Last week, Kelly Clarkson confused a lot of people by saying that she’s not a feminist. Actually, it wasn’t Kelly’s denial of feminism that confused people. It was what she said about feminism:
“I wouldn’t say [I’m a] feminist, that’s too strong. I think when people hear feminist it’s just like, ‘Get out of my way I don’t need anyone,’” she says. “I love that I’m being taken care of, and I have a man that’s an actual leader. I’m not a feminist in that sense … but I’ve worked really hard since I was 19, when I first auditioned for Idol.”
It’s fine by me if a woman doesn’t identify as a feminist. That’s a personal decision. Feminism is a complex movement, with many different branches, and an imperfect history. Feminist movements have often left some women out, so I think there are plenty of legitimate reasons a person might not want to use the word. But at its most basic, feminism is the idea that women should be fully equal to men. That we should have the same opportunities, be paid equally, and treated like human beings. And I think Kelly knows that.
The above quote is the one that got passed around after her interview, inciting a whole lot of criticism. But while this is the quote that TIME printed, if you watch the video of Kelly’s interview, you’ll see that it’s not her full statement. After citing the misconception that being a feminist means not “need[ing] anyone,” Kelly says:
“And I think that’s bad, because actually I don’t believe that’s what the word feminism stands for, but that’s how people kind of relate to that word.”
So TIME sensationalized the interview. No big surprise there. But what’s even more important about this statement is that Kelly clearly knows what she has just said about feminism isn’t true. But instead of claiming the label, she shies away from it precisely because of the misconception she has just identified. By acknowledging that lots of people have the wrong idea about feminism, and then backing away from word, Kelly reinforces all that misinformation.
I’m pretty sure Kelly Clarkson would be pissed if she found out she were getting a smaller cut of her record sales than the male musicians on her label. I’m pretty sure she’d be pissed if someone told her that a singing career isn’t appropriate for a woman.
In the past, we’ve celebrated celebs who aren’t afraid to use the “f word.” But for every proud feminist like Meryl Streep or Kerry Washington, there are famous women like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry saying really uninformed things about feminism.
The fact that so many smart, powerful women either don’t understand what feminism is or are afraid to call themselves feminists proves how badly feminism is still needed. Why should asserting your own equality be controversial?
Luckily, there’s a simple tool that can help you figure out if you’re a feminist. Meet Am I a Fucking Feminist?, the website that solves your dilemma with one simple question. Next time someone you know needs help deciding whether or not they’re a feminist, all you have to do is send them the link. So, are you a fucking feminist?