I recently read yet another one of those Salon pieces offering up a list of “high-profile, force-of-nature women who may ‘run the world,’ but won’t cop to the F[eminist]-bomb.” Beyonce, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Bjork, Lady Gaga… and Sandra Day O’Connor (?!) were all included. (here)
And then, speaking of Beyonce, I also recently read that incredible critical feminist thinker bell hooks called her a “terrorist” (?!) during a New School discussion called Are You Still A Slave: Liberating the Black Female Body. (some context on that from Jezebel)
AND THEN, in the middle of all that, apparently Samuel L. Jackson made some comment about watching porn on a piracy-based tube site, which is tantamount to advocating stealing content online. Ironic from a guy who makes his money via movie sales and stuff… (here)
You may be wondering how these three instances connect…
Consider: many powerful women (because even though most of the people on that list were pop stars – frivvvolous – they’re still cultural leaders) do not ally with the label “feminist” in spite of the fact that every single one of them has drawn a direct dividend from feminist activism. At the same time, one of the most powerful women in the world – a bangin’ badass brilliant woman of color – is being called out as a “terrorist” (!!) because she is conventionally pretty (not sure she can control that) and she engages wider cultural normatively on its terms.
(e.g. like this? Incidentally, I have no problem with “Partition” aside from Beyonce saying it only takes her 45 minutes to get all dressed up – that can’t be true!! can it..?)
(pictured: you and I are not Beyonce… image via google)
And Samuel L. Jackson – he likely had no idea about the implication of his comments regarding piracy. And though ignorance is no excuse, especially when you work in a media-realted occupation, he did bring porn to the forefront of a high-profile conversation…
When people freak out about the tiny points of contention they have with a wider issue, they do the most demeaning thing ever – they minimize all the good people like Beyonce do.
Queen Bey or Taylor Swift or whomever else may not be your “brand” of feminism, but one must be mindful of the work their gendered expression does within the context of the wider world. My metalhead self has more than once wished there had been a Taylor Swift around when I was 14 (I read somewhere that Kathleen Hanna did too), and I don’t care how much you don’t like her styling on a magazine cover – Beyonce and her quiet ladylike pop singer (because she’s a pop singer – not an activist, not a scholar, she’s a fucking entertainer) way has done more for women’s equality than all of us combined can ever hope. Has she busted down doors and demanded a new world order? No. But 1) perhaps that’s not her way and 2) perhaps her way is most effective for creating change as an evolutionary process. (see previous comment on engaging wider cultural normatively on its terms #justsayin)
And no one seems to be asking the most obvious question: why don’t these women identify as feminists? (maybe it’s because feminists call them “terrorists”? #justsayin)
And flipping out over Sam Jackson? Bonehead comment sure, but why not ask the real question: why isn’t he aware of the problems associated with tube sites, and what can we do to change that? (maybe support #PayForYourPorn – yes!!) Because in many ways, he gave us a gift. High-profile Sam raised the issue, providing an opportunity for outreach and education.
So I don’t know about all this not-feminist/doh!!-comment shaming. Maybe rather that getting all riled up and making lists and throwing out the word “terrorist,” we should instead ask ourselves what we can do to move the conversation forward, perhaps even by engaging those who have a far greater reach than we can ever realistically hope for?
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Debate from the New School in full if you’re so inclined:
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