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Your Feminism is Not Mine

by share

We are leaps and bounds past the place we were even just a few years back in terms of how we apply feminism as an umbrella term and choose to represent the diverse voices of its supporters. Today, the word feminism calls for the input of people of all races, cultures, religions and identities. It has (finally) begun to bypass its roots in white heteronormativity. The problem still lies, however, in the media’s representation of feminism, more specifically the way in which certain celebrities and supposed feminist voices choose to assess and present the concept of feminism to their fans and the public at large.

Take Amy Schumer: actress and comedian, recent movie star and creator of her own Emmy-winning television show, “Inside Amy Schumer” on Comedy Central. There is little to argue against Amy Schumer being a strong feminist voice: She has mocked ridiculous double standards in her standup; proudly advocated for Planned Parenthood; passionately defended her decisions regarding sex, drinking, etc.; and refused to change her weight and style, despite criticism.  

These are all great actions on Schumer’s part, and they undoubtedly promote a strong message of female empowerment and being unapologetic, but there’s an issue which can no longer go ignored: The white-centricity, one-size-only nature of this feminism. The flaw in Amy Schumer’s “feminism” has been her lack of attention to its multifaceted nature and the way in which it applies to those unlike her.  

Her message was driven away in an instance when she included exaggerated footage of twerking black and Latina women for one of her sketches (clearly propagating the stereotype that these women are sluts and happy being objectified) and joked in her standup that Latina women breed like animals. Another one of her standup jokes hinted at Latina women carelessly throwing themselves into situations of non-consensual sex, and when discussing her feelings about the movie “Gone Girl” last year at the MTV Movie Awards, Schumer stated, “Such a good movie. If you didn’t see it, it’s the story of what one crazed white woman, or all Latinas do, if you cheat on them. That’s a fact.”

Additionally, Schumer has time and time again made fun of her so-called ugly appearance and called out how, in Hollywood, beauty often matters more than talent. Though her point is valid — and it’s true that Schumer may not be Barbie Doll beautiful — she seems unwilling to acknowledge that her own skin color, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc.  have almost certainly given her an advantage in her field over her peers who are women of underrepresented groups.

And Schumer is not alone. Lena Dunham, another female actress, comedian and creator of the hit HBO show “Girls” has let her version of feminism wipe out the voices and inputs of many, without realizing or seeming to care about the consequences. Her show highlights the life of young women in New York City, but then again almost bizarrely wealthy, privileged women whose sexual pursuits and general behavior would be criticized if instead done by women of color or another marginalized identity. Dunham’s show has continued to propagate a fictional version of New York that seems to include almost no minorities, ever. “Girls” has played into the idea that only white people’s problems are at all relevant and interesting.

You can understand my disappointment and disgust when I found out that Schumer and Dunham, women I had previously admired and even looked up to, were spouting a brand of feminism that did not and would not apply to those unlike them and myself. How can they market themselves as heros of feminism while at the same time propagating racist stereotypes and backwards ideology toward other women? Schumer and Dunham’s version of feminism likely would have gone unquestioned against its old definition, but today, representing the voices of your lookalikes and bashing all other women should not and cannot be tolerated.

What is even more frightening than what these celebrity “feminist idols” have said is the way in which their comments  have hardly been called out by the media as they deserve to be. The media’s acceptance of this kind of behavior that stunts the expansion and inclusiveness of feminism needs to end before we can assure that women like Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham do not put down others and promote a feminism that is exclusive and based on a superiority complex. This kind of behavior should not be normalized or accepted blindly. It is wrong to call these women heroes when they only seem to call for liberation and advancement as it applies to them personally.

To put it simply, feminism must be accompanied by intersectionality in order to gain true progress. Intersectionality within feminism is about acknowledging the oppression lesbians, women of color, etc. and embracing the way feminism is different, but equally important, for each unique group it encompasses. Yes, a black woman will naturally have a different relationship with feminism than her white counterpart. Yes, a transgender woman will grasp in feminism a different value than someone who is cis*. Ignoring or trashing the experiences of minority, oppressed voices is not the feminism we need or deserve to see in 2016.

Though it may not be easy for celebrities and their partners in the media to stray from an exclusive feminism and make a change to unwavering inclusion, it is necessary. Celebrities must not continue to set an example for their younger fans that is based on a lack of tolerance and understanding. They hold places as role models, and the change we need is as much on their shoulders as it the voices of those less amplified. I hope for an America, a world even, where intersectionality becomes normal and mainstream intolerance is no longer tolerated. I can only hope.

* Cis means relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender.

Holyn, 16, attends DeKalb School of the Arts.

Art by Tamar Robotham, 16, DeKalb School of the Arts.

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