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Smash the matriarchy

Posted: March 10, 2017 at 9:03 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

No one’s breasts have dominated the news so much since Vladimir Putin sat on a horse. Or was it Janet Jackson?

With yet another copy of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue out, and impossible female bodies still dominating the grocery store checkout, 2017 is not the end of female objectification. The question is, who is doing the objectifying?

A week ago, Vanity Fair premiered a photo shoot with star-cum-feminist icon Emma Watson in which part of her breasts are visible. Certainly not uncommon, for Vanity Fair. But the response was deafening. Feminists angry at the former Harry Potter star. Feminists angry at her critics.

Most notably, there were those pointing out Watson lives in a glass house of fame.

In 2014, during a magazine interview, Watson said she was “conflicted” about pop star Beyoncé’s self-identification as a feminist Beyoncé because, in her hour-long visual album, Watson said, “the camera, it felt very male, such a male voyeuristic experience of her.”

Of course, like any person in her early 20s, I’m sure Watson has said things she now regrets, and her comment was posed thoughtfully, pondering whether the video was feminist or not, rather than openly chastising her colleague.

The biggest problem with the arguments that have blossomed from Watson’s choice, apart from the obscenely extensive discussion of her mammary glands, is the amount of women who have weighed in on that decision.

It seems absurd to me that so many women would have so many opinions on what Emma Watson, or Beyonce, or any woman, for that matter, chooses to do with her own body.

The feminist movement—every iteration of it— has involved in-fighting. Sub-groups with different identities and different schools of thought don’t see eye to eye. They have differing (and occasionally opposite) opinions on how to present a public face. It’s led to cracks that have made being a feminist somewhat paradoxical.

It’s not, though. Women, despite being slightly more than half the world’s population, are a subjugated group, and so, unless we wish to remain subjugated, must be feminists.

Still, women have been criticized for calling themselves feminists for a number of reasons. For baring their breasts and being part of the entertainment industry. For working in prostitution or pornography. For being lesbians or for being trans women. For taking their husbands’ names. All by other women. Other feminists.

This is not unique to feminism. Within any social movement, any movement at all in which intelligent, socially minded persons participate, there is bound to be disagreements and fragmentations. There is rarely a consensus on language, on values, on identification.

And asking questions is not wrong, especially when something doesn’t sit right.

But when the same women who tell you to smash the patriarchy feel uncomfortable with the decisions you make about your own bodies, suggest women who set a bad example for girls by sexualizing themselves are dangerous to feminism, they have created a new kind of moral authority. One that also deserves to be smashed.

mihal@mihalzada.com