Until the early 1900’s, women had little say in just about anything. It took the work of women activists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Stone Blackwell, Rosa Parks, and many others in order to get to where we are in the United States today.
The idea of feminism is not a new concept. However, it has taken on different meanings as the years go by. Early on, its focus was on women’s rights. Then, as women gained said rights, such as the right to vote in 1920, the focus shifted toward women being able to work outside of the home in the 1950’s. Previously, it was accepted that women should stay at home and run the house, while the men went out and earned money. In the 1960’s, the birth control pill entered the scene, which allowed women to have more control over their bodies, as well as the separation of sexuality and child bearing. Gradually, women married later and started families later, too.
Fast forward to today, 2016, and women are still standing up for many of these same issues. Women in the media play a large role in supporting women and advocating for feminism. Taylor Swift, Michelle Obama, Demi Lovato, Oprah, Angelina Jolie, Ellen DeGeneres, and many others are speaking out against social norms and mistreatment of women.
Last week, the 2016 Grammy Awards aired on TV. Shortly before the show aired, it was displayed across the media that Kanye West’s new song featured lyrics that seemed to say that he was responsible for Taylor Swift’s success. These lyrics are quite vulgar, and of course, Taylor was upset. This is not the first time West has tried to undermine Swift’s success. Back in 2009 at the Grammy Awards, Taylor Swift won Female Video Of The Year and in the middle of her speech, Kanye West came on stage and interrupted her, which sparked a lot of controversy. He said later on in a radio interview that it was because of his actions at the Grammys that Taylor was able to get so many hits and gain so many fans. So, in response to all of this, Taylor stated in her acceptance speech at this year’s Grammys, “I want to say to all the young women out there, there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success, or take credit for your accomplishments, or your fame. But if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you’re going, you will look around and you will know it was you and the people who love you that put you there. And that will be the greatest feeling in the world.” Swift is the first woman to win Video Of The Year twice, which is quite the accomplishment, and she was clearly grateful to all who support her.
Swift is known for her support of young women, and is constantly seen surrounded by her girl friends who are all advocates for women in their own ways. And for the most part, Taylor is using her fame and power to empower women, but some do not agree with her choices. For example, recently Kesha has been in the news due to a court ruling stating that she is still bound to a contract with Sony and Dr. Luke, though she accused them of sexually assaulting her. In response to this, many famous women took to social media to voice their support. Taylor even donated $250,000 to the singer.
Demi Lovato, another well-known singer, who has overcome challenges in her life and uses her story and experiences to show women (and men) that it is possible to overcome difficulty and to love yourself even if you aren’t perfect. She is in support of Kesha, and tweeted at her, saying that Kesha can come back from this experience stronger than she was before. She also went on to argue what she believes feminism really is/should be.
This series of tweets shows that the definition of feminism is different for everyone. Swift, because of her money status, can afford to offer monetary support. But not everyone has that option. Though Lovato claimed she was not “shading” Swift, she did tweet that she is “ready for self-proclaiming feminists to start speaking out or taking action for women’s rights.” In the days since this occurred, many people are standing up for Taylor Swift, including the director of her latest music video for Out Of The Woods. This whole situation brings up the point that a problem with celebrities advocating for feminism is that they often have differing views.
This is a problem, because feminism should be about empowering women, and how can that happen if women are against each other? In the words of Michelle Obama, “As women, we must stand up for each other.”
Today, female empowerment is a constant theme in American society. Ordinary people can be and are advocates for women, and can make a difference. The largest impact, however, comes from powerful women in entertainment. Women across the country support these well-known advocates because of their messages and what they stand for. And though women have come a long way, there are still many aspects of society that continue to degrade women. It is clear that men still have superiority over women in some cases, especially when it comes to wages. It will take time for actions of famous and ordinary people to change this.
Feminism is a complicated concept. Because each person has his or her own ideas on feminism, I don’t believe that it is possible to narrow it down to one simple definition. For me, feminism is about believing in yourself as a woman and going after your dreams even if society is telling you that you don’t deserve whatever it is you’re working for. And, it is also about boosting up other women, so that they feel good about themselves and can help other women do the same. Michelle Obama embodied this well when she said that feminism isn’t just about helping yourself — it’s about making sure others have the same opportunities, whatever their gender, race, or socioeconomic status.
Feminism will continue to be a popular and controversial topic for years to come. But the way I see it, we have come a long way from where we used to be in regards to women in society, and the fight will continue.
“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.” – Michelle Obama