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!