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.