Why it remains important to call yourself a feminist

I’ll start with the last question.

Yes - calling yourself a feminist still matters. It is important that diverse women, with diverse beliefs about how to make a better world for women, outwardly identify themselves as feminist. This is for two reasons.

1. It isn’t enough to simply believe in women’s equality. Feminism commits you to action, to being active, to commenting when there is a sexist statement, to calling people out on bad behaviour, to ensuring that you consider the advancement of women in your daily life.

So when you call yourself a feminist you are saying that you will not stand for it anymore, you will not enjoy your privilege on your own, you will notice other women’s suffering. In a country as unequal as South Africa, this is critically important.

2. Feminism is a concept that has multiple meanings and manifestations.

Just because I call myself a feminist and Beyoncé calls herself a feminist, doesn’t mean we believe in the same things.

All it means is that we believe in "the social, economic and political equality of the sexes", as Chimamanda Adichie defines it.

What does the feminism of celebrities mean? What if we don’t agree with their feminism? Does it matter?

The recent fad of feminism among celebrities might irk some feminists who have been long committed to the ongoing struggle for women’s rights.

What does Taylor Swift’s feminism matter for the feminists working on Female Genital Mutilation for example?

What does Beyoncé’s feminism mean for women working in abortion clinics where it is illegal?

Essentially what some feminists are saying is: does these celebrities' feminism count? Do they actually do the work I describe in the point above?

I cautiously argue that it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the introduction of feminism into the discourse of the young women who listen to and absorb the message in their music.

To see the word 'feminism' in giant flashing lights at a very important music event is, to put it politely, effing exciting.

I can’t recall a time when that happened before, but if I could have a big spotlight that flashed 'feminist' behind me at all times, I would.

Girls watching this at home might sit back and think, what does feminist mean. Or even better, they might think, what can it mean for me?

Even better, they might think: 'phew, I can come out as feminist too.'

Because the world does not like feminists, it takes a lot of courage to say, in a world that is generally abusive to women, that you love, support and stand for women.

To say you are a feminist is sometimes to have everything you have to say framed as though it was a misandrist manifesto. It is hard.

But the best thing about feminism is it means you’re not alone, and I think that’s the message we should take from celebrity feminism.

It is that women out there can stop listening to the anti-feminist nonsense produced by people with no understanding of what the potential of feminism is.

I met an amazing woman in Uganda in July, who developed this useful presentation called 'African Feminism 101'.

I encourage you to have a look at it and see if maybe, just maybe, you might be a feminist too. Because even though it’s hard to be feminist, it is also pretty damn amazing.

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