Almost year after saying she wasn't a feminist, Shailene Woodley is speaking about feminism again. Sadly, her comments are no less problematic ten months later. Last year, the Divergent actress caught a lot of flack when she told Time why she didn't consider herself a feminist. "I love men, and I think the idea of 'raise women to power, take the men away from the power' is never going to work out because you need balance," she told the magazine in May 2014. "And also I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn't work either. We have to have a fine balance."
Her words angered the feminist community because, to put it simply, that's just not what feminism is. The dictionary definition is "the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men." If Woodley wants balance between the genders, then she's absolutely a feminist. The movement isn't about taking away men's power and having women reign supreme. It's about having both genders be balanced on an equal playing field.
Unfortunately she doesn't seem to have learned that since last May when her comments went viral. In her newest interview with Nylon, she talked about the controversy and made a lot of excuses for her problematic words.
The reason why I don't like to say that I am a feminist or I am not a feminist is because to me it's still a label. I do not want to be defined by one thing. Why do we have to have that label to divide us? We should all be able to embrace one another regardless of our belief system and regardless of the labels that we have put upon ourselves.
That's all well and good, except that the label she's rejecting is a label whose definition she doesn't even understand. So she's saying no to something that she doesn't really quite get. Even more upsetting than that, she thinks her words don't mean anything. "I mean, if we spent as much energy focusing on the genocide that's going on right now in parts of Africa as we spent on that one article, think about what we could accomplish," she said. "Change is not going to come from focusing on the small things that actors say."
And maybe change won't come from what an actress says, but I don't think that's a reason not to consider the impact of what you're saying. Like it or not, Woodley is in the public eye and she is a role model, especially to young girls. For her to go around saying she's not a feminist, and butchering the definition, is for her to spread information could stick in the heads of her fans and cause further damage to a movement that's really just about equality.
I think it's a cop-out for her to say we need to focus on other things. We can pay attention to the genocide in Africa and comment on her article at the same time. And her words do matter. Actors hold a very high place in our society. If the words they said didn't count, no one would hire celebs to advertise products.
But most importantly, she should want the words that come out of her mouth to inspire change, and therefore she should think about the things she says and the harm they could potentially do. I'm still holding out for her to learn the correct definition of feminism, and then we can talk about her not wanting to be labeled. Until that time comes, she needs to think about what she says, because it does matter and she should know that.
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