Megyn Kelly Describes The "Feminist" Label In A Way That Proves She Just Doesn't Get It
Appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Sunday night after the Super Bowl, Megyn Kelly not only took on Donald Trump, but feminism too. After being questioned about the Republican candidate's feud with Fox News, the conversation turned to her role as a feminist icon — as some have called her. Not surprisingly, her answer fell short, once again disregarding the advocacy of women's equality while suggesting that if "young girls" — her choice of words — want to succeed, they should just work harder than the boys.
Her disappointing answer mirrors what she told Vanity Fair's February 2016 issue and GQ as far back as 2010. Despite the occasional "Megyn Moment" — as The New York Times Magazine has dubbed every time that she stands up for women's rights — she's not advocating for an overhaul to a sexist system and society in which women have to go an extra mile to prove themselves against men — or even bring home the same pay.
She told Colbert, "I think [the word "feminist"] is alienating and has been co-opted by some people." Then, quoting Steve Martin as in her Vanity Fair interview, she said, "Be so good they can't ignore you," adding that if young girls want to succeed, her advice would be: "Work your tail off, be the best, make sure you can't be ignored." That's how she sees her rise to the top and unfortunately, she doesn't see the need to level the playing field for future generations of women.
In a tweet after the episode aired, using hardships from her own life, she made her case for the bootstraps model to equality — women pulling themselves up individually as opposed to feminists working together to change the system. A professor and chaplain at the University of Indianapolis tweeted that he respected women for working hard but, "What about 'avg' women?"
Granted, not the best phrasing, but the point he was trying to get at is that not everyone is on an equal footing to beat men at their own game (read: everything). Why shouldn't you advocate to change the game, as opposed to just winning it? One Megyn Kelly does not an equal society make. In her Vanity Fair interview, she said she had tried to emulate her role model, Oprah Winfrey:
In all her years coming up ... she never wallowed in any sort of victimhood. ... She didn't play the gender card and she didn't play the race card. She was just so good we couldn't ignore her. That's my example. ... Just get to the table and then do better than everybody else.
Perhaps Winfrey didn't play the gender card, but as for being a feminist, she said in the 2013 PBS/AOL documentary MAKERS: Women Who Make America, "I don't think you can really be a woman in this world and not be." That's a much better answer than bringing up a "shrillness" that's attached to the word, as Kelly did in her answer to the feminist question with GQ.
"My own brand of feminism, if that's what it is, is not to, sort of, talk about it, it's just to do it," Kelly told Colbert. Well, her version of feminism is acceptance of the status quo juxtaposed with the occasional "Megyn Moment" when she calls someone out for being extremely sexist.
"Every so often, as all [women] know, you have to stop and slap somebody around a little bit who doesn't understand that we are actually equals and not second-class citizens," she told Vanity Fair. That's great. That's what she did with Trump — and he definitely needs some slapping around. It's just the long stretches in between that are the problem.
At the end of the day, maybe it's not fair to force the feminism label on her when it doesn't quite fit her. Not because she works for Fox News or has voted Republican before, but because her version of "feminism" includes calling college women "buttercups" and dissing Beyoncé.
As Amanda Marcotte wrote for Slate, "Call me when Kelly says something actually feminist, rather than simply defending the gender status quo of, say, 1960." Maybe then Kelly will start calling herself one too.