What is a feminist?
A person who believes in feminism, the movement which advocates equal rights for men and women.
That's it. And that's not even it 'in a nutshell'. That's what being a feminist is, absolutely. There are no other rules one needs to abide by to be allowed entry to The Feminist Club. There's no form you need to fill out, no list you need to be on, no committee that assesses your 'membership worthiness' to get past, there's not even an annual membership fee to fork out for. There's no leader of The Feminist Club, which means there’s no all-knowing feminist who sits in some big office, behind a fat desk, telling members what they can and can't do or say in order to remain part of it.
There are no gender stipulations to belonging to the club either. Men can belong, same as women. So can transgender, bigender and agender people.
There's no dress code that decides entry, no code of conduct to stick to once you're 'in', and no limit to how long you can stay 'in' for. It is the most inclusive 'club' imaginable. Everyone in the world is welcome and everyone in the world can have access to it, from all corners of the world – because it's a metaphorical club: without walls, borders or boundaries.
All you need to be able to join, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights.
Not everyone knows this, however...
Case in point, the FURORE over Emma Watson exposing some bosom in this month's Vanity Fair. By 'some bosom', think: subtle curve of a breast.
Because of this outrageous, unthinkable act, Emma has been labelled a hypocrite. Why? Well, two reasons. Firstly, as a 'feminist', should she really be involved in a bosom-baring 'sexual' shoot that might appeal to lascivious men?
Secondly, in 2013, she told Wonderland magazine she felt 'conflicted' about Beyonce’s eponymously named visual album, which included a voiceover from novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED speech ‘We Should All Be Feminists’. 'I felt her message felt very conflicted,' Emma said, 'in the sense that, on the one hand, she is putting herself in a category of a feminist, but then the camera, it felt very male – such a male, voyeuristic experience of her.'
Emma has been accused of doing the same in the Vanity Fair shoot.
Now, whether Emma was right or wrong to infer Beyonce was a hypocrite, or whether it was right or wrong for her to then be accused of hypocrisy for her own photo shoot is, in the context of feminism, irrelevant. Because The Feminist Club has no rules on whether a feminist is 'allowed' to bare their bosoms for magazines or put out a 'male voyeuristic experience' of themselves for a music video. Which means neither Emma, her critics, nor anyone else, is qualified to claim that it does.
Sorry, but that's the truth.
Can feminists ever condemn other feminists for anti-feminist behaviour? Yes, of course – if the offending ‘feminist’ has said something along the lines of:
'Men are superior to women and should have more rights because women are second class citizens and should remain that way always’.
In essence, if they prove they do not believe in equal rights. If that’s the case, cast them out of The Feminist Club forever! (Though really, in accordance with freedom of speech, they can still continue to call themselves feminists… but we’ll ignore that for argument’s sake.)
I’ve not heard of any such case however, and I doubt anyone else reading this has either.
I understand people feel passionately about feminism. I too feel passionately about it. But feminism doesn’t belong to me. It’s not up to me – or anyone – to decide how ‘a feminist’ should behave. Nor is it up to me to castigate those I perceive aren’t feministing [sic] correctly.
Feminism is about equal rights. Getting on our high horses about the other perceived rules to it, just isn’t right.