Dear Shailene Woodley,
Oh, Shailene. Shailey. Shailester. It seems like you’ve found yourself at the centre of controversy this week, telling Time Magazine that you don’t consider yourself a feminist because you “love men.”
“I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance,” you said. “With myself, I’m very in touch with my masculine side. And I’m 50 per cent feminine and 50 per cent masculine, same as I think a lot of us are. And I think that’s important to note.”
And then you added: “My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism. I don’t know how we as women expect men to respect us because we don’t even seem to respect each other. There’s so much jealousy, so much comparison, and envy. And, ‘This girl did this to me and that girl did that to me.’ And it’s just so silly and heartbreaking in a way.”
In the words of Carrie Underwood: Jesus, take the wheel.
Shailene, let’s just get this right out of the way: feminism has nothing to do with taking “the men away from the power.” For what feminism really is about, let’s turn to feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who provides this definition:
“If you just go to the dictionary, it’s 'the belief in the full socioeconomic, political equality of males and females.’ And that’s it,” Steinem told Huffington Post in 2013. “[Feminism] has been demonized as if it meant 'man-hating’ or I don’t know what. But actually it just simply means shared humanity, equality.”
That’s it. That’s all it is. Got that, Shailene?
In all fairness, your uninformed comments probably aren’t entirely your fault. You’re only 22 years old, and most of us can admit to saying a lot of incorrect and ridiculous things at that age. It’s easy to get swept up in myths and stereotypes, and to declare yourself a “humanist” when you believe feminism calls for the abolishment of men. It’s also easy to look at other women who don’t identify as a feminist and buy into their mandates. And it’s easy to get intimidated by concepts that have been misconstrued by years of negative attention.
And hey, you’re not alone. According to a gathering of facts by Huffington Post, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Bjork, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, Madonna, Susan Sarandon, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Demi Moore are all women who don’t identify as feminist, citing that they believe in equality instead, and are not (in the words of Sarandon) “strident bitches.”
I get it: if you believed everything you heard about feminism, the whole thing would seem terrifying. After all, according to what I guess is somewhat popular opinion, feminism translates into hating men. But Shailene, that’s the most harmful misconception, because in reality, feminism is for men, too.
In addition to trying to ensure that women are, you know, treated with respect and dignity (and have rights, and aren’t sexually assaulted, and, about a billion other things), feminism also works to save men from the patriarchal values that damage them, too. Feminism makes women people; it tries to stop the centuries-long trend of viewing women as sexual commodities.
It also works to abolish the myth that a man is only defined by the number of women he sleeps with. (Which bleeds into rape culture, since some men believe women are theirs for the taking whenever they want.) Feminism works to fight rape culture, as well as myth of male masculinity: a damaging belief that men are weak if they express emotions, leading them to express their feelings via violence instead.
See, Shailene? Feminism is for everyone. And feminism is also responsible for giving you, Ms. Woodley, the right to express your opinion in an open forum, regardless of how I may feel about your sentiments themselves
I think what confuses me the most about your comments is that despite the obvious good that feminism does (and how important it is), here we have another bright young woman in a position of power believing that feminism and loving men are mutually exclusive. Your blockbuster “Divergent” is arguably a feminist film and part of a feminist book series, proving to young girls how smart and capable women can be.
And you’re starring in the film adaptation of “The Fault In Our Stars,” playing a strong and admirable female character that girls everywhere look up to. Because of your comments, a new generation of girls – who may not have been brought up on feminism – might buy into the damaging idea that to be a feminist, you must hate men. And that just isn’t true.
They say that feminism is the radical notion that women are people. And you, Shailene Woodley, are a person, too.