Is Feminism cool?

Today we often hear expressions such as feminism is “cool”, or sexy, or feminism is fashionable. When I hear these phrases I cannot contain my confusion, what kind of feminism do they have in mind? Maybe the word “feminist” in big letters in Beyoncé’s concerts? Perhaps even the struggle for equal rights?

Only a decade or a few years ago, in interviews with actresses, directors, singers or other famous women, if asked about feminism, would readily answer “I would not define myself as a feminist, but…”. Today, on the contrary, the expected response is “yes, of course, I’m a feminist”. But why are you a feminist? Is feminism still only a women’s issue? Why do we not ask men the same question? When reading these interviews, I would have wished them to go deeper into these issues.

It’s a great advance that no person must justify that s/he desires equal rights between men and women, or what is the same, non-discrimination on the basis of sex or gender. But how many of those who call themselves feminists today know what the term actually means?

Those who have declared themselves feminists have had to hide from their “condition”, or they would suffer from reprisals. I do not speak only of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but also of today. In the professional world, speaking of equal payment for equal jobs, have you not heard something like, “you are not one of “those” feminists, are you?”In this situation, you have only two options. Option A: you shut up, better to forget the issue or your contract may not be renewed. Option B: you insist that equal payment for equal jobs is an issue that is brought up even at the Oscars gala (smiling). If you are not Patricia Arquette or Meryl Streep, and your contract hangs in thin a rope, you’d better leave it for now. This is our reality of today, without leaving Europe.

From my point of view, feminism must be inclusive or it will not be. This means that there is no place for discrimination based on class, race, sexual orientation or the like. Feminism must be intersectional in order to move forward. In addition, it must have a global and transformative vision which includes economy, politics and ethics. There are many feminisms, such as black feminism, ecofeminism, etc. “Cool feminism” should be one of them, perhaps. If so, which basic criteria should it meet?

I imagine a new tool or an app which could serve to identify people who share the most common ideas and objectives of feminism. Perhaps a kind of Bechdel test. This popular test of movies, tv shows, etc. uses a few simple questions to identify the ones that avoid the gender gap. So, let’s not deceive ourselves with the statement “it is fashionable to be feminist”! Many persons, companies, groups, institutions… use it in vain and, clearly, profit from it over and over again.

We should not forget that “cool” feminism has its origins among the socially and economically privileged, liberal women in positions of power within capitalism with “the talent […] to climb the corporate ladder, to break the glass ceiling”, as Nancy Fraser puts it. They are often highly educated, socially well-situated women, many enjoy their position thanks to the ones who work for them, solving their “domestic problems”, which in fact often means women and immigrants with salaries much lower than their own. I would like to think that these feminists are actually aware that because of those less favoured ones, “cool feminism” is possible. Can we ask these “new” feminists to resolve the problems that “classical” feminism has not succeeded with over the centuries, that is to break down economic and social inequalities? Well, at least I think we should try.

On the other hand, and thanks in part to this group of powerful women, many more will approach feminism. The younger generations now discover new ways of talking about sex or gender inequalities thanks to social media and events such as TED talks. Seeing the word “feminist” at the Beyoncé’s concerts, or Scarlett Johansson at the Women’s Demonstration in Washington D.C. just after the appointment of Donald Trump as President of the United States, are just two examples that surely makes feminism known among the many. Typing the word feminism in Google is, after all, not an insignificant thing to do.

The challenge is here for everyone, for women and men. Let’s take advantage of this moment of popularity of feminism to act, negotiate, listen and learn, without exclusion, with respect and sorority, as Marcela Lagarde would say. We cannot afford more divisions if we want to step ahead. There is a lot at stake.

All the best for the 1st of May!


Notes: The Dior T-shirt “We should all be feminists” is being sold for the “modest” price of 490 pounds (550 euros), and seems to have been a sales success






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