The Fem­i­nist Tw­erk

Af­teAfter the burn­ing of bras, crac­cracks in the glass ceil­ing, and that dance move, Rikki Hodge quesques­tions the very def­i­ni­tion of fem­fem­i­nism to­day.

CLEO (Malaysia) - - COVER STORY -

On a stage in front of im­pres­sion­able fans, a world­wide tele­vi­sion au­di­ence and a roomro full of pro­fes­sional peers, a woman grinds on a chair, twerks,t and then rubs up against her male co-per­former.perfo The song lyrics are se­ri­ousl­y­se­rio con­tro­ver­sial, ma­jorly sex­u­alised, and, ar­guably, ar­guably even abu­sive.

It’s Bey­oncé.B She’s a fem­i­nist. fem­i­nist Now, we all know Bey is prop women's lib. Her lat­est­late self-ti­tled al­bum ref­er­ences ref­er­enc famed TEDx talk We ShouldShou All Be Fem­i­nist. She’s pennedpe a piece for

The ShriverShr Re­port ti­tled “Gen­der Equal­ity Is A Myth”! She’s a mother.m A wife. And uni­ver­sally universa renowned as a wowo­man who does sexy in a waway that both girls and guguys ad­mire. So, when she ddanced a rather stim­stim­u­lat­ing “Drunk In LovLove” at the Gram­mys with her hubby, Jay Z, sshe went al­most un­scathed.un They were evenev glo­ri­fied with the hash­tag #pow­er­cou­ple. This is de­spite lyrics like, “I’m Ike Turner / Baby don’t play / Now eat the cake, Anna Mae,” ref­er­enc­ing the do­mes­tic abuse of Tina Turner by her then-hus­band. But just five months prior, the same grind­ing/twerk­ing/ rub­bing for­mula was utilised by Mi­ley Cyrus, and it brought on fren­zied de­bate in the me­dia (so­cial and other­wise) about fem­i­nism and “slut sham­ing”. Then, when Mi­ley an­nounced she was “the big­gest fem­i­nist in the world”, we all (this writer in­cluded) snorted cof­fee through our noses scoff­ing, “Say whaaa?” So just how can two fe­male pop su­per­stars give a pretty sim­i­lar per­for­mance and re­ceive com­pletely dif­fer­ent re­ac­tions?

What Sis­ter­hood?

The rea­son is sim­ple: there no longer ex­ists a clear def­i­ni­tion of what it means to be fem­i­nist in 2014. The Ox­ford Dic­tio­nary de­picts fem­i­nism as “the ad­vo­cacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equal­ity of the sexes” – but to­day fem­i­nism has be­come big­ger than just this pur­suit of equal­ity. It’s an in­tri­cate, com­plex re­la­tion­ship of sis­ter­hood – the same sis­ter­hood that gets en­raged when we hear of the con­tin­u­a­tion of gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion, that sees ab­so­lute red when you’re called a ‘ho’ with the same non­cha­lant tone as ‘you stupid poohead’

back in pri­mary school, and that even­tu­ally does what it’s stereo­typed to do: turn in on it­self with bitch­i­ness. So did you hear? Mi­ley Cyrus twerked, on a [then] mar­ried guy, looked like a lit­tle boy, and then called her­self a fem­i­nist – pass it on! But is it un­fem­i­nist of us to judge Mi­ley’s stagean­tics, when Queen Bey can seem­ingly do no wrong?

You Can’t Sit Here

There was once a time when the fem­i­nist club was vi­tal – the fight was overwhelming and seem­ingly un­winnable.A team was needed to score small and mo­men­tous vic­to­ries and, thanks to that team, we’re a hel­luva lot closer to equal­ity than our corseted fore­moth­ers. We’re not dust­ing off our hands just yet, but the game plan’s ready for a switch-up. It seems coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to make par­tic­i­pants meet a cer­tain cri­te­ria be­fore be­ing crowned a fem­i­nist. For ex­am­ple, we’re still at a point where if you choose to let your man be the mas­ter of the house, or ex­press your sex­u­al­ity in a way that makes oth­ers feel un­com­fort­able, you’re not wel­come.

Fu­elling The Fire

When un­of­fi­cial fresh face of fem­i­nism Lorde pub­licly slammed Se­lena Gomez as an anti-fem­i­nist be­cause of her song “Come & Get It”, we all clapped in agree­ment. Con­versely, when Sun­rise host Samantha Army­tage went along with a pole-dancing joke from her male co-host David Koch, news and opin­ion web­site Ma­mamia jumped to her de­fence in a show of BFF pro­tec­tive­ness that ac­tu­ally back­fired. How? They said she was vic­timised and too scared to stand up for her­self against a man. But Army­tage fought back, claim­ing she wasn’t a frail wall­flower. She par­tic­i­pated ea­gerly. So, have we gone from hav­ing to prove our­selves to men, to hav­ing to prove our­selves to women?

Julie Mor­ris, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Coun­cil of Women Aus­tralia, ex­plains, “Young girls can be turned off by [fem­i­nism]. They see women be­ing ex­actly what we are ask­ing men not to be – howl­ing down at them, scream­ing at those who dis­agree and mis­us­ing power for their own ends, rather than for the good of all,” she says.

Go­ing For­ward

We are still up against gen­der in­equal­ity. We live in a so­ci­ety where fe­male school­leavers are set to be trumped in the pay stakes by male peers and where those mak­ing abor­tion laws aren’t con­sid­er­ing the rea­sons why a woman would need to have one. Those who paved the way are throw­ing their hands up ev­ery time some id­iot starts a hash­tag that tar­gets a body part we ap­par­ently scru­ti­nise (we’re look­ing at you #thigh­gap and #bikinib­ridge). But how are we sup­posed to work on these on­go­ing is­sues if the fab­ric we’re build­ing from (that is, our sup­port of each other) is be­ing un­stitched ev­ery sin­gle time we point a catty fin­ger and call it pro-fem­i­nism?

With the cur­rent di­a­logue head­ing in this di­rec­tion, it might be time to out­grow the you-can’t-sit-with-us at­ti­tude and move to­ward a more ac­cept­ing plat­form, for all of our fel­low sis­ters. Make it one that in­cludes the bum-cheek flash­ers, the ded­i­cated wives, the men, the glass-smash­ing ca­reer women, and girls who aren’t “fem­i­nist” be­cause they’re pro-chivalry (and think they can’t be both). Let’s switch the fem­i­nist brand to one that’s akin to be­ing kind, po­lite, and giv­ing a damn about your fel­low hu­mans. Fem­i­nism isn’t just for the staunch ac­tivists, the so­cially-ap­proved­sexy ladies à la Bey, or those who want what we’ve been told our pre­de­ces­sors fought for. It’s there for ev­ery­one – and it’s on our own terms.

If this is ac­cept­able ...

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