What is feminism? Quite simply, it might be defined as a society affording equal opportunities to both genders. Is it cool now to call yourself a feminist? Right now, the answer seems to be yes, but it goes beyond being cool. Questions like these position teenage girls in a position of ambiguity. With celebrities like Beyoncé, Emma Watson, Lena Dunham, and Taylor Swift proudly wearing this respected—but often contested—label, many young girls are searching for the answer if they too can call themselves feminists. Is this new wave of celebrity-endorsed feminism a way to bring understanding to those girls in question?
Most notably, Beyoncé has positioned herself as a twenty-first century feminist icon, whether the tried and true traditional feminists agree with her new role or not. With her much talked about appearance at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, Beyoncé visually declared herself a strong woman with flashing, empowering words and a musical spectacle. Although her representation of feminism may not be exactly “orthodox,” it is a way to lead teenagers to understanding the importance of the conversation. Because of her show-stopping performance, the singer generated a discussion to allow young people to get a better grasp on what it means to be a feminist: powerful, smart, successful, talented. When Beyoncé’s husband Jay Z arrived on stage with their daughter Blue Ivy, it showed the world that a feminist could possess all those qualities while still holding some customary maternal roles. The juxtaposition of classic feminist ideals with the traditional ideals of motherhood and domestic life may have furrowed some brows, but it said something about these new celebrity feminists: they represent the best of both worlds while redefining gender roles.
These female celebrity voices are needed; Emma Watson has recently become a spokeswoman for “He for She”, an organization through the UN that promotes feminism within both genders while generating a huge picture trend on Twitter. Taylor Swift claims she has always been a feminist, even promoting the new generation of feminists to come, “[…] And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means”. Young female celebrities are the ones who need to continue to speak on how feminism has impacted their lives, as they are not only media agenda builders, but also role models for young girls who may be where Ms. Swift was a few years ago when she was not quite sure where she stood on the issue.
Feminism has never been easy to define. Some feminists may not call a woman who stays at home and takes care of her children as a member of their team. The woman who stays at home may not believe the feminists questioning her life choices are truly for the cause if they question her decisions. There will always be ambiguity between what a feminist is and is not. However, the celebrities making headlines and speaking out are the ones young girls need to look to in order to begin their journey into understanding of their own beliefs about gender equality. These celebrities are not the final answer to the questions feminism raise, but they open a new conversation that surely was not around when our parents were beginning to understand what feminism meant.