Who cares if Kim Kardashian calls herself a feminist?
We're all spending way too much time tackling the label, not the problem
Breaking news: Kim Kardashian may or may not identify as a feminist. At a recent talk at San Francisco's tony Commonwealth Club, the reality TV star explained that she doesn't "like to label herself" when asked about it.
But wait. In an interview in Rolling Stone she tells the magazine: "I think you would call me a feminist."
Looks like our elusive selfie queen has done it again! This time she pulls off her usual effortless controversy by circling around, but never quite pushing, one of the internet's hottest buttons — the "are you a feminist?" question. In recent years this query has become a staple in women's media, and, no matter the response, the answer (or non-answer in Kardashian's case) is sure to create some buzz.
If she says yes, the actress or singer can expect a surge of praise followed by a backlash in which commentators question whether the self-declared feminist is really feminist enough. Case in point: Beyoncé is celebrated after she sings in front of a lit-up "FEMINIST" billboard at a music awards show — before being blasted for female exploitation with her sexy dancing.
If she says no, the star will be hit with cries of Judas, and will automatically be assumed to be confused or have regressive political views.
Either way, it becomes yet another excuse for all of us to talk in circles, restating our already held beliefs and rejecting those we despise.
Let's stop asking celebrities if they are feminists. Not only would this put the kibosh on yet another round of an already tired conversation, but it would also actually be good for feminism.
For one, as Jessica Gross pointed out at Elle last year, the question often serves more as a gotcha moment, forcing young actresses to pick a side before they've figured it all out. "If I were a teenager on the fence about feminism, and I saw that my favorite actress was being attacked for speaking her mind about the issue, it would not make feminism seem particularly enticing to me," she writes.
The other problem with the question is that it reveals very little about gender equality, which is, of course, what feminism is actually about. "Feminist" becomes another box to check, an accessory to wear — or a label, as Kardashian astutely called it. (And this is a woman who understands the power of a label.)
Far more useful would be to ask famous women about specific issues. Do you feel unfairly objectified by tabloids? Where do you stand on the battle against reproductive rights? How will you approach salary negotiations now that it's come out that Hollywood often pays men more? What are the main obstacles contemporary women have to overcome?
Such questions would help spark conversations that everyone could take part in, and get us talking about specific obstacles we face as women.
For me, feminism isn't just a label but a philosophy, a purpose. Still, as a capital "F" feminist, I'd much prefer to watch a group of women tackle what's at stake in the mission than the relevancy of the frame. This is how we'll come together. This is how we'll move forward.