Feminist Fridays: Have celebrities corrupted the feminist movement?

Earlier this term I attended a debate at the Oxford Union discussing the following motion:

“This House Believes Celebrity Icons Have Corrupted Feminist Movements”

Celebrities, such as Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, have defined a new brand of popular feminism in the eyes of millions, but does this strand of feminism distract from the everyday challenges many women face?

I thought this would be a really interesting topic to bring up in a Feminist Fridays post considering I have talked about celebrities and feminism in the past (throwback to my Taylor Swift post). Sometimes it’s tempting to denounce celebrities who don’t seem to “uphold” feminist values in everything that they do or who appear to take advantage of it for their own financial gain and fame. Taylor Swift was brought up in the Oxford Union debate many times as an example of a celebrity who jumped on the feminist bandwagon when it recently became a more mainstream, culturally valuable stance to take. But does she really display the kind of intersectionality we need in the feminist movement? Is she asking tough questions and fighting for women’s rights around the globe?

No, Taylor Swift is not doing those things; however, I would argue that that is not necessarily her job. While I believe celebrities should of course use their platforms to advocate important issues and create positive change, they are not politicians and have not been trained to organize any of these campaigns. Those who choose to do so, such as Emma Watson and the He for She campaign, are admirable and can be aspired to by others. Yet I think we should acknowledge that it’s unreasonable to expect this kind of work from all celebrities.

Ultimately, I feel as though celebrities complicate the feminist movement, but it would be inaccurate to say that they corrupt it. How much of an impact do we actually think these celebrities have? Will Beyoncé’s opinion stop people trying to help women around the globe get better opportunities for education, careers, healthcare, or help in domestic or sexual abuse? NO. Yet at the same time, Beyoncé’s opinion is nevertheless important because it could be the only way that a young teenager first interacts with the feminist movement. Isn’t some discussion about this important and vital endeavor better than no discussion whatsoever? I would also argue that the simple fact that this topic is still being debated in spaces such as the Oxford Union means that the feminist movement has not been corrupted— otherwise, how and why would we be able to have intelligent, thoughtful, insightful conversations about it?

The Oxford Union debated was decided by a landslide vote: the opposition won with hundreds of votes, meaning that we decided that celebrities have not corrupted the feminist movement. That is certainly not to say that their views on feminism are perfect (whose are?) or that they will singlehandedly create gender equality in the world; rather, they provide an important platform from which to spread the word about this movement and the changes that need to occur.

Click here to see other Feminist Friday posts!

What are your thoughts on this debate? Do you agree with the way we voted? Would you rather celebrities be more or less vocal about movements such as feminism? Do you have a favorite celebrity icon who is vocal about this issue? Let me know in the comments section below!



23 Replies to “Feminist Fridays: Have celebrities corrupted the feminist movement?”

  1. This is a very interesting debate, Holly! I wish I had been there to listen in. For me, I really want celebrities to be vocal about feminist movements. The thing is when celebrities speak up about certain issues, we expect them to act on it even though it’s not their job. Just their position as role models is enough reason for us. Their voices are what helps break stigmas and can even help alleviate ignorance. That might sound like a stretch haha I wish celebrities in my country could be more vocal about feminist issues as it’s something I feel we’re in dire need of.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Is every celebrity feminist the perfect example of intersectional 21st-century feminism? No. But is it even possible for an individual to embody an entire movement and belief system? I would argue no. Feminism is about the experience of women all over the world. Celebrities have a public platform from which they can speak about certain issues. But that doesn’t mean they have to be the embodiment of all of those issues.

    I do think that celebrities deal with gender inequality in our society more than most people are aware. A lot of people think that because they make a lot of money, issues like the pay gap don’t really affect them. But female celebs are often held to standards that their male counterparts don’t experience. Not only do they regularly make less money than their male costars, If they gain a few pounds they face pregnancy rumors. If they lose a few pounds the eating disorder speculation begins. They’re often accused of capitalizing on their looks and sexuality (I’ve seen actresses and singers who have trained and worked for years accused of nepotism and “sleeping their way to the top”). That’s not even mentioning dealing with the likes of Harvey Weinstein and his ilk. I think that living in the public eye and facing this kind of scrutiny and sexism on a daily basis can highlight these issues for female celebs. It can make them more aware of the sexism that women on all levels of society face.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it really depends on HOW people decide to vote. I tend to vote based on a mix of personal conviction and which side was the most persuasive, but some people only take either/or factor into account, which can definitely influence voting. With a contentious topic like this I would tend to think that people already formed opinions before they came, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. really fascinating post as usual! i’d agree with your idea that celebrities complicate feminism, not corrupt it. i can be an impulsively conscientious consumer – it’s hard for me to enjoy someone’s art or content if i know i disagree with them politically. for that reason, it makes me happy when celebrities speak out for feminism. however, i do feel it’s no better if they seem to be profiting off the concept of being a feminist without really being one. i guess i’m looking for a happy medium between an emma watson type of activist and a taylor swift perhaps fairweather feminist.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with your consensus, not every celebrity is equipped to advocate for feminism like Emma Watson is. She is very well spoken and has put a lot of time and research into the movement and IN MY OPINION, comparing anyone’s efforts to hers is unfair.

    This doesn’t mean though that other celebrities can do nothing. They have fans… They have a strong platform that can be used to promote the movement and notify people of its existence and importance. Those people can then go on do research to see all the more specific information and examples provided by others.


      1. Going back to Taylor swift, she may be a very committed feminist… But she’s not know for profound statements and it’s unfair to expect them of her.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Honestly I had never given this topic much thought so thank you for bringing this insight to me! I definitely agree with you that it is not a celebrity’s job to be a politician or a campaign leader, but hats off to those celebrities who do take up that mantle!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ohh this is so interesting! I love your take on it. Personally I love it when celebrities are vocal about social issues and even go out of their way and actually take action, but I don’t blame them if they don’t. As long as they’re not racist, sexist, homophobic etc. I will continue to support them. Like you said, it’s not their job. Also we don’t know that much about celebrities. I once interviewed someone who specialised in celebrity feminism about Taylor Swift, and she rightfully pointed out that we know Taylor Swift the product as she and her team are trying to sell her, not the real person behind that.
    Also some celebrities might deal with mental health issues which makes it more difficult for them to speak up, they might feel safer not saying anything so I will never blame anyone for not speaking up, especially when I don’t know them!
    Great post Holly 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely agree! I really like your point about not knowing what personal/mental health issues they might be experiencing that could prevent them from feeling like speaking out. Celebrities are people, too. Thanks so much, Michelle! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think what bothers me about some celebrities who wave the feminist banner is that a lot of them feel like they’re really just cashing in on the movement and nothing else.
    Especially when they are called out for things and then their apologies come across as really superficial and that they seem to not have learned anything usually because they go on to do the same thing again.
    I think it’s frustrating to see celebrities use the feminist label for their own benefit while not actually doing anything to help the movement. That’s what pisses me off, and why sometimes I opt out of supporting some of them. Especially when their feminism isn’t intersectional.
    I get that it’s not their job, but if you’re going to use the title and benefit from it then you should probably do SOMETHING to help the movement in some way shape or form.

    Liked by 1 person

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