Impoverished politics: your favorite feminist icons are problematic, at best

Pop star Taylor Swift is vocal about her feminism, but often that feminism is exclusive only to thin, rich, and white women like herself. Photo from Huffington Post.
Pop star Taylor Swift is vocal about her feminism, but often that feminism is exclusive only to thin, rich, and white women like herself. Photo from Huffington Post.

To the dismay of white men in fedoras everywhere, self-professed feminist celebrities are on the rise in Hollywood. From Amy Schumer to Tina Fey, powerful women have taken the entertainment industry by storm and have used their recognition to speak on behalf of women and their rights.

But which women are these people really advocating for? A trend I’ve noticed is that while these white “feminist” celebrities advocate for equality in some ways, they tend to lack an understanding of intersectional issues and women’s issues that go beyond their own lives.

Writer and star of HBO series “Girls,” Lena Dunham, faced a lot of criticism when she accused football player Odell Beckham Jr. of ignoring her while seated together at the 2016 Met Gala because he wasn’t sexually attracted to her.

The internet, rightfully, clapped back at Dunham, calling her comments racist. People accused Dunham of assuming a man of color tried to objectify her body and couldn’t. They also claimed that she completely ignored the fact that there were a myriad of reasons why Beckham might not have spoken to her including the racial history and pressures a black man might feel in social situations with a white woman.

Beyond this instance, Dunham has a problem of casting almost only white people in her movies and shows. In fact, racial justice seems to be a concept many of Dunham’s compatriots can’t seem to grasp, as well.

Shows like “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmit” have powerful story lines for the main, white, female characters, while falling on racially charged humor and refusing to write dynamic characterizations for people of color.

I don’t want the take away of this piece to be “you can never enjoy an episode of ’30 Rock’ ever again because Tina Fey doesn’t support the rights of sex workers,” but simply that the onus is on us to hold people in the public eye to a higher standard of feminism; a more inclusive form of feminism.

Let white female musicians know it’s not okay to appropriate black music and culture. Let film and show makers know that able-bodied, cis-gendered white people aren’t the only people who deserve representation in media. There are people in the entertainment industry fighting right now for these truly feminist ideals, but we need to vocally show our support for them.

Laverne Cox, Amandla Stenberg, FKA Twigs, and Margaret Cho are examples of intersectional feminist actors and artists who speak out against forms of oppression beyond just what they experience. They are talents definitely worth supporting.

It’s amazing that we have so many prominent women on TV and in the limelight when decades ago we were kept from protesting and reclaiming our talents and sexualities the way we do now. As momentous as the steps we’ve already taken have been, all of us, as activists and women need to evolve and be willing to learn from perspectives different from our own.

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