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Is Kristen Stewart What a Feminist Looks Like?

Kristen Stewart"It's a REALLY Ridiculous Thing To Say You're Not a Feminist"

Kristen Stewart"It's a REALLY Ridiculous Thing To Say You're Not a Feminist"

That's ma' gurl!

After completing a spat of critically-acclaimed and gritty indie films, and in the wake of the Twilight hype finally fading, Kristen Stewart opened up to a journalist from The Daily Beast about her perspectives on the film industry, acting choices, her latest roles, and her departure from Edward Cullen's adoring, one-dimensional love interest to much more nuanced performances. When the interviewer mentions how the three films she just completed portray "strong, flawed, complex women" and how this is a "rarity in Hollywood" Stewart is quick to point out that what he just said was the most clichéd question that women in the biz get from journalists.  "Cliché because it's entirely true," she adds, noting that Hollywood simply fails to tell women's stories.  They go on to discuss how the root of the problem lies in the fact that Hollywood does not have enough female filmmakers and Stewart declares that she'll become one (you go girl!)  Personally, I would love for a journalist to ask me some form of "how does it feel to be a female filmmaker in Hollywood?" because that would mean I've made it. But I also yearn for the day when that question has become irrelevant and journalists feel compelled to ask female actors, producers, and directors questions about their work and none about what it is like to navigate the male-dominated elements of Hollywood.  But until more of us wannabe directors actually slog through the shit and the sexism and somehow make a name for ourselves, the underlying imbalance in gender representation on the big screen is not going to go away.  

And then the topic inevitably shifts to women broadly. Of the many, many things that this beautiful, intelligent, enigmatic, and refreshingly frank actress is, she's also a declared feminist.  People who call themselves feminists are disappearing like honey bees in today's world of "too over it to care" millennial angst in which our generation seems to believe that because we are overwhelmingly accepting of every stripe of human that we now live in a post-racist, post-sexist, post-homophobic America where everyone can just re-tweet cat memes and then go about their lovely rainbow days.  But that is not the case, clearly.  A shift in attitudes does not equal a shift in institutions, at least not entirely.  And it certainly does not do away with the embedded patriarchal and gender norms that influence everyone, including the 20somethings, in their day-to-day behavior.  In her interview, Kristen points to this new bizarre trend of young actresses coming out publicly as NOT feminists, remarking "that's such a strange thing to say, isn't it? Like, what do you mean? Do you not believe in equality for men and women?"

I think this new trend of young women distancing themselves from the word feminism speaks to a deeper problem of what we as a society have decided the word means. "Feminism" used to mean "equality between the sexes," but in the last few decades has undergone an unfortunate perjoration in which it now invokes something more akin to an angry army of bra-burning, man-hating crazies marching down the streets in an Amazonian-style takeover of the world.  But the thing is, feminism STILL means equality between the sexes. The actual definition has not changed! Stewart cited the anti-feminist streak as a reaction to the "overly agressive types" which I think is a euphemism for the above bra-burning marchers, but the bigger issue is that "feminism" has been torn to pieces by "misogyny."  Which is sort of perfectly ironic if you think about it.  We live in a time, you guys, in which actual women think that feminism is a bad idea because they've been taught that anything that challenges the status quo or the patriarchy is some kind of extremist movement aimed to overthrow men.  This is not even close to what feminism is.  

this is not feminism

this is feminism

It makes sense though, that in a world in which men still control everything (far beyond the film industry) that the ruling ideology, so to speak, has undertaken a smear campaign against the underdogs to the point that the vitriol has been accepted as truth. I don't think that young women today who declare themselves not-feminists have lost their minds--I think that they are fleeing this word in droves because of what has been done to it by the very problem that it is trying to fix.  And I don't think that every man is walking around bad-mouthing feminism (though I'd say the GOP is doing a pretty damn good job of it), but again this isn't the source of the problem.  It's become a dirty word because of the core beliefs that everyone in this country grows up ingesting: this is the way it is, accept it, and anyone who tries to change it is a psycho radical. But feminism is not just good for women, it's good for men too because it allows them to be freed up from the gender norms that confine them as well, and any society that has a balance between the sexes has been shown to function much better overall.  If more men truly understood what feminism actually means, they would be much less fearful of it, and same goes to the women.   


I think what feminism needs, really, is a slick new advertising campaign.  A re-branding if you will.  Like when Pepsi hired Shakira and Apple did those commericals with the old stodgy guy as the PC and Justin Long as the Mac. Luckily, celebs like Stewart and Emma Watson and many others are standing up amidst the idiocy and reminding people that at its core, feminism is trying to make the world better, not worse.  I'm going to stop ranting and start pitching to my ad agency friends and see what we can do about it.  Maybe if it gets a word makeover, the young women of today will start associating themselves with it again. No one knew what the fuck kale was five years ago and now it's in every green drink and salad.  If kale can do it, so can feminism.  Time to start working on that campaign...

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Katie Boyden