I’m a feminist. I thought I should throw that out there first: I’ve got some skin in this game. So yes, I get upset when I see celebrities (and other people too – this is just as much of a problem with the hoi polloi as it is with the upper crust) treat the word feminism like somebody else’s dirty shoe. This time it’s Salma Hayek going through the old song and dance routine of, Oh no, this isn’t mine; ick; no thank you, please. And while of course there’s no shortage of valid reasons a woman might be uncomfortable with feminism per se, one of those valid reasons is not but what about the men?
Hayek made her profession of non-feminism to People before an award presentation by the group Equality Now, which was honoring her for her work to stop violence against women, so I guess irony really is dead. The evening’s other honoree was Gloria Steinem; do you suppose she made a similar statement to distance herself from the word ‘feminism’? I’m going to guess no.
Despite her passionate support for women, Hayek told PEOPLE that she does not consider herself to be a feminist.
“I am not a feminist,” she said. “If men were going through the things women are going through today, I would be fighting for them with just as much passion. I believe in equality.”
‘If men were going through the same issues today …’ But, they’re not. That’s sort of the point of feminism.
Look: feminism is not a monolith, and there are plenty of parts of it that more than invite criticism. If you want to distance yourself from feminism because of the way the movement has not just centered itself around white, middle-class issues, but fought to stay that way even as people work to change it, I understand completely. If you’ve been hurt by the ugly brands of radical feminism that seek to exclude transgender people, or sex workers, of course you wouldn’t want to label yourself with the F-word. If you’re ever been slut-shamed by self-professed feminists, or criticized for not being ‘sex-positive’ enough, you have every reason not to feel welcome. Modern feminism isn’t always the welcoming bastion of solidarity it should be, and if I, a hairy-legged feminist parody of myself, can acknowledge that, anyone can.
But a failure to center men in the movement is not one of feminism’s moral failings. Of course patriarchy is bad for men and boys too, but I’m kind of tired of having to sell feminism on the basis of how it will benefit the boys, instead of on the basis of it being the right thing to do. Can’t we have an honest discussion about women’s issues without bringing up how much we love men? Can’t we say “I support women” without having to preface it with, “Don’t worry, I don’t want to kill all male humans, but“? Apparently not.
P.S. My favorite part of this story is that the awards event itself was hosted by Kathy Griffin (and this is probably the only time I’ve ever used the words ‘favorite’ and ‘Kathy Griffin’ in the same sentence), who said as part of her emcee duties, “Let’s talk about feminism. I’m sick and tired of these young girls not owning this word!” Oops.
(Photo: Jonathan Leibson/Getty)