Katy Perry’s Bra.

Katy Perry recently accepted the Billboard Woman of the Year Award and opened her speech with the following:

I’m not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.

As I sat at my desk on Tuesday morning, listening to this on the news, I nearly spat my tea everywhere. Fortunately Radio 1 DJ Sara Cox managed to respond more articulately than dribbling her Tetley, interrupting the news broadcast to despairingly shout “Of course you’re a feminist, then, you wally!”. And of course Sara is right – Katy Perry is a feminist, as is anyone who thinks women are sort of alright too.

The basic principle of feminism is a belief that women should be considered equal to men. To put that another way, it’s the understanding that all human beings are of equal worth. The reality of the situation is that, to bring about that equality, the majority of the issues that need to be addressed are about elevating women to equal status with men. This seems to be where the confusion arises – because there seems to be a focus on women, people forget that equality is at the heart of it and think that the feminist agenda is about turning the patriarchal system into a matriarchal, man-hating society. It’s just not, and that’s why anybody can be a feminist. Yes, men and women are fundamentally different in many ways, but they are all people, and if you are a person who thinks other persons should be treated fairly, then you, my friend, are a feminist.

Nothing makes me sadder than when people are scared of feminism, except perhaps when ‘hard-core’ Capital F Feminists ridicule them for it. I don’t believe that there’s anything to gain by setting up an us versus them camp on the issue of gender equality, and I’ve been appalled at the number of responses to Katy’s speech that have concluded words to the effect that she definitely can’t be a feminist because she’s so stupid and totally doesn’t understand anything about real¬†feminism and it’s such a relief that she doesn’t want to be a part of our gang because we totally don’t even want her. Sorry, are we all four years old again? Yes, it makes me desperately sad that the Billboard Woman of the Year doesn’t seem to know she’s a feminist, but it makes me desperately angry that others seem to think that this makes them somehow superior. As far as I’m concerned, elitism like this is an unfeminist as you can get. How on earth can we combat the inequality between men and women by creating further hierarchies? It’s ridiculous, and I’m not surprised that Katy Perry doesn’t want to identify with it. If that was what I thought feminism was, I’d run miles too.

So what it boils down to is this – Katy Perry, you are a feminist because you are a woman who believes that women are as a good as men, who you also like. This is why I am a feminist too. Yes, there are people who are misrepresenting the cause from within as well as from without, but that doesn’t mean that we should shy away from it. Yes, there’s a chance that people will make some pretty misguided assumptions about you if you drop this particular f-bomb, but the only way we can stop that happening is by proving them wrong.

And nobody is asking you to burn your whipped-cream projecting bra.

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6 thoughts on “Katy Perry’s Bra.

  1. Mike says:

    Egalitarian. Well said (and written).

  2. This is a fabulous post and I wish I wrote it first!

  3. I think I am one of those elitist hardcore F for Feminists. Not that I would ridicule anyone or say they ‘can’t’ be a feminist. I think labels are bad enough in the first place however, and I wouldn’t call someone a feminist if they didn’t choose to say they were. There are so many complex and contradictory issues in feminism, that for someone to be described as or pronounce themselves a feminist, I’d like to at least think they were aware of some of the thinking behind those issues. I don’t think it is unreasonable for there to be different points of view within feminism, as there are within say political groups or parties. It’s a fact of life that people have different opinions, even when they are broadly of the same mind about something.

    Achieving equality in all senses of the word, and in all walks of life, for women (which I actually think is unattainable) can mean so many different things to people – having more women CEOs of big (and indeed any) companies, stopping forced marriages, lack of education for women because in so many countries they still ‘stay at home’. That’s before you even get into the controversial issue around abortion. Those *some* of the big issues on one hand. On the other, you have the small things that feminists often talk about, because it is something where they can actually make changes – shaving your legs/axillae, wearing make-up, high heels. Trivial in the scheme of things but not when you consider they are about social conditioning and presenting women as sex objects. Do you wear a wedding ring? Change your name on getting married? If you even get married, yet many feminists do. Do you become Mrs whatever, or do you use Ms? Is it anyone’s business that you are married? Do you use non-gender specific language?

    Saying ‘I believe in the strength of women’ is pretty meaningless taken at face value – as I didn’t hear the rest of it, I don’t know if there was anything substantial said afterwards. I also find it upsetting when people do say ‘I’m not a feminist’ with great conviction, it’s become fashionable nowadays to establish non-feminist credentials. I do find that disturbing. Nor do I think it is anything to do with a few radical feminists dominating the mass media because they certainly don’t.

    However if Ms Perry doesn’t want to call herself a feminist then a) I would respect her wishes and b) tend to agree with her anyway.

    There are plenty of women out there calling themselves feminists, who quite frankly, don’t come anywhere near the word. It frequently reminds me of the debate in food circles where people who eat fish (and sometimes chicken and seafood) happily describe themselves as vegetarian. They aren’t. Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t make you a vegetarian. Similarly just because you say you believe in the strength of women doesn’t make anyone a feminist.

    • siobhanj says:

      I agree that it’s absolutely her prerogative to not identify as a feminist – this was my (slightly tongue in cheek) way of explaining that I don’t think there is any reason not to. Maybe I’m a better veggie than I am feminist though!

  4. I think that there is a disconnect between what `feminist’ means in a abstract terms and what it means in day to day conversations. In particular, in the real world when people are asked to describe themselves, they do so by comparing themselves to the average. Thus, you describe yourself as “good at maths” if you are better at maths than average people. Similarly, you describe yourself as a feminist only if you are significantly more feminist than average. This is particularly true if you are an american, given that the culture wars are much more heated there than here.

    Essentially everyone now agrees with the goals of first wave feminism. Equality under the law etc. Second Wave feminism remains controversial largely because it seemed to plot out a single definitive type of feminism as the idea to which women must subscribe, particularly when it came to abortion and reproductive rights. It remains, on account of these controversies, indelibly inked in to the public imaginations as the definition of feminism.

    Later third-wave feminism and post-feminism are essentially so dissolute as to be meaningless terms. Both seem to reject the idea of gender differences as contrary to equality. An idea rejected by essentially all major christian churches, as well as, I suspect, the vast majority of non-academics.

    Anyway, my point is mainly this. If you ask a member of the public to describe feminism, they will describe (in varying degrees of accuracy) second-wave feminism. I am sure this is what Katie Perry meant, and your objection, while in some sense accurate, is a little bit “Ivory Tower”, since it is about a distinction that doesn’t really exist outside of the very highly educated.

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