Feminist classifications works against purpose of the movement

Katherine Middleton, Opinion Editor

During the Oct. 25 episode of Wendy Williams, she and her roundtable of guests discussed comments made by singer Annie Lennox in regards to singer Beyoncé being a feminist.

In an interview with Pride Source magazine, Lennox accused Beyoncé of using the word feminist to promote her image, as well as condemned her risqué stage costumes and sexy music videos. Whether Beyoncé is really a feminist or not isn’t the issue here; it’s that Lennox invalidates her feminism because she chooses to be sexy and cater to the male gaze with her outfits and performances.

Actress Ali Wentworth agreed with Lennox, saying that what Beyoncé does on stage is empowerment instead of feminism. She then went on to say that Sandra Bullock is more of a feminist because she was able to make the same amount of money as her male peers. But, if we’re going off of the idea that in order to be a female feminist, especially as an entertainer, you have to keep your clothes on, Bullock is disqualified as well, seeing as she’s been naked in a movie or two.

“Betty Freidan was not twerking,” said Wentworth. Freidan was an activist and a writer, having penned the book The Feminist Mystique. Wentworth is right, I’m sure Freidan was not twerking during her time. But if she had been, would her contributions to the feminist movement be discounted because of it?

Let’s take a step back. With the recent attention on feminism in the world of pop culture, it seems that the true definition of the word has been lost. According to the dictionary, a feminist is a person who believes in social, political and economic equality between men and women. If Beyoncé, or anyone, identifies as with that definition, then they are a feminist—whether they twerk, dress sexily, are sex workers, or are housewives.

There seems to be a hierarchy based on behaviors in the world of feminism. There is too much concern with appearances when these conversations would be better spent if the topic was how feminism can change the world. Why are we differentiating women based on their personal preferences? If a woman wants to appeal to the male gaze and still call herself a feminist, she can, because she still is.

If Lennox was going to accuse anyone of using feminism for profit, she should go after the Fawcett Society, an organization in the UK that campaigns for women’s rights. Celebrities such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emma Watson have been photographed wearing their “This is what a feminist looks like,” shirts, a collaboration between the organization and Elle UK magazine. While the message behind the shirts is similar to the one I’m preaching now, The Fawcett Society is being investigated for using a sweatshop that pays female workers in Mauritius under a dollar an hour to produce the shirts. These women are forced to sleep in rooms with up to 15 other women and work 16-hour days to produce these shirts and other items of clothing for retailers such as Urban Outfitters and Topshop.

Instead of classifying feminism and creating a need for such items of clothing, I think it’s a good idea to just stick with the dictionary version of feminism and allow the movement to do what it’s supposed to do: create a level playing ground for women in all aspects of life, regardless of how they choose to live theirs.