Last month, in an interview with the Daily Beast, Taylor Swift was asked whether she considered herself a feminist. She replied:
I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.
What frustrated me most about Taylor's answer was not her reluctance to call herself a feminist. If she doesn't want to label herself as one, that's her prerogative – although it would certainly be fantastic if she did, given her popularity among younger girls who see her as a role model. In fact, the rest of Taylor's answer shows that her beliefs seem to actually be in line with what feminism is really about; she just doesn't understand that herself, and that was what annoyed me so much.
Despite what many people still think, feminism isn't about men versus women but – as defined by the dictionary – equality between the sexes; which, whatever some might say, we still don't have. Yes, things are much better than they used to be in the Western world, however you only have to look at places like Saudi Arabia to prove that there's a long way to go. And even over in the UK, misogyny still runs deep in our culture, as Laura Bates of The Everyday Sexism Project emphasised in the Independent last week (and indeed, her project highlights all the time), as did the vote against women bishops in the Church of England. All this is not to mention the war on women's reproductive rights, which we're still fighting – as the horribly sad case of Savita Halappanaver proves.
However, I can't say that Taylor's answer surprised me given how many women these days – even those that believe in equality – are reluctant to label themselves feminists. This is largely due to the stigma that comes along with it, and the fact it is still unfortunately seen as a dirty word by many; one that conjures up stereoptypical images of man-hating bra burners. In fact, feminists come in all shapes and sizes, and the vast majority wouldn't dare do anything to damage their underwear and think that men are great. Some feminists are straight, others are not. Some don't shave, some do. Feminism is about having choice to do what you want, and fighting the pressure from a media that tries to make money out of us by telling us what we should look like in order to be considered attractive and therefore valued. And guess what? Guys can be feminists too, and we love them for it!
This widespread misconception as to what feminism is actually about is why it's so great when celebrities such as Lady Gaga speak out about being feminists. This makes younger girls who look up to them realise that it's nothing to be ashamed of. Recently Caitlin Moran and Vagenda Magazine have been using humour to show that feminism isn't always about being serious, and the former in particular has helped break many cliched ideas about it. More and more young women these days are proud to call themselves feminists and stand up for equality, which is refreshing to see and I hope it continues. I just wish everyone else, Taylor included, would educate themselves about what feminism really is and why it's still important before dismissing it.
Image via Taylor Swift's Instagram