Is the Shailene Woodley Backlash Going Too Far?

In a new interview with Marie Claire, Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence expresses concern about being over-hyped and praised, “Nobody can stay beloved forever. People are going to get sick of me.” It may seem odd coming from 2013’s golden girl, but given the way we’re so quick to turn on public figures the moment they say something we don’t like, J-Law is probably right that her cuteness is bound to start bothering people.

She ought to talk to her friend Shailene Woodley about that, as the Fault in Our Stars actress is currently under hot water for some questionable comments she made on feminism. It wasn’t long ago that the world was intrigued by the clay-munching, tree-hugging Divergent star, but now that Woodley has seemingly spoken out against feminism, her views are “not good enough” for us.

When asked by TIME whether she considers herself a feminist, Woodley responded, “No because I love men, and 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. With myself, I’m very in touch with my masculine side. And I’m 50 percent feminine and 50 percent masculine, same as I think a lot of us are. And I think that is important to note. And also I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn’t work either. We have to have a fine balance.”

This skewed description of feminism sparked immense outrage on the Internet, with blogs and opinion sites of all kinds calling out the celebrity’s personal views. “I encourage you to go out and explore more, take a tip from Beyonce and watch feminist videos or keep exploring feminist writing, and talk to men and women who believe in feminism,” wrote Sara Roncero-Menendez, who, I might add, failed to notice the contrast between Beyonce’s “Bow Down” lyrics and the Ban Bossy movement, but that’s a post for another day.

Woodley also received dozens of unsolicited open letters, so if her schedule happens to be relaxed this week, she’s got a ton of reading to catch up on, and none of it is particularly positive. Jezebel declared Woodley’s feminism thoughts “not good,” and Salon had a bone to pick with Woodley’s criticism of girl-on-girl hatred and resentment, “Woodley fails to analyze where that jealousy, comparison and envy between females comes from, and points instead to The Other Woman as a shining example of what females should be like.”

More than anything else, I’m stumped by Woodley’s feminism comments because it was just two months ago that she mocked the Twilight saga, saying Edward and Bella’s unusual romance is “a very unhealthy, toxic relationship…. She falls in love with this guy and the second he leaves her, her life is over and she’s going to kill herself! What message are we sending to young people? That is not going to help this world evolve.” People are complex though, and my guess is that she, like the rest of us, has some clashing views. Maybe it’s time to refine her interviews, or at least work on consistency. 

All of this is true, and while I’ll always consider myself a feminist, I don’t feel right joining the web’s stoning match against a lady who declined to verbally associate with feminism. Equating feminism to man-hating seems wrong to me, but feminism isn’t rooted in blasting other women who may not want to partake in the movement. Woodley is entitled to her opinion, whether we agree with it or not. Her definition isn’t fair or “correct” to many of us, but it’s her own, and she should be able to express her unpopular opinion without being accused of being “part of the problem” or giving feminism a bad name. More than anything else, a young celebrity’s opinion isn’t going to undo the hard work and progress of feminism.

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