Definition of Feminism in Need of Change

file000704919536In an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat, Miley Cyrus claimed to be “one of the biggest feminists in the world.” Now, before you go off and comment on whether you agree or disagree with Cyrus’ statement, let’s first try and define the term feminism. It may or may not be common knowledge but for those of you who do not know, you can probably do a quick google search for it and after shifting through a couple of definitions, or not, you would eventually come to the conclusion that feminism is a political movement that advocates or supports the equality between men and women.  However, the fact that the search yielded more than one definition shows you that feminism has no inherent meaning, that is, feminism has no definition besides what we give it. This is the result of no one being able to agree on a single definition and thus feminists are all divided when it comes to issues like female sexuality and pornography. In order to end all the confusion behind feminism, there needs to be reform to debunk all stereotypes and Miley Cyrus is not the answer.

It seems that over the years since it’s first usage in the 19th century, feminism has slowly evolved into a huge controversial topic. During the Women’s Suffrage movement, people used to be united on what feminism stood for when they first fought to free women from gender discrimination and oppression but now, as Sarah Morrison puts it, “the term ‘has been dragged through the dirt.’” According to a study by University of Toronto researchers, the term holds the negative connotation of it being a man-hating crusade. In other words, to be a feminist is to be synonymously considered as a man-hater. It is easy to see how this negative connotation was born, what with the United States still being a patriarchal society: Feminism challenges the male vested interests and the status quo. With such confusion attached onto the term, it’s no wonder that so many try to avoid the word.

Obviously, feminism needs to be reform, starting with the definition. You know you are in trouble when people cannot even reach an agreement on what it means to be a woman anymore. If I were to ask the public right now, for their thoughts about Miley Cyrus being a feminist, which after Cyrus’ performance at the MVA and her swinging naked on a wreaking ball, it’s like the equivalent of asking if pornography is empowering or degrading to women, what sort of results do you think would I get? In terms of female sexuality, feminists are divided. On one hand, there are those who believe in Cyrus’ definition of feminism, that is, sexual liberation is the “key component of women’s liberation” in gaining control of their sexuality. Their belief is that women should feel empowered by their sexuality and that women should not feel ashamed of their bodies. According to Cyrus, who so eloquently sums it up: “no one minds if a man goes topless on the beach, so why can’t we?” There are just so many things wrong with this statement, that it’s not funny. Yes, women should not have to feel ashame of their own bodies but that does not mean that they have to strip naked in order to feel empowered.

On the other hand, there are those who oppose Cyrus’ feministic views, claiming that anti-pornography is the way to go. Sure, I understand that people are entitled to their beliefs but how does dressing up in revealing clothing, stimulating sexual acts with a foam finger, and as Sinead O’Connor puts it, prostituting oneself to the music industry, promote equality between men and women? Simply put it, it doesn’t. All Cyrus did was degrade women by reducing them to sexual objects and as O’Conner says, “it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.” One could even say that this is a step back for feminism. Not only does this allow sexism to once more to gain a foothold but by reducing females to mere objects for the sole purpose of being receptacles for sexual use and abuse by men, they would be more closer to being considered property than a human being.

If it doesn’t empower women and help them gain equality to men, it should not be considered feminism. So, if her actions don’t empower females, Miley Cyrus should not be considered a feminist, right? I wish it were that easy but according to Gloria Steinem, America’s foremost feminist and women’s-rights activist, “ [she] wishes [women] didn’t have to be nude to be noticed. . . but given the game as it exists, women make decisions.” words like feminism hold no meaning without humans giving it one and society has deemed that “sex is the most efficient and potent means of access to power [females] have,” thus setting the rules to the game. The ‘game’ is society’s view on female sexuality and as players of the game, women have to decide if they want to play by conforming to the rules as defined by society or to not play the game at all and be ostracize. It’s sad and unfortunate but despite what you or I may think, Miley Cyrus is a feminist as defined by society of the present time.

Miley Cyrus is a feminist. As much as I disagree with this claim, as I believe that her actions are more detrimental to the feminist movement than anything, her holds validity in terms of definition. Should you also be in agreement that Cyrus should not be considered a feminist, do not blame her. It is society who made the rules, so if you don’t like it, do as Steinem says and “change the culture, not blame the people that are playing the only game that exists.” Work on changing the meaning behind feminism, after all, words hold no inherent meaning. It can change, if the people are up to it.

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3 Responses to “Definition of Feminism in Need of Change”

  1. While I’m not a fan of Miley I don’t blame we should be placing the weight of feminism and how it should be represented on her shoulders. Miley’s recent performances seem to stem from a purely money-making artist perspective. I don’t think Miley is looking to create female or another type of equality.

    I agree with your comment that feminism is today often difficult to define. Individuals understand it in different ways. But I think at its core its about having a choice, being able to decide for myself. I think that women like the Sufferagettes, Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem, and Betty Frieden would agree.

    As far as Sinead O’Conner goes… I don’t really think she should be shaking her finger at any other performers’ behaviors. O’Conner has had several stunning performances of her music which she used to convey messages that viewers felt where just as harmful to her cause. I think knowing this she should have been more supportive or just kept quiet.

    Finally I do agree that society plays a large role in the way feminism works in the world. If patriarchy is the house that the master built than feminism will likely need to use the same tools to tear it down. And maybe that includes a foam finger.

  2. Superb website you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any
    forums that cover the same topics discussed here? I’d really like to be a part
    of online community where I can get opinions from other knowledgeable people that
    share the same interest. If you have any suggestions,
    please let me know. Cheers!

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