The word feminism has negative connotations. Yet, the stereotypes of feminists as ‘man-hating’, unsexy, complaining women have recently been shaken by Emma Watson, Beyoncé, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. How did they give feminism a new stimulus?
First of all, in September actress and United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson (known for her role in the Harry Potter films) launched the UN “HeForShe” campaign with a moving and passionate speech. Watson spoke about feminism, equal rights, and opportunities for women and men. In her speech she invited men to join the “uniting movement” and asked them to speak out for gender equality. She described the problems traditionally associated with the word “feminism”, but explained that gender equality was still an urgent issue.
When her speech was put online it went viral and has generated a lot of discussion in the media and social media. If you haven’t yet seen this speech yourself, please check it out and share your thoughts about it in the comments below.
A second recent statement about feminism came from performer and singer Beyoncé Knowles. At the MTV Video Music Awards August 2014, Beyoncé used part of a speech by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about feminism. The picture of Beyoncé standing in front of a projection of the word “Feminist” was seen live on television by many people and was posted on Beyoncé’s Twitter, which has more than 13 million followers. Beyoncé has a huge audience all over the world, so her ‘coming out’ as a feminist has had a wide impact.
Beyoncé claiming to be a feminist, dressed in a sexy glitter outfit, naturally prompted comments about how feminism should be expressed, and about whether a feminist in a glitter outfit could really be taken seriously. Of course there are feminists who aim for gender equality in other ways. But a top celebrity like Beyoncé presenting herself as a feminist will cause many people to start thinking about feminism, or to think about it in a new light.
Thirdly, one of my favorite speeches on feminism is by the writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is a successful author from Nigeria, who has written several novels. In her TEDx talk “We Should All Be Feminist” she connects her personal journey as a feminist with the importance of gender equality. Like Watson she explains that ‘feminism’ often has negative connotations; in her case she has even been accused of being “un-African”. She uses a personal example to explain how maleness is still the norm and femaleness is taken less seriously, and why this is harmful. I would encourage everyone to watch this video and be inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
A new boost for feminism
Emma Watson, Beyoncé Knowles, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie express themselves as feminists, and by so doing they show that “feminism” is very varied and is still an urgent issue. In addition, by these powerful public expressions they show that feminism is not an old-fashioned, ugly word. The one-sided stereotypes of feminists as being man-haters have been destabilized. I would argue that feminism has received a new boost.
Have you noticed other examples of new stimulus on feminism? Please comment below.