lifestyle

Feminism might be the new black, but you need to do more than wear it.

Taylor – a feminist icon for our times?

By KATE LEAVER

It’s finally fucking fashionable to be a feminist.

The biggest pop stars in the world, the coolest TV actors and yes, even supermodels, are letting their feminist flag fly.

Need convincing?

Example 1: Taylor Swift. 

Swift only just came out as a feminist. The 24-year-old singer (who, if you need qualification of her influence, has roughly 60 million social media followers, sold a billion copies of her last album and is worth a cool $180 million) once famously said that she didn’t know what a feminist was. In 2012, she answered the question “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” by saying that she “didn’t really think of things as girls versus guys”.

Like so many of her young fans, she had a naive ignorance of what feminism meant and thought of it as a dirty word.

BUT THEN Swift befriended Girls writer and vocal feminist Lena Dunham, and changed her mind.

Taylor Swift is now a feminist — and one who lends her substantial influence to the cause. After 24-year-old British actress Emma Watson spoke so beautifully at the United Nations last week on the topic of gender equality, Swift said this in an interview with Tout Le Monde:

And that’s the beautiful, wonderful, powerful thing about feminism being in vogue. Young women and men – impressionable young people still forming their world views – understand what feminism means.

Example 2: Beyonce. 

When THIS happened, it brought great joy to my hopeful, fierce feminist heart. I wanted to wallpaper the office with this silhouette of Beyonce, self-appointed feminist ambassador in the pop music category.

And I love that we now live in a world where Beyonce can perform at the Video Music Awards in front of an enormous sign saying ‘Feminsim’ while Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s definition of feminism plays in the background.

And for one more example of feminism being fashionable now, here’s a really, really LITERAL one.

Example 3: The supermodels. 

Overnight, in Paris, this happened: Karl Lagerfeld got his Chanel models to dress as sexy suffragettes for his Paris Fashion Week show. Here, watch as supermodels like Cara Delevingne display messages like “Women’s rights are alright!”; “Ladies First” and “Make Fashion Not War”:

Now, either Karl Lagerfeld has a wicked sense of irony, suggesting that supermodels are the new suffragettes. OR, feminism has genuinely infiltrated pop culture and the idea of gender equality is ‘having a moment’. Like culottes. Or wedge heels.

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Whatever his motive, the fact that models are wearing feminist slogans (“Make fashion not war” is hardly a tenet of traditional feminism but let’s put that aside for minute) says one thing loud and clear: Famous people know what feminism is. Feminism is mainstream now. It’s cool. It’s not just a social movement anymore; it’s a trend.

So the great pop-culture influencers of our time have adopted the feminist cause. They’ve made it their own, they’ve made it catchy, they’ve given it a much-needed make-over. For that I am eternally grateful.

BUT.

Where do we take the conversation now? How can we mobilise all these celebrities and their millions of fans to affect real change for women everywhere?

In other words. So, Taylor Swift is a feminist. NOW WHAT?

We can celebrate all the popular, wealthy, magnificent celebrity feminists all we want. But at some point we need to kick that enthusiasm into action. Because singing about it and even speaking about it isn’t always going to be enough. It suggests that feminism’s work is done and now we’re just having a party.

The plight of global feminism is complex, and infinite. So let’s focus, for a moment, on the state of women’s rights in Australia. You might assume that as far as equality goes, Australia’s pretty sweet. And at first glance, yeah, we’ve got a lot of freedom, we’ve had a female Prime Minister, we can vote, etc etc.

So why is the gender pay gap widening? Why has the gap between mens salaries and women’s gone from 17.5% to 18.2%? Why has the number of women represented in parliament steeply declined? Why are tampons still taxed as luxury items? Why does 1 woman a week die at the hands of their partner?

A study released today by Plan International – called “Growing sexism forcing girls, women away from life as leaders” – shows that more and more Aussie women feel defeated by sexism. They’re not seeking out leadership roles, they’re not striving for success or fulfilment, and they’re routinely harrassed because of their gender.

As Mamamia reported this morning, the study showed that only 1% of young women dream of a future in politics. 33% said it would be easier to get their dream job if they were male. More alarmingly, 50% of young women surveyed said that sexism affects their career path, and more than 75% have been the subject of sexist comments.

These are all gendered issues. These are all things that feminism, as a movement, should be addressing. Are we addressing it, or are we busy singing Beyonce lyrics?

Let’s have another look at those “feminist” models. And ask, so now what?

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