage. But most important, they are diminishing the presence of other women in these women’s career. To blur out or make invisible the presence of Caresse Henry, Liz Rosenberg, Arianne Phillips, Megan Lawson, Donna De Lory or Niki Haris, to name a few, in Madonna’s career. Will be the admission that this women are not as talented and essential on that successful career as Freddy DeMann, Guy Oseary, Jean-Paul Gaultier, William Orbit or Patrick Leonard.
The main problem of these feminists is to avoid any kind of research, and the slightest effort to educate themselves. And ignorance is the first strike to their feminism. Ignorance that will grow as a disease. The same ignorance of many men that decide to continue to diminish feminism, and never focus on the real issues of living in a male dominated world.
Let’s get back for a second to Paglia’s comments about Madonna. Where she loudly expresses that Madonna, on to be honest about her speech, any woman should age a certain way: not modifying any of her futures, keep the same body and leave people with the sexual image a woman had at a certain age. Again raising a prohibition on being sexual and publicly expressing that sexuality at a certain age, or appearance.
Paglia’s once defended Madonna’s use of sexuality, comparing her image with the social construct of a prostitute or a pornography performer. But changing the discourse taking in account the age element, will mean that we can allow as many Tracy Lords we can get, but no Nina Hartleys. This change in the discourse has a huge element of ageism, machismo and chauvinism.
If we read and take some notes on Foucault, we must remember that many of the issues that feminism tries to erase from our culture are based on how society started to condemned everything that should be concealed, and what must be concealed according to modern culture and society is related to women. And when things “feminine” take the public arena, either in art or in politics, even women decide to diminish this efforts.
When people decided that a female politician was not acting the way a woman should act. When they were scandalized by some activities that at the end of the day are harmless and doesn’t really spoke about the capacity and ability of a person as a capable politician, People decide to kill any trace of feminism in them. The same goes to those who decide that transgender women are not "real" women and should not the able to share a bathroom.
And even something as trivial as a Broadway musical, can be another nail on someone feminism. Last year TONYs (the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League), history was made when Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron won the Best Original Score for Fun Home, as the first female duo (lyricist & musician) winning the category. Based on Alison Bechdale coming-of-age graphic novel. Fun Home centers on the sexual orientation and gender roles of some of the family members, the main characters of the FUNeral Home.
This year Sara Bareilles earned a nomination in the same category for her score of Waitress, and some people again raised judgment on Bareilles choice. Again, when people decide to talk with ignorance, they will diminish the story of Waitress as a musical about a “woman that bakes pies”. So anti-feminist of Bareilles. But if you’re not able to listen to the whole score, and pay attention on the lyrics, you can at least try to stream or rent, or buy the film where the musical is based.
Not giving spoilers, you’ll learn about the feminism of the main character on both the films and the musical, you’ll also learn the unfortunate event that ended Adrianne Shelly (writer and director of the film version), and her legacy on modern feminism. And you’ll be able to learn that feminism comes in all different shapes and sizes.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently mentioned that Beyoncé’s feminism is not the same style of feminism she has, and this is OK. At the core, feminism is for women and men, but also comes from different places. We built our notion of gender, and what’s supposed to be OK for a woman or a man, according to a social construct, a group of cultural elements that are teach by those around us.
The feminism of Beyoncé is not the same as the feminism of Madonna, even both being from the US, they grew up with different cultural backgrounds and different social and political environments. Not only from what different can Houston be from Detroit, and then Los Angeles and Manhattan. But also for the fight of many feminist women and men during the 30 years between Madonna’s and Beyoncé’s birth. And is not the same feminism from a female author born in Lagos, to a male sociologist born in Guadalajara.
But at the end, as long as we go by the definition, instead of attacking anyone but especially other women for the way they live their feminism, but fighting in a common ground. We’ll keep our feminism, and the feminism we all share, alive.