Recently, Time published an interview with Shailene Woodley wherein she spoke about feminism, unfortunately spouting a lot of misinformation.
When asked if she considered herself a feminist, she replied “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.”
It sucks that “feminism” and “misandry” are so often confused and their definitions have to be explained over and over and over again. If you are a misandrist, that means you hate men (likewise, if you are a misogynist, that means you hate women). If you are a feminist, that means you believe that men and women should be treated equally. That’s the definition. It’s about bringing women to power without taking it away from men. If anything, it’s giving men more power, because feminism is also about making sure that men stop being socially stigmatized for what is conventionally considered “feminine,” like being a stay at home parent or openly expressing emotion. Feminism is not about hating men. Feminism is about loving everyone.
The tragedy of Woodley believing she’s not a feminist (and she’s not alone in Hollywood) is that her lifestyle is possible because of the work of feminism. In Shakespeare’s time, women were not allowed on the stage and their parts were played by men. Woodley’s character Tris in this years blockbuster Divergent stands on the backs of so many female action-adventure heroes that came before her, a character that once upon a time did not exist. Read Moby Dick. There are no girls in Moby Dick.
And that’s just on the acting side of things. Woodley can vote because of feminism. Own property. Speak openly about her views without fearing she’ll be burned at the stake as a witch or stoned to death. Woodley can wear PANTS because of feminism. We continue to owe so much to the women that came before us for the fights they fought for us. We can’t turn our backs on those women by letting feminism become a dirty word. We have to keep fighting for this word’s honor. We have to keep up the fight so we can give as much to future generations of women as past generations have given to us.
Later on in the interview, Shailene says she believes in “sisterhood” as opposed to “feminism”:
“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.”
Again, I really think what we have here is a girl who did not learn her definitions correctly. Feminism IS sisterhood (and sister-brotherhood for our male allies). The reason there is as much “jealousy, comparison, envy” is because of outdated societal norms that led to so many women believing they have to base their looks and live their lives off of impossible standards. Feminism is women working together for a noble cause, and there’s no better way to build sisterhood than to have women working together to do good together.
I feel badly for Shailene. She’s spoken intelligently and eloquently on so many past issues. She’s a tremendous actress and seems like a straight-up doll of a human being. It’s unfortunate that she misidentified such an important word in such a public way. Fingers crossed we’ll get a retraction, or more importantly, a lesson learned.