“Why Hollywood Desperately Needs Shailene Woodley”, suggests one article citing the feminist ideals and critiques that she supports, “Shailene Woodley on Why She’s Not a Feminist” reads the second headline that’s written on the TIME Magazine website a few months later making us all wonder if Woodley’s opinions are ones that we really need thrown into an already un-feminist-friendly melting pot. This isn’t a critique of Woodley herself; she thinks that her film, Divergent, promotes ‘’sisterhood” on account of it leaving out typical boy-centric girl-fights, she thinks that vampire romp Twilight is unfortunate for the extremes that main character Bella goes when her male love interest leaves her and Woodley herself even identifies as a lady loving lady (she doesn’t fall in love based on gender, she says in one interview) but call her a feminist and she’ll run a mile.
And it’s no wonder either, when the TIME piece discussing Woodley’s anti-feminist sentiments opens with [tweet_dis]“one of the hottest topics in Hollywood lately has been the ‘F’ word” as in feminism is now a dirty slur right up there with ‘fat’, ‘idiot’ and ‘ugly’ [/tweet_dis]and we can half expect it to be used in the latest batch of playground jokes. ‘Yo momma is such a feminist that she believes in the reproductive rights of others!’ That’s the type of micro-aggression that we (we as in women, God help someone recognises that I’m a feminist) are faced with, which is echoed in Woodley quotes such as “[I’m not a feminist] 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” and “I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn’t work either. We have to have a fine balance.” suggesting that feminism isn’t supported not because of subtle misogyny but simply because people don’t get it.
Of a handful ladies who have advocated for feminism: Beyoncé, Lily Allen and Miley Cyrus, the former previously didn’t identify as a feminist due to views similar to Woodley’s, Allen is a feminist who thinks that ‘everyone is equal’ (despite the stats stating the glaringly obvious – we’re not) and the latter is all about owning her sexuality and the freedom of her body, yet she advocates for sexual assault in the same breath. And it’s easy enough to say that we should take what we can get in a ‘feminism lite’ kind of way but it’s like walking into hospital with two broken arms and a limp and having the doctors ask you which one – and only one – would you like healed up. No thanks, I’ll take a cast on all of my appendages and my basic human rights to go, if you don’t mind.
It’s a worrying trend, the anti-identity phrasing (granted, you don’t have to identify with q word to believe in it or be it but there are definitely some peculiar reasons why feminism isn’t supported) that’s drawing more than a few questions from pop culture fans. One such fan, named Sophie, pointed out to me that Woodley’s questionable opinions go far beyond thinking that feminist women want all the power for themselves as Woodley supports The Other Women, a new film that is notable for avoiding the majority of women vs women tropes but it’s also “that movie about girls that doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test”. Sophie also noted that Woodley’s insistence on women needing to respect each other (despite slut-shaming and body-shaming both being supported and developed by the patriarchy) “annoys [Sophie] so much because that’s one of the biggest things that people don’t understand even if they support equality”.
Indeed, even the most progressive minds will need a bit of nudging in the right direction but with so called ‘strong women’ films like The Other Women failing the Bechdel Test on account of its several named female characters never once talking to each other once about anything other than a man (the criteria for passing), where on Earth is the right direction going to come from? Well for a start, feminism lite isn’t going to cut it and that means films and media that are empowering to all women – black, white, queer, straight and trans* – and it probably means we need to aim far, far higher than two named women talking about something other than a man. I for one don’t spend every waking moment talking to my friends about men and I suspect that you don’t either so not only is the media we’re seeing today an egregious example of a trope, it’s also not representative of any aspect of what women are actually like.
Another interviewee I spoke to, named Grace Kelly, had some suggestions of where Woodley, and others like her have gone wrong, telling me that “When I first read the quotes, I understood what she was getting at with the whole ‘balance’ thing as opposed to wanting to ‘overthrow men’ but then I realised that that’s what feminism is; it’s about creating a balance in the scales which is not in women’s favour (equal pay etc.) and to suggest that feminism is all about hating men is just idiotic. Sure there are extremists but that’s the same with any ideal/belief. In terms of people not understanding feminism; if you believe women deserve to be treated equally with men then you are a feminist.” Kelly even went on to suggest where the incorrect notions of what feminism is comes from people misinterpreting why the movement started in the first place. “Feminism isn’t about burning bras, it’s about changing perceptions in both men and women”, a viewpoint from Kelly echoed by previous statements from women I interviewed in a previous report.
Perhaps Woodley is an outlier, but she’s a bright enough spark to both garner headlines and to garner headlines suggesting that she is the only spark of her kind. But she’s not. Women around the world of all ages, races and identities are in favour of feminism and I’d also argue that it’s words like Woodley’s and Allen’s and Beyoncé’s previous thoughts on the movement that is harming the numbers of more women gladly sewing the ‘Proud Feminist’ patch onto their jackets. But we need people to be outspoken, to identify with the label even when the patriarchy suggests that they’ll be othered, because the more people talking about feminism the better the picture for women becomes as a whole and, critically, the more that feminists can get done.
Source(s): TIME (1), (2),NME